On a recent Monday, a Homeland resident dropped by the Homeland Gift Shop, wearing a lovely scarf that came from the shop. She wasn’t looking for anything in particular. She just pops in every day to see what’s new.
“They’re wonderful,” she said. “They’re very helpful. No matter what you might want, if you ask for it, they will produce it. They have such pretty things in there.”
Whether practical or fun, the items needed to get through the day can be found at the Homeland Gift Shop. Behind it all is Wendy Shearer, a dedicated volunteer who donates her time and talents to sustaining this quick stop for snacks, toiletries, and gifts.
“Homeland’s a wonderful place,” says Wendy. “I love the elderly. I love kids under 5 and people over 75. My parents always taught us to be respectful of our elderly. Just to reach out to somebody can mean so much to them, and that’s what I see here at Homeland.”
Wendy first knew Homeland as a visitor, when she spent time with a friend from her church.
“The gift shop was just a tiny closet then,” she recalls. “We’d come down every Friday and get a bag of pretzels and a Coke and have a little tea party in the diner.”
In the meantime, Wendy worked for about 20 years as the manager of the gift shop of a local hospital where she also had volunteered. Two women from her tight-knit group of volunteers also became members of the Homeland Board of Managers, the unique volunteer board responsible for maintaining Homeland’s renowned home-like feel in its décor and activities.
When the women asked if Wendy could give some time to enhance the Homeland Gift Shop, a new chapter opened in her life. She left her job at the hospital around 2012 and, since then, has volunteered her time and effort to create a nook where residents, staff, and visitors can find the basics, and a few luxuries.
Around the time that Wendy arrived, the Homeland Activities Department expanded that “tiny closet” into a room with shelving and cabinets. Wendy got to work expanding and upgrading the inventory. With her connections and know-how, she found quality items, reasonably priced in order to “keep the costs down for the residents.” She stocked a kids’ corner with inexpensive things for visiting children.
“If a grandchild comes to visit and wants something to do, they can bring them here to buy a coloring book and a box of crayons,” she says.
The shop, connected to the Homeland Diner, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Wendy mans the counter on Mondays and volunteers step in the rest of the week.
“I do enjoy it, and I enjoy finding things for in here,” she says. Some items are donated, but she still works with one of her vendors from the hospital, picking up seasonal fashion items such as jewelry, scarves, and purses.
“Any time I get pocketbooks, they always sell,” she says.
Wendy crochets baby hats and blankets for newborns at the hospital, so she’ll make a set to donate to the shop, too – handmade gifts that residents and employees can buy to welcome new grandchildren or give at a baby shower.
“One resident was looking for a shawl to put over her shoulders in a specific color, and I told her I would make one for her, and I did,” Wendy says. “Then she came in at Christmastime and wanted some special towels to give as gifts, and she bought what I had picked out for her.”
When Wendy worked at the hospital, she joked that her husband, Skip, was “assistant manager of the gift shop” because he would tag along on her purchasing ventures. He still does.
“We went last week and got the cards for in here,” she says. “Whatever I get involved in, he always helps me.”
Skip and Wendy live in Lower Paxton Township. Their two sons are teachers; another died in 2020. Through him, they have a 21-year-old granddaughter who used to help her grandmother run the Homeland Gift Shop.
“She was better with the cash register than I was,” Wendy jokes.
Wendy is an ordained deacon at her church, historic Market Square Presbyterian in downtown Harrisburg. She loves playing pinochle, and she bowls “when my knee allows it.”
Wendy also once worked at an assisted living facility, and she remembers how much the residents there appreciated any help she could provide. She sees that same spirit at Homeland.
“Anybody I talk to here, they praise the help,” she says. “The people who work here are respectful to the residents. Very respectful, and that’s important.”