As a career physical therapist, Judy Bowman saw many long-term care facilities with loving atmospheres – but none matched the intimacy of Homeland Center.
“Being a smaller place, everybody knows each other here,” she says. “We have more fun interacting with the residents. The staff is unbelievably and truly caring. The residents notice that, and the families notice that.”
Judy serves on the Homeland Board of Managers, a unique panel of women devoted to sustaining Homeland’s renowned homelike feel in décor and activities. The Board of Managers descended from the original 18 women from nine Harrisburg churches who, in 1867, founded the “Home for the Friendless” to shelter Civil War widows and orphans.
Coming full circle, Judy remembers that her mother attended church at one of those nine institutions. Judy’s grandfather would take her mother to visit Bethesda Mission and Homeland Center every Sunday.
Judy joined the Board of Managers in 2020, just when COVID restrictions shut down the fun activities that the board was known for presenting – picnics, Monte Carlo night, even a sock hop featuring an Elvis Presley impersonator.
Now that most restrictions have lifted, the board is in full swing. They have hosted a French fry truck, planned a fall festival, baked cupcakes with the residents, and bought patio furniture and a firepit where residents make s’mores. They also made 250 bows to refresh Homeland’s holiday wreaths and held an ice cream sundae party where residents chose their ice cream flavors and toppings.
“We had so much fun talking to the residents,” Judy says. “That’s what was missing during COVID, that interaction.”
Judy serves on the board’s House and Grounds Committee, sustaining Homeland’s atmosphere as “a beautiful, loving, and caring place.”
“This is the residents’ home,” she says. “Every member of the staff, whether in nursing, housekeeping, maintenance, dietary, or activities, focuses on each person’s needs because everybody’s different.”
As a physical therapist, Judy advocated for legislation benefiting the profession, served as an appointee on the State Board of Physical Therapy, and worked in rehab facilities and for the Visiting Nurses Association. She always gravitated toward working with the elderly.
“I enjoyed the conversations with them and the fact that they so appreciated it,” she says.
Judy and her husband both have strong ties to area history. Judy’s Baum ancestors settled in the region on a land grant from a son of William Penn. Her father worked in management for Hershey Enterprises. For a time, he worked in the factory supply center and had to be available for emergencies, so the family lived in the nearby Homestead, where Milton Hershey was born and perfected his milk chocolate formula.
“I couldn’t understand why people would come up and want to see the house,” she says. “I climbed every tree around there. I always brought little bunnies home and nursed them back to health.”
Judy’s husband, Steve, is a Bowman of Bowman Bowman & Co. department store, founded by his great-grandfather in 1871 and whose flagship stood in downtown Harrisburg for 100 years. Steve worked for the family business until he and his father started a sewer cleaning business. When they sold that enterprise, he went to work part-time for Boscov’s, where you’ll still find him conscientiously serving customers in the shoe department.
“He never gave up retail,” Judy says.
Judy also had her time in retail as a part-time bridal consultant at Boscov’s. Since retiring from PT and Boscov’s in 2019, she has volunteered. At Homeland, she witnesses the extraordinary commitment of staff sharing their enthusiasm and talents, and she has come to grasp the “unbelievable” scope of the work performed by the all-volunteer Board of Managers.
“It is very, very hands-on,” she says. “This board right now has so many different talents, and everybody works together using their strengths and gifts.”
She feels grateful to share her gifts – a lesson she learned from her mother, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dickinson College and taught at Milton Hershey School. Her mother also volunteered for countless community causes, and always had room at the dinner table for any student who dropped by.
“The opportunity to help at Homeland is a blessing,” she says. “It truly is. We have an opportunity to help others, to give back, and to serve others. I think we get more rewarded than the other way around.”