Homeland Center trustee Keith A. Clark relishes a challenge


With a long legal career behind him, Keith Clark has been narrowing his civic causes to those that present new challenges or learning opportunities. The offer to serve on the Homeland Board of Trustees intrigued him.

“Health care is an area with a great deal of moving parts right now,” he says. “This is of interest to me because it offers a new intellectual challenge. I’m also learning about the issue on the side because my mother is in a nursing home. Those two things came together.”

Keith accepted the offer and joined the Homeland Board of Trustees, bringing his considerable experience and methodical mind to the finance and strategic planning committees.

Keith is the chairman of the well-known Harrisburg law firm Shumaker Williams, P.C., where he clerked while earning his Juris Doctorate from Dickinson School of Law. He also served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Rutgers College.

Keith dove into community causes and networking “the day I  started practicing law because that’s one way I could get to know people.”

“Harrisburg in the early ‘70s was a pretty closed town, as far as breaking into society,” says Keith, who in 1972 became a shareholder in his firm and its manager. “I had to develop my own path and my own veracity in the community.”

Keith has chaired a variety of significant organizations and initiatives, including Envision Capital Region, Capital Region Economic Development Corporation (CREDC), and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

“I’ve said to young people in my firm over the years that if you’re going to get involved in boards, treat it like a client,” he says. “When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. You do it in a timely fashion and bring your skill set to that board.”

As a board member, he draws on his experience with banking, general business and corporate law, commercial real estate, mergers and acquisitions, trade associations, business planning, governance, and government relations.

That kind of wide-ranging knowledge feeds his need to be “creatively challenged” in the problem-solving realm. His varied dealings stand in contrast to today’s legal environment, where the complexities of specific areas force attorneys to specialize.

“I’m always looking for a new challenge in a new area,” he says. “When the Payment Protection Program came out recently, I determined that one of my associates and I would learn that backward and forwards because it was a new practice area.”

He joined Homeland Center’s board in September 2019, embarking on “a listening process” to learn about the organization, its rich history, and its future. During a meeting in December, he stressed the need to make strategic planning a constant effort, flexible and subject to revision as circumstances change.

“It isn’t a cast-in-stone document anymore,” he says. “It’s something you have to make into a living, breathing document as challenges arise.”

In particular, strategic planning should always consider unintended consequences.

“People want to quickly get to the answer and move on,’’ he says. “But you have to look at how your decisions interact strategically with your plans.’’

Keith’s wife, Linda Clark, is an underwriter for WITF, the Harrisburg-area public media outlet. In fact, that’s how they met. She was his firm’s WITF sales representative, but they’d only communicated by phone until mutual friends brought them together. Married 22 years, they have a son who is in his junior year at the University of Colorado, where he is a biochemistry major.

They enjoy going out to eat, something he rarely got to do as a kid in Reading. They also love attending live theater in New York and locally. COVID-19 curtailed both pursuits, so they’ve been streaming political dramas and catching up on “Masterpiece” series that they missed.

“She likes horror movies,” he says. “I don’t. She can watch those on her own.”

What he has seen of Homeland so far is “really great.” Its leadership is strong. So is its reputation.

“There is a lot of positive feeling about the organization, internally and externally by third parties,’’ he says. “I mention that I’m on the Homeland board, and people recognize the name.”

Children of Homeland staff bring enthusiasm and passion to Homeland jobs


Drew Weldon engages with Homeland residents as if he’s known them for years.

“Hi, Nancy!” he says to one. “What’s up? Going for your walk? It’s hot out. It’s going to be hot out today.”

Drew has only been working at Homeland for a few weeks but his ties to Homeland Center and his affinity with the residents run deep. He is one of four summer hires who is the child of a Homeland employee. All bring the same work ethic and attentiveness to the well-being of residents that their parents deliver every day.

Those Homeland employees and their children are Jen Parsons and Tyra Bell, Tracey and Tyanna Jennings, Jennifer and Major Defreitas and Drew and Kelly Weldon. Additionally, longer term pairs of employees of parents and children include Gina George and DeVonte Talton, Malika Green and Candace Neverson, Miranda Mills and Kiana Mills, Pam Brown and Ashley Bryan, and Felicia Wallace and Lynee Brown,

We chatted with the summer hires – Tyra, Major, Tyanna, and Drew – about the priceless lessons they learn from working at Homeland.

Tyra Bell

Tyra Bell and Mom, Jen

Tyra has been coming to Homeland for so long that she’s been called “the Homeland baby.” Her mom, Jennifer Parsons, QA-CAN, celebrated her 20th anniversary with Homeland in summer 2020, and Tyra is a 22-year-old preparing for graduate studies in community psychology at Point Park University, Pittsburgh.

“Homeland has a friendly and homey environment,” she says. “Coming here for so long and now working here, I make family connections with everyone. I love it here.”

Tyra works in activities and dietary, and doing one-on-one visits with residents, who share good stories and words of wisdom. One day, a skilled-care resident preparing for discharge beckoned Tyra over.

“She was holding my hand and saying that every time she rings her bell, I’m always the first to come check on her and make sure she has everything she needs and that I’m doing a lovely job. She said that I’m so respectful and should just keep doing what I’m doing and live life to the fullest.”

The moment made Tyra cry a little bit. “She reminded me of my grandma,” she says.

Tyra loves service work, such as a trip she took to rebuild homes in Puerto Rico, so working at Homeland “felt right because it’s what I like to do. I like to help people.”

When Tyra leaves Harrisburg in mid-August, Homeland will be on her mind.

‘I’ve only been here a short time, but I’m definitely going to miss all the residents and my coworkers, but I’ll be back to visit!”

Major Defreitas

Major Defreitas and Mom, Jennifer

Major, 17, worked in a restaurant job until it closed for the COVID-19 shutdown. Like his fellow summer hires, he says that Homeland employees care about and for each other as much as they care for the residents.

At Homeland, Major works in dietary, and he hears those stories of the past from residents during his one-on-one visits with them.

“They share what they did when they were younger, and how many kids they have,” he says. “We just talk or play card games.”

Major will be a senior at Central Dauphin East High School, where his favorite class is history.

“I like learning about stuff that happened in the past,” he says. “It’s good for the imagination. I could draw a picture about the way people lived back then.”

Major, whose mom is Director of Nursing Jennifer Tate-Defreitas, has worked at Homeland for more than 20 years. When he was younger, Major enjoyed volunteering at Homeland, helping with the annual summer fair, or accompanying residents on trips around town.

Today, he finds working at Homeland gratifying because he can be a help while staff is striving to protect residents from COVID-19.

“It feels good to be a part of something important like Homeland,” he says.

Tyanna Jennings

Tyanna plans a career in nursing, perfect for her nurturing soul. She has set her eye on pediatric nursing, but working in a continuing care retirement community has taught her valuable skills for life.

“It helps me with my people skills and communication,” she says. “I learned to listen more. Not everyone talks the same way, so you learn to be patient.”

The 17-year-old first encountered Homeland through volunteering for a school service project, but she liked it so much that she kept coming back. She didn’t need much advice from her mom, Assistant Director of Human Resources Tracey Jennings when she got a job here because she knew Homeland and its people well.

Tyanna works in the Homeland activities department, perhaps bringing residents to “Calm My Mind Tea Time,” or handing out treats from the ice cream cart.

She has lunch with her mom every day and enjoys the company of her co-workers.

“I like being around the residents, too, and hearing what they have to say.”

Drew Weldon

Drew Weldon and Mom, Kelly

At 10 years old, Drew was learning construction trades from his father and grandparents – masonry, plumbing, electricity. Now 16, he’s a Homeland handyman, doing landscaping and maintenance inside and out.

No day is ever the same.

Working at Homeland has enhanced his respect for the elderly “because they’ve been through a lot more than I have.”

“You learn more and ask more questions and see how it was back then,” he says. “It makes you more mature when you talk to older people and you have a job. I like the responsibility of the job and the responsibility of taking care of people.”

He arrives at work early and is done by mid-afternoon. After every workday, the Central Dauphin High School wrestler works out at the gym for three hours.

Drew carpools to work daily with his mom, Assistant Director of Nursing Kelly Weldon. He has always known she works hard, but seeing firsthand how she handles herself and her duties has given him a new perspective.

“Working with her and seeing what she does and how much the residents love her — it’s amazing the amount of respect they show her,” he says. “If she has a rough day at work, I get it. It’s not an easy job. Now, I give my mom 100 times more respect.”

Staff and residents throroughly enjoyed our experiences with the summer hires and we were sad to say ‘good-bye’ to those already back at school. At the same time we were thankful for the chance to know them and have a part in their life experience and potential futures. We wish them all the best and look forward to future visits!