Mark Kurzenknabe is a familiar face at the Masonic Children’s Home. Though he was only recently named director of children’s services, upon Ginny Migrala’s retirement in December 2020, he has been leaving an impact on the lives of many for more than 20 years.
Mark began his career at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown as an intern in 1998, which led to his first job working in the Masonic Health Care Center as a recreation therapist.
In 2004, he transitioned into the role of assistant director of the Masonic Children’s Home and has spent the past 17 years going above and beyond to ensure the children succeed.
“I’ve always wanted to work with kids,” Mark said. “Kids are, and especially here, very resilient. Our kids overcome a lot of challenges, and it’s nice to see that.”
Mark says his time as the assistant director has prepared him to excel in his current position. He said he feels “comfortable” taking on the role because of how closely he worked with Ginny.
However, Mark had the unique experience of taking on his new role while still navigating the challenges of the pandemic, such as online learning, reduced social and recreational activities and an increase in staff needs.
He tried to focus on tackling the pandemic one day at a time, so the children’s home could safely return to normalcy.
“We were in the transition process while trying to get through COVID. We really had to buckle down, but the big goal was for us to keep everyone safe and minimize exposure,” Mark said.
Mark said that it’s crucial he’s a responsible leader because he has to “make sure that we’re doing everything we can for everybody.”
Fortunately, Mark is adept to handling responsibilities, as he has many of his own outside of his position.
Currently, Mark’s working toward a Master of Strategic Leadership at nearby Elizabethtown College. He already holds a Bachelor of Science in recreation and leisure services management from East Stroudsburg University, but he decided to pursue a master’s degree because it’s something he’s always wanted to do.
“My kids were finally old enough to drive and do stuff on their own, so I had more time on my hands,” Mark said. “I figured it was as good a time as any to start to do it.”
On top of this, Mark travels frequently with his wife and two sons. Part of his travels have been for his sons’ hockey tournaments.
Mark said he hasn’t traveled as much now, because of the pandemic, but looks forward to traveling again. Traveling, like working with children, is one of his passions.
“I like to see everything and anything. I’ve traveled a lot to New England and Canada, and I really like to go to the beach,” Mark said.
Mark has visited a vast number of places, but some of his favorite places, he said, include Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston; and Montreal.
Mark also enjoys being outdoors and hiking when he can. He said he doesn’t always have free time to pursue some of his other interests, especially with his new position, but he enjoys the time he spends with the kids at the children’s home.
“A lot of kids stay here over the years, and the kids that have graduated come back and tell us about how the things we’ve done for them have helped them,” Mark said. “It’s very rewarding. I definitely feel like I’m making a difference.”
Mark is looking forward to continuing to make a difference, now in the shoes of the director. He’s also hoping to spread the word about the mission of the Masonic Children’s Home, which he refers to as a “hidden gem” to the local community and beyond.
“We’re here to support the kids and make every effort for them to succeed. We want to do that the best way we can,” Mark said.