Holiday door decorating contest brings winter wonderland indoors


Mary Peterson and caregiver Chris Fulton check out some door decorations.

2015 Homeland Door Decorating Contest Winners:

  • 115 – Martha Finley & Wanda Kardos
  • 207 – Harold Hixon & Raymond Caldwell
  • E6 – Wanda Berger & Agatha Goodwin
  • 1N2 – Eleanor Allen

Nativity scenes and reindeer. Snowmen and penguins. All brightened the hallways of Homeland Center this Christmas, as residents adorned their doorways for the third annual door decorating contest.

Residents and their families are invited to dress up their doors and decorate together for Christmas, just as they’ve done all their lives. Residents and staff judged the artworks for neatness, detail and creativity. All entries showed off Homeland residents’ talents and their love of family, faith, and the holidays.

Judges included resident Virginia Ashford, who marveled at the variety of ideas employed. Stopping at a door with Christmas themes of Santa, stockings, and toy trains against a red background, she reached out to touch Santa’s beard.

From left, Mary Peterson, Chris Fulton and Ashley Bryan judging decorations.

“I don’t know why, but I like it,” she said. “There’s a lot to look at.”

Ashford figured residents must have gotten their supplies at a party store.

“They must have really gone down there and splurged,” she said.

Resident Mary Peterson, another judge, declared a door neatly adorned with a bow-tied snowman in the falling snow “a knockout.” On a scale of one to five, she said, “I give it a 10.”

“There’s a lot of marvelous art here,” she said.

Chris Fulton, Peterson’s longtime caregiver, loved the inclusion of the residents not only in decorating but in judging.

Jim Phillips takes a closer look at some door decorations.

Even residents who didn’t enter the contest got festive doors, courtesy of staff who draped doors with wrapping paper and wreaths. One resident admitted to getting help from staff – “some young ladies with haloes around their heads” – to complete his entry.

The doors showed a variety of creative techniques. The white fur on a penguin’s hat were made from cotton puffs. Real twigs added dimension to the scene of a snowman in the woods.

Lorraine Englander’s design incorporates construction-paper handprints made by her grandchildren.

Resident Jim Phillips, a retired computer trainer from Hershey Foods, carefully eyed the detail on each entry.

“People work hard,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to make up my mind about any of this.”

Homeland Center Director of Skilled & Personal Care Activities Ashley

Bryan said residents and families use the contest to “spend some quality time together. It’s a tradition they can keep going.”

Resident Lorraine Englander continued an annual tradition of incorporating her design with construction-paper handprints made by her grandchildren, with their names written on each. This year, the handprints were stacked to depict the antlers of a reindeer who had a Rudolph-style flashing red nose. The image was captioned “All Our Little Deers.”

Virginia Ashford, one of the contest judges, takes a close look at decorations.

Englander said she loves her time with the grandkids. “It relieves me from having to do it,” she said with a laugh. “I love to see my family, and I’m grateful they take interest!”

Christmas was always a time for decorating and getting the children involved, Englander said.

“Decorating is a great way to gather everyone and remember what the season is really about,” she said. “It is so commercial today, and it is important that we continue traditions for children and families that bring them closer together.”

With Herm Minkoff, the news is never dull


Herm Minkoff stands in the Homeland Diner before a group of residents. On the table are news clippings and books.

“Who has been following the stock market?” he asks.

“It’s up,” says one resident. “About 300.”

It’s been a volatile couple of weeks, Minkoff agrees. “The stock market right now is like a roller-coaster.”

“Yeah,” says another resident. “Take a guess!”

This is Homeland’s twice-monthly sports and current events talk, led by Herm Minkoff. The retired furniture dealer volunteers his time to help Homeland residents stay on top of the news of the day. In the process, he has earned the appreciation of Homeland residents and staff for his untiring service.

Minkoff loves the people of Homeland right back. They grieved with him after the death of his wife, and they constantly support his volunteer work. Volunteers are essential to achieving Homeland’s mission of assuring residents safe, active lives. Minkoff embodies the character traits valued in volunteers – his upbeat attitude, his concern for others, his gift for communications, and his genuine compassion for the well-being of others.

“It’s a good thing when you help people out like this,” says Minkoff.

Originally, Minkoff led talks focused on sports legends and today’s sports news, but he added current affairs to appeal to a broader audience.

“There’s so much going on right now,” he says. “Every day, you pick up the paper and there’s something going on. I really enjoy it. I think it keeps me a little sharp.”

Minkoff isn’t afraid to choose topics that elicit strong opinions. On this day, Homeland residents were sharing thoughts and opinions on transgender people (“If they want to make the change, then go completely. Because then they can’t come back.”) and Donald Trump (“The windbag.”) Even when participants disagree, Minkoff makes sure that opinions are acknowledged, and no one interrupts anyone else.

“Sometimes, I’ll walk in and think to myself, ‘What should I talk about today?’” Minkoff says. “The people I get, they love it.”

When they talk about sports, the discussion doesn’t focus simply on scores and what’s happening on the field. For instance, Minkoff reminds them, sports figures of the past were shielded from scrutiny when they misbehaved off the field, but today’s sports stars are chronicled in minute detail – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

During one discussion about husbands whose straying makes the news, Minkoff asked why a humiliated wife would, as the song says, stand by her man.

“The women there had some great answers,” he says. “’A woman can’t help it sometimes. She’s in a bind. Where’s else can she go?’”

Residents show their appreciation by ending the sessions with applause. “They love it,” says Minkoff. “I always start off by telling them that if we get into anything political, I just want them to know that I am not a Democrat, I am not a Republican. I am an Independent. I just call it the way it is.”

Homeland Center residents’ Pearl Harbor memories resonate with college students


World War II took loved ones. It opened doors to opportunity, service, and sacrifice. It was a time when many Homeland residents matured quickly from children to adults, and it all started with the bombing of the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Homeland Center residents gathered in the chapel to share memories of the “date which will live in infamy” with students from Central Penn College. The students then recalled the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., and the two generations bonded over the impact that national crises had on their lives.

“I was the first boy to be drafted from my school, and I finished,” said Homeland resident Don Englander. “I was one of the lucky ones.”

The Central Penn College students belonged to Rotaract, a Rotary Club initiative for 18-to-30-year-olds. The Homeland visit was the first community service project by the new club, sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg North.

About a dozen residents shared their Pearl Harbor memories with seven students. Resident Harry Zimmerman was 13 years old, living in Harrisburg, when he heard newsboys outside, shouting about their extra editions.

“It was a different world back then,” he said. “We didn’t even have electricity.”

Vivian Black’s future husband, stationed at Pearl Harbor’s Hickam Field, first thought the planes droning overhead were “no big deal,” and he went back to sleep.

“Then they woke him up, and he was dressed in a couple of minutes and out on the field with the other soldiers,” Black said.

Arthur Lloyd, already in the service and attending radio school, was taking a break with his buddies, all wearing civilian clothes for a day at the skating rink. When they heard the news, he told his friends to enjoy their civvies, “because we’re going to be in uniform the rest of the war.”

One resident couldn’t finish her story, thinking of the brother she lost in the war. Another remembered her brother-in-law, who survived a naval attack off the coast of South America, only to lose his life on D-Day.

Rotaract Club President Mallar Peters, of Lake George, NY, said the emotional tug of Pearl Harbor resonated with him because 9/11 influenced his decision to enroll in Central Penn College’s homeland security program.

“I thought, ‘What can I do to help?’” he said to approving murmurs from the residents. “I thought that working in national security, helping with terrorist threats, would be a good career choice for me.”

After learning that one resident didn’t hear from loved ones in the service for six weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, student Ashlyn Bartlebaugh said the World War II generation “had it harder.”

“I can’t even imagine the mental torment they went through, and to be strong enough to share that,” she said. “I’m very appreciative they were willing to share.”

Homeland resident Caroline Cruys reminded the students that Pearl Harbor, just like 9/11, “was a shocking thing to go through.”

“We ask, ‘How could this happen?’” she said. “But it did, and we survived, and we thank God for that.”