The last big gathering at Homeland Center before COVID-19 changed everything was a sock hop featuring a performance from the lively Elvis Presley tribute artist Dennis Heckard. He recognized resident Jean Brinser, a neighbor from Newport, and lavished her with attention.
Jean’s daughter, Deborah Brinser McDivitt, said her mother was delighted.
“She told me that if she knew he was going to be so nice to her, she’d have worn her wig!” Deb says with a laugh.
The story of Deb Brinser McDivitt is a Mother’s Day tale of three generations finding security and fulfillment at Homeland. Deb’s grandmother was a Homeland resident in her final years, and today, her mother lives in Homeland’s skilled care.
Deb serves on the Homeland Center Board of Managers, the unique group whose roots date to the 18 women who founded Homeland as a haven for widows and orphans in post-Civil War Harrisburg. Today, the all-volunteer, all-female Board of Managers retains Homeland’s renowned home-like feel by maintaining the elegant décor and hosting parties, including the Elvis-themed bash and an equally popular Casino Night.
Deb’s acquaintance with Homeland started when her grandmother was 94 and required nursing care after a fall. Visiting local facilities, Deb saw places where care was lacking. But at Homeland, she was impressed. She also knew that her very particular neighbors had loved ones in Homeland and were happy with the attention they received.
For the next two years, Deb witnessed the Homeland staff interacting as a team and responding to the needs of residents. Her grandmother loved the food – and more.
“She said to me that it feels like home,” says Deb. “They were so kind and so loving but always respectful.”
In 2014, Deb retired from her position as director of finance for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Later, she mentioned to a member of the Board of Managers that her bucket list included helping Homeland, an organization that impressed her.
The invitation to join the Board of Managers felt like fate. Deb’s career background included time as a CPA and about 10 years with the former Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare in a financial capacity, so she feels comfortable discussing the issues surrounding Medicare, Medicaid, and finances critical to assuring Homeland’s quality of care. She sits on the board’s long-range planning committee and chaired the nominating committee.
“You learn how to work with people,” she says. “You learn how to head up projects. You learn how to communicate.”
As she winds down her second of two three-year terms, Deb looks back on the Board of Managers’ bazaars, bake sales, and legendary spring and summer parties. All designed to uplift residents and sustain the atmosphere that Deb’s grandmother loved and that her mother now enjoys.
“I never doubted my mother would receive excellent care at Homeland,” she says. “They’ve treated her so well. I couldn’t ask for better care. It’s a five-star facility. That’s the reason I wanted her here. Everyone has gone out of their way to make sure she’s comfortable.”
Deb and her husband of 35 years, J. Gary McDivitt, are seasoned travelers who have been around the United States and Europe. They have cruised the Rhine and Danube rivers, toured Ireland and taken a trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.
Around 2007, they built a beach house in Lewes, Delaware, that Deb’s mother liked as well. Jean Brinser was a woman ahead of her time – fiercely independent and a groundbreaking high school business teacher.
“She loved going to the beach,” Deb says. “She liked to go out to eat. It was a nice little getaway for her.”
Today, Deb loves visiting her mother at Homeland and, as a Board of Managers member, talking to all the residents.
“They have such interesting stories,” she says. “You hear about their lifestyles and what their lives have been like and their experiences. People come in from different places. It’s been a terrific experience, as a board member and as somebody who has a family member there.”