Whether she’s on the job or volunteering in the community, Gillian Lawrence is always doing good for others. 


Gillian Lawrence, Rosie Massaro and Ethel Boyer
 
Homeland Center Activities Assistant Gillian Lawrence, left, enjoys a visit with residents Rosie Massaro and Ethel Boyer  

“I’m very passionate about helping people, especially individuals who are not able to help themselves,” she says.

Lawrence is Homeland’s Activities Assistant, becoming a full-time employee in July 2016 after working part-time for two years. The Harrisburg native left the area as a teenager, attending high school in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating, she returned to Harrisburg to help care for her older sister, who was battling pancreatic cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease.

She stayed in the city, building a close relationship with her sister’s five children. She studied early childhood education for a while, but her career trajectory changed when her mother suggested she apply for a job at Hamilton Health Center, the Harrisburg-based community health care provider. As HIV/AIDS educator, counselor, and case manager, she realized she could “give a little bit of hope to people in a devastating situation.”

“As soon as I started working in it, I found my niche,” she says now. “I didn’t want to be a nurse, but I noticed that I liked the education, awareness, and prevention side of health care.”

Now at Homeland, Lawrence’s goal is finding new ways to help residents enjoy their days and stay active. For the morning exercise class, she introduced kickball, and by the second day, residents were kicking the ball to each other like soccer pros.

For the fifth year in a row, a poll of Harrisburg Magazine’s more than 50,000 readers resulted in Homeland Center being 2016 Harrisburg Magazine Readers' Choice Awardselected as the Readers’ Choice for Best Long-Term Care Facility. 

“We are honored to again be recognized for our quality service to the Central Pennsylvania region,’’ said Barry S. Ramper II, Homeland’s president and CEO. “Next year Homeland will celebrate its 150th anniversary and throughout our history we have always looked for way to meet the needs of our community.’’ 

In keeping with that goal, Homeland earlier this year unveiled two new services to help seniors remain in their home while receiving the quality care they need. Homeland HomeCare will assist seniors with daily tasks such as meal preparation and transportation, while Homeland HomeHealth will provide doctor-ordered medical assistance, ranging from providing intravenous therapy and other medications to physical therapy. 

Homeland Hospice, which serves 13 counties, last year became the only service in central Pennsylvania to offer a dedicated pediatric hospice program. Homeland Center also is one of the few skilled nursing care facilities in the region to repeatedly earn Medicare's top Five-Star rating. 

“Homeland Center was established in 1867 to provide a home for our area’s women and children whose husbands and fathers had died in the Civil War,’’ Ramper said. “Our mission may have changed, but our commitment to providing quality care has never wavered.’’ 

To learn more

  • Homeland Hospice offers care for adults as well as providing the region’s only pediatric hospice program. For more information, go to www.homelandcenter.org  or www.homelandhospice.org 
  • To learn more about the new HomeHealth and HomeCare services, go to www.homelandathome.org

 

 

 

Residents and guests often comment on Homeland’s home-like atmosphere, where everyone feels like family.


Patty McGowan and Loretta Jean McCauley
 
Homeland neighbors Patty McGowan, left, and Loretta Jean McCauley discovered an amazing coincidence -- they grew up in the same part of Perry County and are first cousins by marriage. At Homeland, they enjoy playing bingo together and reminiscing about their relatives.  

Now, two residents in facing rooms have taken the family theme one step further, discovering not only that they have roots in the same rural enclave but are first cousins by marriage. What are the odds? Who knows? But it all centers around the tiny village of Reward in Perry County, Pennsylvania.

The residents are Patty McGowan and Loretta Jean McCauley, and their coincidental discovery started with a laundry mix-up. One day, Loretta Jean sent her granddaughter to Patty’s room, right across the hall, with some mismarked laundry. Could these be Patty’s? Yes, indeed. They even included Patty’s favorite blouse.  

Patty crossed the hall to thank Loretta Jean for returning the blouse. They got to talking, and Patty asked where Loretta Jean was born. Reward, she said. Patty immediately knew the connection. Her husband’s family came from Reward, and she grew up nearby.  

“When she said Reward, I thought, ‘I know who this is. I know how this happened,’” says Patty. “I knew about her. There’s nobody else who could have been born there. Her dad was a brother of my father-in-law’s.”

The pieces fell into place. Loretta Jean was a McGowan by birth, first cousin to Patty’s husband, the late Jim McGowan. Their dads belonged to a clan of 11 siblings, including the brothers who operated farms “that all ran together,” as Patty recalls.

Patty grew up playing with her future husband, his sister, and all the other kids around, so it’s likely she and Loretta Jean crossed paths as children.

“The big times were when the church had something going on because our lives were pretty much church-based,” remembers Patty. “Every little church had their own festival, and each church would go to the other church’s festival.”

Loretta Jean was 9 when her mother died, and she left home to live with relatives. At 15, her father remarried, and she returned to live with him and her stepmother, “who was a very lovely person,” she says. “She couldn’t have treated me more like one of her own.”

As an adult, Loretta Jean lived in Harrisburg’s Camp Hill area. Reconnecting with Patty, who stayed in Perry County and maintained childhood friendships, brought back memories.

“She knew so many of the people in that area where I lived,” she says. “She knew all my dad’s brothers and sisters, which is unusual to know such a big family. It was quite amazing.”

The cousins both enjoy life at Homeland. McCauley likes the food and playing bingo. McGowan, a singer all her life, loves the wide variety of music programs.

“I like it very much here,” McGowan says. “I like the people. I like the place. I like the food. I like everything.”

Finding a relative has enhanced the pleasant times at Homeland, they say.

“I had no idea she knew so much about the people on my side,” says McCauley. “It’s weird that it happened that way.”

And as McGowan says, “It’s a good feeling in your heart to know you’re not alone. There’s still somebody out there who’s a part of you.”

 

 

Resident Mary Jane Baum noticed that the birds in Homeland’s second-floor aviary seemed to appreciate their new


Kathy Kuchwara looks after Homeland's feathered friends
 
Homeland's "Bird Lady,'' RN Kathy Kuchwara, explains why birds love swings and millet to residents (from left) Mary Jane Baum and Peg Harnish.  

toys.

“They love the swing,” agreed nurse Kathy Kuchwara. “They’re probably like people and the way we love to rock. For birds, maybe it’s the same type of thing.”

Kuchwara has been a registered nurse at Homeland since 2005, full-time until retiring and part-time in 2015. And while she performs such nursing duties as immunization audits and teaching CPR to staff, she is also known throughout Homeland as “The Bird Lady.”

That’s because the avid birdwatcher brings her knowledge about birding and bird care to Homeland, which has aviaries in the first-floor gathering room, second-floor solarium, and Ellenberger dementia care unit.

Kuchwara, of Hampden Township, started working in healthcare at age 16. Homeland excels because “the quality of life is very good,” she says. “I’m very happy to be here. The staffing ratios are better, and activities are very, very attuned to residents’ needs. They work on getting resident input on activities offered. It’s a lot of fun. It makes it very special.”

Kuchwara’s lifelong interest in birds took flight around 2006. Since joining the Appalachian Audubon Society, she has developed a cadre of friends with whom she takes birding trips. She might go to the shore, balmy Monterey, Canada in February, or somewhere in Central Pennsylvania, where the birding is excellent. She once took a day for birding while in Guatemala, and just when she despaired of seeing the rare pink-headed warbler, one popped out of the greenery to show off its bright colors.

Another successful Homeland Center Summertime Fair dodged the raindrops – mostly – while offering fun for


Isabelle Smith enjoys Homeland's Summertime Fair
 
Homeland resident Isabelle Smith meets Bridget. Children and the fair got a real treat by riding Bridget and a pony named Pumpkin.  

residents, neighbors, and kids of all ages.

The 2016 Summertime Fair, held on a warm Saturday, offered games, food, pony rides, classic cars, and a hidden treasure sale, while it spotlighted Homeland’s commitment to the community and staff. The fair has become an annual tradition and a fundraiser for Homeland’s activity fund, which helps residents enjoy outings to shows, restaurants and stores.

The fair was held all around Homeland’s grounds. Classic cars, including a Chevy Impala convertible and a little red Corvette, lined the street. A reptile petting zoo outside the front fence offered the chance to touch a tarantula and a snake. Kids enjoyed the bounce house, video game truck, face painting station, and carnival games.

At the hidden treasure sale, Homeland resident Phoebe Berner admired a pair of spike-heeled shoes in zebra print. “I like my heels an inch higher,” she joked. The fair “really has some good stuff for folks to enjoy.”

“There are a lot of fun things to do,” she said. “I need to get some tickets and try my hand at the games.” After trying the basketball-shot game, she admitted to doing “horrible, but I tried.”

 

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