Homeland Center’s Director of Skilled Admissions ensures a smooth transition for new residents


Homeland Center Director of Skilled Admissions, Susan Horvath

Recently, Susan Horvath assisted a nurse with one of Homeland Center’s residents, watching as the caregiver handled her duties efficiently and compassionately.

“I’m really impressed with our nursing staff here and the wonderful care they take of the residents,” says Susan, Homeland’s new Director of Skilled Admissions. “They treat the residents like family. That’s a big part of why I wanted to work at Homeland.”

As Director of Skilled Admissions, she makes sure that new residents have a smooth transition.

“Our reputation very much speaks for itself,” she says. “With admissions, I get a lot of calls from families, saying ‘I’ve heard great things about Homeland. I want my loved one to come here.’ It’s very nice to hear that because a lot of places have to work very hard to get that reputation, and Homeland has it.”

Susan is an experienced social worker whose career followed a winding path. As a freshman at Shippensburg University, she initially set out to become a business education teacher but soon found the major wasn’t for her. Her roommate suggested that an introductory social work class might suit her temperament.

“It was a fit for me,” Susan says, especially since growing up, her parents were always service-oriented and volunteered at church and school. “It was where I wanted to be, where I needed to be.”

Susan went on to earn a master’s degree at Marywood University in Scranton and then worked in social work and admissions at Harrisburg-area nursing homes. Her experience led her to a position in the office of then-Pennsylvania Auditor General Bob Casey (now U.S. Senator), where she conducted nursing home performance audits.

After her daughter was born, Susan explored opportunities in other fields. Once her daughter was a little older, it was back to social work at local nursing homes and then to a sales and marketing position with an area hospice.

Her hospice work sometimes brought her to Homeland Center, where she encountered Barry Ramper II, Homeland’s president and CEO, for whom she worked at her first social work post. He asked her to come to Homeland.

“I thought highly of him and respected him,” Susan says. “When he offered me a job, it wasn’t an easy decision. I loved what I was doing, but when a former mentor seeks you out, I took that seriously.”

Returning to a continuing care retirement community during a pandemic is challenging, she readily admits.

“If there were three negative things, then I had to find three positive things about the situation,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I’m a religious person, but I have a strong faith and belief that there is a higher power looking out for us. We’re going through all this craziness for a reason, and we just have to keep looking forward and hope for the best.”

Homeland’s most powerful positives are the “amazing people here who do outstanding work,” she says. “It’s been great just being around my coworkers and working together to solve problems and knowing that everything you’re doing is for the good of our residents, to keep them safe and happy and healthy.”

Susan remarried recently to her high school sweetheart, with whom she reconnected at marching band reunions. She has a 16-year-old daughter, and he has three children, ages 10 to 26.

“My daughter never had siblings, so it’s nice for her to now say ‘my sister,’” Susan says.

The family enjoys camping, especially at Indian River Inlet in Delaware, where they watch the sunrise over the beach and the sunset over the bay. Susan, her husband, and her daughter live in the home where Susan grew up, which they are gradually renovating.

Much like returning to her parents’ home to live feels natural, coming to Homeland, she says, takes her back to the feelings she had when she enrolled in her first social work course.

“Homeland felt like a fit from the beginning,” Susan says.

Door decorating contest brings holiday spirit to Homeland hallways


Angels and reindeer. Snowflakes and snowmen. Santa and seven swans a-swimming.

Homeland’s 2020 door decorating contest brought a host of beloved characters to the hallways during an unusual holiday season. In those couple of weeks in December, the people who keep Homeland running smoothly — and always focused on the best interests of the residents — took the time to adorn their office doors in holiday style.

“With all of our responsibilities around COVID, we thought we could use a little pep and cheer in our hallways,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connor. Aleisha invited department directors to join the fun, acknowledging in an email that she was adding another duty to their long lists.

So, with that encouragement, did the department directors respond with enthusiasm?

“Oh my gosh, yes,” Aleisha says. “Everybody loved the idea.”

Adhering to regulations limiting coverage to no more than 30 percent of the door, departments got out the tinsel, decorative papers, and artificial snow. Entries came in from the business office, personal care offices, administration, dietary, therapy, activities, Ellenberger, nursing, the laundry. Even the office of Homeland President/CEO Barry Ramper II, was decorated with images of reindeer and gingerbread men made by his grandchildren.

Then came the vote. Due to COVID restrictions, residents couldn’t walk outside their areas to see all the doors, so the doors came to them. Homeland staff loaded pictures on tablets and showed them to residents individually. Then, they cast their votes.

And the winner was – drumroll, please – Administrative Assistant for Strategic Projects/IT Alice Kirchner and Administrative Assistant Esther Burnside with their angel-themed door. With 16 votes, they topped the list, just edging out the 15 votes won by Ellenberger’s “Christmas to Remember” door.

“The residents had a blast voting for all of them, and many mentioned how hard it was to pick just one!” Aleisha told all the entrants when she announced the winner.

“It was a success, and we’re definitely doing it next year,” says Aleisha.

It was all part of Homeland’s overall effort to bring cheer during a holiday season limited by COVID restrictions. Staff dressed up in holiday gear for the residents to see. The Board of Managers decked the halls with greenery. The Salvation Army donated gift packages for each resident, stocked with such goody-bag items as backscratchers, word search puzzles, and magazines.

With the hallway decorations hung by the Board of Managers, the décor “really did brighten up the environment tremendously for staff and the residents,” says Alice. She adds that she and co-winner Esther are not natural-born crafters, but they wanted to join in the holiday spirit.

Alice says she is blessed to have creative siblings, so she reached out to her sister Mary Ellen, a retired teacher in Baltimore who’s the family creative spirit and organizer.

“In about 30 minutes, I heard back from her with some pins,” Alice says. “Thank goodness for Pinterest.”

Together, they created a tableau of heavenly angels, including three whose faces were baby pictures of Esther, Alice, and Barry Ramper. The angels flew amid stars and white fluffy stuff.

As the winners, Alice and Esther won a $50 gift card for use in their office.

“All in all,’’ she says, “it was a nice demonstration of teamwork and creativity.”

Most importantly, she says, the residents liked it.

“I’m glad that it also brought smiles to their faces,” says Alice.