For 3rd straight year Homeland Center wins Harrisburg Magazine Readers’ Choice Award for Best Long-Term Care Facility


For the third year in a row a poll of Harrisburg Magazine’s more than 30,000 readers resulted in Homeland Center being selected as the Readers’ Choice for Best Long-Term Care Facility.

“We are honored to again be recognized for our quality service to the central Pennsylvania region,’’ said Barry S. Ramper II, Homeland’s president and CEO. “For 147 years Homeland Center has focused on the needs of our area’s residents.’’

Since 1998 the magazine has asked its readers to rank a wide range of area businesses and services from restaurants and day spas to financial consultants and pet groomers.

Homeland is a licensed not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community and a designated Medicare Five-Star Nursing Care Facility. Occupying a full city block in uptown Harrisburg, Homeland offers personal and skilled nursing care. A 21-bed wing houses the unit dedicated to the special needs of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related diseases.

In keeping with its dedication to serving the community, Homeland Center established Homeland Hospice to help patients in the end stages of life and provide emotional support for their families.

“We truly believe that caring for the elderly is a privilege and an honor,’’ Ramper said. “Our work every day is grounded in that philosophy.”

Music therapy sparks memories, fosters communication


Melanie Isaac is handing out musical instruments, of a sort – hand chimes, turkey calls, paper towel rolls wrapped in fuchsia and green duct tape.

Every week music therapist Melanie Isaac helps residents reconnect with the songs they love.

Preparing to sing “Jimmy Crack Corn,” she faces the eight Homeland Center residents who are gathered in a semi-circle and pulls out a plastic ear of corn made for shaking and strumming.

“Want to give it a try, Genie?” she asks one.

“Sure,” answers Eugenie. “You know me!”

It’s music therapy day, one of the weekly sessions that help residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia reconnect with the music they love. The residents come from Homeland’s skilled care unit as well as its specialized Ellenberger Unit, devoted to top-quality care for those with advanced memory impairment.

In the cheery dining room, Isaac, a music therapist with WB Music Therapy, strums her guitar or plays the keyboard. Residents play rhythm on the homemade and hand-held instruments that Isaac provides.

Music is “something they don’t lose,” says Isaac.

“You’ll see people who can’t talk to you anymore. They can’t answer your questions, but they can still sing lines and lines of old hymns,” she says. “It just doesn’t go away. I try to tap into that and bring up memories associated with music and family.’

Each session is devoted to a theme, with songs pulled from the residents’ experiences, such as holiday songs or folk songs that relate to the season. Isaac mixes some brain teasers into the session, leading residents in a game of “Name That Tune” or playing part of a song for them to finish.

On this day featuring folk songs and the tunes of Stephen Foster, she shares the surprising fact that the 19th-century songwriter famous for his odes to the South came from Pittsburgh.

Strumming the opening to a familiar tune, Isaac sings, “She’ll be coming ’round. …” She halts and gestures to her audience.

“The mountain,” say sing.

A strong body of research shows that music can be an inlet for communication and interaction among people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Isaac says.

“It helps keep their cognition sharp, and they can interact with each other in a meaningful way that’s enjoyable,” she says. “Music hangs on until the end. It’s a way that families and other people can interact with their loved ones after it’s hard to interact in other ways.”

At this session, a resident named Charlie is silent when he comes in but enthusiastically taps the hand-held chime that Isaac has given him during rounds of “Swanee River” and “Polly Wolly Doodle.” Even when his head starts to droop as the session continues, he perks up for the concluding song, a rousing rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” When Isaac tells him his work was beautiful, Charlie speaks up.

“I didn’t know what I played,” he admits. Clearly, though, he was enjoying himself.

Isaac asks the residents if any of them have made music with pots and pans. Ruby, who has been singing along with the familiar tunes, says that she has.

“My brothers and father used to play instruments,” she says.

Isaac works hard to engage the residents, and in a report to Homeland she assesses their involvement, measured by a smile or a willingness to take an instrument.

Throughout Isaac’s rendition of “Jimmy Crack Corn,” Eugenie had been brushing her plastic ear of corn with a stick in time with the music. As the song ended, she gave a closing flourish.

“That was great!” says Isaac. “You know what you’re doing with an ear of corn!”

Eugenie says she enjoys the weekly sessions. Her review of the day’s performance?

“It’s good in the ears,” she says.

Donations in support of our music therapy program are always welcomed and appreciated.  You may pay by check and write “music therapy” in the memo or you can pay online securely here and use the drop down menu to designate it to music therapy.

Homeland volunteers keep its popular Ted Lick Room library up to date


Residents Marie Andrews, left, and Vivian Black worked with Barbara Cleeland, a member of Homeland’s board of managers, to get the Ted Lick Room’s books organized.

Marie Andrews is perusing the books on the shelves in Homeland Center’s newly renovated library and activities room.

“We have John Grisham books, and we have Tom Clancy,” says Marie. “We have Patterson. We have Debbie Macomber, who is very popular. Nora Roberts.”

“We have a lot of Nora Roberts,” adds Vivian Black.

Vivian and Marie should know what’s popular here. The Homeland Center residents volunteered to help in the recently renovated library and activities area – renamed the Ted Lick Room – and take pride in caring for the books and making them readily available.

The room was renovated in 2014 through a generous gift to the 1867 Homeland Society from Kelly Lick, widow of Harrisburg philanthropist Ted Lick. The cheery room sports a new kitchen, built-in bookshelves and armchairs for relaxing and reading. Residents gather here for cooking classes, bingo and knitting circles.

“It’s a well-used room, not just a library,” says Vivian.

Kelly Lick’s gift allowed for the remodeling of a skilled care room, also named in honor of her late husband, and for the purchase of a handicapped-accessible van.

The gift was among the first received by the 1867 Homeland Society, established to encourage and recognize major gifts. Donations to Homeland’s endowment allow the center to care for residents regardless of their resources. Last fiscal year, Homeland spent more than $2 million on charitable and benevolent care.

In case Hillary Cinton decided to run for president, Marie Andrews, left, and Vivian Black say they’re “hanging on to” materials having to do with the former first lady.

Homeland’s library was established a decade ago through a bequest from Catherine “Kitty” Meikle, a resident and avid book lover. Ten years later, when Vivian and Marie were asked to pitch in, the collection needed their help. Due to the sudden illness of a volunteer who had kept the library organized, donated and borrowed books weren’t making their way to the shelves.

“This place was full of books in boxes,” says Marie.

“There were boxes and boxes,” adds Vivian, pointing around the room. “They were on that stand, and on all those shelves. They were back in that corner and in this corner over here. We had a terrible thing to tackle.”

Marie and Vivian worked with Barbara Cleeland, a member of Homeland’s board of managers, to reorganize and reshelve the books by categories – paperbacks, large print, fiction, nonfiction, picture books.

Residents and staff can borrow books indefinitely, leaving a card matched to each book in a basket for Vivian or Marie to file. Favorite selections vary from one day to the next, but mysteries are enduringly popular. So are titles of local interest, such as books about the Battle of Gettysburg or Amish culture.

As books are donated, it’s the job of Marie and Vivian to sort, select those likeliest to appeal to the Homeland community, and designate the rest for donation to church or other retirement home libraries. They tell their regulars when a book they’d like has come in. They keep an eye on current events and retain any books that might have topical interest.

“We’ve been hanging on to things with Hillary Clinton in case she runs for president,” says Vivian.

Marie remembers first coming to Homeland and being “only too glad to come down here and get a book to read.” The reader of mysteries and historical fiction liked the fact that she didn’t have to ask others to bring books to her.

The Ted Lick Room’s atmosphere invites relaxation and contemplation. A collection of elephant figurines, donated by a world-traveling former resident, Robert D. Hanson, fills a pair of bookcases. Through the windows, there’s a view of Homeland’s beautiful Fifth Street garden.

“When all the dogwoods and all the azaleas are out, it’s gorgeous,” says Marie. “Absolutely fantastic.”

Homeland’s CEO makes a big splash at Summertime Fair


Homeland resident Mary Peterson, assisted by caregiver Chris Fulton, gets ready to dunk Barry Ramper.

Homeland resident Mary Peterson, assisted by caregiver Chris Fulton, gets ready to dunk center President and CEO Barry Ramper II.

Barry S. Ramper II begged Mary Peterson not to hit the button that would send him into the dunk tank. The center’s president and CEO playfully wagged a finger and urged her to rethink what she was about to do.

Ignoring Ramper’s pleas, Mary hit the button and to the delight of the crowd at Homeland Center’s 2014 Summertime Fair, Ramper dropped into the waiting four feet of water.

The dunking resulted from a promise Ramper made weeks earlier: If $5,000 was raised for the residents’ activities fund before the Aug. 9 fair, he would take the plunge.

An anonymous donor contributed the entire $5,000, putting Homeland well on the way to its goal of raising $10,000 from the fair. Additional money was raised at the event from a white elephant sale, refreshments and tickets to the fair’s games and attractions.

“What you have done is given us an opportunity to provide more activities for our residents,’’ a thoroughly soaked but smiling Ramper said of the donor’s generous gift. “The fund helps us provide a broad range of life-enriching social experiences.’’

Through the activities fund, residents have gone to Phillies and Steelers games; visited the Baltimore Aquarium and Longwood Gardens; attended local theater; and toured historic sites in Gettysburg and Hershey. The fund helps cover the cost to bring in local performers as well as music therapists and art instructors.

Barry Ramper said he would go in the dunk tank if $5,000 was raised before the fair. An anonymous donor contributed the entire amount.

Generous support from donors throughout the Harrisburg region to the center’s endowment fund has made it possible for Homeland to continue its 147-year history of community service. No resident has ever been turned away because of financial distress; in the last fiscal year, Homeland provided more than $2 million in charitable and benevolent care.

Chartered as the Home for the Friendless in 1867, Homeland originally sheltered women and homeless children, focusing on Civil War widows and orphans. Today, Homeland is recognized as one of Central Pennsylvania’s top personal care and skilled nursing facilities, earning Medicare’s highest five-star rating for quality in care, staffing, and safety.

Homeland Hospice ensures patients nearing their life’s end are free of pain and able to spend quality time with their loved ones. Care occurs in the setting wherever a person calls home. Homeland Hospice’s services include a pediatric palliative care program.

After taking a shot at dunking Ramper, Dr. Donald B. Freedman, Homeland’s first medical director, said the center has grown in amazing ways.

“This place gets better all the time,” said Freedman, who came to Homeland in 1961 and served on the medical staff for 50 years. “It’s unbelievable. All the new things that go on up here – it’s great.”

Tara Roland, a housekeeper at Homeland for 14 years, said there is a special relationship between the staff and the residents. Roland, like a majority of Homeland’s staff, lives in the immediate neighborhood.

“I just love the people I work with and the residents,” said Roland. “Everybody gets along here. When the residents see that you care, that’s a good thing.”