Barbara Jones sees residents as ‘the sun and solar system’ of Homeland.
Whether she’s laughing with co-workers or chatting with residents, Barbara Jones loves working at Homeland Center.
“When my life gets crazy, I love to come in, get at my desk, zone out, and focus on my work,” says Jones, Homeland’s fiscal assistant. “The people here are phenomenal. The people I work with in my office — the amount of work they do and their experience and how smart they all are just blows me away.”
Jones was working at another area retirement center when a co-worker left for Homeland, and she knew she wanted to follow.
“I like to say I was on the wait list,” she says. Since joining the fiscal staff in February 2016, she helps with accounts payable, payroll, and other tasks that help her colleagues “keep their jobs rolling along.”
“I just hope to help make their jobs easier and be there to carry the extra,” she says. “I’ve learned so much. I’m just the assistant, and I love it. I love to assist people.”
Jones has a busy life outside of Homeland. She and her husband, Kenneth White, have four daughters, ages 13 to 26, and an infant granddaughter. They also have a chocolate lab puppy named Toby, cats named Marco and Miss Baby, and a 100-pound African spurred tortoise named Dido.
About that tortoise: A snake-enthusiast friend was going to a reptile show, and they asked him to bring back an Egyptian tortoise hatchling, the type that only grows “the size of a half dollar,” says Jones. Even when they realized he had returned with a very different tortoise, White used the moment to teach the kids, “We were given this to love and we take care of as well as we can.”
“We’ve had him 20-some years,” Jones says. “He’s very benign. He walks around the yard. He eats grass. We give him romaine and peppers. He’s got a nice life.”
And the lesson she learned from the episode? “Never ask a snake guy to go to a reptile show and get you a turtle.”
Jones grew up in a tight-knit Steelton neighborhood, attending Catholic school with the same 14 kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. Today, she teaches religious education for second graders at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
The graduate of Bishop McDevitt High School learned about resilience from her “fiercely independent” grandmother, who was orphaned as a teenager. She sees the same strength in Homeland’s residents.
“This generation in here, unlike my generation who took forever to grow up, they were grown up when they were 14,” she says. “When I’m walking the halls, I always like to talk and say hi. I enjoy the reminiscing about the good old days and the dance halls they went to.”
At the 2016 Homeland Summertime Fair, Jones and her youngest daughter, Kendra, volunteered to watch the bounce house
“This is such a unique experience here because the focus is 100 percent these residents,” Jones says. “They are the sun and the solar system of Homeland. I’ve always been for the underdog, and I always want to ensure that those who are most vulnerable have a voice and are protected and taken care of. Here, it’s a dream.”