Humble is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Sandie Kritenbrink, a retired outpatient therapist of Porter-Starke Services. When I met this week’s spirited Life in the Spotlight after her breakfast with friends and past coworkers from Porter-Starke, she was still trying to understand why exactly I should want to interview her. While humble may be the first word to come to mind, the words selfless, dedicated, and extraordinary follow close behind.
Sandie grew up in the Chicago region and moved to Northwest Indiana before starting college. While she began school with the goal to become a sign language interpreter, she didn’t stop there. Once she graduated, Sandie continued school at The University of Chicago to earn her masters in clinical social work. During her time in school, Sandie worked as an intern with Porter-Starke Services, which gave way to a career with them as a child and adolescent therapist.
In Sandie’s twenty-two years with Porter-Starke, she accomplished many things. However, she feels her greatest contribution to the institution has been her implementation of child therapy group sessions and play therapy. She stresses how important group therapy truly is to child development. It yields huge improvements in social settings by providing a format for social skills, teaching emotional control, tolerance, effective communication skills, and an opportunity to learn to manage stress. Sandie’s passion for her work was evident as she said, “It’s so great to see little ones grow and develop. Group therapy is where they find themselves.” The children she worked with sensed that passion as well.
Sandie recalled a group session in which they discussed things that they loved. “What’s something you love?” the children asked, then answered, “Us!”
When speaking of her retirement, she admitted that the most difficult part of the process was leaving the groups behind. However, the wonderful program she began has been passed down into confident hands, and Sandie sincerely hopes to see it continue and grow in size and prevalence. In the future of mental health care she also hopes to see more funding put towards mental health needs, and she strongly believes “the mental health community needs to come together, as we’re all working towards the same goal.”
With that being said, she made it very clear that Porter-Starke is very cohesive, offering lots of support. True to form, her coworkers and superiors had nothing but copious amounts of praise to speak of Sandie and her work with Porter-Starke, so it is safe to say her legacy and work will not be soon forgotten among them.
It’s obvious that Sandie will not forget them either, as she said, “I’ve been fortunate to have people open doors, people who have helped me write my story, who have walked with me through life.” Her gratitude for the many people who have impacted her life is evident, and very moving.
Though Sandie has retired from her position with Porter-Starke Services, she continues to maintain her clinical social work license. Additionally, she continues to act as a sign language interpreter, and keeps a full schedule as a result. Included in her sign language interpreting endeavors is her work with the interpretation program at her church, Liberty Bible Church. She began the program thirty-five years ago, and it is still going strong today.
Admirably eager to continue to learn and grow, Sandie says she is still developing skills and taking advantage of the ability to continue her education in the ever-growing worlds of social work and sign language.
As vivacious and bubbly as she is, it is no surprise that Sandie fills the rest of her schedule with a plethora of hobbies. Her eyes lit up as she told me about her dance classes; she’s a clogger with the Good Time Cloggers, meeting once a week. Her love of dance stems from a deep love of music, especially gospel music and the oldies. Sandie describes herself proudly as a “fifties girl” through and through. Concerts, gardening, and travel are among some of her other passions, and she is blessed with very close friends to share her time with.
A mother of seven children and thirteen grandchildren, Sandie is also blessed with a large and wonderful family responsible for a very warm smile as she spoke of them. “Family is the bottom line,” she stated, mentioning the importance of maintaining a strong bonded faith-based family.
In regards to her faith, Sandie feels it is the underpinning factor behind all of her success and happiness in life. “Faith is where my values, passions, and direction come from,” she commented, and it’s clear this holds true. Sandie’s foundation of faith has allowed her to touch so many lives, and she has brought light and a positive, lasting impact to this community.