Let’s Meet the New Director of Personal Care


Jen Murray 1 resized for web minA lifelong South Central Pennsylvania resident, Jennifer Murray, currently the Director of Personal Care, began at Homeland a little over a year ago in March of 2016.

Murray has been a nurse for seventeen years. “I received my LPN certification in 1999 and became a Personal Care Home Administrator in 2005.” She also holds certifications as a Medication Trainer, Fire Safety Trainer and as a Certified Marketing Professional.

“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse – since I was a child. I always enjoyed taking care of everyone around me. I have a natural instinct to help those in need.”

Her first job related to nursing or personal care was with the Middletown Home. “I was there for twelve years, serving as Director of Residential Living.” Murray was also charged with the task of handling all of their marketing efforts.

Before beginning at Homeland Center she held positions with a few other facilities in the Lancaster area, but soon returned back to Harrisburg.

“I love what I do and where I work. I am a people person and truly enjoy working with both residents and their families to find the right care for their current needs. I enjoy making a difference in their lives.”

“Homeland is such a close knit community. Residents, families and staff are all so welcoming and courteous. Everyone I pass in the hallways is smiling. The smiles are soon followed with a ‘hello’ or a ‘hi how are you’?” Murray feels “at home” at Homeland Center.

“Heritage Recipes from Homeland Center” cookbook recalls family gatherings


To celebrate the special role of food in the care, sheltering, and gathering of people since 1867, Homeland has released a commemorative, 150th anniversary cookbook, “Heritage Recipes from Homeland Center.”

The 86-page, hardbound binder features 185 recipes contributed by Homeland Center board members, residents, volunteers, family members, staff and friends. Each recipe is as flavorful as the memories they conjure.Phoebe Berner for resized for website min

“Homeland has thrived for 150 years by sticking to our core mission of providing excellent care, and by embracing change,” said President and CEO Barry Ramper II. “Enjoying food as we celebrate special occasions and go about our daily lives is a constant at Homeland, so it’s only appropriate that we mark our anniversary with a cookbook where the main ingredient of every recipe is love.”

Homeland resident Phoebe Berner’s recipe for Lemon Cake Pudding represents a group of friends who met for shared dinners at each other’s houses for 50 years.

“We’d play cards and have a cocktail first,” she said. “Some moved out of the area, so some other people came into the group. Some got sick and died a little early. So then there were other substitutes. It just kept going. We were very close friends.”

Over the years, Berner became known for her lemon desserts, which “go with so many things,” she said.

“One of the fellows said one night, ‘Well, what kind of lemon dessert did you bring tonight?’” she recalled. “We all were pretty good cooks. In those days, we really did eat at home most of the time. We enjoyed it.”

Homeland Board of Managers member Gail Holland contributed 10 recipes, many from an 80-page cookbook she compiled when her grown daughters kept asking for recipes to their favorite dishes. Her recipes are no-fail and easy to cook, like the seven-ingredient cheeseburger pie.

“My grandchildren love that cheeseburger pie,” she said. “It is so easy and so inexpensive. You always have those ingredients in the house, so you don’t have to go running out for them.”

Holland volunteers her time to Homeland because “they really do care about their residents.”

“They all try very, very hard to meet the residents’ needs,” she said. “I walk around the dining room and talk to people, and they’re truly happy. They love it. That’s heartwarming.”

Resident Jim Phillips contributed recipes from his “journey with food.”

He first learned to cook when his mother, blind due to glaucoma, would talk him through the process of making dinner. Serving in a religious order for a time, he learned to cook for 140 retreat guests every weekend.

Jim Phillips resized for website minTime among “beans and rice environments,” such as counseling teens in New York City and with a Mennonite church community that couldn’t always afford meat, taught him how to make nutritious and flavorful but budget-conscious dishes like his Russian vegetable pie. His cranberry relish recipe recalls the “directed pot luck” holiday meals he organized for single friends when he lived in Hershey.

Almost anything, including cooking, can become a ministry, Phillips believes.

“Food has a two-fold purpose,” he says. “There’s a physical purpose of strengthening your body and maintaining your health, but there’s a spiritual purpose. It represents the fact that God provides, and the provision doesn’t always come the way you think it will. It becomes a means to build community.”

Winnie Reese’s contribution, Bert’s Pumpkin Bread, recalls her friend Bertha, who was part of a group that got together over pinochle – “no money. Just fun.”

“She was a dear, dear friend,” Reese says. “The recipe has become sort of a keystone to all of our meals. Any special meal or dinner, somebody always manages to make that pumpkin bread. It’s the most delicious pumpkin bread.”

Resident Anita Anthony’s submission for Mother’s Ranger Cookies was passed down from her mother, Viola Mangold. Anita’s daughter, Susan Anthony, recalls that the cookies were easy to make and came in handy.

“You make a bunch of cookies for the family, but you also make some for the church, and for those who were ill,” she said. “You could make a lot of them without a lot of trouble and give a ton of them away.”

The ranger cookies – Anthony doesn’t know the origin of the name – are crunchy and “not really sweet.”

“Mom was always big on having tins of cookies,” she says. “She had her little tins and her bigger tins. This was the cookie that everybody seemed to like.”

Even Brussels sprouts, once maligned but now making a comeback, have a place in the Homeland cookbook, with the Creamy Brussels Sprouts submitted by Board of Trustees member Jeff Mattern and his wife, Shari Mattern.

“As a kid, Brussels sprouts were so horrible,” she says. “When I came across this recipe, I made it one evening, and we fought over the leftovers.”

Shari prefers using fresh Brussels sprouts she buys in stalks from a local farm market. The surprise ingredient is nutmeg.

“It’s not something you think about putting in, but you can’t skip it because it does make a big difference,” she says.

The cookbook, which makes a great gift, also features a history of Homeland, current and archival photos from its culinary scene, and helpful hints for preparing and serving the dishes in each section. Recipes are organized by appetizers and beverages, soups and salads, vegetables and side dishes, main dishes, breads and rolls, desserts, cookies and candy, and “this and that.”

Cookbooks are $25, with proceeds helping provide benevolent care for Homeland residents whose resources have been exhausted. To purchase, call the Homeland Development Office at 717-221-7885. 

Folksongs bring back memories of Balkan traditions


tamburitza rehearsal minA bit of Steelton came to Homeland Center on a Wednesday evening, when Balkan folk songs played by the St. Lawrence Tamburitza Orchestra conjured memories for residents who grew up in the ethnic mill town.

The nearby borough of Steelton is one of those Pennsylvania enclaves where immigrants found work in steel mills and mines. Many Homeland residents grew up there, amid the Eastern European traditions that their parents and grandparents brought from the old country.

The Steelton-based St. Lawrence Tamburitza Orchestra keeps alive the tunes and lyrics precious to people from the Balkan countries of Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. For their performance, residents filled Homeland’s dining room, and there were smiles all around.

The night’s theme was “love,” said the orchestra’s assistant director, Mark Kresho, who conducted the performance.

“It’s about love for a person,’’ Kresho said. “It’s about love for your country, and longing for your country.”

One song from the Dalmatian Coast related the tale of young fishermen who sign on for long sea voyages, “and whenever they do, they get lonely for their home,” Kresho said.

“This is about the Bay of Kotor and the villages that surround that bay and the beautiful scenery and the beautiful mountains,’’ he said. “The song after that is about a guy longing for his girl.”

Kresho also introduced the Balkan instruments known as tambura, from the smaller, higher-pitched strings that give tamburitza its distinctive sound, to the larger cello and bass playing rhythm.

In answer to a question from the audience, Kresho rattled off the ethnic makeups of orchestra members. “You have Croatians up here,” he said. “You’ve got Serbians up here. You have Slovenians here. I’m half Greek. We’ve got Germans up here. What’d I miss?”

“Irish!” said a singer, to laughs from the audience.

“I’m second-generation,” added Kresho. “As we marry and have children who have children who have children, we become a melting pot of America, which makes us great, but we love to keep our culture alive and promote our music, our dancing, our singing.”

For many Homeland residents from the Steelton area, the evening brought back memories. Frances Hernjak went to church with many of the musicians. She spoke a bit of Croatian when she was growing up. “It was nice to relive the memories,” she said.

Tamburitza band playing minAnother resident, Mary Yanich, said she could “almost find the words that went with the music.” Her son played the tambura, and her husband played the piano, so there was always music around her home.

“My father worked at Bethlehem Steel,” she recalled. “He worked in the open hearth. He would come home from the 11-to-7 shift. He would be so sleepy, and my mother insisted that all of us kids go to Sunday Mass, and my father usually slept through the whole thing.”

Fern Sucec knew most of the orchestra members from their church, and she was active in her town of Bressler, next door to Steelton, as the treasurer of her fire company’s ladies’ auxiliary. Like many in the audience, she kept time to the music.

“My hands were clapping and my feet were going,” she said. “I wish I could still do that polka. I’d get out there and dance. Every time there was a polka dance, I’d get up there, and they used to have a lot of them.”

Fern has lived at Homeland for four years and has never missed a St. Lawrence Tamburitza Orchestra appearance: “They’re very popular because they’re so good!”

Employee Spotlight: CNA Sam Morris brightens up the days of Homeland resident


Sam Morris portrait minSam Morris likes to wear bright socks.

“Yellow, blue,” he says. “The brighter, the better.”

On this day, he is wearing dark socks emblazoned with multicolored stripes in horizontal and vertical patterns. With his bright socks and bright smile, he brings cheer to the workplace as a Homeland Center Certified Nursing Assistant.

Homeland’s corps of skilled, motivated CNAs is an essential element in providing quality care for residents. Through their training and certification, they learn to assist residents with daily tasks such as feeding and bathing, and they support the nursing staff with basic medical duties including taking vital signs.

Morris knew all about the role of CNAs in nursing care because his late mother was a CNA at Homeland for many years.

“She was one of the originals,” he said. She taught him that a CNA “helps out everybody that needs help. You have to be compassionate.”

Morris has been a CNA in nursing homes since 1999, and he finally joined Homeland in October 2015.

“I like the good attitude here,” he says. “Everybody is family-oriented. It’s more like family than a job.”

As a lead CNA in second-floor skilled care, Morris is responsible for promptly completing needed tasks and that all equipment is operating. It’s all toward the goal of “making sure that the resident is safe.”

In Homeland’s quest for constant improvements, a new system for assigning daily duties promotes increased teamwork among CNAs.

“It works better that way,” says Morris. “If you need help, your partner’s right there with you. You don’t have to run for help.”

Before being assigned permanently to second-floor skilled care, Morris floated where needed, so he got to know all the residents. He has helped with activities including bingo and outings, as well.

He appreciates the many chances that residents have to engage with each other and enjoy community outings. He likes talking to them about family, the weather, and the day’s activities coming up.

Morris has lived in Harrisburg since he was 4-years-old and graduated from John Harris High School in 1990. He is among the 40 percent of employees who live in Homeland’s surrounding neighborhoods, part of Homeland’s commitment to the city it has served since 1867.

Sam Morris with resident minHe loves the short, convenient walk to work every day and the proximity to mouth-watering barbecue from nearby Broad Street Market or Camp Curtin BBQ Station. In his free time, he enjoys listening to music – Michael Jackson is a favorite – and getting together with his tight-knit family, including his two sisters and nieces and nephews.

Homeland helps CNAS maintain their certifications, with reminders every two years when they are up for renewal. Homeland, Morris says, is “a good place to be.” Even when days get frustrating or physically challenging, he keeps his focus.

“We’re here for the residents,” he says.

French fries truck rewards Homeland residents and staff with a special treat


French fry story Gillian Sumpter resized min“Don’t be bashful! We’ve got French fries!”

Homeland Center Board of Managers member Janet Young was standing before a cart stocked with hot, fresh French fries ready for Homeland residents to enjoy with lunch.

Homeland Center has hopped on board the food truck craze and, in what is becoming an annual tradition, brought a French fries truck right to the door in late May 2017 for the enjoyment of residents and staff.

The truck first made an appearance in April 2016, after residents asked for fries with their meals. But keeping fries hot and crispy while serving them to multiple dining areas was a problem.

In response, Homeland Board of Managers member Kelly Lick contracted York-based Bricker’s Famous French Fries to bring the treat to Homeland’s front door. Steady rain on French fries day also is becoming a tradition, so Homeland staffers and Board of Managers members filled trays with servings as they came out of the fryer and distributed them throughout the building.

“You can smell them coming in the door!” came an excited cry as a group gathered at the Sixth Street entrance.

French fry story kelly lick resized min“I came for my French fries,” said resident Marie Andrews. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss them.”

Andrews said she didn’t have a favorite French fries place growing up, although “as an adult, I thought McDonald’s had the best.” As for the Board of Managers’ effort, she said, “It’s wonderful. It’s very thoughtful of them to do this.”

Resident Lou Hepschmidt, philanthropist and longtime supporter of Homeland, had never had French fries until Homeland staff took her to Burger King.

“The taste is great, and the feel of them is great,” she said. “They’re hot. These are done just right.”

Visitors and Homeland staff enjoyed the treat as much as residents.

“The staff here is phenomenal,” said Lick as she walked the hallways with the aroma of fresh French fries wafting from her tray. “They are incredible people. It’s nice to be able to do a little thank you for them, too.”

Among those enjoying the treat was resident Geoffrey Davenport – something of an expert on French fries and cooking. His family owned Davenport’s, a restaurant that many Harrisburg-area residents remember fondly.

“The potatoes have to be grown correctly,” he said. “A load of sour potatoes is the worst smell in the world, so you have to keep the potatoes fresh. The grease has to be 370 degrees, and don’t overcook them.”

He gave Bricker’s French fries and the food truck’s appearance an enthusiastic thumbs up: “It’s nice for a change.”

Homeland’s dietary philosophy balances the nutritional needs of residents with quality of life. All meals and each resident’s food plan are carefully crafted to offer nutritional value and accommodate individual circumstances, but as long as there are no dietary restrictions, items like French fries and ice cream are freely dished out.

It’s all part of Homeland’s commitment to live up to its name: creating a welcoming home for residents and looking after both their physical and emotional well-being.

Babs Phillips, a Board of Managers member, said the board’s efforts to delight the residents and maintain Homeland’s cheery atmosphere are “just a joy.”

“You get more out of it than you put into it,” she said.

Resident Spotlight: Mary Graves brings joy with flowers and cakes


Mary Graves minMary Graves brings joy with flowers and cakes!

Mary Graves loves flowers. Her grandmother’s yard was full of flowers, and she always made sure her Harrisburg home was alive with colorful blooms.

“I’ve got roses,” she says. “I’ve got petunias and azaleas. I have so much planted, I don’t know what it is.”

A Homeland resident since earlier this year, Mary and her sister grew up in Reidsville, North Carolina, on the tobacco farm owned by her grandfather. Raised by her grandparents after her mother died, she wasn’t expected to do many chores, but she did learn to milk the cows.

After she moved to Steelton as a young mother, she found work as an LPN. Her love for flowers kept calling, and she acquired a shop in Harrisburg that sold plants. The previous owner left many of his materials behind, and she decided to learn how to use them by attending a school for flower arranging.

“I love flowers, and I love people,” she says. The shop sold flowers and arrangements for all of life’s occasions – Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, weddings, funerals. When family and friends need flowers, she is there. She worked on the flowers for a granddaughter’s wedding.

Today, she helps Homeland Board of Managers members every Friday, making the floral arrangements that grace the tables in every dining room – a charming example of the creation of Homeland’s home-like feel.

She enjoys getting together with her friends from the Red Hat Society, the organization of women who make a point of wearing red hats while going out together. She got involved through her church, where she was a member of the usher board and helped support mission work.

Mary also once took a class on cake decorating but added her special touch. They were making cakes that looked like Easter baskets and instead of using boxed cake mix, she used a recipe handed down by her great-grandmother.

“Our cake’s got a whole bunch of eggs, milk, sugar and everything else you need,” she says. “We’d make that cake from scratch, and grandma sifted that flour four times.”

Mary and her cakes become so popular that she made them for family and friends. She once made 32 Barbie cakes – the types with a doll at the top and the cake serving as the skirt – for all the guests at her granddaughter’s sixth birthday party. For a grandson, she made a cake football field, complete with football.

BOM Karen Ball Mary Graves minEven for her 85th birthday, celebrated at Homeland, Mary’s daughter-in-law made the special cake for family and friends to enjoy.

When Board of Managers member Karen Ball delivered a cheery birthday card that day, Mary told her that she’s happy to usher in her 86th year, following in the footsteps of a great-grandmother, who lived to 117.