YHCC at Fairfax SRA
- Age: 22
- Hometown: Bloomington
- Location: Fairfax SRA (Monroe Lake)
- Duty: Gate Attendant
Each year, millions of people visit Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties. At most, guests must check in at a gatehouse. The attendant who greets each visitor serves as the first point of contact, and as the old saying goes, “first impressions count.”
Across Indiana this summer, DNR gatehouses are being staffed by Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps workers. Duties include collecting gate fees, selling park passes and lake permits, and providing information. Their job descriptions don’t include “official welcoming agent,” but serving as such is part of their daily activities.
Gate attendant and YHCC worker Lydia Morphe, 22, of Bloomington, is used to providing service with a smile. An experienced waitress, Morphe is comfortable engaging visitors at Lake Monroe’s Fairfax State Recreation Area, and happy to talk about their day or plans on property.
“My family has a boat and I love being on the water, so when someone is pulling their boat through the gate I’ll ask them about it. People are always so happy when their going boating,” Morphe said.
YHCC coordinators on DNR properties combed through their workers to find such individuals, whom they felt could excel at working with people, and manage the responsibility of handling money.
“I never liked paying to get in the DNR properties before, but now that I’ve worked here, and I see all the other work going on, I understand why it costs money to come to a park. There is so much to maintain.”
Morphe grew up in Miami, Fla. Naturally, she loves the water.
“My family comes out here all the time, but working here gives you a different perspective. My fiance picks me up after work and we just go hang out by the water. I’m living a beach life in Indiana. I didn’t see that coming,” Morphe said.
Judy Spillman of Springville has been a seasonal worker at Fairfax SRA for six years. She has seen a lot of people come through the gate, so she’s somewhat of an expert in handling property visitors.
“Lydia is doing a good job,” Spillman said. “She learned to work the cash register real fast and does great with our visitors. The YHCC is really doing good work.”
When the YHCC program ends this fall, most of these gatehouse attendants are going to have to find work outside of the DNR. Morphe plans to return to food service. She worked at a restaurant in Bloomington that caters to college students before joining the YHCC.
“I’m going to try and find a job at a higher end restaurant, one that pays a little better because at those places it's about the service you provide, not how fast you can flip tables. I like serving people.”
Her wedding, will be held next fall at, where else, Fourwinds Resort in the Fairfax SRA.
Asked why she chose to marry where she works, Morphe said, “I told you, I love it here.”