Board of Managers member Maggie Kirsch: Gratitude and fulfillment


Board of Managers member Maggie KirschMaggie Kirsch can’t name a single incident that exemplifies her beautiful experiences at Homeland.

“All the little ones make up for one big one,” she said. “Everybody is so kind, considerate, and caring here that I can’t honestly say there’s one big thing. It’s the little things that make this place.”

Maggie is a longtime volunteer, serving on the Homeland Board of Managers for about eight years. The Board of Managers is Homeland’s unique, all-women board devoted to sustaining Homeland’s renowned homelike feel, managing the details that range from hanging holiday decorations to redecorating the dining room and refreshing bench cushions.

“I have never met so many kind women so eager to help and ready to do whatever needs to be done,” she said. “They don’t hesitate. Amazing, amazing women.”

Maggie was born in Brooklyn and is the daughter of Italian immigrants. Her mother learned English by reading the Sunday comics. Her father followed a tortuous path through the Alps, across the Atlantic, and down through Canada to reach a better life in the United States.

“He made something of himself on his own,” she said. “He didn’t expect anybody to give him anything. They knew what they had to do.”

Her family moved to Harrisburg from Brooklyn, NY when she was two to be closer to her mother’s family. Maggie’s grandparents ran a grocery store on Cameron Street, near the Bethlehem Steel plant in Steelton, and her father owned an ice cream truck. Later, her parents owned a Harrisburg bar called Guy’s Café.

Maggie attended Bishop McDevitt High School, where she loved singing with the choir and the a cappella group. After graduating from high school, she became a medical assistant and worked in a doctor’s office, which taught her how to do blood tests and other procedures.

In 1966, Maggie married Tom McAuliffe, a Bethlehem Steel electrical engineer. For 22 years, they stayed busy raising their four children. Then one day, while at a seminar in Bethlehem, he died suddenly while out for his daily run.

“I can only say I put one thought in front of the other, handled one situation in front of the other,” she said of those challenging days. “Thank God my kids are good. I was fortunate to have good friends and good family to help.”

Maggie also worked for 16 years as an office administrator for AAA Travel, and after her husband died, she worked as a temp for Kelly.

The agency allowed her to be home every day when her youngest child came home from school.

While serving as a temp with Amp, the former electrical component manufacturer, she attended a holiday party where she met an Amp engineer named Paul Kirsch. Soon, they were dating, and they married before he took a business trip to Paris.

The couple’s travels have taken them to Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe. On one memorable trip, Maggie and four of her siblings – the Bianchi family — ventured with their spouses to their parent’s Italian hometown. There, where a cousin was mayor, they walked the cobblestone streets, ate gelato made by another cousin, and saw their grandmother’s silkworm farm and fig-tree groves.

“It was the best trip we ever took,” Maggie said. “All the things my parents talked about now came to life. If you can return to wherever your parents were from, go!”

Maggie and her husband live in Lower Paxton Township. The grandmother of 14 loves to golf, is an avid gardener, serves as a docent for the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence, and sings soprano, just like she did in high school, but now with the Hummelstown Community Singers.

Since joining the Board of Managers, Maggie has “enjoyed every minute of it.”

“I feel so satisfied just to see how happy the people are,” she said. “I feel so gratified by the things I can do to help make the residents’ lives better. The employees are so nice. I have never met a rude person here. Everybody is very considerate of each other’s position and how they can help each other.”

Artist Shelly Lipscomb Echevarria: A passion for beauty and justice


Artist Shelly Lipscomb EchevarriaShelly Lipscomb Echevarria has a gift for seeing the spectrum of colors in a blue sky. The skies in her paintings shimmer in blue, green, gold, red, and orange.

“I like painting the skies,” she said as she hangs her artwork at Homeland. “They always change. They’re never the same.”

Shelly is the artist featured in Homeland’s summer 2023 Community Art exhibit, staged in collaboration with Harrisburg Art Association. HAA selects artists whose works resonate with Homeland residents, staff, and visitors. The exhibits, hung in Homeland’s sunny Florida Room gallery, rotate quarterly for a glimpse into the minds and techniques of varied artists.

Shelly’s current showing is not her first time at Homeland. Her works reflect her search for beauty and peace, even in turbulent times, and since an exhibit in 2019, she has returned with a new array of works depicting seashores, mountain scenery, and Freddy Mercury.

Yes, Freddy Mercury, the legendary frontman for the band Queen. The dynamic Freddy Mercury portrait hanging outside the Homeland beauty salon came from a challenge by a college friend to create works based on the Queen song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Shelly painted the Mercury portrait and titled it “Momma” from a line of the song. Next to it hangs “My Bohemian Rep So Tea,” a Queen-themed abstract compilation.

Traditionally, Shelly doesn’t paint abstracts but said, “I feel it coming on. I can’t stay silent forever on social issues.”

She hopes to start speaking up through art. A recent visit to the Equal Justice Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, reminded her that “we’re still not at the ‘justice for all’ in this country.”

Through it all, her artwork exudes serenity.

“I’m still doing a lot from nature,” she said. “Right now, the world just seems too ugly in how we treat each other, so I’m looking for a little bit of beauty.”

The younger members of Shelly’s family have set their sights on making a difference with their careers. Her nephew is a future minister, Shelly’s two daughters are a high school junior planning to go into public policy and the law, and a college student studying biomedical engineering and working on creating prosthetics.

“They’re not saying, ‘I want to make as much money as I can,’” Shelly said. “They want to do things that help people. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Shelly’s younger daughter, Jasmin, joined her mom to help hang the Homeland art exhibit.

“She’s a big help,” said Shelly. “It’s good to have help, and she has a good eye.”

As she hung paintings on the Homeland walls, Jasmin recalled helping stage a recent exhibit at the East Shore Area Library and attending the opening reception, where “it was fun to meet all the people who came out.”

That library exhibit emerged from a collaboration with the Lower Paxton Township Arts Council. Shelly serves on the council, appointed by township officials, to help infuse the arts into the community.

“Sometimes, the importance of all the arts is being overlooked, especially in times of financial crunch,” she said. “They’re not looked at as a necessity or important, but having an outlet for people’s self-expression is always important. Being able to create and express yourself, whether it’s through visual arts, music, or writing, is really important for your mental health. It uses different areas of your brain than other tasks.”

Shelly stays busy with her paintings and commissions and recently illustrated her second book. Her first book was a collaboration with college friend and children’s author Bena Hartman, “My Elephant-Sized Dream,” about a girl inspired by a Dr. Martin Luther King speech to lasso shooting stars.

Her latest collaboration is “The Fight,” with author Dr. Brittany Patterson – a relative of Shelly’s and a psychologist whose workbook helps adults who work with teens teach emotional resilience.

Shelly is pleased to bring her work back to Homeland.

“The residents should be remembered and appreciated,” she said. “Everybody was made for a purpose and a reason and a season. I’m sure they will appreciate the exhibit. It gives them something interesting to look at and a change as they go about their days.”

Homeland Center ( 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.

Resident Carl Barna grows a community garden


Resident Carl BarnaCarl Barna is looking over the Homeland vegetable garden when he spots a tomato, ripe and red.

“Oh, my gosh,” he said. “Did you see that? Look at that. Holy cow.”

Carl is a lifelong gardener who never ceases to delight in his creations, and now, he gets to share his fresh produce with his fellow Homeland residents.

At Homeland, “They’re nothing but the best here,” said the good-natured Carl. “Everybody who works here, all the people – they’re great.”

In June, Homeland was a featured stop on the 2023 Historic Harrisburg Garden Tour. The 5th Street garden in full summer splendor was on display, with its fountain, roses, and shady seating.

Visitors also saw the vegetables and herbs thriving in the sunny Catherine Elizabeth Meikle Courtyard. That’s where Carl has been making his garden grow since 2018, soon after he arrived. He found some home-store managers who were happy to donate their late-season plants to Homeland, and before long, he had tomatoes and peppers growing.

Today, the garden is a cornucopia of summer goodness.

“We have tomatoes out there,” said Carl. “We have all kinds of peppers. We have jalapenos. We have bell peppers. We’ve got a red cherry pepper. Serrano. Cubanelle.”

He adds, “I like hot. We have a habanero. Now that’s hot.”

There are also carrots and turnips, and then there are the herbs – parsley, cilantro, sweet basil, and oregano.

“We don’t have any rosemary and thyme, but I like the song,” said the Simon and Garfunkel fan, singing the first line.

He suddenly remembers the time he and his mother, who was bedbound and living with dementia, were singing “Amazing Grace” when she suddenly stopped.

“Carl, you don’t want to sing,’” she told him. “You can’t hold a tune.” He laughs heartily at the memory, saying, “I’ll never forget that. Those were the exact words out of her mouth.”

As for enjoying the bounty of the garden, that’s where Carl’s garden helper, Homeland Activities Coordinator Diomaris Pumarol, enters the picture. Carl keeps the hot peppers for himself – “because nobody likes hot peppers” – while Diomaris chops up the rest into a seasoned medley for residents to enjoy.

“They get to taste it,” Carl said. “Everybody shares it.”

Carl, who worked his career in railroads and real estate renovations, taught himself to garden at his first home. There in the small backyard, he planted every square inch that got sun.

“Peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, lettuces,” he recalls. “I always wanted to get into asparagus, but you need a big area for that.”

When he’s not in the garden, Carl might be found in his bright and spacious Personal Care suite, fiddling with his computer, watching “Gunsmoke,” or chatting with neighbors who pop in. He makes friends everywhere, staying in touch with neighbors who move to Homeland’s Skilled Care.

“I try to have fun with all the people,” said Carl. “The good Lord put me here, so you have to plant your seed here, and hopefully, you grow; whatever you grow, it’s a good, happy plant – or person. I try to be happy every day and try to make other people happy in life.”

pepper plants

Homeland resident Katherine Harrity: Self-sufficiency and a sense of humor


Homeland resident Katherine HarringtonKatherine Harrity calls herself a smart aleck, but in reality, she is a satisfied Homeland resident with a quick, self-deprecating wit.

“I’ve been here for a while, and they haven’t put me out on the street with a sign that said, ‘Take me,'” she said with a laugh.

In her spacious personal care end unit, Kathie enjoys the comfort and security of life at Homeland.

Kathie grew up in the western New York village of Hamburg, outside of Buffalo and near the beaches of Lake Erie.

“Hamburg was a nice community to live in,” she said. “The people that lived in the village looked after each other. When you lived in Hamburg, New York, you’d better mind your P’s and Q’s because it wouldn’t be a secret. At least, not when I was growing up.”

The keepsakes in her room include a framed advertisement for the 1940s “Design for Happiness” home model. It’s not just any home, though. Kathie’s father, an architect, designed it and built one for his family.

“We were the first family to live in that house,” she said.

She remembers her father’s patient ways. When he was laying the home’s flagstone patio, Kathie would bring stones as he needed them from a pile by the breezeway.

“If it wasn’t the right size or shape, he wouldn’t fuss at me,” she said. “He would just put it aside and ask me to get another one.”

Kathie was active in intramural sports in school, “not very well, but I was pitching in there and doing my share,” she said.

In her high school yearbook, filled with well-wishes from classmates, Kathie is described as having: “Graceful feet dancing to the song in her heart.”

That’s because she had dance training, even dancing in toe shoes. She would also fill in when her dance teacher took dinner breaks during evening ballroom dancing lessons, donning one of the lovely dresses she bought with her babysitting money and demonstrating ballroom steps with the teacher’s husband.

Kathie’s Class of ’56 was the first to graduate from a brand-new high school, a centralized school for Baby Boomers and an influx of students from the surrounding countryside.

“I graduated on Friday night and went to work on Monday morning in an office,” she said.

Adept at shorthand and typing 120 words a minute, she worked in office administration until her children were born. When they were old enough, she returned to work.

Married soon after graduating from high school, Kathie had four children. The family moved to Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and back to Hamburg.

When Kathie was in her 40s, she decided it was time to get the college degree she bypassed after high school. She enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, older than many of her teachers, and earned her bachelor’s degree in information science.

After earning her degree, she returned to work in office administration, “showing up on time and working when I was there.”

“I made a decent living,” she said. “I’ve taken care of myself.”

Kathie’s parents died young – her father at 44, her mother at 67. Both were smokers, but Kathie is not, “and I’m an octogenarian!” she said today.

Her room is filled with the mysteries she likes to read and also with penguins. Her love of penguins started when she was chaperoning her daughter’s Campfire Girls group, and she needed a camp name.

“Knowing where I was raised in Western New York, which had terrible weather, I picked ‘Penguin,’” she said. “Kids will remember a name like that. Somehow or other, the penguins followed me.”

She is happy at Homeland, adding that she likes the food and the mealtime table seatings with only two or three other people.

“If you don’t feel like you’re part of a mob, you can get acquainted with people,” she said. “I’ve been very, very comfortable here.”

Homeland receptionist Kristen Tate: Giving with love


Homeland receptionist Kristen TateWhen Kristen Tate accepted a part-time job as a Homeland receptionist in August 2022, she loved it so much that she wished it could be full-time. Two months later, a full-time position opened.

Now, Kristen is the friendly voice and smiling face greeting family, staff, and visitors from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“I just love meeting and greeting everybody,” she said. “I love the feeling they give me, and I give them in return. Good vibes bring good vibes.”

Kristen brings family ties to Homeland. An uncle and an aunt are residents. Her grandfather spent his final years here. One of her sisters, Jennifer Tate-DeFreitas, is Homeland’s Director of Nursing. They talk every day, calling each other’s extensions even though Jennifer’s office is steps away from the reception desk.

“I love it,” Kristen said. “She brought me breakfast this morning. We have breakfast. We have lunch.”

Kristen grew up in Steelton around the family business — Major H. Winfield Funeral Home, a fourth-generation family business. Her parents raised Kristen, her two sisters, two cousins, and two children her father met when he went on a death call and learned they had no one to care for them.

“My parents are beautiful, beautiful people,” Kristen said. “They love so hard. They taught us to love and to do everything with good intentions. Our intentions are never to get anything out of it, but to make sure we’re giving all that God has given us to share and bless others.”

After graduating as valedictorian from an all-girls Catholic school in Columbia, Pennsylvania, Kristen founded a hairstyling salon that is still going strong 29 years later, The Glam Spot, in Oberlin. She also attended Hampton University and Morgan State University, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

She earned 110 credits, but after 9/11, her work and life took her away from school. She had two children, but in her second marriage, she suffered extreme domestic violence. On a February day in 2012, after a particularly savage beating, she found herself outside with the boys, ill-dressed for the bitter weather. A friend took her to the police station, where she pressed charges.

“It worked out that I’m okay, and my kids are okay,” she said.

Today, her older son, 24, is a men’s basketball coach at Harcum College. When his previous coaching job at a residential school ended with its sudden closure, he brought 15 stranded students from all over the world to Kristen’s home. They spent the summer sleeping on futons and mattresses, fed with help from generous family and friends. Most got into U.S. colleges, and all remained like family.

Kristen’s younger son, a rising senior at Bishop McDevitt High School, is involved in so many school activities that Kristen fears he needs a second page to list them on his college application.

“I pride myself on the fact that I have raised two amazing men,” she said. “God provides, always.”

As her younger son looks forward to attending an HBCU, Kristen herself is returning to school – accepted by Morgan State University. At the school she left years ago, she will finish her degree in health and human services. Helping a childless uncle navigate the social services network in his final years inspired her to want to enter the field.

“Who do people have when they don’t have anybody to stand in the gap for them?” she said.

Will she stay at Homeland when her degree is in hand?

“The social workers are all joking with me, saying, ‘We’re waiting on you to go to school so you can do this with us,’” she said.

When she’s not deep in her long workdays at Homeland and the salon, Kristen cooks dishes her grandmother taught her, travels, and enjoys family time.

“We still have Sunday dinner,” she said. “It’s all my sisters and our kids and our parents. It’s every Sunday. We don’t miss. I like family. I’m always with my family. We’re always doing something together.”

Homeland, she said, “is a well-oiled machine,” providing residents the best care.

“At this stage of people’s lives, they should have a nice, serene, beautiful atmosphere to live in,’’ she said. “Homeland provides that.”

Homeland resident Margie Welby: Seeing the world and raising a family


Homeland resident Margie Welby

Just back from living in Germany and Japan, where her father was stationed, 16-year-old Marjorie Welby and her family in the late 1950s moved to her dad’s new posting: Fort Dix in New Jersey.

One day when Margie was working in the post-exchange men’s department, a young soldier asked for “brass,” the term for uniform insignia. He motioned to a group of soldiers behind him and said he was paying for their brass, too. Then he asked for dress shoes.

Going into the stockroom to check, Margie found her coworkers in a tizzy. “Do you know who that is?” they squealed.

After her time overseas, Margie didn’t know U.S. pop culture, so she didn’t know that her handsome customer was Elvis Presley.

“He was so generous,” she said. “He picked up the whole tab and was just as nice as he could be.”

Since leaving a rehab hospital and coming to Homeland just before Christmas 2022, Margie has been getting stronger daily. Today, she enjoys reading in her personal care suite, participating in Homeland activities, and sharing stories of growing up in post-World War II as the daughter of an Army officer.

Margie was about seven years old when her World War II veteran father returned to the Army, getting posted to Munich, Germany, which was still devastated from bombings. Although her father was there to suppress post-war Germany’s black market, Margie’s mother had a secret. When she needed something like a pound of coffee or sugar, she would ask the German housemaid, who knew where to find things.

While in Munich, Margie’s father taught his children about the horrors of war and the evil humans can do by taking them to the Dachau concentration camp. The raw sights and smells of the Nazi death camp still lingered.

“When I hear people saying, ‘No, they didn’t do that to people then,’ I know that they did, because I saw the evidence,” she said. “I’ll never forget it as long as I live. We just don’t know how close we are to maybe having something like that happen again. So we’ve got to be careful.”

The family’s next overseas posting was in Japan. When the Army fielded a football team, the call went out for majorettes to round out the American experience. By now a teenager, Margie got one of the spots and was proud to march in her uniform with the Army band.

In the season’s final game against Air Force, Margie was knocked down on the sidelines by an Air Force player running to catch a ball. Still, she insisted on performing at halftime.

“I wanted to do my routine,” she said. “We had practiced so hard. Why not?”

Several years later, that perilous moment led to an incredible coincidence.

After graduating high school, Margie enlisted in the Air Force and met her future husband, Mike Berry, while stationed in Florida. Meeting his Boston-area family for the first time, she learned that Mike’s brother had played football for the Air Force in Japan – and he turned out to be the player who knocked her down!

“I ‘fell’ for my brother-in-law before I ever fell for my husband,” Margie jokes.

Margie loved the Air Force but left when she became pregnant with her first child. She and Mike had five children while he traveled as a daring motion picture photographer and pilot. Working for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he once descended into the ocean depths with Jacques Cousteau in the Alvin submersible as cinematographer for an award-winning film.

“He was the adventurer,” Margie said. “He was not afraid of anything. He would hang out of a helicopter to get a good picture.”

Two of Margie’s children, her eldest son, and daughter, have passed away. After her daughter died in her mid-40s from Alzheimer’s, the family turned tragedy into hope, raising money for Alzheimer’s research through an annual golf tournament.

“It brings a good crowd,” she said. “We have a fantastic day, with a little luncheon and great prizes. We’ve given away a car!”

Now at Homeland, Margie attends activities, reads Gospel passages for worship services, and even has an autographed photo of an Elvis impersonator who performed for the residents.

“It’s nice here,” she said. “There are so many people here who are so intriguing. They have amazing stories.”

The staff, she adds, are “so sweet. They’re kind. I’m sure I drive them nuts, but they forgive me. They’re wonderful. They really are.”