Hacker family’s dedication to people in Naperville senior complex helps make apartments feel like home | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

As the Martin Avenue Apartments complex celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, I met the family who has been at the heart of the organization for most of that time.

Involved in both management and maintenance, three generations of the Hacker family have worked tirelessly to provide a special level of care to its lower-income senior residents.

The connection began in 1988 when builder Mike Hacker and his dad, Adolf, were called in to do some painting. It grew from there and now Mike’s son, Tony, is the property manager.

Originally 122 apartments, the complex now boasts 190 thanks to a new building contructed in 2020. Units are either 350 or 450 square feet, and range in size from studios to two bedrooms.

“We do everything we can to make the apartments as nice as possible,” said Mike, who works alongside his brother David. Pointing at Tony, who serves as their boss, Tony, he joked: “This guy is a pain because he looks for cracks and comes up with little things.”

Mike’s wife, Ann, takes care of the Martin Avenue’s billing.

“There hasn’t been a holiday that we haven’t been called away on some kind of emergency, but it is what it is,” Mike said. “We have a great association with the building.”

It’s the family camaraderie that helps to create a welcoming atmosphere at the complex, which is located at Martin Avenue and West Street, facing Knoch Park on two sides.

Tony has been working for Evergreen Property Management since 2009, when he began as assistant manager. But his association with Martin Avenue goes back far before then.

“I worked for my dad doing maintenance since I could remember,” he said. “I started (here) when I was in middle school and then when I was able to drive, I would drive here after school. I helped paint apartments for new tenants and did repairs. We liked working for dad and doing the work.”

The family takes a lot of pride in their work, Tony said.

“We work as if it was our own house,” he said. “When you have a board of directors that are supportive, it makes it more enjoyable. We don’t want apartments just to look nice, we want them to be the best place in Naperville for (the tenants) to live.”

It’s very different managing a senior facility to one for all ages, he said.

“The tenants are here all day. I have tons of opportunities to interact,” he said. “We are part of their day. It’s unusual to get a job like this. We see the same people every day. They have good and bad days.”

For Mike, there’s another difference.

“At the beginning, I saw everybody like they were a bunch of grandparents. Now I am more close to their age,” he said. “I respect them. No one has lived here longer than we have worked here. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know them at the greatest time of their lives. I have compassion for them. When you start to fail or you lose someone, it’s sad.

“We have crabby people. You get to learn who you can joke with. My boys have learned how to deal with people of this age, they’re not scary people. There’s a level of respect and most people are really nice to my boys.”

Tony says he believes the family connection is a positive one.

“I imagine it makes an effect on the residents having a family working here. It must rub off,” he said. “We see it like a second home. I’m here as much as I am my home. We get to know these people and eventually they get to know that we’re related.”

Over the years, Tony has noticed one change.

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“There’s definitely a sense that the need for affordable senior housing is increasing,” he said. “There are less options out there for them. Places like this do not exist for them. There’s still a lot of need. We get calls every day. From what we are seeing the need will increase.”

Martin Avenue Apartments is owned by the nonprofit Naperville Elderly Homes Inc. Executive Director Mary Kerbs says they are so grateful to the Hacker family that in 2021 they honored them by naming their community after them.

“We feel what they do goes a long way. It puts the heart in the organization,” she said. “The care the residents receive is evident and they always go the extra mile.”

Martin Avenue may be a place for lower-income seniors to live, but that doesn’t mean residents aren’t treated with the respect they deserve.

“We want to create a family feel here,” Kerbs said. “One resident, a retired physics professor who had lived around the world, said he was feeling very lonely before moving here. Now it feels like he’s part of a larger family.”

Hilary Decent is a freelance journalist who moved to Naperville from England in 2007.

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