Employee Spotlight: Dignity is paramount to assistant director of nursing Virginia Halty


Virginia HaltyDignity is paramount to Assistant Director of Nursing Virginia Halty

Virginia Halty entered nursing in pediatrics, but she was inspired to serve the elderly by watching her beloved grandmother deal with “the issues of aging.”

“She was probably the most beautiful, understanding, kind, and considerate person I’ll ever meet in my life,” says Halty. “She was like my best friend. She taught me how to cook, sew, crochet.”

Halty joined the Homeland staff in late May 2017 as assistant director of nursing, responsible for infection control and restorative care. Nursing seemed to be her calling, as she discovered that her family tree is full of nurses, teachers, and social workers. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville University and a master’s degree from Drexel University.

“I’m a people person,” she says. “I learn from people. I can appreciate making them feel better. Maybe I’m coming in to take you to the bathroom, but please, have a conversation with me. Let’s talk. It’s not just the task but about helping residents feel like people.”

Though she has worked in a variety of settings, Halty got her start in nursing at Homeland, serving at age 15 as an assistant alongside her mother. Her mom, the late Esther Brooks, enforced rigorous standards that went as far as being sure to wash between the fingers and behind the ears when bathing residents.

“In between your toes and the base of your neck,” Halty recounts. “It’s about doing the kind of things that make you feel clean as a person.”

In her infection control role, she oversees the myriad details that comprise an effective, workable approach to managing such common challenges as urinary tract infections, which can “set the elderly population back.”

On the restorative side, Halty works with the physical therapy department on “how to maximize residents’ functional ability, so their quality of life is improved or maintained.” The approach includes helping residents keep flexibility through range-of-motion programs.

“That simple exercise helps them maintain the ability to wash their face and brush their teeth, which helps them maintain their dignity,” she says. “Walking, ambulating — we want to keep them moving as much as possible.”

Outside the office, Halty enjoys reading inspirational novels. She and her husband, Erwin Joyner, are active in their small congregation, the New Life Christian Church, doing whatever needs to be done – cleaning the church, bringing in food, taking hats and scarves or sandwiches and soup to Harrisburg’s homeless.

“We don’t have a lot, but we try to give what we can,” she says.

She has three stepsons and two sons, who are both now expectant parents, with babies due in October and February.

Halty feels fortunate to be at Homeland, where she “couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.” Here, institutional attention to detail and quality of life matches her own. She even sees it in the meticulous care given to residents’ appearance.

“People are dressed,” she says. “Their hair is combed. Their teeth are brushed. The women have makeup on. Their nails are done. That speaks volumes to the type of care we are giving here at Homeland. It is a wonderful sight to see.”

Resident Spotlight: For Jim Phillips, cooking is love


Jim Phillips for website minMany people cook for fun, or because they must. Jim Phillips, though, believes that cooking “can become a means of worship.”

The Homeland resident has spent his life on a spiritual quest entwined with cooking as a ministry, whether he’s preparing meals for a few friends or hundreds of people.

Jim grew up in Ohio, raised by foster parents after the death of his mother. When glaucoma took his foster mother’s sight, she would sit in the kitchen doorway and coach Jim through the steps of making the family dinner.

“She would ask, ‘Does it look like this? Does it taste like this?’” Jim remembers. “She was like a living cookbook. That’s what began my journey with food.”

After attending Northcentral University in Minneapolis, Jim’s career path wound from counseling troubled teens to buying for department stores, to preparing bank financial statements. But all his life, he had wanted to attend a monastery and he discovered idyllic Holy Cross Monastery, on the banks of the Hudson River.

There, the kitchen became a regular assignment. Every weekend, 140 guests would arrive for contemplative retreats, and Jim “learned by experimentation.”

“They had a refractory, like a dining room, with glass all around, and you could look up the river or down the river,” he said. “Guests loved that.”

Jim also spent time with religious communities in Massachusetts and Illinois. Food was the thread weaving through all his experiences, often in what he calls “rice and beans environments,” where a little creativity could stretch limited food budgets. He learned to use herbs for flavor and how to make “balanced meals without meat and still getting enough protein.”

He always went where he felt God wanted him to go.

“Self-discovery is part of fulfilling God’s plan in our lives,” Jim says. “But certain times, what we do is discover ourselves and then rush off, when the Bible says, ‘I know the plans I have for you.’ Instead of trying to discover what His plan is and let that carry us in a direction, we tend to try to make a path.”

Eventually, Jim came to Central Pennsylvania through friends. He worked as a computer-operations trainer in Hershey Chocolate Co.’s Hershey Kiss department, doing “the simplest job to the most complicated.”

In the meantime, he bought a home and had the idea to host holiday gatherings for the single members of his church.

“We all shared in the turkey my company gave me, and people would bring different items,” he says. “It was a directed pot luck. I had a fireplace and I built a fire. People looked forward to it.”

Among the dishes he prepared was cranberry relish, one of three recipes he contributed to Homeland’s 150th-Anniversary cookbook, “Heritage Recipes from Homeland Center.” He remembers when his mother would throw cranberries in a pot for cooking. “You could hear them pop. You had to have a lid on, or otherwise, you’d have a mess.”

When Jim looked at retirement communities, Homeland felt like the place where God wanted him to live. He moved here around 2013 and has loved it ever since.

“I feel like I have support,” he says. “It’s like a big family. I’m thankful for them.”

He spends his days reading, studying theology, and enjoying meals with his friend Pete Patton, a Homeland resident for more than four years. He teaches at his church, Cornerstone Fellowship in Wormleysburg, and counsels visitors who come to him for spiritual guidance.

For Jim, food “becomes a means to build community.”

“Love can take on a lot of formats, but for people who like food, love can come in food. Apple pie sometimes represents a mother’s love, or a casserole dish can express your concern for the death of a family member. Cooking can become a means of worship. It’s more than a cup and a piece of bread. The sacramental approach spills out into how you live, and cooking for me has been that means.”

Homeland’s summer picnics fire up the fun


Kelly Calaman Betty Wise Jane Krebs for website minEnjoying the warm weather during one of Homeland Center’s recent picnics, resident Pete Patton and his daughter, Deb Herneisey, said it reminded them of past family get-togethers.

“We had a fire pit before fire pits were in style!” said Deb, recalling the family’s “wienie roasts,” where they cooked hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire. Pete, a retired lineman who was often called to manage challenging situations, has been at Homeland for more than four years. “I love it,” he said. “The people are all nice.”

Organized by Homeland staff and supported by Board of Managers members, the Wednesday summer picnics offer a chance for residents to visit with family and friends.

Homeland’s unique Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion provides the perfect picnic spot. Added to Homeland’s lush Fifth Street gardens in 2012, the pavilion honors a former resident who was Harrisburg’s youngest fire chief and Pennsylvania’s first state fire commissioner. A gentle breeze, helped by ceiling fans whirring overhead, kept the atmosphere cool and comfortable.

“We’re hot dog people,” said Jane Krebs, who joined her mother, Betty Wise. “We camped. Mom camped, and when I got married, we camped until the kids were in high school.”

Betty enjoyed her hot dog and was also looking forward to a lunchtime excursion planned by Homeland the next day to popular riverfront restaurant Duke’s Bar & Grille, in nearby Wormleysburg.

Aveya McNealy for websiteBetty’s son-in-law, Jerry Krebs, also joined the family outing. His mother was a Homeland resident who “loved it here,” he said.

He appreciated the ongoing additions to Homeland’s facility that enhance quality of life, such as the breezy pavilion.

“I’ve always been impressed with Homeland,” Jerry said. “They’ve done an excellent job. The personnel have been very good. I probably know five or six of the staff very well.”

And what picnic would be complete without watermelon for dessert? Activities Coordinator Aveya McNealy, who offered watermelon slices to all the picnickers, joined Homeland in early spring 2017.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s great to have the interaction with the residents, getting to sit and talk with them, and learning their backgrounds.”

As for the ability of residents to host their families for the picnics, Aveya said, “That’s the best part.”

Song-and-dance pair brings music and memories to Homeland Center


Kat and Tom sing for website minHomeland Center was rocking to “Mack the Knife” when Kat & Tom were back in town.

Kat & Tom are a husband-and-wife song and dance duo whose Homeland appearances always draw a crowd. The popular pair presents carefully crafted shows at retirement communities around the East, but their ties to Homeland are particularly strong and personal.

On this warm summer day, Kat and Tom Kovaleski performed everything from songs written by George Gershwin and Paul Anka – and even Bob Dylan’s ballad “To Make You Feel My Love” — to those made famous by Patsy Cline, Dean Martin, and Lee Greenwood. Homeland residents’ toes tapped to Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me.” The Nat King Cole-Natalie Cole duet version of “Unforgettable” drew appreciative applause.

During instrumental breaks, the pair would step away from the instruments to show off their elegant ballroom and tap dance skills. While Tom, a classically trained ballet dancer, wore spiffy, two-toned wing-tip shoes, alert residents noticed that Kat was barefoot.
“I have injured my knee, and I can’t dance on the carpet in my shoes,” she explained. “I’m dancing barefoot today, and I hope you don’t mind. Do you mind too much?”

“No!” the residents responded.

As the duo presented their songs, Homeland CNA and dietary supervisor Aprile Greene wandered the room, clapping and inviting residents to dance. Resident Flora Jespersen happily danced to “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” Don Englander took some energetic twirls with Greene during the rousing “Mack the Knife.”

Aprile Greene Don Englander for website min“I love to see them enjoy themselves and the music, and getting them to smile,” Greene said later. “They love it. They make my day.”

Kat & Tom introduced each carefully selected song with a short history, with the year it was written or recorded and any interesting factoids, such as the fact that “Save the Last Dance for Me” was written by a wheelchair-bound man for his wedding to a Broadway star.

“We do a lot of research,” Kat said after the show. “It is trivia, but it’s not trivial. People say, ‘I love that song, but I can’t remember who did it.’ We always want to know who wrote it, who did it, what it was written for.”

Music “will take you back to a place in time,” added Tom. “One of the most exciting things is to see how all of a sudden it touches people. Music will take you to places you don’t forget.”

The pair has a personal connection to Homeland through Kat’s parents, Ray and Joan LaTournous, who were Homeland residents.

“Homeland holds such fond memories,” she said. “We know the care they give here is just marvelous. The staff is so special. They don’t just put the time in. They’re present and accounted for.”

Resident MJ Muro, who had been humming along with the tunes, said it “was just wonderful that they would come here.” She remembered dancing “many, many miles” with her late husband, James. “That was one of our favorite things and singing. We both were always singing with groups.”

The performance even attracted four generations of one family – Homeland resident Betty Dumas, and her daughter Donna Longnaker, granddaughter Michelle Laychock, and great-granddaughter Hannah Laychock. Hannah, a dancer herself, appreciated Tom’s dance performance. Betty has seen Kat & Tom before, “and the sooner, the better” for seeing them again. However, she admitted to not dancing much herself.

“The only dance I went to was my prom,” she said.

Is Personal Care Right for You?


Jen Murray and Nancy Hutchison resized for web minAre you are getting older each year? Of course – we all are – that is why we celebrate our birthday, right?

Are you feeling older each year? Perhaps recently you realize keeping up with the laundry, the house, and especially the yard work is getting harder to do without lengthy breaks or it takes more and more time to accomplish these tasks. What once took you five or ten minutes to do is now taking an hour or two – or even more.

The question – where and how can you receive help? How can you receive support you need and still live an active and healthy life with as much independence as possible? The answer: Homeland Center. Assistance is available through in-home services or through a facility-based option, such as Personal Care.

Jennifer Murray, Director of Personal Care for Homeland noted, “Personal Care is designed to help with encouraging residents to be as independent as possible, while offering assistance with daily tasks. These tasks include helping with balance and mobility issues, medication assistance, minimizing social isolation and offering assistance with daily tasks that may have become a burden.”

In addition to providing Skilled Care, Dementia Care, Rehabilitation Services, Hospice, HomeHealth and HomeCare, Homeland Center also has a Personal Care unit consisting of 50 spacious furnished or unfurnished studio suites. Homeland offers choices. Quality choices for different needs you may require and the changes aging may bring. Personal Care may be the best option right now if you are not able to take care of yourself like you did a decade ago or begin to feel socially isolated.

What can you expect as a resident? Each suite has an emergency call system that is continually monitored by medical professionals on staff, all day, every day – 24/7. Mealtimes consist of a varied menu – including options for those with special dietary needs. Each month a new calendar is created and filled with several different activities for residents to take part in including exercise classes, pet therapy, bingo, floral arranging, restaurant and shopping trips, live music – to name a few.

Music pic resized min“We offer many different types of activities for residents – games, musical events, exercise groups, special parties for holidays, but what makes us different from other facilities is we provide interaction. There is a comradery that exists between our residents and the staff – that is what makes Homeland so special.”

Murray added, “Homeland Center’s Personal Care offers the widest range of services, ranging from those that only need minimal supervision to those with mobility issues and memory impairment. Homeland staff also ensures you are receiving the best quality of care and assistance with daily living needs.”

At Homeland Center, we know that you want to live life on your own terms and offer a broad range of choices to meet your needs. Give us a call to see if Personal Care is right for you.