Maggie 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.”