Food truck rolls in with French fries and memories for Homeland Center residents


Homeland Center resident Ray Caldwell remembers the joy of French fries on a warm night.

“As a kid, I’d go to local fairs in the street,” he said. “In the summertime, people had fairs, maybe a block fair or carnival. Fries were always one of the main items. It was a good way to satisfy your appetite.”

Caldwell and fellow Homeland residents relived those memories on a rainy Friday, when a French fry truck pulled into the parking lot. The event, inspired by residents and planned by caring staff and board members, dovetailed perfectly with Homeland’s philosophy of serving nutritional meals without depriving residents of tasty favorites.

The day originated when the Homeland Center residents council, including Caldwell, asked for French fries with their meals. Sadly, their wish couldn’t be accommodated because French fries lose their heat in the transfer from kitchen to dining rooms. But Board of Managers member Kelly Lick said she “put my thinking cap on.”

“How can we get French fries to the residents?” she said. “Fresh, hot, nice, crispy French fries.”

Lick contacted York-based Bricker’s Famous French Fries, and soon, truck wheels were turning. Homeland’s dietary and activities departments joined in, collaborating to bring residents a special treat.

“We have to work together for the residents,” said Asst. Dir. Of Nutritional Services Carmella Williams. A Homeland employee for 24 years, Williams said the residents keep her coming back.

“I can have a bad day, and I come in here, and they have smiles on their faces,” she said. “Having a conversation with them can change everything. It’s all about the residents.”

Homeland balances delicious, nutritional meals with treats that boost quality of life. Among the elderly, vibrant quality of life that averts complications like depression and overreliance on medications “always trumps the diet as far as making sure they have adequate fruits and vegetables,” said Director of Nutritional Services Yolanda Williams. Moderation is encouraged, but diets are rarely restrictive.

“If someone wants ice cream every day and it improves quality of life, that’s what they’re going to get,” Yolanda Williams said. “Besides, if you do everything you need to do health-wise and nutrition-wise to get to 85, why can’t you have what you want?”

When the Bricker’s truck arrived at Homeland, Plan A was to take residents outside for the delight of getting their fries straight from the fryer, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Instead, Lick and other board members ran out in the rain, piled servings of French fries and ketchup on trays, and brought the goodies inside.

Residents were delighted, accepting the fries with exclamations of “Wow!” and “Very good!”

Homeland residents are “absolute dolls,” said Lick. “If there’s something they like, I’m going to make sure they get it.” As for the mystique of French fries, she agreed with Caldwell that “they take you back, to memories of going to the beach and the boardwalk.”

The lunchtime treat confirmed Caldwell’s belief in Homeland as “a wonderful place.”

“It’s one of the nicest places you ever want to consider,” he said. “People go out of their way to be friendly.”