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.”