When 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.”