It’s a date: Homeland couples reminisce over Valentine’s Day lunch


Happy Valentine's Day!Love was all around Homeland Center on Valentine’s Day. Visitors were greeted with a cheery “Happy Valentine’s Day” and the sight of red streamers, balloons, and flowers at every turn.

In the Main Dining Room, a volunteer dressed in red handed out felt hearts to residents having lunch. Throughout the week, staff wore red and hosted Valentine’s Day socials for the residents.

And in Homeland Center’s unique 50s-style diner, residents who are couples were treated to a special lunch of Italian favorites – spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, Italian sausage with peppers and onions, and a bright salad of mixed greens.

It was Homeland’s way of sharing the love that permeates the building year-round, but especially on Valentine’s Day.

“We try to do things so they can enjoy the holiday,” says Activities Coordinator Latoya Venable.

About 14 couples call Homeland home. Among those enjoying the special lunch were two couples with a combined 136 years of married bliss.

Valentine’s Day lunchMildred and Tom Anthony met at a weekly dance in Frackville, Tom’s hometown in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region. She came from nearby Mahanoy City. Both admit that Tom wasn’t a very good dancer, but she liked his personality. One year later, they got married in Frackville. Today, they have been married 68 years.

He was a meat cutter by trade, first in his family store, and then for Acme markets. She managed a bank branch.

“It was interesting and busy, and I met a lot of people,” Mildred says.

They had an active life, raising two children and getting outdoors for adventure whenever they had the chance. They had a boat. They had jet skis. They had a lake home near Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

“In the wintertime, we had snowmobiles,” says Mildred. “We would go across the lake and up into the mountains on our snowmobiles.”

Typically, they didn’t do anything special on Valentine’s Day, other than go out to dinner. From Tom’s perspective, gifts for Mildred didn’t have to wait for a special occasion. Some of her most beautiful jewelry came from their visits to the country of Lebanon, where his family is from.

“Whatever she wants, she gets,” he says. “She sees a diamond, she can get it.”

Valentine’s Day lunchSitting at the next table, Colleen and Lester Grotzinger were sharing the latest in a long line of Valentine’s Days together. They were high school sweethearts who began dating “as soon as we could handle our parents,” says Colleen. They knew each other from school, but at a New Year’s Eve Party, they started talking, which led to their first date.

Today, they have been married 66 years.

Married in 1951, Colleen graduated from college, and Lester was called up for military service. After serving for two years in anti-aircraft artillery installations along the East Coast, Lester launched a career as a mechanical engineer and Colleen became a middle school teacher.

They have four children, two boys and two girls. When the Grotzingers weren’t working, they saw the world, visiting the Bavarian village of Lester’s ancestors and meeting some of Colleen’s relatives in Ireland.

For Valentine’s Days in the past, they did “nothing in particular,” says Colleen. “Maybe go to a movie.” The Homeland Valentine’s Day couples lunch was “a nice idea,” she added. For Lester, it was a chance to think back on their time together.

“A lot of years,” he says. “A lot of years.”

“Good years,” says Colleen.

“Absolutely,” says Lester.

Resident Spotlight: Colleen and Lester Grotzinger savor an active life


Colleen and Lester GrotzingerSometimes, high school sweethearts blossom into sweethearts for a lifetime.

Colleen and Lester Grotzinger knew each other from around their high school in the northcentral Pennsylvania town of Renovo. At a New Year’s Eve Party, they started talking, which led to their first date.

Today, the recent Homeland residents savor 66 active and adventurous years together

Married in 1951, Colleen had just graduated from college, and Lester had just finished basic training after his Pittsburgh-based National Guard battalion activated for service. The Korean War was underway, but the Army didn’t send Lester to Korea. He served in anti-aircraft artillery installations along the East Coast.

“Most people don’t even know that at one point, U.S. cities were protected by anti-aircraft artillery,” he says. “The U.S. was afraid of Russia bombing East Coast cities.”

While he served two years in the Army, Colleen lived in off-base apartments or back home in Renovo. When he left the service, he finished his studies at Carnegie Mellon University and launched a career as a mechanical engineer.

Les always knew he wanted to be an engineer. Growing up, he helped his dad around the house, building things and trying to understand how they worked. He devoted his career to a company that manufactured equipment – often rotating, high-speed compressors, steam turbines, and gas turbines – for chemical plants and refineries.

“They were big machines,” he says “Some of them were up to 200,000 horsepower. I had a very good career.”

Colleen was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who majored in elementary education. In those days, she says career choices for women were limited to teaching or nursing. At Penn’s exclusive Wharton School of Business, women weren’t even allowed in the building. When the Grotzingers returned to Penn for her 50th reunion, the group was waiting for a visit by the university president. The president’s car pulled up, and out stepped a woman.

“Things have changed just a little bit,” Les remarked to Colleen.

Today, adds Colleen, “I have grandchildren going there now.”

Colleen taught language arts in a middle school. Some say that’s a difficult age to teach, but she learned to have fun with her students.

“They were funny, in a comical way,” she says. “They want to make each other laugh, but they also made me laugh.”

Living in the southwestern Pennsylvania town of Greensburg, she was active in the League of Women’s Voters. For 35 years, both were active in a book club that read “anything and everything,” Colleen says, and even sometimes gathered on New Year’s Eve to do a play reading.

They also took on the challenge of renovating a fixer-upper, which they purchased after Les got out of the Army and had little money. With his skills as a handyman, he did much of the work, replacing windows and wiring, plumbing and ductwork.

“Everything Colleen wanted, we added in one fell swoop,” Les says. “A big addition for a living room and a fireplace and a two-car garage and a patio, all in one swoop.”

Les’ work took him around the world, sometimes to remote spots in North Africa or western Canada. When it was possible, Colleen came along. They have traveled to all 50 states, plus Canada, the Caribbean, England, and Europe. In Germany, they visited the Bavarian village of Lester’s ancestors. In Ireland, they met relatives of Colleen’s still living in the family homestead near the Cliffs of Moher.

Colleen couldn’t pick a favorite spot among their travels. She’d be happy to “go back to any of them.” Lester recalled a memorable trip to Italy, where he appreciated “the culture and the openness of the society.”

Employee Spotlight: Personal Care Director Jennifer Murray upholds standards of excellence


Jennifer MurrayIn her sixth-grade yearbook, Jennifer Murray wrote that she hoped someday to be married with two children and have a job as a nurse.

Today, she is married, with two children and a stepson, and her entire 18-year career has been in nursing.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse,” says Jennifer Murray, Homeland Center’s Director of Personal Care. “I wasn’t one of those people who got out of high school and didn’t know what they wanted to do.”

As director, Jen’s job is twofold. She makes sure the essential elements of personal care – help with such daily tasks as dressing, bathing, and taking medications – are delivered with cheer and efficiency.

She also makes sure prospective residents and families learn how Homeland’s care goes above and beyond.

Unlike other facilities, Homeland Center’s personal care residents have on-site access to physical therapy and skilled care when needed. Most importantly, the care and services are friendly and attentive.

“Homeland has an outstanding reputation,” says Jen, who initially joined Homeland in 2016 as a clinical manager. “People want to come here. It’s in the staffing. The staff in our personal care is amazing. Rarely do we have a call-off, because they care about the residents. They think to themselves, ‘If I call off, what’s going to happen to my residents?’”

That exceptional staff went more than 100 days in 2017 without calling off work. Even if someone has an emergency, they tell Jen that they found a co-worker to take the shift.

“It says a lot about the staff’s commitment to our residents,’’ Jen says. “Everyone has the heart of a caregiver.’’

A fun part of her job is giving tours to future residents and their families. Homeland’s welcoming atmosphere quickly becomes apparent.

“It makes a big impression on new residents when everyone is saying ‘Have a nice day,’ and ‘How are you?’” Jen says. “It makes a difference.”

Her organizational skills are evident in her neat, bright office in the original, 19th-century part of the Homeland complex. On one file cabinet is a binder full of every piece of information, all updated, that state inspectors seek when they walk in the door. About 12 of her 18 years in nursing have been in administration, and she is committed to ensuring, “that 365 days a year, you’re caring for the residents in the best way possible.’’

Her assignment as personal care director coincided with Homeland’s celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2017. As the buzz started to build around the momentous anniversary, Homeland’s history, growth, and longstanding commitment to the needs of residents began weaving itself into the narrative she shares on tours.

“People are amazed to learn that we have 50 personal care suites in three buildings,” she says. “I tell them that 2017 was our anniversary, and we’ve been here a long time.”

Outside of work, Jen enjoys interior design projects, which shows in her meticulously decorated office.

“My husband always tells me I have to stop with the Pinterest ideas,” she says. “I love to decorate, and I feel like I’m always changing things or redecorating things in my house. My new project for this spring is that I want to paint my cabinets a different color. My husband says I’ve got to chill out.”

Her 20-year-old son is about to join the Air Force. Her daughter, 16, and stepson, 25, are at home. She and her daughter like to go shopping together. Growing up in Steelton, Jen learned the value of hard work from her mother, Gina Snoke, a UPS manager, and her father, James Williams, who worked two jobs – as an optometrist, and drilling bowling balls at ABC East Bowling Lanes.

“Even though my dad worked two jobs, he was always there,” she says. “He’s my biggest supporter. They are awesome.”

At Homeland, Jen hopes to “continue to make people happy.”

“I love the residents,” she says. “I genuinely care about the residents and like building those relationships with their families. I just love being here.”

To learn more about whether Personal Care at Homeland Center might be a good fit for you or a loved one, click here.

When Personal Care Might Be the Right Choice for You


Word cloudIs keeping up with daily tasks harder than it once was? Do activities such as doing the laundry, dusting, and yard work now require lengthy breaks? Are chores that once took you five or ten minutes now taking an hour or two – or even more?

You can receive the support you need and still live an independent, active and healthy life. How? With Personal Care at Homeland Center.

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.

Jennifer Murray, Director of Personal Care for Homeland, says, “Personal Care is designed to help residents be as independent as possible, while assisting with daily tasks. Assistance includes helping with balance and mobility issues, medication management, and support for everyday activities that may have become more difficult to do without some help.”

Murray says the most common reason people decide to move to Personal Care is for socialization.

“You do not get the same activity and socialization in a home setting as you would in a Personal Care home,” she says. “There is a social isolation that often happens when a person is home with limited interaction with others.”

What can you expect as a Personal Care resident?

Each suite has an emergency call system that is continually monitored by on-staff medical professionals 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 participate in including exercise classes, bingo, and crafts.

“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 personal interaction,” says Murray. “There is a comradery that exists among our residents and the staff unlike any other. That is what makes Homeland so special.”

Homeland Center Personal Care offers a wide range of services, for individuals who only need minimal supervision to those who have mobility issues and memory impairment. Homeland’s staff also ensures residents receive the best quality of care and assistance with daily living needs.

Give us a call at 717.221.7901 to learn if Personal Care is right for you.