“Two heads are better than one,” goes the old saying. In the case of Homeland Center, residents benefit from theSusan Batista r with Betty Wise and Fay Dunkle collective talents of not one but two boards, guiding management and staff through daily operations.

Homeland’s Board of Trustees is a traditional board, overseeing finances and business decisions. But unique to Homeland is the Board of Managers, an outgrowth of 19th century laws that has stayed relevant well into the 21st century.

In the post-Civil War years, the leading women of Harrisburg banded together and started the process of founding a “Home for the Friendless” to care for Civil War widows and orphans. However, those smart, capable women could not, under existing laws, perform such critical functions as making contracts and holding real estate.

Those duties fell to the Board of Trustees, who managed them well, while the women stayed involved through a Board of Lady Managers. As the years passed, Board of Managers members spent considerable time coming to Homeland to sew curtains, plant flowers, and take residents on shopping trips.  

Roy Justice blows on a conch shell, eliciting amazingly musical notes, and the regular presentation of “The Singing

Roy Justice with conch
Roy Justice, "The Singing Historian,'' brings his blend of storytelling and song to skilled care residents in Homeland's solarium.  

Historian” at Homeland Center begins.

Twice a month, Justice brings classic American songs and the stories behind them to Homeland Center. The popular presentations explore the side streets of history while also using effective methods to spark memories and intellectual engagement among residents.

On this day, Justice is continuing a series of patriotic songs. He tells, in story form, the confluence of events that led Francis Scott Key to climb above deck on a British ship in 1814 to see how Fort McHenry survived following an all-night bombardment.

Justice choked up as he described Key’s vision of the Star-Spangled Banner visible in the morning fog.

“No matter how many times I talk about this, I’m overwhelmed with what he must have felt when he looked at the harbor,” Justice said. Now that residents had a refresher in the meaning behind the lyrics, he led them in singing the National Anthem.

Whether she’s on the job or volunteering in the community, Gillian Lawrence is always doing good for others. 

Gillian Lawrence, Rosie Massaro and Ethel Boyer
Homeland Center Activities Assistant Gillian Lawrence, left, enjoys a visit with residents Rosie Massaro and Ethel Boyer  

“I’m very passionate about helping people, especially individuals who are not able to help themselves,” she says.

Lawrence is Homeland’s Activities Assistant, becoming a full-time employee in July 2016 after working part-time for two years. The Harrisburg native left the area as a teenager, attending high school in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating, she returned to Harrisburg to help care for her older sister, who was battling pancreatic cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease.

She stayed in the city, building a close relationship with her sister’s five children. She studied early childhood education for a while, but her career trajectory changed when her mother suggested she apply for a job at Hamilton Health Center, the Harrisburg-based community health care provider. As HIV/AIDS educator, counselor, and case manager, she realized she could “give a little bit of hope to people in a devastating situation.”

“As soon as I started working in it, I found my niche,” she says now. “I didn’t want to be a nurse, but I noticed that I liked the education, awareness, and prevention side of health care.”

Now at Homeland, Lawrence’s goal is finding new ways to help residents enjoy their days and stay active. For the morning exercise class, she introduced kickball, and by the second day, residents were kicking the ball to each other like soccer pros.

For the fifth year in a row, a poll of Harrisburg Magazine’s more than 50,000 readers resulted in Homeland Center being 2016 Harrisburg Magazine Readers' Choice Awardselected as the Readers’ Choice for Best Long-Term Care Facility. 

“We are honored to again be recognized for our quality service to the Central Pennsylvania region,’’ said Barry S. Ramper II, Homeland’s president and CEO. “Next year Homeland will celebrate its 150th anniversary and throughout our history we have always looked for way to meet the needs of our community.’’ 

In keeping with that goal, Homeland earlier this year unveiled two new services to help seniors remain in their home while receiving the quality care they need. Homeland HomeCare will assist seniors with daily tasks such as meal preparation and transportation, while Homeland HomeHealth will provide doctor-ordered medical assistance, ranging from providing intravenous therapy and other medications to physical therapy. 

Homeland Hospice, which serves 13 counties, last year became the only service in central Pennsylvania to offer a dedicated pediatric hospice program. Homeland Center also is one of the few skilled nursing care facilities in the region to repeatedly earn Medicare's top Five-Star rating. 

“Homeland Center was established in 1867 to provide a home for our area’s women and children whose husbands and fathers had died in the Civil War,’’ Ramper said. “Our mission may have changed, but our commitment to providing quality care has never wavered.’’ 

To learn more

  • Homeland Hospice offers care for adults as well as providing the region’s only pediatric hospice program. For more information, go to www.homelandcenter.org  or www.homelandhospice.org 
  • To learn more about the new HomeHealth and HomeCare services, go to www.homelandathome.org




Residents and guests often comment on Homeland’s home-like atmosphere, where everyone feels like family.

Patty McGowan and Loretta Jean McCauley
Homeland neighbors Patty McGowan, left, and Loretta Jean McCauley discovered an amazing coincidence -- they grew up in the same part of Perry County and are first cousins by marriage. At Homeland, they enjoy playing bingo together and reminiscing about their relatives.  

Now, two residents in facing rooms have taken the family theme one step further, discovering not only that they have roots in the same rural enclave but are first cousins by marriage. What are the odds? Who knows? But it all centers around the tiny village of Reward in Perry County, Pennsylvania.

The residents are Patty McGowan and Loretta Jean McCauley, and their coincidental discovery started with a laundry mix-up. One day, Loretta Jean sent her granddaughter to Patty’s room, right across the hall, with some mismarked laundry. Could these be Patty’s? Yes, indeed. They even included Patty’s favorite blouse.  

Patty crossed the hall to thank Loretta Jean for returning the blouse. They got to talking, and Patty asked where Loretta Jean was born. Reward, she said. Patty immediately knew the connection. Her husband’s family came from Reward, and she grew up nearby.  

“When she said Reward, I thought, ‘I know who this is. I know how this happened,’” says Patty. “I knew about her. There’s nobody else who could have been born there. Her dad was a brother of my father-in-law’s.”

The pieces fell into place. Loretta Jean was a McGowan by birth, first cousin to Patty’s husband, the late Jim McGowan. Their dads belonged to a clan of 11 siblings, including the brothers who operated farms “that all ran together,” as Patty recalls.

Patty grew up playing with her future husband, his sister, and all the other kids around, so it’s likely she and Loretta Jean crossed paths as children.

“The big times were when the church had something going on because our lives were pretty much church-based,” remembers Patty. “Every little church had their own festival, and each church would go to the other church’s festival.”

Loretta Jean was 9 when her mother died, and she left home to live with relatives. At 15, her father remarried, and she returned to live with him and her stepmother, “who was a very lovely person,” she says. “She couldn’t have treated me more like one of her own.”

As an adult, Loretta Jean lived in Harrisburg’s Camp Hill area. Reconnecting with Patty, who stayed in Perry County and maintained childhood friendships, brought back memories.

“She knew so many of the people in that area where I lived,” she says. “She knew all my dad’s brothers and sisters, which is unusual to know such a big family. It was quite amazing.”

The cousins both enjoy life at Homeland. McCauley likes the food and playing bingo. McGowan, a singer all her life, loves the wide variety of music programs.

“I like it very much here,” McGowan says. “I like the people. I like the place. I like the food. I like everything.”

Finding a relative has enhanced the pleasant times at Homeland, they say.

“I had no idea she knew so much about the people on my side,” says McCauley. “It’s weird that it happened that way.”

And as McGowan says, “It’s a good feeling in your heart to know you’re not alone. There’s still somebody out there who’s a part of you.”




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