For Alisa Burke, family is interwoven into a distinguished Hillside career.

“I started here in 1988, after my brother was hired and he mentioned it to me,” Burke recalls. “I started off as a relief worker, and about two months later I applied for a full-time position.”

In fact, her journey of service started even earlier: When she was a child, her parents opened their home to youth placed in foster care through Hillside. “Our house was always open to children or families in need. That helped me understand that some kids just need help and support.”

Today, Burke is a Unit Manager of the Rise program on the agency’s Monroe Campus in Rochester. Her titles and responsibilities have evolved, but her devotion to the children and families she serves has only deepened with time. That dedication led to her being honored in May with the 2022 Chair’s Award, an annual recognition of an employee who represents the highest ideals of service to Hillside’s mission.

“It’s a great honor,” she says. “I’ve felt that I’m in the right place and I found my life purpose. And I’ve tried to pass that on to my own children, too.”

She recalls the day when she and her daughter were visiting a local mall, and they were approached by a man who said, “Hi, Ms. Burke,” and introduced himself. “I knew him right away from when he was in care here,” she says, “and he asked, ‘Do you remember when you taught me how to comb my hair?’”

The youth – around eight years old, Burke remembers – had “a serious crisis every morning” related to his hair. “One day I showed him how to comb through his hair, and it helped him. Years later, that’s what he remembered.”

The man went on to describe how his life had changed since being in care at Hillside. “After he left, my daughter said to me, ‘Mom, of all things to remember.’ I could tell it made an impact on her.

“I’m so proud to work for an agency that supports and puts youth and families first,” Burke says. “It’s such a joy to be a part of all that.”

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