Father and daughter bring their caring natures to Homeland


Dennis Dinger and Tina Jones are a father-daughter duo with divergent careers but a shared passion for Homeland Center.

Dennis is a career financial services executive who serves as treasurer for the Homeland Board of Trustees. Tina started working in Homeland’s dietary department as a summer college job and is now a Homeland registered dietitian.

Both give their time and talents to help sustain the highest possible quality of life for Homeland residents.

Dennis has been associated with the board periodically since the mid-1990s when he was the CFO for the former Dauphin Deposit Bank. At that time, the bank president was retiring, and he suggested that Dennis apply for his seat on the Homeland board.

He said he looked into the board’s makeup and was impressed with the caliber of community leaders who served as members.

“It has always been a top-notch board,” Dennis said. “They always try to get trustees who have various backgrounds so that we can bring all of our expertise together for the sole purpose of benefitting Homeland.”

Tina was studying nutrition and dietetics at Messiah College (now Messiah University) when she took her first summer job at Homeland in 2008. Working as a dietary aide, she built experience in nutrition’s impact on health, a subject that has interested her since high school.

After graduating, she returned to Homeland and worked in dietary and nutrition roles while earning her dietetic technician credentials, followed by her registered dietitian certification.

Registered dietitians play a crucial role in the comprehensive care of residents. Tina is knowledgeable about the science of nutrition and its power to promote the overall health of the elderly.

She and her colleagues on the clinical side –– including nurses, social workers, and therapists — make sure that residents maintain an appropriate weight and protect their skin, and nutrition is a significant contributor.

“We work as a team to help the residents live to the best of their ability and be independent,” Tina said. “It’s about keeping residents happy and keeping them motivated. We like to bring smiles to their faces. It’s more than just nutrition. It’s caring about them.”

Tina takes every opportunity to get to know residents on a personal level. She also enjoys working with residents’ family members.

“I’m here for the resident, but I’m here for the family because they could be going through a difficult time,” she said. “I always give out my phone number freely.”

One resident’s family member once called to thank her for making a low-sodium diet palatable, saying the family could see the care she was providing for their mother.

Tina has a knack for nurturing the elderly and is “made for this job,” said her proud dad.

“She’s a hard-working, caring individual,” Dennis said. “I must say she has a wonderful boss here at Homeland – Yolanda Williams. She’s like a second mother.”

“I second that,” Tina chimes in. Homeland Director of Nutritional Services, Laundry, and Housekeeping Yolanda Williams has been “very, very helpful from the very beginning.

“She has a very good management style and cares about her employees,’’ Tina said of Williams, Homeland’s Director of Nutritional Services, Laundry, and Housekeeping. “She’s caring, and you can see that. She wants her staff to do well. She constantly impacts us, which impacts the residents and helps us care for them.”

Like Tina, Dennis also enjoys meeting Homeland residents. He constantly searches out those he might have a connection with from the workplace, church, or, especially, his Schuylkill County hometown of Hegins.

“I like to stop in to say hello and reminisce,” he said. “In a roundabout way, I’m caring for the residents with what I can contribute to the board.”

Dennis serves in a volunteer advisory capacity and said he is impressed with the financial acumen of Homeland executives and the management of the Homeland endowment. These funds assure that residents can stay in Homeland if their resources run out.

Dennis believes that donors support Homeland’s endowment, operations, and special projects because they believe in the mission. Typically, they either know about Homeland’s quality of care through a previous relationship, such as a board membership or a family member in residence, or they’re impressed by Homeland’s 155-year history.

Tina admires her father’s commitment to the growth and financial stability of Homeland, especially as a volunteer who carves out time amid his other job and family duties.
“To do everything he’s done in his life and volunteer on top of that shows that he’s a very caring individual,” she said.

The Dinger family often gets together for meals and extended-family vacations to Myrtle Beach. Whenever there’s a birthday, Dennis’ wife, Sandy, plans a meal of the birthday honoree’s choice. Tina always requests her mom’s meatloaf. Dennis likes a September picnic with hot dogs and hamburgers.

“Our family is growing with the grandchildren now, so it seems like there’s a birthday dinner every month,” Dennis said.

Tina is the youngest of Dennis and Sandy’s three children, and she is expecting their fifth grandchild – her first child — this summer.

Everyone in Homeland management is helpful, Tina concludes.

“They hear our wants and needs,” she said. “If we have a concern about a resident and take it to management, they will hear us and adjust to help that resident. It’s a team approach here with everything.”

Homeland volunteer Wendy Shearer: Managing the Homeland Gift Shop


On a recent Monday, a Homeland resident dropped by the Homeland Gift Shop, wearing a lovely scarf that came from the shop. She wasn’t looking for anything in particular. She just pops in every day to see what’s new.

“They’re wonderful,” she said. “They’re very helpful. No matter what you might want, if you ask for it, they will produce it. They have such pretty things in there.”

Whether practical or fun, the items needed to get through the day can be found at the Homeland Gift Shop. Behind it all is Wendy Shearer, a dedicated volunteer who donates her time and talents to sustaining this quick stop for snacks, toiletries, and gifts.

“Homeland’s a wonderful place,” says Wendy. “I love the elderly. I love kids under 5 and people over 75. My parents always taught us to be respectful of our elderly. Just to reach out to somebody can mean so much to them, and that’s what I see here at Homeland.”

Wendy first knew Homeland as a visitor, when she spent time with a friend from her church.

“The gift shop was just a tiny closet then,” she recalls. “We’d come down every Friday and get a bag of pretzels and a Coke and have a little tea party in the diner.”

In the meantime, Wendy worked for about 20 years as the manager of the gift shop of a local hospital where she also had volunteered. Two women from her tight-knit group of volunteers also became members of the Homeland Board of Managers, the unique volunteer board responsible for maintaining Homeland’s renowned home-like feel in its décor and activities.

When the women asked if Wendy could give some time to enhance the Homeland Gift Shop, a new chapter opened in her life. She left her job at the hospital around 2012 and, since then, has volunteered her time and effort to create a nook where residents, staff, and visitors can find the basics, and a few luxuries.

Around the time that Wendy arrived, the Homeland Activities Department expanded that “tiny closet” into a room with shelving and cabinets. Wendy got to work expanding and upgrading the inventory. With her connections and know-how, she found quality items, reasonably priced in order to “keep the costs down for the residents.” She stocked a kids’ corner with inexpensive things for visiting children.

“If a grandchild comes to visit and wants something to do, they can bring them here to buy a coloring book and a box of crayons,” she says.

The shop, connected to the Homeland Diner, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Wendy mans the counter on Mondays and volunteers step in the rest of the week.

“I do enjoy it, and I enjoy finding things for in here,” she says. Some items are donated, but she still works with one of her vendors from the hospital, picking up seasonal fashion items such as jewelry, scarves, and purses.

“Any time I get pocketbooks, they always sell,” she says.

Wendy crochets baby hats and blankets for newborns at the hospital, so she’ll make a set to donate to the shop, too – handmade gifts that residents and employees can buy to welcome new grandchildren or give at a baby shower.

“One resident was looking for a shawl to put over her shoulders in a specific color, and I told her I would make one for her, and I did,” Wendy says. “Then she came in at Christmastime and wanted some special towels to give as gifts, and she bought what I had picked out for her.”

When Wendy worked at the hospital, she joked that her husband, Skip, was “assistant manager of the gift shop” because he would tag along on her purchasing ventures. He still does.

“We went last week and got the cards for in here,” she says. “Whatever I get involved in, he always helps me.”

Skip and Wendy live in Lower Paxton Township. Their two sons are teachers; another died in 2020. Through him, they have a 21-year-old granddaughter who used to help her grandmother run the Homeland Gift Shop.

“She was better with the cash register than I was,” Wendy jokes.

Wendy is an ordained deacon at her church, historic Market Square Presbyterian in downtown Harrisburg. She loves playing pinochle, and she bowls “when my knee allows it.”

Wendy also once worked at an assisted living facility, and she remembers how much the residents there appreciated any help she could provide. She sees that same spirit at Homeland.

“Anybody I talk to here, they praise the help,” she says. “The people who work here are respectful to the residents. Very respectful, and that’s important.”