Lorna Hawthorne remembers the day she started working in the housekeeping department at United Hebrew: March 22, 1999. She felt at home right away. Not only were her new co-workers friendly and warm, she says, “The residents were happy to meet me, too!” She had moved to the United States from Jamaica a few years prior and was happy to find work in a place that was so welcoming.
That was 22 years ago. Over the past two decades, Lorna has accomplished many things she’s proud of: With her husband, she saved money to buy her first home in The Bronx, and most recently, in Stratford, CT. She’s raised four children, now ages 29, 27, 17 and 14. Latifa, her second oldest, attends Johnson & Wales University with the support of a scholarship program available to children of union employees. She also works part-time in United Hebrew’s dietary services department while she continues her studies. “If I wasn’t working here, we would not have had all of these opportunities,” she notes.
Lorna takes great pride in her work. “When I walk through the front door, I know it’s home to our residents. I clean with dignity. I clean as if my mother were living here. If she or someone I loved were a resident, I would want her bed to be clean and made and her bathroom to be spotless and her mirror to sparkle. That’s what I would want, and I work hard to make it a great environment to live.”
Yet working at United Hebrew is so much more than a job, Lorna says. It’s the people who have kept her coming back for all these years. There’s the camaraderie among her coworkers, who feel like family to her. “No matter what’s going on, we’re always coming up with ways to improve what we do. We work together to make things better every day. And I know they have my back.”
There are also her beloved residents. “They are a part of my life and my family. I look forward to seeing them every day,” she explains. She has grown very attached to residents over the years and looks for ways to brighten their days, sharing her passions for cooking and music with them. “While I’m working, they might put on the radio and I’ll dance for them, or I’ll sing gospel. We make each other laugh. Anything that makes them happy.”
Lorna cites her communication skills as key to her longevity at United Hebrew. “We work as a team here. I always make sure to talk things through, to clarify assignments, to understand different points of view. That’s important to be successful at work, and in life.”
Being appreciated for her contributions is also important to Lorna. She enjoys the many appreciation events planned by United Hebrew leadership, such as summer barbecues. “I feel valued here. We are treated so well it makes it a pleasure to be here, and I count each day as a blessing.”