Homeland Social Workers Make the Puzzle Pieces Fit


What do social workers do? At Homeland, they help families navigate the complexities that are often involved with caregiving.

“The hard work shouldn’t be on the family,” said Homeland social worker Amanda Williams. “They should just be coming to visit their loved ones. They shouldn’t have to worry about the other stuff. The hard work should be on us.”

March is Social Work Month, a time to recognize social workers and their dedication to serving as advocates to those in need. Homeland Center’s social work office is led by Director of Social Services Daniqwa Buckner and her assistant director Amanda. Together, they ensure residents and families feel at home.

Daniqwa joined Homeland in October 2020. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Messiah University and her master’s from Temple University.

Amanda knew from childhood when her parents struggled to find care for her ailing grandmother that she wanted a career in social work. Originally from Souderton, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Elizabethtown College and her master’s from Marywood University.

Daniqwa and Amanda describe social workers as connectors. They meet with residents when they first come to Homeland, whether for a long-term or short-term rehab stay. Navigating the system means linking residents with people and resources inside Homeland — dietitians, therapists, unit managers, and activities. The introductions provide assurance that needs are taken care of and that there’s always someone to turn to.

Amanda is often the social worker helping residents who come to Homeland for short-term rehab stays. When they are discharged, she puts together the puzzle pieces of home health care, therapy and insurance, working longstanding connections with Homeland at Home and other providers in the community to ensure a safe and productive transition.

“Whatever comes next, we want them to have the best quality of life,” said Amanda.

Strong communication skills are essential in social work. Amanda makes it clear to families that she wants to know about a resident’s needs “in the moment” when they can be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Social workers are also detail-oriented multitaskers, attuned to subtle changes and differing needs. At Homeland, they are key team members, reviewing residents’ daily well-being. They work with assistant directors of nursing, admissions, quality assurance and activities, and therapy. Constant communication with unit managers creates a “buddy system” that keeps everything focused.

“There are multiple components to every resident,” said Daniqwa. “There’s no black and white. There are gray areas, so you have to think out of the box and be flexible to make it a full picture.”

Social Work Month, sponsored by the National Association of Social Work, is a time for recognizing the hard work of social workers and their role “beside the families, fighting the battle,” in Daniqwa’s words. They are highly educated professionals who must earn 30 credit hours of continuing education every two years to maintain licensure.

Those credits keep social workers updated on the latest research in elder care. Their knowledge of dementia and behaviors equips them to educate families about changes a loved one may experience.

In one recent case, the wife of a new resident was struggling to understand her husband’s dementia diagnosis. Daniqwa helped guide her through getting to know the new person he had become.

“We helped her understand that it’s not him, it’s the disease,” said Daniqwa. “She told us that the education we provided helped create some ease in her.”

The care social workers provide for the families of Homeland residents and patients brings comfort directly to the residents and patients.

“They’re more relaxed because their family members are relaxed,” said Amanda.

Staff Pantry Cleanse Fills Pantries, Bellies, and Hearts


“When was the last time you went through and cleaned out your pantry?”

It was an excellent question, posted on the first Homeland Community Outreach Pantry Cleanse flier. Most people have extras or unwanted items in their pantries. The taco mix packet purchased when there were three at home. The beans for a never-made recipe.

With Homeland Center’s Pantry Cleanse, staff brought those unused items for fellow staff to take home. Cupboards were cleared, and food went to good use.

It was the latest endeavor by Homeland Community Outreach, which builds meaningful connections to local institutions and among staff.

A similar drive occurred at the Homeland at Home offices, which oversees Homeland Hospice, Homeland Palliative Care, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare. Jen McCauslin, Homeland at Home’s HR Representative, spearheaded the effort, and unclaimed items were donated to Bethesda Mission.

At Homeland Center, the Pantry Cleanse began when the facility’s Assistant Director of Human Resources Tracey Jennings, leader of Homeland Community Outreach, was clearing out her home pantry. Her unwanted but still unexpired items sat on her table for a few days until she had the idea to take them to work. She put them in the Homeland Diner with a “help yourself” sign.

“They were gone in 30 minutes,” Tracey  said. “That’s where I got the idea. Clear out your closets and pantries. Make room for the new.”

With the support of her supervisor, Tracy set a date for after the holidays. She asked Homeland staff and supporters to clear out their pantries of unopened, still-in-date nonperishables and bring them to the Homeland Diner.

Homeland Director of Skilled Admissions Susan Horvath found herself awake early one morning and used the time to clear out her pantry. Like many of us, she admits to overbuying on grocery trips, so she was happy to bring some dried and canned beans and other goods to Homeland.

“I’m sure there are a lot of us that have more than enough, and there are others who probably need the help,” Susan  said. For staff filling their own pantries with a few extra goods, it’s “one less thing they have to worry about.”

Some Board of Managers members also donated. They always keep staff in mind when organizing the special events that give Homeland its homelike feel, said Board of Managers Chair Alicelyn Sleber, and participating in the Pantry Cleanse was one way of giving back.

“Whatever we need, whether it’s carts, tables, masks, gloves, tablecloths, ice pitchers – somebody on staff will help,”  Alicelyn said. “They help us be better, so why wouldn’t we want to help?”

Homeland’s Community Outreach demonstrates to neighboring organizations, including churches and fire companies, that Homeland is approachable. At the same time, Alicelyn believes that internal outreach builds a sense of belonging that engenders superior care for residents.

On Pantry Cleanse Day, many donated items filling the Homeland Diner were brand-name pantry staples – Campbell’s tomato soup, Jif peanut butter, Del Monte corn, and strawberry Jell-O. Bakers could find chocolate chips and bread mix. For pasta night, there were boxes of spaghetti and ziti.

“I had a lot of positive feedback,” Tracey said as she looked at the display. “Someone took two boxes of pasta because they said they’re making spaghetti today.”

Homeland Quality Assurance CNA Supervisor Sharria Floyd helped Tracey organize the donations, making it easy for busy staff to pinpoint the items they needed for their own pantries.

“Just so it’s not mixed all over the place,” Sharria  said. “I’m glad they can go right to whatever they’re looking for.”

“Just like the grocery store,” said Tracey.

In a couple of days,  all the donated items were claimed. While the Pantry Cleanse fills bellies and keeps food from going to waste, it also builds goodwill that radiates throughout Homeland.

“It’s a way to bring people together,” said Sharria. “Everybody likes food. It shows compassion and teamwork. It’s kind of like paying it forward, from my home to your home.”

Added Tracey: “Kindness and compassion are contagious.”

Artist A. Wendy Warner Brings Verdant Scenes and Charming Portraits to Homeland


A. Wendy Warner felt a sense of oneness with art and nature as a little girl.

“It sounds sort of crazy, but I felt like I could almost touch things that were beautiful in the sense that I would drive down a mountain and lift my arm and feel as if my arm was touching the treetops,” Wendy said. “That’s how I enjoyed both the visual and the tactile.”

Wendy is the first artist of 2024 to exhibit in Homeland’s Florida Room gallery. The quarterly rotating exhibits showcase the works of local artists hand-picked by the Art Association of Harrisburg to bring artistry and beauty to the residents, staff, and visitors of Homeland.

Behind Wendy’s shimmering landscapes and piquant portraits is a determination to hone her skills through constant learning. Wendy was born in the Boston area. Her parents owned businesses, but she wanted to emulate her grandfather, an artist who painted in oils.

In her 20s, she tried to learn oil painting but put away the brushes after a few unsuccessful tries.

“I had no idea what was wrong, except that I didn’t like them,” she said.

In the meantime, she pursued a career in the nonprofit sector, helping schools and communities manage and program their grant funding.

“I felt very comfortable in the world of nonprofits,” she said. “I loved it.”

Fast forward to her retirement years. Wendy wanted to paint the faces of her “gaggle of grandchildren” – 10 of them.

“I wanted to leave something to them,” she said. “It’s a natural part of me.”

Still unsatisfied with her solo attempts, she tried a couple of teachers and finally enrolled online with Evolve Art Education. Evolve’s systematic rigor demanded commitment, but “if you just muddle through and work and work and work, I’m convinced that probably 90 percent of people can actually paint,” Wendy said.

As her work matured, Wendy served as an artist in residence at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. She also found her community with the Susquehanna Valley Plein Air Painters. ”Plein air” translates to “fresh air,” which challenges painters to sit in nature and capture a scene even as light and weather change. It’s all part of her never-ending learning trajectory.

“Getting to know people who have been painting for so many years and are so skilled, in a group where there are people of every level, was very good for me,” she said.

Going public was a big step, overcoming the feelings of vulnerability that come with “putting your work out in front of perfect strangers.” Her expert work in portraiture is attracting commissions, including winsome portraits of children and a skateboarding bulldog named Charley Girl.

A portrait of a smiling boy peeking out from the corner, posted on her website and on display at Homeland, is one of Wendy’s grandsons. Her two children live in Pennsylvania, one in Pittsburgh and one in Dillsburg, near her home.

People like to know the stories behind the artworks and their titles. Viewers at Homeland get to see “Kuerner’s Pig,” depicting an interior from the landmark Kuerner Farm in Chadds Ford, PA, that inspired artist Andrew Wyeth for decades.

Another painting at Homeland depicts a young woman wearing an enigmatic expression as her loose hair falls around her face. Its title, “Climate Change,” inspires different interpretations because “you can’t really quite figure out what’s going on with her.”

“I call it that because I see her as being so changeable,” Wendy said. “Her mood can change so quickly. You don’t know if she’s happy, whether she’s sad or whether she’s concentrating on something. You have to stop when you walk past it. You have to take a look to understand it.”

Wendy said her time in painting has been a joy.

“I still have a massive amount of learning to do, but I’m very happy with a brush in my hand,” she said. “Very, very happy.”

Wendy has heard of Homeland’s stellar reputation, and she hopes that her exhibit further brightens the hallways – and the days of its viewers.

“When you see someone walk by a painting and they stop because they need to look at it, it’s like giving a gift to someone,” she said. “It takes them away for a couple of minutes while they’re looking at it.”

Anyone interested in commissioning a custom painting is welcome to view Wendy’s portfolio and contact her at awendy1@yahoo.com or (717) 903-4875.