miriam mackert

Miriam Mackert celebrates her 100th birthday with family!

When Miriam Mackert was married to a Pennsylvania State Trooper and raising her children, she worked hard and always put family first. On a Saturday in April, 2017, her loved ones put her first with a 100th birthday celebration at Homeland Center that, unbeknownst to the birthday girl, brought together the whole family.

“I just wanted to try and make her happy,” said her daughter, Karen Jackson. “She didn’t know the kids would be coming. She only thought it was going to be cake.”

What Miriam believed would be a small get-together was actually a party for about 20 family members and fellow Homeland Center residents. A performance by barbershop quartet Gents Nite Out helped revive memories of her 50th anniversary party, when she and her late husband, Howard, thoroughly enjoyed an appearance by that same group.

Shortly before the party, Jackson did tip off her mom about the extent of the guest list, but Miriam was still thrilled.

3 success stories

Roxane Hearn motivates Homeland’s staff to be their best!

Homeland Center CNA Symira McNeely was motivated to improve her health and appearance, but on the way to losing 45 pounds, her apparent lack of progress could get discouraging. That’s when Homeland Health and Wellness Director Roxane Hearn would draw from her arsenal of motivational tools.

“Roxane told me that it’s not always about what the scale says,” McNeely recalls now. “The scale may not be moving, but you might be healthier. She wants you to be happy. Happy and healthy.”

At Homeland Center, employee wellness is a linchpin in assuring that the staff caring for residents are vigorous, capable, and contented. Its unique approach calls on Hearn, a highly qualified coach with a Ph.D. in health psychology, to deliver programs and services that inspire Homeland staff to not only reshape their bodies but also manage the daily demands of staying healthy.

“Change is not easy,” says Hearn. “Working as a health coach, I take the employees through that process and support them and coach them. I guide them along the way when they relapse and keep them on track when they’re maintaining.”

wallace L delong

Felicia Wallace reviewed her plan for Janet DeLong’s salon treatment. First, she would put Janet’s shampooed, wet hair in curlers. Then, Janet would sit under the dryer for 15 minutes or so. “Then I’ll take her out and fluff her hair a little bit, and she’ll be all dolled up for the day,” Felicia said.

Welcome to the Homeland Center Beauty Shop, one of the busiest spots in the whole facility. The cheery, two-chair salon is one of the reasons that Homeland Center residents always look their best. With weekly visits to the beauty shop, plus regular manicures performed by activities and clinical staff, the ladies of Homeland always look lovely.

On this Friday morning, Janet is getting her weekly treatment. Some weeks, she gets a perm. Others, it’s a simple set with curlers. “I get whatever it needs,” she said. Janet loves the shop so much that she stops by daily to check on Felicia and her colleague, Charity McCrae. “The shop is very nice, and the girls are both nice. They’re wonderful to talk to, and they do very good work. You leave here; you’re beautiful.”

Felicia considers her work at the shop to be rewarding. “They appreciate it, and this is like the highlight of their week,” she says. “It’s fulfilling to be able to please them. This is a treat for them.” Beauty treatments for the elderly require a few considerations not expected in outside beauty salons. Felicia has been with Homeland for almost nine years, and she is “mindful of how sensitive their skin is.” If her clients fall asleep in the chair and seem comfortable, she doesn’t disturb them.

Lura Hile

For Lura Hile, helping others as a nurse was a lifetime goal.

Lura Hile always knew she wanted to be a nurse. Even as a girl, she set up a nursing station in the backyard of her Harrisburg home.

“I wanted to be a nurse from the day I was born,” says the Homeland resident. “That was my goal in life, and I became a nurse.”

Hile was born in Harrisburg in the same hospital where she first trained as a nurse. Lura was named after her grandmother on her father’s side, a woman she remembers was “a sweetheart.” Throughout her life, she says, the unusual name “was a good conversation opener.”

She grew up in the city in a neighborhood near Reservoir Park, the hilltop park that affords views for miles. She and her three sisters – Lura was the oldest -- would jump rope, play hopscotch, and go sledding down steep, closed roads during the winter. Her father, a truck driver and then office manager for Sun Oil, was a good-natured man who graciously took all the teasing he got about having four daughters and no sons. While he worked hard, his wife and daughters vacationed annually in Wildwood, NJ, staying at a hotel owned by Lura’s aunt and uncle.

“I can’t swim, so I didn’t go too far out in the ocean,” she says.

Lura’s mother was a stay-at-home mom who had once worked as cashier at the Alva Restaurant, a Harrisburg establishment fondly remembered by longtime city residents. She was “a peach,” Lura recalls. “Everybody liked her.” One morning, her mother let the kids sleep in while she went to the market.

“We stayed in bed, and she came home with a bunny rabbit!” Lura recalls.

Connie Lewis 1 Chef Constance Lewis takes pride in preparing delicious meals!

Constance learned to cook by doing. Her mother worked two jobs, and her brother was a high school athlete, so it fell to Lewis to feed him and her younger sister every night.

“He loved fried chicken,” she recalls. “He loved the leg and the thigh. Either that, or he loved chili. He would sit down with a bowl of chili and a whole pack of crackers.”

On May 1, 2017, Connie Lewis celebrates her 20th anniversary of working at Homeland Center, cooking delicious, nutritious meals for residents.

Lewis learned to love cooking because people enjoy it, and “that made me want to do it even more,” she says. “I cook because I love to feed people. I have two daughters that grew up with me cooking for them. I still cook Sunday dinners, and they love it.”

Lewis, a Harrisburg native and graduate of Bishop McDevitt High School, was curious about Homeland when she first walked in to fill out a job application. After that, she called the dietary director “and bugged him and bugged him, and he gave me a job.”


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