Homeland Center seeks donations for new van to allow more residents in wheelchairs to enjoy community outings


Homeland Center is seeking donations for a new van specially equipped for wheelchair passengers that will make it possible for more residents to enjoy community outings.

The drive to raise $25,000 to $50,000 is underway and expected to conclude by early spring, when the winter hiatus ends and residents resume the trips they enjoy to restaurants, stores, theaters, concert halls, and other community settings.

All donations are tax-deductible and will be recognized in Homeland Center’s newsletter and social media. To donate or learn more, contact Director of Development Betty Hungerford, 717-221-7727, or visit www.homelandcenter.org.

Homeland has a 14-passenger bus, but it only has the capacity to securely lock in place two wheelchairs, a federal requirement for passengers who need a mechanical chair lift to let them access the vehicle.

The new van will be designated specifically for activities two-to-three times a week, said Ashley Bryan, Homeland Center’s director of Skilled and Personal Care Activities.

“We want to ensure that our residents maintain their ties to the community, so they can have the highest quality of life,” Bryan said. Memorable outings in 2016 went to Sight & Sound Theatres and Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, both in Lancaster, and Hershey Gardens, where residents enjoyed the colorful sights and intoxicating scents of the world-famous botanical garden.

“It’s a priority in our philosophy of assuring residents a home-like experience,” Bryan said. “We want to ensure our residents continue to enjoy the things they’ve always loved.”

Employee Spotlight: Intern Allison Lawruk helps create Homeland’s home-like feel


allison lawruk with resident

Intern Allison Lawruk helps create Homeland’s home-like feel.

What is the role of a social worker in a retirement community? At Homeland Center, Allison Lawruk has participated in family planning meetings, organized current-events discussion groups, visited residents to check on their needs, and searched for residents’ lost shoes and hats.

In short, the social worker’s role is “making sure that residents have a home that’s really a home,” says Lawruk.

“I like interacting with families as well as the residents themselves,’’ she says. “You never know what is going to come up. People come to the table with such different ideas of what should happen and what might happen, and it’s neat to come to a resolution.”

Lawruk is pursuing a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University. As an intern in Homeland’s Social Services Office, she is learning how social work applies in an elder-care setting.

Intern Allison Lawruk helps create Homeland’s home-like feel.

Lawruk was once a high school counselor whose career change was inspired by a social worker colleague who interacted with students and families in “diverse, interesting ways.” She started studying social work while living in Bethesda, MD, and continued her education online after she and her husband, Jim, moved to Camp Hill with their daughters, now 9 and 3.

At Homeland, Lawruk’s duties are as varied as she had hoped – assessing residents’ well-being, resolving any difficulties that residents encounter, and acting as a liaison between families and staff.

She even got the green light from Homeland to convene a weekly news discussion group, where residents share their views on hot topics while also making friendships. One reluctant resident accepted Lawruk’s personal invitation to attend, “and he ended up leading the conversation and brought really good insights that we wouldn’t have had. It was beneficial for him and the group, and at the end, he said he would be back next week. That’s huge because a real issue with older people is isolation.”

A variety of influences inspired Lawruk to work with seniors, including her 108-year-old grandmother living in a care facility in upstate New York. She also once worked at a women’s magazine that focused on “not getting older, even though it’s a process that all of us go through.”

Seniors, she says, shouldn’t be lumped together as one homogenous group but seen as individuals with their own stories.

allison lawruk 1

Lawruk and her husband are avid runners. She also leads a Walking with Purpose women’s group at a local Catholic church, where members discuss “ways that their Catholic faith contributes to their lives.” Her inspiration is St. Therese of Lisieux, the revered saint whose “little way” to spirituality is still celebrated today.

“If I can do small things every day and make someone’s life a little better, that’s a lot more achievable and realistic and sustaining than trying to do big things,” says Lawruk. “I’m not going to change anyone’s life, but I can make it a little better.

At Homeland, Lawruk likes the “committed and friendly” staff. Plus, the residents “are committed to their home. There’s a residents’ council, and a lot of them feel like this is their home, and they’re emotionally invested in making it better. They have really good ideas.”

After completing her master’s degree in 2018, Lawruk hopes to continue working with the elderly. Her time with Homeland has provided valuable experience in the role of social workers among seniors and their families.

“I think I’ve made a small difference,” she says, “which I’m happy with.”

Homeland Center thanks employees for their dedication and care


2017 employee appreciation pic

Honesty is “the fundamental basis of any relationship,” and all Homeland employees deliver that essential quality to residents and clients, Homeland Center President and CEO Barry S. Ramper II said at the annual Employee Appreciation Day.

“They’re looking at our eyes,” said Ramper. “They’re looking at our mannerism. They’re looking at our presentation, and they need to trust us. You are doing a phenomenal job of that, each and every one of you individually in all that you do.”

Homeland’s Employee Appreciation Day recognizes the hard work and dedication of the staff, who recently had a chance to dress down, eat a lunch of ribs and chicken served by the Board of Managers. During the annual lunch held earlier this year, employees received awards for length of service and won door prizes ranging from luggage to toaster ovens.

Before a crowd filling the main dining room, Ramper said that Homeland’s celebration of its 150th year in 2017 is “a sign of consistency, but most importantly, change.” The home founded to serve Civil War orphans and widows has, in recent years, created departments offering end-of-life care, and personal care and physician-directed health care in homes.

“We serve the generation today that lived the lifetime of greatest change, and Homeland adapted, which is why Homeland Center, Homeland Hospice, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare are equal in responsibility and importance of what we do as an organization,” he said. “All of you deserve more than what you’re receiving today. All of you deserve to have what’s most important acknowledged, and that is that you have a heart. You care.”

2017 employee appreciation pic

Staffers returned the favor by taking the microphone to express their gratitude. Homeland Hospice Bereavement Counselor Brian Medkeff-Rose said the event makes him “feel like a little kid. To see all the people that for years have given themselves to caring for others is really cool. It’s a privilege. It’s an honor.”

Assistant Director of Nutritional Services Carmella Williams, a 24-year Homeland veteran, alternated between working and popping out of the kitchen to enjoy the festivities. She works another job part-time, she said, and co-workers there wish they got the same kind of recognition. Homeland residents, she added, “say that we deserve it.”

Residents Gretchen Yingst and Marie Smith enjoyed watching the event, which was filled with laughter and a few sentimental tears. Staffers are “all so nice,” said Smith. “It’s nice that they get approval. I think they appreciate it.”

Yingst added, “They’re always kind and go out of their way to help with anything.” The appreciation event “boosts their morale.”

LPN Latoni Crowder, collecting her five-year service award, gave a shout-out to her first-floor skilled-care colleagues. The people of Homeland, she said afterwards, are a “close-knit family.” On the day her son died four years before, Homeland management reached out to her and, to this day, continues providing support.

“I feel like God placed me here to be with them,” she said.

Quality Assurance Nurse Amanda Schrader said that, in a year and two weeks of working at Homeland, she had already been given increased responsibilities and the support to grow with the job. At other facilities where she has worked, administration “is not invested in staff.”

“What makes Homeland stellar is their investment in the well-being of staff, psychologically and physically,” Schrader said. “The fact that they have confidence and faith in me is huge. It’s my privilege to be here.”

Employees recognized for achieving milestones in their years of service were:

5 years

Ashley Bryan

Amber Butler

Nicol Corbin

Latoni Crowder

Jennifer Tate-DeFreitas

Joann Gartner

Antonia Gomez

Karen Jackson

Alice Kirchner

Lori McMichael

Symira McNeely

Steven Ramper

Felicia Wallace

Lisa Wills

Patricia Winters

10 years

Pamela Brown

Amy Kidd

Cecelia Lilley

Joey McCowin, Jr.

Samira Pizarro

Jermaine Simmons

Doretha Smith

Deborah Thompson

Tera Twyman

15 years

Jennifer Parsons

20 years

Antonia Matthews

Cynthia Zelko

25 years

Patricia Wilbern

Resident Spotlight: Lou Hepschmidt sets example for women in philanthropy


Lou Hepschmidt sets example for women in philanthropy!

He heard hints about a surprise birthday party.lou hepschmidt greeting guest

“I heard rumors, but nobody would talk,” she said.

Then came a Saturday-afternoon message that a package was waiting for her in the Homeland Center Ted Lick Room. That “package” turned out to be a room full of friends and relatives, wishing the Homeland resident a happy 90th birthday.

While Lou is known to friends and family for her generosity, she is also a recognized philanthropist, contributing to many central Pennsylvania causes and setting an example for women in philanthropy. Her many gifts to Homeland include her sizeable collection of Hummel figurines and plates, donated with custom-made display cases, and on display in the Gathering Room.

At her birthday party, Lou’s guests included three nieces who don’t live in the area but who visit regularly. As children, the girls would go to their aunt and uncle’s home for summertime stays.

“One day, she came home and told my uncle she had gotten a kitten, except there were two kittens in that box,” said niece Betty Hoffman with a laugh. “That’s how she got two kittens.”

No matter what, “She was always very good to us as kids, and now to our children,” Hoffman added.

For many years, Lou worked with her husband, John E. Hepschmidt, Jr., managing the finances of their tile business. Today, Lou channels her philanthropy through the HEP Foundation, which she and her husband created in 2003, before his death in 2008. She guides her beneficence to such bedrock causes as the Bethesda Mission homeless shelter, Friends of Fort Hunter and Wildwood, and public broadcasting station WITF.

In addition to Homeland, Lou is a fervent supporter of the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, the 30-county council covering central and northeastern Pennsylvania. She became interested in the Girl Scouts when her sister, Homeland resident Winnie Reese, worked for the Girl Scouts in their native Philadelphia.

For her many charitable works, Lou was recognized in 2011 as Philanthropist of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Fundraising Professionals, and as a Women in Philanthropy honoree by The Foundation for Enhancing Community’s Women’s Fund.

lou hepschmidt winnie reese

Lou’s positive impact on Homeland Center reaches into every corner. Visitors see her family’s impressive Hummel collection in the floor-to-ceiling custom cherry wood cabinets that were originally in her home and that she donated as well.

Outside, Lou donated the funds to create a beautiful butterfly pond in Homeland’s garden in honor of her late husband, John Hepschmidt. Through generous contributions from HEP Foundation, she makes it possible for Homeland to continue offering benevolent care and never asking anyone to leave because they have exhausted their resources.

A past member of Homeland’s Board of Managers, Lou was among the first to become a charter member of the 1867 Society of Homeland, created and tasked with raising $20 million by 2020 to support the $3 million in benevolent care Homeland provides annually.

“Other places did not have the same ambience and décor that Homeland has, and the same treatment of the residents,” Lou said of why she donated her Hummel collection and supports Homeland. “I am so pleased with the way they treat everybody here. I know I’m treated royally.’’