As a college senior majoring in social work, Daniqwa Buckner took an internship in a hospital geriatric unit. She didn’t think the work would appeal to her.
“When I got there, I loved it,” she says. “Working with the residents, hearing their life stories, and helping on a day-to-day basis – that was so rewarding.”
A few years later, she remembered that internship when she heard about an opening at Homeland. In October 2020, she became the Director of Social Services and Coordinator of the 24-bed Ellenberger Unit, which cares for residents with advancing memory impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia.
Homeland’s singular devotion to quality of life stands out among retirement facilities, says Daniqwa. Even as pandemic restrictions closed the doors to visitors, staff “planned and planned, and planned some more” to facilitate virtual, outdoor, and window visits.
She knew of Homeland’s “stellar reputation” and its status as a 5-Star Medicare Facility before she started. Stepping inside for the first time, she was impressed by the care provided and the staff commitment to “making sure that the residents know that it’s their home.”
Daniqwa was born and raised in Harrisburg. She has always planned each phase of her life, even amid twists and turns. As a Messiah College student, she was studying social work on the way to becoming a lawyer – her childhood dream. However, when she became pregnant with her first child, her son became her primary focus.
“As a mom, you realize there are certain sacrifices you have to make,” she says. “It was very important for me to finish all my schooling before my son started school.”
She went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from Temple University, finishing as planned before her son entered kindergarten. Daniqwa says she considers her mother, Danielle, a single parent and counsellor who sometimes worked a second job, her hero professionally and personally.
The two even supported and inspired each other while they pursued master’s degrees at the same time.
“She always made it a priority to put us first,” says Daniqwa. “Seeing her do that inspired me and is the reason I continued to push myself to work in social work.”
After finishing her master’s degree, Daniqwa was an intake worker for three years at Dauphin County Children & Youth — the first person to investigate referrals. The work could be challenging, but she managed by focusing on the positives.
In the next three years, Daniqwa continued in social work, first in a nursing home and then with children at a counseling facility. When the Homeland post opened up, she saw a career opportunity and the chance for a leadership position.
Daniqwa’s husband of two years, Adrian Buckner, is vice president of fundraising for Capital Way of the United Region. They met at church, and he surprised her by proposing at a family reunion. Their family consists of Adrian’s 12-year-old son, Daniqwa’s 10-year-old son, and – arriving amid a new job and a pandemic – a baby boy who’s now a year old.
In her work, Daniqwa feels honored by the confidence that Homeland leaders have shown, “letting me know that they believe in me.” In the future, she hopes to “demonstrate those same leadership abilities I see among our management team.”
Social workers assure that excellent medical care is supplemented with a healthy dose of humanity, accounting for the patient’s thoughts and feelings.
“It’s teamwork,” she says. “It’s a holistic approach. We all play a role in making sure residents have the best outcome at this stage in their life, with a focus on their individuality, independence, and dignity.”