Harrisburg’s Kunkel family honored for their long-standing support of Homeland Center

Plaque unveiling

Donald Schell, Vice Chair of Homeland Center’s Board of Trustees, left, helps Nancy W. Bergert, Chair of the Kunkel Foundation and John Stark, a past foundation chair, unveil the Kunkel Circle plaque in honor of John Crain Kunkel.

No sooner had Homeland Center opened its doors in Harrisburg to care for those left widowed and orphaned by the Civil War than Pennsylvania Congressman John Christian Kunkel, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, stepped forward to offer financial support.

Decades later his grandson, John Crain Kunkel, continued his family’s traditions of both serving as a Pennsylvania Congressman from 1961 to 1966 and, with his wife Katherine “Kitty’’ Kunkel, supporting Homeland.

On a recent sun-drenched spring day, the Homeland family officially thanked the Kunkel family for their continued support in a ceremony renaming the main entranceway at 1924 N. 6th Street the “Kunkel Circle’’ in memory of John Crain Kunkel.

A member of the Kunkel family has been an integral part of Homeland as far back as far back as 1867,’’ said Donald Schell, Vice Chair of Homeland Center’s Board of Trustees, during the ceremony attended by area leaders including state Sen. John DiSanto, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries and Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

“Over the past 150 years, Homeland has grown and prospered because of the work and support of the Kunkel family and the Kunkel Foundation,’’ Schell said.

During his remarks, DiSanto thanked Homeland’s staff for the excellent care they provide – especially to two special residents, his mother and father.

“Homeland’s entire staff is doing a great job,’’ DiSanto said. “I stand ready to do whatever I can to assist Homeland as it moves into the next 150 years.’’

As a member of the Board of Managers, which works with the Trustees to advance Homeland’s mission of community care, Kitty Kunkel never stopped thinking about ways to make the long-term care facility more “home-like’’ for its residents. No detail escaped her, from redecorating the residents’ rooms and the common areas to changing the name from the original “Home for the Friendless’’ to “Homeland.’’

Kitty Kunkel also is credited for establishing in 1953 what is believed to be the first-ever beauty shop in a long-term care facility.

“She wanted Homeland to feel less like an institution and more like a real home,’’ said Nancy W. Bergert, Kitty Kunkel’s granddaughter and chair of the Kunkel Foundation. “When she and my grandfather would go away on their many trips, she would always come back with little gifts for every resident and she never forgot a resident’s birthday.’’

Plaque unveiling

Homeland Center recently renamed its Sixth Street entrance in honor of John Crain Kunkel in a ceremony attended by area officials and Kunkel family members. Far left: Homeland Center President & CEO Barry S. Ramper II, state Sen. John DiSanto, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries and Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse. Foreground, from left: John Stark, a past Kunkel Foundation Chair, current foundation Chair Nancy W. Bergert and Donald Schell, Vice Chair of Homeland Center’s Board of Trustees.

In addition to Bergert, current-day members of the Kunkel family who continue to support Homeland include Carolyn Kunkel, a life member of the Board of Managers and Kitty Kunkel’s daughter-in-law, as well as John Stark, the grandson of John Crain Kunkel and past chair of the Kunkel Foundation.

Generous donations by the Kunkel family made possible Homeland Center’s 71-bed Skilled Care Nursing Pavilion as well as Homeland’s 150th Gala Anniversary Celebration last year, which was co-chaired by John Stark.

Stark recalled that John Crain Kunkel enjoyed having residents to his house on Wiconisco Street for lunch and said his grandfather would be proud of what Homeland is today.

Homeland is one of the few skilled nursing care facilities in the Central Pennsylvania region to earn the CMS Five-Star rating repeatedly. Homeland also is among only 15 percent of the more than 15,000 facilities nationwide to receive U.S News & World Report Best Nursing Homes 2017-18 – earning a perfect 5.0 rating two years in a row.

“I really believe what we are doing here today would please him,’’ Stark said. “I want to thank you on behalf of all the trustees of the John Crain Kunkel Foundation.’’

Pries and Papenfuse both highlighted the importance of the services Homeland Center provides.

“I want to thank Homeland for the incredible role it plays in our community,’’ Papenfuse said. “One hundred and fifty years is an extraordinary accomplishment. Homeland has seen the city through its own growth and development over all those years, and today our relationship is as strong as ever.’’

Homeland Center President & CEO Barry Ramper II said all that Homeland has been able to do for families throughout our region would not have been possible without the Kunkel family.

“We are pleased, proud and grateful that you have placed your trust in making Homeland the organization it is today,’’ Ramper said. “Without your support, we could not have achieved this success. Thank you very much.’’