Renee Ramper told her husband, Steve, that she didn’t need anything for Christmas. Their old plans to design an engagement ring had been scuttled back when they learned that she was pregnant. At that point, their wedding and the birth of their son, Jason, took precedence.
As Jason’s first Christmas approached, Renee kept telling Steve to return anything he’d gotten for her.
Until she turned around one day and there was a small gift for her on the baby’s high chair.
“You didn’t,” she said.
Today, she proudly wears the ring she thought she didn’t want. Steve and Renee Ramper are a homegrown Homeland love story. They met here in 2014 and as a team, have sailed through a lifetime’s worth of changes – fixer-upper home, puppy, wedding, baby, and college.
Steve came to Homeland Center first, in 2011 as a maintenance worker. He was 18 years old, fresh out of Dauphin County Technical School, studying electrical construction and getting hands-on experience by helping wire an extension to the school under construction at the time. Today, he is Homeland’s director of maintenance.
In 2014, Steve noticed the new physical therapy assistant’s nice smile and asked a co-worker about her. Their first date, at a Panera restaurant, ended when Steve said he had to get up early for school. Renee thought that meant he wasn’t interested, but it was actually her first encounter with his endearing honesty.
“Even if we disagree on something, he is very polite in the way he responds,” she says.
They started off as best friends, going out for dinner, until the night she asked, “Are we boyfriend and girlfriend?” He said yes.
“It was a good way to get to know each other,” she says. “We weren’t wild and crazy like a lot of other people.”
She appreciated his willingness to help with whatever she needed – taking cats to the vet, giving her a lift when her car was in the shop.
He liked “her caringness.” For his birthday, she gave him a pass to a NASCAR simulator, simply because she had heard him mention he would love to try it.
They married in July 2017. Jason was born in February 2018, after Renee – who works at Homeland through an on-site contractor – went into labor at work. The family now comprises Steve, Renee, Jason, and German shepherd Lucas.
Their home in Susquehanna Township was a foreclosure house and Steve did most of the upgrades. Renee asked how she could help, and he pointed to the floors, where someone had installed old carpet padding with an overabundance of tacks.
“They went crazy with the staple gun,” says Renee. “There were thousands of staples.”
“Well, I had to keep her busy,” he admits now.
Through all this, she was earning her master’s degree in health services administration online from the University of South Dakota. He is getting an associate degree in HVAC from Harrisburg Area Community College. Her parents care for Jason while they’re at work. He loves playing with the baby. They laugh about the time Steve and Jason stood in a long line at Costco. Jason started fussing, and one customer after another waved the pair ahead, charmed by the sight of the adoring dad and adorable son out buying baby formula.
Renee loves her work at Homeland. Co-workers feel like family. Her older patients teach her to appreciate the little, meaningful things that physical therapy can help them accomplish.
“On one of my first community hospice visits, the individual cried when we could transfer him out of bed and he could sit in the sunlight at the screen door,” she says. “When I ask them what they want to do today and it’s something that simple; it’s very touching.”
Steve appreciates the variety in every day, working in a place that, he says, “has seen me grow up.” The project in spring 2018 to install a 500 kW emergency generator taught him the importance of communicating and keeping everyone on schedule. He and his staff attend to each detail that keeps Homeland bright and cheery.
“If a light bulb is out, you fix it as soon as possible,” he says. “It’s not just a light bulb. The smallest thing that we might think is minor is very important to the residents because this is their home.’’
They manage their challenges together, “handling whatever throws itself our way,” says Renee. They are, Steve agrees, “pretty good at handling stress.”
“We work through it, and we definitely value each other as a team through whatever problems occur,” says Renee.
“We might disagree at the beginning,” adds Steve, “but we figure it out.”