Resident Spotlight: Gloria Walters and her sister make the most of Homeland


Gloria Walters and her sister make the most of Homeland.

Gloria Walters grew up as the youngest of six children, but she was never the stereotypically spoiled baby sister.

“With six of us, the housework and the cooking, I don’t think Mom had any time to spoil any of us,” says Gloria.

Today, though, Gloria is still the youngest sibling to her eldest sister, fellow Homeland resident Fern Sucec. The two live in different wings but get together frequently, sharing memories and catching up on the day’s news and happenings.

The pair grew up in the Harrisburg-area neighborhood called Rutherford Heights, on a hilltop near the railroad tracks. Their father worked for the railroad. Every day, he would rise early and walk down the hill to work.

“There was a path, and he would walk up that path from his job,” says Gloria. “I would go up there to meet him, and I remember the one time holding his hand, and we would walk back to the house.”

Gloria and Fern’s mother was an excellent cook, and in any case, at mealtimes, “what she put in front of us, we ate. There was no fussing.” Their mother cooked “good country stuff,” Gloria recalls. Even to this day, her favorite meal is chicken pot pie, although she never learned to make the succulent mix of dough, gravy and chicken as well as her mother could.

What did all those kids do together?

“Fight,” Gloria says with a laugh. “We were together day and night. We played games and stuff. But we did fight a lot, so the main words you remember hearing from your parents were, ‘Don’t fight.’”

Fern remembers giving baths to the younger siblings, and Gloria would cry, “You got soap in my eyes.” So Fern would answer, “Well, hold still, and I won’t get soap in your eyes.”

Gloria graduated from Swatara High School, which was important to her mother. “I don’t think she graduated, so she wanted that for us,” she says.

After graduating, “You did not laze around,” Gloria recalls. “You got a job and you worked. As long as you were living in the house, you worked and gave your mother a certain amount. You didn’t take time to relax.”

Gloria got a job as a typist, a skill she learned in school, and found that she had a talent for typing not only quickly, but accurately, as well.

“It was easy for me to type fast without a lot of mistakes, and I don’t know where that comes from, except maybe that I liked typing,” she says. “If you could do both things, you were valuable at that time. I was fortunate there.”

David Skerpon, senior vice president for consumer strategies at Capital BlueCross, fondly recalled working with Gloria when he was with Mellon Bank.

“While the retail banking head at Mellon Bank, I had the pleasure of working with Gloria Walters,” Skerpon said.

“Gloria did an outstanding job supporting me as my executive assistant. Gloria was a dedicated employee with exceptional attention to detail, highly organized, and a delight to work with. Gloria could always be depended on to handle confidential business, irate customers, and employee communication professionally and courteously.’’

When asked what she likes about Homeland, Gloria, who previously served on Homeland Center’s Board of Managers, has a succinct answer: “Everything!”

She says she especially likes getting her nails done during a weekly manicure session. “It helps to make you feel dressed up,” she says.

Gloria says she also enjoys Homeland’s food and the varied activities.

“We do things and have picnics that keep us occupied,’’ she says. “Whenever anything like that comes up, we’re very excited about it. There’s always something to do. I feel very fortunate to be here.”

Mem-O-Ries band brings tunes and nostalgia


Mem O Ries Band“Here we have another polka,” Harry Minskey told his Homeland audience. “But this could be something strange to all of you, that we might play a song you never heard of, one called ‘The Beer Barrel Polka.’”

The audience got the joke. Right away, they told Minskey that, of course, they knew “The Beer Barrel Polka.”

“Ohhh,” Minskey teased. “Do we need to check to see how you know that?”

Then Minskey and his bandmates launched into the familiar one-two-three-hop of the world’s most famous polka. The band, a quartet called Mem-O-Ries, appeared in the Homeland Main Dining Room to share favorite songs from the radio, Broadway stage, movies, and dance floors.

Toes were tapping throughout the hour-long program. The band put an upbeat spin on everything from “Peg O’ My Heart” to “New York, New York” and its familiar opening riff.

Some tunes were combined in clever medleys. Minskey introduced the quartet’s rendition of “Mame” by noting that it was recorded by jazz great Louis Armstrong. Then came “Hello, Dolly!”, another song about a Broadway diva that Armstrong turned into a hit.

With each familiar tune, the audience clapped and sang along. Homeland resident Betty Wise enjoyed them all.

“I love them,” she said. “It brings back memories. We used to have a dance hall in Tower City, and we spent all our time there. We just stayed on the dance floor. And then we used to go outside and stand around in a gang and sing our hearts out.”

That was where Betty met her husband, a tall, good-looking ex-farmer who “was a good dancer. We danced all night.”

“We had wonderful, wonderful young years,” she added. “It cost a nickel to go to the dance, and that was hard to get.”

Mem O Ries Band audience picMem-O-Ries has played together for about five years, since Minskey formed the group with fellow Zembo String Band members. Playing for Homeland residents “is a pleasure,” he said. “We enjoy playing the music, and we feel we’re giving some pleasure to the folks in hearing the tunes of their day.”

Audience members also sang along with the sacred song, “It Is No Secret.” Homeland resident Betty Dumas knew all the words. “It is no secret what God can do,” she sang from her seat. “What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.”

Later, she explained, “My mother and I, when we’d do dishes together, we’d always be singing hymns. Everybody at church said, ‘Betty, I don’t see you looking at the book.’ I said I sang them so many times that I know them pretty well by heart.”

Even today, Homeland’s evening staff puts on Betty’s music to play, and she falls asleep listening to her favorite hymns.

Resident Ray Caldwell showed his approval by saying, “Very nice,” as each song ended. Afterwards, he couldn’t pick a favorite.

“I thought they were all good,” he said. “They’re all old-time songs. I enjoyed the old pieces.”

His wife, Betty Caldwell, shared his enthusiasm for the program. She sang for 30 years with the Greater Harrisburg Chorus, a Sweet Adelines barbershop ensemble.

“I like to sing everything,” she said. “I harmonize whenever I can.”

Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Parsons keeps residents moving forward


Jennifer Parsons keeps residents moving forward!

She is leading Homeland residents in exercises meant to maintain flexibility.

“Feet in front of you, roll your ankles,” she instructs. “One, two, three.” They count up to 10. Then, she says, “Opposite way. One, two, three . . .”

The ankle-rolling concluded, Parsons reaches for a green ball, but a class member speaks up. Isn’t she skipping an exercise in the regular routine?

“See? I forgot!” Parsons says. “You should have said something.”

“I just said!” the resident said, to laughs all around. Then comes the missed exercise. “Knees apart, push your knees together with your hands. One, two three . . .”

Parsons is a Homeland veteran, on the job since July 2001. She is lead restorative aide, serving an essential function – making sure that residents maintain the progress they make in physical therapy.

“When they reach their therapy goals, they’ll come to my restorative program and I will do whatever I need to do so they don’t lose any strength and capability,” she says. “If they’re able to walk 500 feet, I make sure they walk 500 feet.”

Parsons, a West Virginia native and Harrisburg-area resident since age 13, entered health care after graduating from Cedar Cliff High School. She worked in the Polyclinic Hospital storeroom and then followed a friend’s suggestion to become a CNA. When her Polyclinic supervisor came to Homeland, Parsons followed.

Today, she remains a CNA with a diverse array of duties, helping with payroll and scheduling therapy in addition to her restorative work. She appreciates the Homeland tradition of staff helping wherever they’re capable.

“It gives you a break from your routine,” she says.

Parsons’ daily class attracts residents so dedicated that some will hold their own exercise sessions when she’s away.

“It’s nice that they look forward to seeing you every day,” she says. “I always try to be happy and to make them laugh. We’ll joke. I’ll tell them what’s going on in my house or when my daughter does something wrong or if I ate something good last night. I keep it real with them.”

Parsons enjoys interacting with residents, talking about their outfits or getting their hair done. She tries to keep residents connected with family, friends, and community. One resident wanted to go to her daughter’s house on Christmas Day, so Parsons took her there. That same resident recently mentioned her desire to attend a granddaughter’s bridal shower.

“If you want to go, I’ll take you,” Parsons offered, and that’s what they did. When another resident needed clothes, Parsons took her on a shopping excursion at Boscov’s.

“It felt like the right thing to do,” says Parsons. “I wanted to do it. And it was nice for her. It was something different.”

Thank You for Putting the “Home” in Homeland Center


home sweet homeland

As our parents age, as we age, life sometimes doesn’t go as planned. Mom may get sick and need around the clock expert nursing care. Dad isn’t the same after Mom passed and needs some assistance, but still wants to live his life as independently as he possibly can. They provided a good home, took care of the family and then each other. Now it is the children’s responsibility.

Trying to manage a household, a full-time job, along with being the sole caretaker of Dad is difficult. It forces us to ask ourselves some challenging questions.

 Where can I find quality senior care paired with choices?  Where can I find a CMS Five-Star Skilled Nursing Facility or Harrisburg Magazine’s Readers’ Choice for Best Long Term Care Facility in the Harrisburg region? A CMS Five-Star designation is Medicare’s highest recognition for quality in care, staffing and safety, and it ranks facilities among the country’s elite for continuing care retirement communities.

The answer occupies a full city block in uptown Harrisburg at 1901 North Fifth Street. The answer was chartered in 1867, as the Home for the Friendless — women representing nine churches in Harrisburg identified the need to care for the widows and orphans of the Civil War.  The answer is Homeland Center.

While it is true that Homeland has been recognized as a premier provider of exemplary health care to seniors, we could not have reached these extraordinary accomplishments alone.

So, Homeland Center would like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU.

Thank you to our dedicated and friendly staff and our incredible and selfless volunteers and donors. Thank you to a regional community that has supported us for the past 150 years. And, of course, thank you to our residents and their families.

To our staff, volunteers and donors, thank you for making Homeland Center what many in this region call home. To our community, residents and families, thank you for the continued encouragement and confidence you give us.

Thank you for putting the “Home” in Homeland.

Expanding community-based services key to Homeland Center’s continued growth


As Homeland Center celebrates its 150th anniversary, its future lies in continuing to provide excellent care at its historic Harrisburg location as well as expanding to meet the growing healthcare needs throughout the Central Pennsylvania region.

Quality, continued growth and full commitment to Homeland’s founding principles was the message delivered by President and CEO Barry Ramper II at the recent annual meeting of the boards of Trustees and Managers.

“If we could go back and talk to the group of people from nine churches who had a vision it would be very interesting to hear, if even in their wildest imagination, they believed this day would come and that Homeland would be the organization it is today,” Ramper said.

“Our quality begins in the hearts of our staff,” Ramper said. “Homeland’s success begins with our staff and it’s your heartfelt actions that are most important in everything we do.”

Homeland’s commitment to quality was underscored when, for the sixth year in a row, Harrisburg Magazine’s more than 50,000 readers voted Homeland Center as Readers’ Choice for Best Long-Term Care Facility. The recognition came on the heels of Homeland a perfect 5.0 score in U.S News and World Report’s Best Nursing Homes 2016-17.

Highlighting its commitment to hiring and retaining talented and caring staff who represent the community it serves, in March, Homeland Center was named Business Diversity Award Champion of the Year by Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC.

While there will always be the need for exceptional personal and skilled nursing care, Ramper stressed Homeland’s future lies in continuing to grow its community-based services that make it possible for people to remain independent in their own homes.

Barry Ramper Susan Batista 2016 board meetingLast year Homeland unveiled two services to help seniors at home. Homeland HomeCare assists seniors with daily tasks such as meal preparation and transportation, while Homeland HomeHealth provides doctor-ordered medical assistance, ranging from providing intravenous therapy and other medications to physical therapy.

The community based services are part of a continuum of care that includes Homeland Hospice, which has a team of caring professionals certified in both adult and pediatric care.

“The future of Homeland is not 1901 North Fifth Street – it is the heart of why we exist, but as we know a body cannot live with just the heart. The future is HomeCare and HomeHealth,” Ramper said. “What we provide with our community based services is an opportunity to have the highest quality of life wherever you call home.”

In keeping with its mission to serve those in 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 continues, Homeland is in the fourth 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.

“We’ve come a long way toward reaching our goal, but we still have a long way to go, and each of us needs to renew our commitment to attaining that goal, said Morton Spector, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “The lives of those who cannot care for themselves depends on all of us.”

During the meeting, Ramper and Spector thanked all those who made Homeland Center’s 150th Anniversary Gala held in May at the Harrisburg Hilton a success. Generous donations by the John Crain Kunkel Foundation and John M. Arnold helped raise an unprecedented amount for Homeland’s endowment.

They also recognized Gail Siegel, who is stepping down from the Board of Trustees after six years, where she was an active member of the Financial Development, Long Range Planning and Nominating Committees. She and her husband, Conrad, are charter members of The 1867 Society.

“Thank you for all that you have done,” Ramper said to Siegel, adding that he is grateful for her willingness to continue serving as a non-voting member on numerous committees. “Your involvement makes us stronger.”

Homeland’s commitment to charitable, uncompensated care stands as a resource for the community. A nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, Homeland relies on the generous support of our friends and neighbors to continue helping the less fortunate. To find out how you can make a difference, call 717-221-7900 or go to