Enjoying the day with Homeland Center Transportation Coordinator Michael Quinones

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Michael Quinones

Michael Quinones bringing smiles to residents and colleagues at Homeland Center.

In the business of transporting retirement-community residents, it pays to keep up with current events.

“I’m like a tour guide,” says Homeland Center Transportation Coordinator Michael Quinones. “Residents want to know what buildings are under construction and what’s happening around town.”

Michael shares such news as Harrisburg’s new federal courthouse going up near Homeland, while the residents share their memories of city history.

“We go past a building, and they say there was a bookstore there,” says the Harrisburg native. “I had no clue.”

Michael has worked in retirement communities his whole career, starting in the kitchen of a local facility. In 2003, a friend suggested he apply for an opening as a Homeland dietary aide. He got the job but never worked in the kitchen, because Homeland called and asked if he would take a maintenance position instead. It was an on-the-job learning experience. Even if he never quite gained the expertise of a famous home fix-it show host, he became adept at helping out wherever needed.

“Fixing broken wheelchairs, broken beds,” he says. “You name it; I was doing it. Hanging pictures. Painting. Scrubbing floors. Taking out trash. Every day was something different. I learned as I went along. I’m not Bob Vila, but I try.”

He held that post for about four years until asked if he would like to be a Homeland driver. With his friendly disposition, it felt like a perfect fit.

“The residents knew me,” he says. “They’re comfortable with me. Any opportunity you get, you take it. So, I took it.”

As transportation coordinator, Michael schedules trips for residents to medical appointments and shopping. He transports eyeglasses and hearing aids for repairs. He drives residents on outings to restaurants and shows.

“I like to help the residents get out for a while,” he says. “Even if it’s a doctor’s appointment, they like to be out and seeing the scenery. I like to see the residents smile.”

As they’re out and about, they “talk about everything.” Sometimes, they might be near a resident’s old neighborhood, and he’ll drive through the block while they reminisce. Most gratifying is when he takes residents to family functions where they get to see grandkids and great-grandkids.

“I try to make it as comfortable and as easy as possible,” he says.

Michael credits his parents, Carlos and Virginia Quinones, for teaching him the value of hard work. His dad is retired as chief of security for New Cumberland Army Depot. His mother is nearing retirement from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. People tell him he’s just like his mother, who has also worked part-time as an aide for the elderly.

“That’s where I get my compassion,” he says. “She wears her heart on her sleeve.”

Homeland administration provides Michael the support he needs to get his job done, even during challenging times. When he was helping care for his mother-in-law while she was dying from breast cancer in 2017, Homeland directors “were always understanding. They never told me no. They always said, ‘You do what you need to do.’ It was a lot less stress for me.”

In the summer, Michael enjoys tending his garden of tomatoes, zucchini, and squash. Those veggies get grilled during regular family cookouts. Michael’s wife of more than four years, Marlai Paxton-Quinones, wears many hats as director of economic and neighborhood development at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg.

Michael brings his family focus to Homeland. He treats residents like grandparents, and they treat him like a grandson. Co-workers also share a family feel throughout the building. His niece works in the Homeland kitchen, and it seems that all staff are connected through family and community ties for an atmosphere where “everyone knows someone who knows someone.”

“I love working here,” he says. “It’s like a family environment, from employees to residents. It’s not like a 9-to-5 job where you just swipe the clock. Everyone knows everyone by name. It makes it a fun place to work.”

Kristallnacht remembrance highlights dangers of intolerance and hatred

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Kristallnacht remembrance

Mark Glick and Homeland Center resident’s Vicki and Ray.

The woman approached Dr. Mark Glick at a conference for survivors of the Holocaust. She had been left for dead in a mass grave in a Nazi labor camp. Glick’s mother, digging ditches, saw signs of life and returned that night to pull the woman out and share her rations.

“Your mother,’’ the woman said, “is why I’m here today.’’

Glick shared the account with Homeland residents to illustrate the need to keep stories of the Holocaust alive, even as the number of survivors dwindles.

“When someone tells you something like this, it can’t get more powerful,” Glick said.

At a time of rising intolerance worldwide, Homeland Center conducted a commemoration of Kristallnacht, the German state-sanctioned rioting against Jews and their homes and business in 1938. The rampage by quasi-military mobs disguised as civilians is considered the beginnings of the Holocaust. Glick put it into context with an explanation of its historical roots, as Adolph Hitler rose to power by blaming Jews for deprivations suffered by Germans after World War I and during the Great Depression.

“Scapegoating is something we all do every day,” said Glick. “As human beings, it’s very difficult to say, ‘It’s my fault.’”

Kristallnacht remembrance

Dr. Mark Glick and Rev. Dann Caldwell at the Kristallnacht remembrance service.

The Kristallnacht commemoration on Dec. 11 culminated Homeland’s “ Seasons of Shadow and Night, Love and Light” that started with a Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 4. Homeland Hospice chaplain, the Rev. Dann Caldwell organized the events with help from Homeland residents.

“When a group comes for one, often, the group will come for all,” Caldwell reminded the audience of about 20 residents gathered in the Homeland chapel. “Dr. Glick’s story is a reminder of how we should respond today as people of good will and people of spirit and faith and people who are called to help others in need.”

Glick told the audience that his Polish mother survived German labor camps. Her liberation came during a death march meant to eradicate the survivors as the war’s end was in sight.

His father and a sister escaped through a back window of their home in Poland while their siblings were marched out the front door and into the town square, where they were executed with their neighbors. The pair survived by hiding in forests, getting help from the Resistance and sneaking onto farms at night for food.

Though Kristallnacht occurred 80 years ago, its lessons remain urgent and timely, said Glick.

“You do not have to look very far around to see hatred, bigotry, racism, and violence,” he said. “It’s not just in our country but in the world. It is everywhere. Racial nationalism, which is the concept of uniting a country by hating another race, is very strongly practiced in this country and other countries. You don’t have to look far to see people all over the world trying to escape persecution, hatred, and violence.”

Bravery can counter the forces of hatred and violence, he said.

“Unless we understand what can happen, unless we stand up and stop it, we can and will have another genocide in this world,” Glick said.

Homeland residents responded to Glick’s talk with comments about parallels in current events and perceptive questions about the conditions that led to the Holocaust.

Resident Vicki Fox, who helped organize the program, found it “very enlightening and a little scary, because you see parallels in what’s going on in our country and the world, about people being so afraid of everybody and everything.”

“People have to have a dialogue about it,” Fox said. “A lot of people are afraid of Jews, but many have never met one.’’

Resident Ray Caldwell, the father of Chaplain Dann Caldwell, said the program revealed how events unnoticed at the time could devolve into crises.

“Nobody understands what Dr. Glick’s family went through to be free today,” he said. “We take our freedom very lightly here, and somebody like that, with his family, appreciates everything that he has. We do, too.”

Glick acknowledged that politics is “a tough business,” but encouraged listeners to do what they can to combat injustice.

“For me, it’s being here today,” he said. “It also starts with you. Every one of us has pain, has suffered, and we have to shift our outlook. Instead of complaining and pointing fingers at people, we have to look at ways to strengthen ourselves. We have to hope that if we bond together, we’ll heal as a country and find answers.”

Traditions and a few surprises bring joy to Homeland Center holiday party

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Quentin Jones

Quentin Jones at the Homeland Center Holiday Party

What goes better with Christmas than the song, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am”?

Actually, many songs go better with Christmas, and they played throughout the gathering spaces of Homeland for its lively holiday party. But the annual event is big enough to accommodate musical tastes of all kinds, so a few non-traditional favorites were welcome.

On this mid-December Friday, as 2018 ended, Homeland Center residents hosted family and friends. It is their chance to relive memories and convene their loved ones for holiday cheer.

Music filled every space, from a harpist in a skilled-care dining room to pianists in the Main Dining Room and Gathering Room, to that unusual selection of “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am.” That was from Rockabilly guitarist and singer Quentin Jones, adorned in red cowboy shirt, singing to an appreciative audience in the Homeland Chapel. When he was done with the familiar tune, he chided the youngsters in the crowd, saying he would tell Santa they weren’t singing along.

“It’s because they’re too young to know it!” said an adult in the crowd. “You have to be at least 66.” What the little ones did know, however, was how to dance, which they did to all of Jones’ tunes, including a few lines of Elvis Costello’s “The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes” he sang for an audience member wearing red boots.

Holiday adornments were everywhere. The halls were decked in wreaths hung by members of Homeland’s Board of Managers, who started the tradition of adding greenery to the corridors a few years ago.

Mary, a Homeland resident, wore a cheery, wintery Fair Isle sweater as she sat with her daughter, Terri, who flew in from Hawaii for an extended visit. The two caught up in the Gathering Room as a pianist played holiday classics including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. They also admired the extensive collection of Hummel figurines and plates on display, a gift from the late resident and benefactor Lou Hepschmidt.

“I can’t believe they have all these Hummels,” Terri said. “They’re beautiful.”

The two were spending the party “going room to room,” listening to the music, said Terri. Mary shared memories of Christmases past when her grandfather played instruments and sang songs from his native Poland.

Geoffrey a resident who grew up in the restaurant business pronounced the party food “very, very good, and lots of it.” Tables groaned under the feast prepared and presented by Homeland staff – beef tenderloin, a variety of cheeses and crackers, meatballs, wings, macaroni and cheese, cold cuts, and of course, brownies and lots of cookies.

Tara Frank and her husband Bob brought their teenage sons and a friend of theirs, as guests of resident Lynda Vinton, Tara’s mom. Tara and Bob declared the party “very nice.” Lynda said, “The food was outstanding.”

Lynda came to Homeland in January, just missing the 2017 party, but the family experienced Homeland hospitality when they attended the 150th Anniversary Gala thrown especially for residents in May. Members of Tara’s church have long been Homeland visitors, so she knew of its sterling reputation and its levels of continuing care, from personal care to dementia care. She rattled off the things she likes about Homeland.

“The staff is friendly,” Tara said. “Homeland has all the stages of care, which is nice. And the garden is beautiful. My mom loves the garden.”

Peggy and her son Rusty

Rusty and Peggy enjoying their first Holiday Party at Homeland Center.

For Peggy, it was the first time her family attended the annual holiday party. Sitting at a table in the Main Dining Room, the party went on while a pianist played such fun holiday tunes as “Jingle Bell Rock.” Peggy’s son, Rusty, also a Homeland resident, looks forward to bingo every week.

“We love it here,” said Peggy, who appreciates the attentive care she receives. “It’s amazing.”

The nursing staff added her daughter, Sandy, “has really been outstanding.”

Homeland Nurse Manager Trenisha Gray brought her young daughter, Ava, to the party. While residents gave Ava high fives, Trenisha said she loves the annual holiday party and the feel it brings to the Homeland halls.

“I like how the families are so involved,” she said. “Homeland is like one big family.”

Homeland resident Vicki Fox: Making meaningful connections among people

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Vicki Fox

Vicki Fox, New York native and current resident of Homeland Center

The insurance agent called Vicki Fox at Homeland to inquire about her car accident from the previous Friday.

The call was a case of mistaken identity, but Vicki had three things to say. First, she didn’t have a car. Second, she had canceled her insurance.

“And third, was I hurt, and could I collect on it?”

Vicki can inject a one-liner into any situation, but she also has a heart for helping others. In her career, she has been a court reporter for 25 years and a businessperson whose initiatives helped women find their true purpose and overcome life’s obstacles.

Vicki is a native of Long Island, New York, who majored in sociology at State University of New York-Stony Brook. She moved to Central Pennsylvania when her then-husband was studying at Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle. Casting about for a satisfying career, she met a woman who called court reporting “the best job in the world” – skilled, independent, in the thick of things.

“It was always like watching a play,” she says. “Some trials are really good and interesting, and some are really boring, but there’s always something interesting going on.”

For many years, she worked in the court of federal Judge Sylvia Rambo. Even though court reporters are supposed to blend into the background, Vicki sometimes provided comic relief. There was the time her stenography machine started gobbling her pearl necklace.

“Your honor, we have to wait a minute,” Vicki interrupted the court. “My machine is eating me.”

Vicki was also a teacher of Kundalini yoga and a ballroom dancer who gathered a devoted group of friends about her. On her 55th birthday, she found herself in a time of reinvention, so she threw a “rebirthday” party, and 38 women came.

“I like to create community,” she says. “That’s why I think I’m here.”

At that party, each woman was asked to name one thing she could do for herself, and one thing for the care of the earth. Some cried as they opened their hearts. That night, Vicki had a dream of talking to someone, and “no joke, I woke up and heard ‘Women of Intention: Ordinary Women Making an Extraordinary Difference. If you don’t keep holding those meetings, all those dreams are going to die.’”

“So, I did,” she says. That was the start of Women of Intention. Vicki organized regular events with top speakers, giving women safe spaces for exploring desires, motives, and barriers to success.

One of Vicki’s favorite speakers is voice coach Claude Stein. The “wannabe singer” has attended his Natural Singer workshops at the Omega Institute of Holistic Studies many times and also brought him to the Harrisburg area. Through Stein, non-singers learn how to unleash their natural voices, and professional singers learn to express their artistry.

Vicki seeks out opportunities to act as a bridge between people. Organizing her 40th high school reunion constituted “the most hours I ever spent on anything and the most rewarding because people started connecting who hadn’t talked in 40 years.” One pair of former best friends found that neither could remember the cause of a long-ago argument that had severed their relationship.

“They rekindled their friendship,” says Vicki. “I got so many lovely emails saying, ‘Thank you for reconnecting me with my past.’”

Through it all, Vicki finds her own ways to keep worry from bogging her down.

“I like to dance and sing because to do either of them well, you need to be in the moment,” she says. “You can’t be thinking about anything else. In a dancing lesson, all you have to do is listen to the music and feel your partner as he’s trying to lead you.”

Vicki is the mother of two – a daughter in Chicago and a son in Minnesota – and the grandmother of five. As a Homeland resident, she attends Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra concerts and enjoyed a ride on the Pride of the Susquehanna paddleboat on a beautiful June day.

She is discovering her inner artist, producing masterful paintings in jewel tones that mimic stained glass. A colorful giraffe, intended for her 1-year-old granddaughter, was created at a Homeland painting pizza party.

“The most popular things around here are pizza parties,” she said. “You can get everyone happy. All you have to do is have a pizza party.”

Need the perfect holiday present? Consider a gift to Homeland in someone’s honor

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A perfect holiday gift to show you careNo time to shop? Looking for a gift for those who have everything?

A donation to Homeland Center this holiday season is a perfect gift! Show you care with a contribution in honor of a loved one, a special friend or in memory of a person who made a difference in your life. It is an ideal way of showing you care about that person and your community!

Since the founding of Homeland Center in 1867, because of you and other generous friends, no person has ever been asked to leave Homeland because of lack of funds. That’s a remarkable fact, particularly in light of increasing regulations and decreasing funding for senior healthcare.

This holiday season, please help us continue our mission. Your generous tax-deductible contribution will assure this legacy will continue today and for generations to come.

If you would like to donate online, please click here

Homeland’s Development Director, Betty Hungerford, will be happy to assist you and answer questions you may have. You may reach her at (717) 221-7727 or bhungerford@homelandcenter.org

Thank you for your support and we wish you and your family a joyous holiday season.

Homeland’s Tracey Jennings brings out the ‘human’ in HR

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Tracey JenningsTracey Jennings, Homeland Center’s assistant director of human resources, says she’s always been a people person.

“I like people, whether they’re young or old,” says Tracey, who worked with prekindergarten program Head Start for three years before coming to Homeland. “I get along with everybody.”

Tracey came to Homeland in 2013 after talking to Homeland HR Director Nicol Crosson Brown, who Tracey first met when she was starting her human resources career at a Harrisburg-area retirement community.

“It gives me a great feeling to be helpful,” says Tracey, who started as HR assistant and became assistant director in 2016.

Tracey’s role is crucial to Homeland’s sustaining its CMS Five-Star Skilled Nursing Care Facility rating, Medicare’s highest citation for excellence. Her job is even more challenging given the organization’s growth with the development of Homeland Hospice, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare, providing a full spectrum of care in residential and home settings.

It’s Tracey’s job to make sure all files are thorough and up to date when Medicare inspectors arrive. They’re looking for careful management of employee background checks, licensing, and immunizations.

“When I came in, it was already a five-star facility, which was great,” she says. “I try to hold up my end of the bargain, every year, so there are no deficiencies, and we haven’t had any at all.”

Under Nicol Crosson Brown, the Homeland HR department has developed an unusual approach to employee well-being. While it’s the typical HR office where employees submit leave requests and various types of disciplines are issued, it’s also a comfortable place where they’ll find a listening ear.

Tracey says the approach allows staff to leave the outside world behind and focus on their work, ready to provide for anything that residents need. It also contributes to longevity and low turnover among staff who see HR as a trusted resource and partner.

Outside of Homeland, Tracey’s life revolves around family and church. She is Harrisburg born and raised, attending the historic Wesley Union AME Zion Church since age 13. Today, she is the Director of Children, developing opportunities that introduce children to the value of Christian living, the value of service such as helping to feed the homeless, preparing care packages and chemo kits for children in the hospital, collecting items for children in the shelters and foster care, among many other activities.

Tracey has two daughters, ages 16 and 15, and one son, 13. Her eldest daughter plays basketball at Harrisburg High School, and her son plays football and basketball. Her middle daughter, Tyanna, is a familiar face at Homeland as a devoted volunteer. She sits with residents, helps with crafts activities, and lends a helping hand wherever it’s needed, such as bagging candy for residents to distribute to visiting children during Homeland’s annual Halloween party. The experience will be valuable as Tyanna is considering a career in nursing, says Tracey.

When mother and daughter attended Homeland’s 2018 volunteer recognition dinner, Tyanna thought she was merely there to help, but Tracey knew a secret. Four special awards were announced, and Tyanna heard her name.

“She was shocked,” says the proud mom.

Being a part of Homeland’s 151-year tradition of excellence is important to Tracey.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.’’