Historically, women have been agents of change through the donation of their time and passion. Over the past several decades, women have moved into the forefront of social transformation by galvanizing their philanthropic power. With each step into a leadership role, women have inspired others to join them. For our region, the result is a powerful network of strong female leaders committed to making our community a better place to live.
When I think of the many women in south central Pennsylvania who have dedicated their lives to social change, I think of my friend and colleague Betty Hungerford.
Ask Betty to describe herself and she will say, “I am who I am,” which is the theme song from “La Cage Aux Folles,” one of Betty’s favorite Broadway musicals. Ask that same question to community and business leaders, as well as anyone who has ever turned to her in need, and they will tell you she is one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation.
Betty has been a professional in the field of development and public relations for more than 35 years. Since 2000, she has served as the director of development for Homeland Center, which celebrates its 155th anniversary next year. Homeland Center, a private, nonprofit retirement community in Harrisburg, is part of the city’s deep and rich history of loving and serving thy neighbor. To know Betty is to know Homeland for she is a steadfast champion of the organization.
For Betty, there is little separation between work and home life, for she loves each fiercely and finds true joy and purpose in her work.
“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” Betty likes to say.
Betty’s “something” has been to change the charitable giving landscape to advance the causes she is most passionate about. She has secured financial and community resources to support the work of Homeland Center and its robust benevolent fund to help those in need.
Betty is a decorated alumna of Lebanon Valley College, receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2009. She is the recipient of countless recognitions and honors, most notably the Karen Snider Women in Philanthropy Award in 2017. Like Betty, Karen was a tireless advocate for our community’s most vulnerable residents.
I believe Betty’s servant leadership is second to none, and I find seeing her in action inspirational. As a longtime member and past president of the Rotary Club of Harrisburg, Betty’s entrance at a luncheon meeting is an event. She is greeted at the door and accompanied to her seat by friends and colleagues who want just a minute of their revered “Queen B’s” time. The conversations are often around the work of shared projects, expressions of gratitude for an act of kindness Betty has bestowed.
Whatever the topic of conversation, individuals of all ages and professions are drawn to Betty because of what we might learn from her. We all want to know how to stay passionate about community causes when the issues can be daunting and overwhelming.
From my perspective, Betty has found the recipe for continually reinvigorating herself by surrounding herself with a network of family and friends who mirror her spirit. She has created her own personal community of caring, which is one of the wisest lessons I’ve learned through my friendship with Betty. Surround yourself with those who believe we can all do good work and, together, we will. When one of us falls, and we all do, the others pick us up to continue our path forward, and together we cross the finish line.
Anniversaries, like that of Homeland Center, are ultimately about the people who have kept the organization vibrant and strong. I cannot imagine Homeland Center without Betty or Betty without Homeland. Betty has been a magnet for donors, volunteers and community supporters to connect with the organization. Together, they have enriched countless lives.
To Homeland Center, congratulations on your upcoming 155th anniversary and, to Betty Hungerford, you are an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for your leadership.
Janice Black is the President & CEO of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities (www.tfec.org), which connects donors with nonprofits helping to address the needs in Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Perry and Lebanon counties as well as Northern York.
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