Gillian Lawrence is focused on helping others.
Whether she’s on the job or volunteering in the community, Gillian Lawrence is always doing good for others.
“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.
“We’re giving them hope that there are still things to learn and that they’re able to do,” she says. “They like new things. They like new activities. I like to help make them happy in that moment or that day, if I can.”
Lawrence gets her ideas for activities from many sources, including the residents themselves. “One of the residents said they like to bowl,” she says, hinting at a future possibility.
With support from her husband, Marcellus Sumpter, Lawrence earned her associate’s degree in health care administration from University of Phoenix and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree from Central Penn College, majoring in health care management and minoring in business. Her athletically inclined 16- and 10-year-old sons and 5-year-old daughter keep her busy. So does volunteering to help the city Parks and Recreation department and LOOP BNG, a youth-activities organization, hold summer and after-school events for kids.
“The children in our city have so much potential,” she says. “A lot of them are talented, and there is a lack of programing for them. Kids need a positive outlet. They need people to pay attention to them.”
Lawrence gives 100 percent to her job at Homeland because “everyone’s like a family here.” And like her, Homeland is committed to the city of Harrisburg. “They could be anywhere, but you know what? They’re right here,” she says.
Lawrence was raised by a single mother, Carol Mitchell. Her mom, she knows, taught her to keep her priorities straight. “She taught me to put God first in all that you do,” she says.