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Janine Lawler

Gatesworth Stories —

Spotlight: Q&A with the Event and Entertainment Director
Janine Lawler

Meet Janine Lawler, our Event and Entertainment Director at The Gatesworth (pictured above right). Well known for her creativity, strategic vision and exceptional relationship-building skills, Janine has a wealth of expertise in planning and executing high-impact events. She brings vibrant and engaging activities to our residents with her fun and innovative approach, and her enthusiasm for greeting and welcoming new residents to The Gatesworth family.

What are the responsibilities of your position?

My primary responsibilities include scheduling and implementing a variety of entertaining and educational programming and events and welcoming new residents and helping them get acclimated to our community.

How would you describe your typical day?

Ha! There is no such thing as a typical day in this role. Every day is a new day—and I love that about the job. One minute I am reaching out to speakers and entertainers to get them lined up for an upcoming performance, and the next minute I am assisting a resident who wants to purchase tickets to the opera. Then I’m off to do a new resident orientation. It’s a constant flux between resident interaction and administrative responsibilities. If I had to give a breakdown, I would probably guess that I spend about 20% of my time planning activities and events, 20% implementing them, 20% with new residents, 20% on administrative responsibilities, and the other 20% dealing with whatever comes up that day.

What are the most significant benefits of an active lifestyle for older adults?

I’m not a medical expert, but from what I can see, the more active our residents are, the happier and healthier they appear to be. Every time someone attends a program or goes on one of our day trips, they are connecting with other residents and building bonds that help create the sense of community we have at The Gatesworth. They know they are part of something and that there are people around them who care about them. For some residents, just knowing they have something to look forward to each day might be the reason they get up in the morning.

How do you determine what events/entertainment to offer?

Being new to the role, I wanted to get a baseline for how residents felt about our activities and events, so we issued a comprehensive survey back in February. We received a great response and found that most people were happy with what we were offering. However, they did have suggestions for a few tweaks and additions, and I have made it a priority to implement those adjustments. In addition to the survey, my door is (almost) always open, and residents stop in every day to let me know if they have a program idea, if there is a movie they want to see, or a new restaurant they think we should check out.

I know that I can’t please everyone all the time, so my goal is to offer a fairly wide variety in hopes of pleasing everyone at different times. From the feedback I’ve received, it seems to be going pretty well.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

There are so many parts of this role that I love—we have some of the most educated, cultured and generally interesting residents, and I love getting to know them. But the most rewarding part for me is bringing joy and enrichment to their lives. I know that I’ve done a good job when I see people up and dancing to the entertainment, crying because the music is so moving, or talking about what they learned in the book we just read or the movie that was shown. It’s especially great when one of our older residents tells me they just tried something for the first time.

What is your background?

Oh gosh, I feel like I’ve already lived a million lifetimes and done so many things. I started in hotel sales, scheduled tour groups at the History Museum, worked as the Director of Marketing for another retirement community, and had my own gift shop. My degree is in political science, but I’ve always been an event planner at heart. It’s in my blood. About twenty-five years ago, I started doing it professionally. I’ve planned everything from galas to graduations, weddings to street festivals. I was working as an event planning consultant for a time, which ultimately led to a career in non-profit fundraising, and I worked my way up from event coordinator to Chief Development Officer, overseeing multi-million-dollar campaigns. Last fall, I decided I needed a change. I was burnt out on fundraising. I wanted to continue to be of service to our community but in a way that brings me joy—and this has turned out to be the perfect fit. I like to tell people that I was a Fundraising Director and now I am the Director of FUN.

What drew you to work at The Gatesworth?

Honestly, I read the listing for the position, and it made me smile. I thought, I love everything about that role. And since I’m from St. Louis, I knew that The Gatesworth was the best of the best—so if I was going to be an Event and Entertainment Director anywhere, it should be The Gatesworth.

What are you grateful for at The Gatesworth?

I have so many things to be grateful for at The Gatesworth. I am grateful that I get to spend every day with the most incredible people and that I have the pleasure and honor of bringing joy and enrichment to their lives. I am grateful that I have the best assistant ever, who will do anything in her power to make our residents happy. I am grateful that every day brings new and exciting adventures.

Lightning Round:

Hometown: Born, raised and returned to St. Louis

Education: B.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri - Columbia

Hobbies: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, walking and hiking, playing mahjong and watching true crime TV with a glass of red wine.

Family: Happily married to my high school sweetheart for 31+ years, with three wonderful children, plus a bonus daughter-in-law and a soon to be son-in-law.

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