Duets by Homeland pastor and his father brighten monthly service


Luminous, late-morning sunlight streamed across the patterned carpet of the chapel of Homeland Center one recent Wednesday in early autumn — so much so that resident Ray Caldwell, 85, politely asked for the blinds to be drawn.

Rev. Dann Caldwell and his father, Ray, sing together at Homeland Center’s monthly Wednesday morning prayer service.

As he faced 12 of his fellow residents and prepared to sing by the stone altar and marble columns, the golden sunlight was blinding.

It was an apt prelude to the Gospel message expounded upon in a strong, soothing voice by Ray’s son, Rev. Dann Caldwell, chaplain of Homeland Hospice: that the Lord is the light of the world. Then, together, father and son sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

The father-son vocal performance is often one of the highlights of the monthly Wednesday morning prayer service.

The duo sang often as part of a musical family, when Pastor Dann led Charlton United Methodist Church in Lower Paxton Township.  Dann’s mom Betty, who still lives in the family home, sings tenor as part of the Sweet Adelines, and both Dann’s brother Rick and son, Peter, sing as well.

Three generations of Caldwells once performed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during Fourth of July services at his Lower Paxton church, when Dann’s son Peter, now 15, was only 4.

“That‘s one of my father’s favorite hymns,” said Dann.  “And that’s one of my special memories,” as he recited the famous words—“Mine eyes have seen the glory….”

Both Ray’s brothers were veterans of World War II.

“It’s great to have anyone to sing with, but when it’s with your family member, it’s even more meaningful,’’ said Ray, who has been a Homeland resident since early April.

Throughout the prayer service, the residents listened with heads bowed in prayer, or gazed attentively toward the golden cross in the front, and often called out song requests from the large spiral hymnals they held.

Together the residents, who gathered before the altar in neat rows, sang moving renditions of “Because my Savior Lives,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus,” “In the Garden,” and “Take Time to be Holy,” in between the recitation of prayers and Gospel readings.

“The service lifts my spirits,’’ said Vivian Black, an active volunteer and resident at Homeland.  In the past 10 years, Vivian lost both her daughter and her husband.

“For me, it’s an absolute necessity that I come here,” she said, thinking of her recent losses.  “What do I have? This is my home, the people I love.”

She especially embraces the hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” because it reassures her that God is watching her, and one day she will be reunited with her husband and daughter.

Faye Dunkle, 91, dressed smartly in a cocoa brown suit, with matching pearl earrings and necklace, said she knows Dann, his wife and son, and his dad and mom from the old church.

“He has such a wonderful singing voice and is such a wonderful man,” said Dunkle, whose sister was also a Homeland resident. “I am so thankful for this chapel.”

Homeland Center Halloween puts magic in the air


Legend has it that on one night of the year, Homeland Center is haunted by ghosts and goblins. Also, pint-sized firefighters, princesses, Ninjas, and many, many Spidermans.

This is Homeland’s annual Trick or Treat, an evening in late October when residents and staff join to relive Halloween memories, celebrate family, and of course, get candy.

On this night, staff bring their youngsters, dressed in their Halloween finest, to trick or treat in Homeland’s hallways and gathering places. Homeland provides the candy that residents distribute.

Resident Caroline Cruys, doling out generous helpings of lollipops and Reese’s peanut butter cups, called the tradition “one of the treasures of my life.” When Cruys was a child, her mother would paint up the children’s faces and take them trick or treating around their Brooklyn neighborhood. As an adult, she enjoyed handing out candy on Halloween night.

“You do it at home, and to be able to do it here is just wonderful,” she said.

Cruys wore a sweater adorned in pumpkins, ghosts, and scarecrows. On her head, she wore a hat topped with a spider. As 7-year-old Alisha Hidalgo, a witch in purple and black, accepted her candy, she said, “Hi, Miss Cruys. You look very beautiful today.”

Hershey Foods played a big role in the Halloween fun, donating 75 pounds of Twizzlers and Hershey kisses. Many family members made donations as well, making it possible for Homeland to purchase additional candy for the special night.

Resident Betty Wise once sat on her stoop at home and handed out candy. At Homeland, she enjoyed seeing kids in costume, “and we don’t have to do any of the work.”

“The kids are very nice,” she said. “You love giving to kids when they’re nice and say thank you.”

Up the hall came 1-year-old Zion Jones. Toddling around in his police officer costume, he attracted attention everywhere he went. He even got the nod as best costume of the night from Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter, who was there that evening.

Zion’s godmother, certified nurse’s assistant Sam McNeely, introduced Zion to Wise. “It’s my godson, Betty,” she said. Wise marveled at seeing McNeely out of her CNA uniform. “Look at glamourpuss here!” she said.

McNeely said the event “gives the kids a chance to go trick or treating, and not on the street. It’s safe in here.”

It’s a night when residents get to see the children of staff as they grow up from year to year, and staff get to show off the children and grandchildren they’re always talking about.

“I talk to the residents a lot and tell them about the kids,” said Connie Lewis, a Homeland cook there with her granddaughter, great-nieces, and infant great-nephew, dressed as the character Woody from “Toy Story.”

Ten-year-old twins Christopher and Thomas Lovelidge, dressed as Indiana Jones and Harry Potter, had already started consuming Pixie Sticks as their mother, Melody Lovelidge, marveled over their overflowing candy buckets. Lovelidge, the daughter of resident Caroline Cruys, said she appreciated the opportunities the event gave her mother and all Homeland residents.

“It’s so nice to see the residents out mingling,” she said. “It brings them a change of pace. They remember Halloween. The costumes are terrific, and the kids are adorable.”