Mona Kerns must have given out 300 or more hugs on Jan. 15.
After all, she has reached thousands of people’s lives in Southern Illinois through Southern Illinois Healthcare’s Second Act program.
Second Act is a free program for adults age 50 and older, and is open to anybody in Southern Illinois, according to Kern, manager of the program. She said the program does health education, activity-based classes, and several day-trips each year to surrounding destinations.
“It is a relationship marketing tool,” she said.
Kerns, who will retire on Feb. 24 from SIH, was the center of attention Wednesday at the Carbondale Civic Center as she was able to say goodbye to a room of about 200 people. She probably hugged each person that walked by Wednesday, and some more than once.
Mel Bower, corporate director of marketing and communications for SIH, said the Second Act program has been the result of Kerns’ dedication. He said she took the program and ran with it, and increased the membership from zero to 11,500 participants over the 18-year lifespan of the program.
When the program began it was known as Senior Advantage. The program serves people in Williamson, Jackson, Union, Saline, Perry, Franklin and surrounding counties.
“She has encouraged seniors to be active, healthy and engaged in their own second act of life,” Bower said. “Instead of sitting and staying at home.”
Bower said succeeding Kerns as the program’s manager will be Tracy Herron, who has been with SIH for 20 years. He said she has been in SIH’s marketing department and brings a wealth of marketing and special events knowledge to the position. He said her goal is to actually increase the level of engagement for the program.
Anyone wanting to become a member of SIH’s Second Act program can call 877-480-4040.
As for Mona, she started as a “candy striper” at St. Joe’s Hospital in Murphysboro when she was a teenager. She said after college, and a short stint in the real estate business, she ran into a former supervisor who offered her a job as a secretary at St. Joe’s.
From there, she worked in administration and rose up to management. When SIH bought the hospital, she was transitioned to the marketing department. This is when SIH formed a committee to give back to the seniors, who make up a large population of its patients, and Kerns was put in charge of it. The rest was up to her.
After retirement, Kerns is headed to Louisville, Kentucky to be with her daughter and grandchildren. She and her husband have already bought a home and are looking forward to retirement, she said.
“I’m going to my second act,” she said.