Sipping a Coke float delivered by a kind Homeland Center aide, Betty Hungerford shared why life is better in a top-rated continuing care retirement community.
“When you reach a certain age, you’re better off in a place like Homeland than you are at home because you build friendships and relationships and have opportunities you couldn’t have if you lived alone,” she said.
At Homeland Center, Betty is a resident, and she is a treasure. For 20 years, she was Homeland’s development director, raising the funds that propel Homeland’s growth and sustain its stellar reputation for unmatched care.
Betty recently retired at the age of 90! Even as a Homeland resident, she volunteers to serve on the Board of Managers and advises the Board of Directors chair.
A native of Kentucky, Betty was born in a tenant house on her grandfather’s farm. Her father worked in local shoe factories, rising to supervisor, until he moved the family to Palmyra, PA, to work in a plant there.
“He was a learner,” Betty said. “He was a reader. He liked people. He talked as much as I do and lived to 40 days short of 100.”
He was also married to Betty’s mother for better or worse, as he once told a psychiatrist who advised him to get a divorce. Betty’s mom was mentally ill with manic depression and schizophrenia. She was institutionalized for 13 years until new medications helped her manage. Some friends didn’t know about her struggles in her final years.
“That’s her miracle story,” Betty said. “It’s a story I don’t mind sharing because it can give some people hope and understanding about mental illness. It’s a good lesson in never giving up your faith.”
Betty is a proud graduate of Lebanon Valley College, where she majored in economics with minors in political science and English. Music always played a central role in her life, and she sang with the LVC Glee Club.
After graduating in 1954, Betty married and had the family she had always dreamed of – a houseful of three boys and one girl.
“Everybody came to our house,” she said. She laughs about when one son got permission to invite “a few friends” after graduation rehearsal, only to bring the whole class of 125 kids.
Betty’s professional life began in the Pennsylvania Department of Highways (now PennDOT) communications office. She learned to stand up for herself, once telling her boss to stop slamming his door in anger because it disrespected her and the women she supervised.
“He was so shocked, I thought he was going to fall out of his chair,” Betty remembers. “We became long and fast friends.”
It was the beginning of a career devoted to communications and development. She learned fundraising as a March of Dimes volunteer. When she believed in the cause, she didn’t hesitate to ask for money. “If you tell your story and get people to understand how important it is, then it makes them want to give,” she said.
Betty was an independent contractor for Homeland projects. But Morton Specter, the late Homeland board chair, and Homeland President and CEO Barry Ramper II “just wouldn’t give up until I came to work here.” She relented in 2002 and started her remarkable run in an office equipped with a wingback chair and a telephone table.
She built connections to the community and raised funds as Homeland grew. Homeland Center’s 155th Anniversary Celebration Event in 2022 wasn’t meant to honor her, she insists, but she was humbled when organizers and her kids convinced her to let it become a tribute to the “Queen Bee.”
The event raised record amounts for Homeland’s benevolent care fund, ensuring that no resident is ever forced to leave Homeland due to depleted resources. The outpouring of love was “a little overwhelming,” she said, but it served as a testament to her love of people.
No profile of Betty is complete without her love story with Paul Hungerford. They first knew each other through friends, but in those days, she thought he was a snob, and “he thought I was a ditzy blonde.”
Then again, he had a dry sense of humor and “always looked like a million dollars.” In 1974, she joined him in Florida to get married. Until he died in 2010, they played cribbage before dinner, attended concerts and theater, and enjoyed each other’s company.
“We truly adored each other,” Betty said. “Everyone should be so lucky.”
Today, Betty provides fundraising guidance for Homeland Board Chair Carlyn Chulick – “She is marvelous,” said Betty. Betty also serves on the Board of Managers to help maintain Homeland’s homelike feel.
“I’ve never worked with such a dedicated group of volunteers,” Betty said. “Never. They all believe in Homeland and what we do.”
As a Homeland resident, Betty enjoys the activities, including musical performances. She loves reading as much as she did as a child when she hid under the covers with a flashlight and a book. Her room is filled with photos of Paul, her children, and grandchildren. The people of Homeland, she said, “have very kindly taken care of me.”
“I feel very secure and well-cared for,” she said. “I know that if my needs change, they will be met. I feel I’ve been blessed.”
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.