Homeland’s Board of Managers forges strong relationships with residents


A true home is a comfortable place where the feel is welcoming, the décor is warm, and the people are friendly.

Homeland Center Board of Managers Chair Susan Batista, center, discusses upcoming events and plans for activities with residents Betty Wise, left, and Fay Dunkle.

At Homeland Center, the unique Board of Managers assures the little things that make life pleasurable for residents, and now, the board is modernizing to enhance Homeland’s home-like feel.

The Board of Managers is a separate entity from the traditional Board of Trustees. While the Board of Trustees keeps Homeland running smoothly by overseeing fiscal and operational duties, the Board of Managers handles interior details and many day-to-day functions. They include selecting furniture and décor, hosting events, and sponsoring activities such as the visit by a food truck delivering hot, fresh French fries to delighted residents.

In 2016, with nearly 150 years of history behind it, the Board of Managers decided it was time to upgrade its by-laws, with two goals in mind – strengthening personal relationships with residents and attracting top talent by making better use of members’ time. The two goals are intertwined.

“We’re trying to have fewer actual meetings so that members can spend more time with residents,” says Board of Managers Chair Susan Batista, who led the by-laws revision.

While the Board of Managers continues with its many traditional duties, residents, family, and staff will also see signs of the changes:

  • Board of Managers members will make personal, regular visits to residents, including those who don’t get frequent visitors.
  • Board members will wear new name tags on lanyards, indicating their official association with Homeland but easier to read and recognize than small nameplates.
  • More activities such as cooking and crafts classes, led by board members sharing their interests.
  • Meet-and-greet events will introduce board members to the entire Homeland community.
  • Heightened effort to get residents’ ideas and feedback on events and activities.

“As we develop relationships with residents, we can go beyond visits where we sit and chat,” says Batista. “If residents know who we are, they might be more comfortable approaching us. They have to feel they have some say, that everything’s not decided for them.”

The by-laws revisions create a new structure that reduces the time spent on meetings. The change will help members better manage their time, as they juggle professional duties, family lives, and community causes.

The Board of Managers’ 18 members stays active and involved because “they enjoy Homeland,” says Batista. “It’s an amazing facility. The care is exemplary. It’s a hidden gem of the community that they’re proud to support.”

Board members are fortunate to work on behalf of a home where residents come first, says Batista.

“We have such a caring staff,” she says. “The staff, the Board of Managers and the Board of Trustees, and the administration are making all the difference. Everybody here is involved in every aspect of care.”

Be a part of Homeland’s commemorative cookbook!


Next year Homeland Center is turning 150 and we want your help making it a delicious occasion! We’re asking residents and their families, as well as employees and friends to share their favorite recipes for a special commemorative cookbook.

Recipes must be received no later than Wednesday, Nov. 30 and can be emailed to Barbara Cleeland at bcleeland@homelandcenter.org or dropped off at the Sixth Street front desk. Please make sure your recipe is clearly written and has your full name and contact information.

All money raised from the sale of the cookbook will benefit Homeland Center’s endowment fund. For more information, either email Barbara or call 717-221-7727.

Quality without compromise remains Homeland Center’s mission in a challenging new world


A top-to-bottom team effort has kept the 149-year-old Homeland Center at the top of its game. Wisdom, adaptability, and a “full commitment” will keep it there, leaders agreed at a recent annual meeting of the boards of Trustees and Managers.

President and CEO Barry S. Ramper II pledged that Homeland has never compromised quality and never will, despite financial pressures and a “rapidly changing” regulatory environment.

In his report to supporters and staff, President and CEO Barry S. Ramper II pledged that Homeland has never compromised quality and never will, despite financial pressures and a “rapidly changing” regulatory environment.

“I will not compromise the goal. I will not compromise the quality. I will not compromise what we have a responsibility to achieve, no matter what the environment,” Ramper vowed. “Knowing that Homeland is entrusted with all or a portion of a client’s end-of-life care, clients have and deserve an expectation of quality.”

One way Homeland is meeting today’s challenges is by expanding its services to provide a “continuum of care’’ that addresses the needs of those living at home. Homeland began expanding its services with the introduction of Homeland Hospice, which includes the region’s only dedicated pediatric hospice.

Earlier this year, Homeland unveiled two additional services to help seniors at home. Homeland HomeCare will assist seniors with daily tasks such as meal preparation and transportation, while Homeland HomeHealth will provide doctor-ordered medical assistance, ranging from providing intravenous therapy and other medications to physical therapy.

He called on everyone, including himself, to “step up their game,” even as the accolades and awards continue to build upon Homeland’s post-Civil War legacy of excellence.  The center’s achievements and reputation are reflected in five consecutive “Reader’s Choice” awards in the category of “Best Long-Term Care Facility” by the 50,000 readers of Harrisburg Magazine. Homeland is also one of the few in Central Pennsylvania to repeatedly earn Medicare’s top Five-Star rating.

“It’s harder to hold this position than to attain it,” Ramper said.

President and CEO Barry S. Ramper II, left, is joined by Board of Managers Chair Susan Batista and Board of Trustees Chair Morton Spector.

Morton Spector, chairman of the Board of Trustees, joined Ramper in saluting the staff and supporters.

“They not only accomplished this [record of achievement] with positive attitudes and unswerving devotion to our residents but also complied with the essential budget restraints without compromising the quality of care,’’ Spector said.

Soon to be faced with a new U.S. president, the continued graying of the baby boomer generation, and new government funding strategies, Spector noted that much has changed since Homeland was established in 1867. But Homeland’s commitment to quality without compromise remains steadfast, he said.

“Homeland has demonstrated that it does not falter from such challenges and does not waver from its commitment to provide the highest quality of care in the most appropriate setting possible,” Spector said.

Board of Trustees Chair Morton Spector praised Homeland’s staff for their “positive attitudes and unswerving devotion to our residents.”

In keeping with its mission to serve those who need, Homeland in the past year provided almost $3 million in charitable care. Much of this is spent to bridge the gap between the actual cost of care and shrinking public reimbursements.

To ensure that Homeland’s tradition of never asking a resident to leave because of financial reasons endures, Homeland is in the third year of its goal to increase its endowment by $20 million by the year 2020. As part of this aim, Homeland established The 1867 Society to recognize individuals and couples who have made significant, tax-deductible commitments to the endowment.

Ramper expressed his hope that more donors will join the 60 charter members of the 1867 Society featured on the Wall of Honor in the Sixth Street lobby by making a major gift, including Homeland in their estate planning, donating property or insurance, or finding another way to give more.

Ramper recalled the words of late Homeland resident, World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient Robert D. Hanson, Esq., who told him, “One cannot just exist. One must make a difference.”

“Homeland cannot just exist. We must make a difference,” he echoed.

Resident Spotlight: Rosa Walker votes for 60 years


Rosa Walker is the granddaughter of a slave who endured racism in the segregated South. She remembers the heartbreak over such tragedies as the 1963 killing of four girls in an Alabama church bombing. In the midst of the nation’s civil-rights struggles, she and her husband decided there was one way to help drive change: They would vote in every election.

Homeland Center resident Rosa Walker loves to get outside and enjoy Homeland’s gardens and fountains.

Sixty years later, Rosa Walker, 94, has kept that pledge, never missing a vote. About 10 years ago, after her 50th year of consecutive voting, she and her husband, World War II veteran William M. Walker, were inducted into the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame.

Today, the Homeland Center resident remembers that decision, made in the era when African-Americans were struggling to end segregation and secure equal rights.

“There was all the upheaval in the country, and people were dying for it,” she says from her room at Homeland. “My husband and I decided that if they could die for it, the least we could do was vote. We made that commitment to each other, and we kept it.”

Walker grew up in the South Carolina home of her grandparents. Her grandmother, Lavinia White, was born a slave. The family were sharecroppers on a cotton farm.

“They were one step away from slavery,” she says. “It was a horrible life. It was the saddest life because of the conditions you lived under. We walked to school for miles. We didn’t have proper food. We did the best we could on the farm because there was no light, no gas. Everything was outside. You had a pump, and that was your water. You had a fireplace, and that was your heat.”

Beverly Walker, right, visits her mother, Rosa Walker, the granddaughter of a slave who has voted in every election for 60 or more years.

Seeking a better way of life, she went to live with loving relatives in Washington, DC. She worked as a maid in an upscale apartment complex, where she met her husband, who was also working there. He served as a first sergeant in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II and was on his way to the Pacific, readying for a possible invasion of Japan, when the war ended.

In 1950, the couple moved to Harrisburg. Though they encountered segregation in the North, too, they eventually purchased a home in Uptown Harrisburg, near Homeland, and raised two daughters. “My husband and I worked night and day to find a better life for our kids,” she says.

Walker remembers all the U.S. presidents during her lifetime. Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman were “true men” and “good people,” she says. “The rest of them had their problems, all of them, including Roosevelt.”

Voters have the power to remove even rich people from their elected posts. “I can’t take your money, but I can take you out of that seat,” Walker says.

William Walker died in 2006 and is buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. Since Rosa Walker moved to Homeland, her daughter has taken her to vote at the Neighborhood Center on Third Street.

“Right now, I’m still voting,” she says. “If I’m alive, I vote. Even though I’m incapacitated, I’m still going.”

Employee Spotlight: Barbara Jones sees residents as the sun and solar system of Homeland


Barbara Jones sees residents as ‘the sun and solar system’ of Homeland.

Whether she’s laughing with co-workers or chatting with residents, Barbara Jones loves working at Homeland Center.

Barbara Jones, right, assists co-workers, including Assistant Director of Finance Lori McMichael, in the range of fiscal matters that keep Homeland Center operating smoothly.

“When my life gets crazy, I love to come in, get at my desk, zone out, and focus on my work,” says Jones, Homeland’s fiscal assistant. “The people here are phenomenal. The people I work with in my office — the amount of work they do and their experience and how smart they all are just blows me away.”

Jones was working at another area retirement center when a co-worker left for Homeland, and she knew she wanted to follow.

“I like to say I was on the wait list,” she says. Since joining the fiscal staff in February 2016, she helps with accounts payable, payroll, and other tasks that help her colleagues “keep their jobs rolling along.”

“I just hope to help make their jobs easier and be there to carry the extra,” she says. “I’ve learned so much. I’m just the assistant, and I love it. I love to assist people.”

Jones has a busy life outside of Homeland. She and her husband, Kenneth White, have four daughters, ages 13 to 26, and an infant granddaughter. They also have a chocolate lab puppy named Toby, cats named Marco and Miss Baby, and a 100-pound African spurred tortoise named Dido.

About that tortoise: A snake-enthusiast friend was going to a reptile show, and they asked him to bring back an Egyptian tortoise hatchling, the type that only grows “the size of a half dollar,” says Jones. Even when they realized he had returned with a very different tortoise, White used the moment to teach the kids, “We were given this to love and we take care of as well as we can.”

Barbara Jones loves to camp, hike, and kayak with her family. During breaks in the workday, she enjoys getting outside in Homeland’s courtyards.

“We’ve had him 20-some years,” Jones says. “He’s very benign. He walks around the yard. He eats grass. We give him romaine and peppers. He’s got a nice life.”

And the lesson she learned from the episode? “Never ask a snake guy to go to a reptile show and get you a turtle.”

Jones grew up in a tight-knit Steelton neighborhood, attending Catholic school with the same 14 kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. Today, she teaches religious education for second graders at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.

The graduate of Bishop McDevitt High School learned about resilience from her “fiercely independent” grandmother, who was orphaned as a teenager. She sees the same strength in Homeland’s residents.

“This generation in here, unlike my generation who took forever to grow up, they were grown up when they were 14,” she says. “When I’m walking the halls, I always like to talk and say hi. I enjoy the reminiscing about the good old days and the dance halls they went to.”

At the 2016 Homeland Summertime Fair, Jones and her youngest daughter, Kendra, volunteered to watch the bounce house

“This is such a unique experience here because the focus is 100 percent these residents,” Jones says. “They are the sun and the solar system of Homeland. I’ve always been for the underdog, and I always want to ensure that those who are most vulnerable have a voice and are protected and taken care of. Here, it’s a dream.”

Homeland Center’s Board of Managers has a unique role


“Two heads are better than one,” goes the old saying. In the case of Homeland Center, residents benefit from the collective talents of not one but two boards, guiding management and staff through daily operations.

Homeland’s Board of Trustees is a traditional board, overseeing finances and business decisions. But unique to Homeland is the Board of Managers, an outgrowth of 19th century laws that has stayed relevant well into the 21st century.

In the post-Civil War years, the leading women of Harrisburg banded together and started the process of founding a “Home for the Friendless” to care for Civil War widows and orphans. However, those smart, capable women could not, under existing laws, perform such critical functions as making contracts and holding real estate.

Those duties fell to the Board of Trustees, who managed them well, while the women stayed involved through a Board of Lady Managers. As the years passed, Board of Managers members spent considerable time coming to Homeland to sew curtains, plant flowers, and take residents on shopping trips.

Even as times change, the Board of Managers has survived and thrived, contributing to Homeland’s homey atmosphere. Today, its duties include:

  • Hosting special events, such as the 2016 “Signs of Summer” picnic with strawberry shortcake and the sounds of a jazz band.
  • Meeting all newly admitted residents, when possible.
  • Helping staff decorate for seasons and holidays.
  • Accompanying residents and staff on outings to movies, shopping, restaurants, and other activities.
  • Producing some activities, such as musical events.
  • Weekly flower arranging in the dining areas.
  • Helping select interior décor.

“We hope to continue to be part of the residents’ lives,” says Board of Managers Chair Susan Batista. “Our job is making sure that Homeland is a true home.”