Volunteers Janet and David Young: Giving back to Homeland


Homeland Volunteers Janet and David YoungHow hands-on is Homeland’s Board of Managers? Janet Young puts it in four words.

“We dust the Hummels.”

As in the sizeable Hummel figurine collection donated to Homeland and displayed in hallways, meeting rooms, gathering spaces, and the chapel. Recently, Board of Managers members had a dusting party.

“We were there with a paintbrush and a dust cloth, dusting every one of them,” Janet said. “When I say ‘hands-on,’ we dust.”

Janet and her husband, David Young, are stalwart Homeland volunteers. Janet has been a Board of Managers member for about nine years, currently serving as treasurer. David started a men’s discussion group to allow male residents to bond and talk about guy things.

The Board of Managers is Homeland’s unique, all-volunteer, all-women board devoted to maintaining Homeland’s renowned homelike feel. Janet joined at the suggestion of a dear friend who chaired the board.

“My father was a resident here, and I always felt they took such good care of him,” she said. “I always wanted to give back.”

Janet is a Harrisburg native, born and raised. She quickly names the food businesses once owned by her family, the Rittners — El Centro restaurant, the YWCA café, the Trailways terminal food counter, and Rittner’s Diner on Cameron Street.

“And then in the ‘60s, we were probably the biggest caterer in the area,” she said.

Janet always knew she wanted to go to college, even in the 1960s, before that was a common aspiration for women. She loved Penn State and majored in the field she had worked in all her life – hotel and restaurant management.

David also wanted to attend Penn State, but his route was more circuitous. He was born near Pittsburgh, lived in Kansas City, MO, and moved to Flourtown, Montgomery County, PA. In the Philadelphia region, he worked winter breaks for a Chestnut Hill florist, catering to upper-crust customers shopping for Christmas wreaths.

In the summer, he cleaned pools for Chestnut Hill families, including the sister of actress and real-life royalty Grace Kelly.

“I walked in one day, and there was Princess Grace,” he remembers.

At Penn State, Janet and David knew each other from around. He studied business administration and belonged to a fraternity that included scholarship athletes. She dove into campus life as a cheerleader, sorority president, student government representative, and Homecoming and Spring Week committee member. He jokes that he was tired of dating someone different every week, so he dated Janet for the last half of his senior year, “and somehow, it stuck.”

He graduated from Penn State in 1966 and served six years in the Army Reserve. While their two sons were young, the family came to Harrisburg because David wanted to work for Janet’s family business, which was transitioning into food distribution at the time. Working in sales, David’s main client was Genuardi’s, the Philly area’s legendary specialty grocer.

Today, the Youngs have been married for 55 years and have four grown grandchildren. In the fall and winter, they spend time at their condo in Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The Youngs conceived the Homeland Men’s Discussion Group as a place for male residents to chat. Led by David, the members have talked about the Civil War, World War II, and Penn State football.

“They seem to really enjoy it,” he said. “We have good conversations.”

David also joins the men’s group on excursions to local sites like the National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg Senators’ baseball games, and the Antique Automobile Club Museum in Hershey. A tour of a local Harley-Davidson dealership is in the works.

At Homeland, Janet joins in everything the Board of Managers does to maintain a warm and welcoming atmosphere – staging picnics, distributing fries from a French fry truck, preparing flower arrangements for the dining rooms, sending birthday cards to residents and staff, greeting new residents, decking the halls for the holidays, and organizing this year’s popular tea party.

“We try to make things nicer and easier and better for our residents,” she said. “We have an excellent board. We have an outstanding group of women. When you need volunteers, their hands go up.”

And, adds Janet, the staff “is outstanding. They are so committed, and they’re so lovely. They’re very polite.”

Homeland’s attentiveness to staff needs shows in its low turnover and high longevity rates.

“They take very good care of their staff here,” she said. “My father’s been gone for 13 years, and there are still people here who were taking care of him then. You don’t find that at other places.”

Homeland Center (www.homelandcenter.org) offers levels of care including personal care, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Homeland also provides hospice, home care, home health and palliative care services to serve the diverse and changing needs of families throughout central Pennsylvania. For more information or to arrange a tour, please call 717-221-7900.