For 49 years, Pauline Neal delivers joy!
Pauline Neal has trained thousands of Homeland employees, and she tells them all the same thing she heard when she was hired in 1959.
“Always remember that this facility doesn’t belong to anyone but the people who live here,” the Homeland matron told Pauline. “It’s their home. It’s not ours. We’re invited guests in their home, and we’re paid invited guests.”
The native of Huntingdon, PA, first worked in Harrisburg facilities as a nurses’ aide. She never worked in a nursing capacity for Homeland, but for 49 years, she has held multiple caregiving roles – as director of housekeeping and linens, food services director, resident liaison, and now, part-time receptionist.
A mainstay for nearly one-third of Homeland’s 150 years, Pauline has touched countless lives through her attention to detail, her empathy for residents and families, and her devotion to keeping the “home” in Homeland.
Pauline’s first Homeland job, cleaning rooms to prepare for inspection of newly constructed wings, was meant to last one week. On the second morning, the assistant superintendent told her he had inspected every room and wanted to discuss the quality of her work. The young Pauline waited for the ax to fall.
The rooms were spotless, he said. And then he asked, “How would you like a full-time job here?”
In those days, three trunks in the basement were filled with baby clothes, recalling the time when Homeland accepted children. The washing machine required a staffer manning a pedal to run the spin cycle. The person running the behemoth dryer set the temperature by reaching in to adjust the gas flame. When new laundry equipment arrived, doors into the basement had to be enlarged to fit it all.
“It was a mess, but it was so much fun,” Pauline recalls. “Everything that we had here involved all the employees. There wasn’t one department that was better than the other.”
Pauline’s years coincided with Homeland’s concerted efforts to comply with rising regulations and instill excellence as its hallmark. She would tell staff, “Everyone is a special guest and should be treated as such.”
When the nearby Three Mile Island nuclear plant nearly melted down in 1979, Pauline and Homeland staff packed up clothing and medications, and then boarded residents on two buses and “I don’t know how many ambulances.” For five days, the evacuees lived in a former tuberculosis sanatorium and the dorms of Wilson College, both in Chambersburg, where Pauline and colleagues kept watch.
“We made sure they were fed and bathed and tried to do activities to keep them occupied,” she says. “Nobody got sick. That was traumatic for a lot of those people. You had to be very calm.”
After retiring in 2004, Pauline served as a part-time resident liaison, ensuring that residents and families got everything they needed. She remains in touch with many families. They bring her peanut butter eggs at Easter and send flowers on Mother’s Day. The stack of thank-you cards she keeps at the front desk includes one from a former resident’s daughter.
“Thank you for all your help, support, expertise and kindness when my mother was in Homeland,” the note reads. “You are a class act.”
Such sentiments mean the world to Pauline. She believes she is blessed because she found a job as a young woman and landed among people “who cared about me enough to help me grow.”
“My dedication is to the residents and their families,” she says. “I was taught that you put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last, and you will always have joy.”