Rosa Walker is the granddaughter of a slave who endured racism in the segregated South. She remembers the

Rosa Walker
Homeland Center resident Rosa Walker loves to get outside and enjoy Homeland's gardens and fountains.  

heartbreak over such tragedies as the 1963 killing of four girls in an Alabama church bombing. In the midst of the nation’s civil-rights struggles, she and her husband decided there was one way to help drive change: They would vote in every election. 

Sixty years later, Rosa Walker, 94, has kept that pledge, never missing a vote. About 10 years ago, after her 50th year of consecutive voting, she and her husband, World War II veteran William M. Walker, were inducted into the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame.

Today, the Homeland Center resident remembers that decision, made in the era when African-Americans were struggling to end segregation and secure equal rights.

“There was all the upheaval in the country, and people were dying for it,” she says from her room at Homeland. “My husband and I decided that if they could die for it, the least we could do was vote. We made that commitment to each other, and we kept it.”

Barbara Jones sees residents as ‘the sun and solar system’ of Homeland.

Whether she’s laughing with co-workers or chatting with residents, Barbara Jones loves working at Homeland Center.

Barbara Jones r with Lori McMichael
Barbara Jones, right, assists co-workers, including Assistant Director of Finance Lori McMichael, in the range of fiscal matters that keep Homeland Center operating smoothly.  

“When my life gets crazy, I love to come in, get at my desk, zone out, and focus on my work,” says Jones, Homeland’s fiscal assistant. “The people here are phenomenal. The people I work with in my office -- the amount of work they do and their experience and how smart they all are just blows me away.”

Jones was working at another area retirement center when a co-worker left for Homeland, and she knew she wanted to follow.

“I like to say I was on the wait list,” she says. Since joining the fiscal staff in February 2016, she helps with accounts payable, payroll, and other tasks that help her colleagues “keep their jobs rolling along.”

“I just hope to help make their jobs easier and be there to carry the extra,” she says. “I’ve learned so much. I’m just the assistant, and I love it. I love to assist people.”

Jones has a busy life outside of Homeland. She and her husband, Kenneth White, have four daughters, ages 13 to 26, and an infant granddaughter. They also have a chocolate lab puppy named Toby, cats named Marco and Miss Baby, and a 100-pound African spurred tortoise named Dido.

“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 at Homeland Center
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.

Gillian Lawrence is focused on helping others.

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.


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