Christmas spirit is a lifetime tradition for Homeland resident Marie Andrews

Marie Andrews

Homeland resident, Marie Andrews, relaxing in her suite.

In 1934, Marie Andrews’ father started a tradition in Lykens, Pennsylvania, that continues to this day.

To thank the customers of his hardware store and electrical appliance repair shop, Richard Klinger outfitted a sound truck with evergreens, sat on top wearing a Santa Claus suit, and drove through the town, distributing candy and oranges to children.

In the years to come, the truck would be “electrically decorated,” in the words of one newspaper account, and tour the towns of northern Dauphin County. For more than 75 years, three generations of the Klinger family kept the tradition alive, and it continues today with their support and under the auspices of Lykens Borough. Cowboy singer Gene Autry even sent Marie’s dad a thank-you letter for featuring his recording “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

“It’s still called ‘Klinger’s Float,’ and it still goes out on Christmas Eve,” Marie said. The annual event took a lot of work on the family’s part. Marie remembers the first year when she bagged peanuts to be handed out.

Graduating from high school in 1943, she learned of a wartime program paying for nurses’ training. Harrisburg would have been close, but she figured if she could go anyplace for the training, why not try Philadelphia?

“I don’t know how I had the guts to do it,” she said. First, she applied at a Philadelphia hospital where a friend was studying. When that program accepted her right away, she thought, “If they would take me without even knowing me, maybe Penn would take me.”

She had to pass a lot of tests, but she made it into the University of Pennsylvania. It was an excellent program, with thorough training and strict standards. By the time she graduated, the war was over. Back in central Pennsylvania, she married and had her sons.

Marie worked at several jobs until becoming a school nurse in Central Dauphin School District, outside of Harrisburg, where she stayed for 28 years.

“I liked being with the kids,” she said. “It was an interesting job. There were lots of nice people to work with.”

Her sons attended Central Dauphin schools and, apparently inheriting their grandfather’s handyman genes, studied engineering in college. They both live in the Harrisburg area, and Marie now has four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a third on the way.

From her cheery personal care suite at Homeland, Marie likes to knit. Family members receive gifts such as a stocking cap in Philadelphia Eagles green and white, or a receiving blanket for the new baby.

She has lived happily at Homeland since 2012. She enjoys volunteering in Homeland’s library, as well as taking exercise classes and attending music events. From her window, she watches birds in the trees, including a cardinal that sometimes shows up.

“We do a lot of nice things,” she said. “I go on the shopping trips. I do well. I have a lot of friends. I’m very comfortable here.”

Dauphin County Library System partners with Homeland Center


Homeland Center residents will soon be able to access a host of audiobooks, large-print titles and other materials as part of a growing cooperative effort with the Dauphin County Library System.

The Ted Lick Room plaque

The Ted Lick Room, used by many residents at Homeland Center as the on-site library.

Rob Lesher, the executive director of the Dauphin County Library System recently visited Homeland’s Ted Lick Room library and said he was excited at the opportunity to offer access to even more materials.

“I was greatly impressed by Homeland’s library and the possibilities that exist for the Dauphin County Library System to work with your staff on a number of programs,’’ Lesher said.

“We will be working with you to find out what you would like in terms of books and programs,’’ he said. “Please do not hesitate to let someone know what you might think is a good activity which we could bring to you.’’

Additionally, the library system has an online app called “Libby,’’ that allows users to check out ebooks and eaudiobooks on their own electronic devices, such as computers and tablets, he said.

Dauphin County Library System partners with Homeland Center

Homeland residents and library volunteers, Vivian Black (l) and Marie Andrews (r).

Homeland renovated its library in 2014, thanks to a generous donation by former Board of Managers member Kelly Lick in memory of her husband, Ted Lick. The room, which also is used for gatherings, now features a new cooking area as well as large print books, a touch screen computer and other improvements.

Lesher said the county library system will build on Homeland’s current offerings and said residents also can visit the nearby Madeline L. Olewine Memorial Library, which has a number of interesting programs.

“There are opportunities to create art. You could enjoy a music series this summer which will introduce you to new styles of music including flamenco guitar and bagpipes,’’ he said. “Check out the Library’s Compass, which has a full listing of programs for each season.’’

Lesher said the library system would be bringing many of its services to Homeland as well.

“We realize that many residents might not be able to visit a library,’’ he said. “In coming months, we hope that you will see more of us around Homeland,’’ Lesher said. “If ever you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at the library and I would be happy to talk to you about what we might be able to offer.’’

If you have suggestions about Dauphin County Library System programs and materials you would like to see offered at Homeland Center, please contact Gillian Sumpter, Director of Activities.

Harrisburg’s Kunkel family honored for their long-standing support of Homeland Center

Plaque unveiling

Donald Schell, Vice Chair of Homeland Center’s Board of Trustees, left, helps Nancy W. Bergert, Chair of the Kunkel Foundation and John Stark, a past foundation chair, unveil the Kunkel Circle plaque in honor of John Crain Kunkel.

No sooner had Homeland Center opened its doors in Harrisburg to care for those left widowed and orphaned by the Civil War than Pennsylvania Congressman John Christian Kunkel, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, stepped forward to offer financial support.

Decades later his grandson, John Crain Kunkel, continued his family’s traditions of both serving as a Pennsylvania Congressman from 1961 to 1966 and, with his wife Katherine “Kitty’’ Kunkel, supporting Homeland.

On a recent sun-drenched spring day, the Homeland family officially thanked the Kunkel family for their continued support in a ceremony renaming the main entranceway at 1924 N. 6th Street the “Kunkel Circle’’ in memory of John Crain Kunkel.

A member of the Kunkel family has been an integral part of Homeland as far back as far back as 1867,’’ said Donald Schell, Vice Chair of Homeland Center’s Board of Trustees, during the ceremony attended by area leaders including state Sen. John DiSanto, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries and Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

“Over the past 150 years, Homeland has grown and prospered because of the work and support of the Kunkel family and the Kunkel Foundation,’’ Schell said.

During his remarks, DiSanto thanked Homeland’s staff for the excellent care they provide – especially to two special residents, his mother and father.

“Homeland’s entire staff is doing a great job,’’ DiSanto said. “I stand ready to do whatever I can to assist Homeland as it moves into the next 150 years.’’

As a member of the Board of Managers, which works with the Trustees to advance Homeland’s mission of community care, Kitty Kunkel never stopped thinking about ways to make the long-term care facility more “home-like’’ for its residents. No detail escaped her, from redecorating the residents’ rooms and the common areas to changing the name from the original “Home for the Friendless’’ to “Homeland.’’

Kitty Kunkel also is credited for establishing in 1953 what is believed to be the first-ever beauty shop in a long-term care facility.

“She wanted Homeland to feel less like an institution and more like a real home,’’ said Nancy W. Bergert, Kitty Kunkel’s granddaughter and chair of the Kunkel Foundation. “When she and my grandfather would go away on their many trips, she would always come back with little gifts for every resident and she never forgot a resident’s birthday.’’

Plaque unveiling

Homeland Center recently renamed its Sixth Street entrance in honor of John Crain Kunkel in a ceremony attended by area officials and Kunkel family members. Far left: Homeland Center President & CEO Barry S. Ramper II, state Sen. John DiSanto, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries and Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse. Foreground, from left: John Stark, a past Kunkel Foundation Chair, current foundation Chair Nancy W. Bergert and Donald Schell, Vice Chair of Homeland Center’s Board of Trustees.

In addition to Bergert, current-day members of the Kunkel family who continue to support Homeland include Carolyn Kunkel, a life member of the Board of Managers and Kitty Kunkel’s daughter-in-law, as well as John Stark, the grandson of John Crain Kunkel and past chair of the Kunkel Foundation.

Generous donations by the Kunkel family made possible Homeland Center’s 71-bed Skilled Care Nursing Pavilion as well as Homeland’s 150th Gala Anniversary Celebration last year, which was co-chaired by John Stark.

Stark recalled that John Crain Kunkel enjoyed having residents to his house on Wiconisco Street for lunch and said his grandfather would be proud of what Homeland is today.

Homeland is one of the few skilled nursing care facilities in the Central Pennsylvania region to earn the CMS Five-Star rating repeatedly. Homeland also is among only 15 percent of the more than 15,000 facilities nationwide to receive U.S News & World Report Best Nursing Homes 2017-18 – earning a perfect 5.0 rating two years in a row.

“I really believe what we are doing here today would please him,’’ Stark said. “I want to thank you on behalf of all the trustees of the John Crain Kunkel Foundation.’’

Pries and Papenfuse both highlighted the importance of the services Homeland Center provides.

“I want to thank Homeland for the incredible role it plays in our community,’’ Papenfuse said. “One hundred and fifty years is an extraordinary accomplishment. Homeland has seen the city through its own growth and development over all those years, and today our relationship is as strong as ever.’’

Homeland Center President & CEO Barry Ramper II said all that Homeland has been able to do for families throughout our region would not have been possible without the Kunkel family.

“We are pleased, proud and grateful that you have placed your trust in making Homeland the organization it is today,’’ Ramper said. “Without your support, we could not have achieved this success. Thank you very much.’’

Picnic rainout can’t dampen a good time for Homeland Center’s Ellenberger residents

Ellenberger picnic

Residents, family and staff gather for the annual summertime picnic

A rainy day couldn’t spoil the fun of when Homeland Center kicked off the 2018 summer season with an annual tradition – the return of monthly all-American picnics for residents and families.

Since Ellenberger Unit memory care residents couldn’t go outside for the picnic, the picnic came inside. Seated at tables decorated in summery red, white, and blue, residents hosted family members over traditional picnic fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, pickled eggs, and watermelon.

While some ate in the Ellenberger dining room, other picnic-goers enjoyed their meals in the Dorothy S. Hollinger Conservatory, Homeland Center’s signature space filled with greenery and water features. Even on this wet afternoon, daylight breaking through the clouds streamed through the glass walls and ceiling.

Homeland Center also holds picnics for residents in its Personal Care and Skilled Care units.

Mary Ballos enjoyed the picnic with her mother but was sorry the event had to move from Homeland’s breezy Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion. Mary said that on many of her visits with her mother, they go outside to the beautiful garden beside the pavilion.

“It’s pretty back there,” said Mary, who came to the picnic with her husband. “We look at the flowers. The lily of the valley smell so good.”

At Homeland, she said her mother’s favorite activities center around music.

“When I come in during the music programs, she’s always clapping her hands and being happy,” Mary said.

Volunteer Martha Morgan appreciated the picnic’s social aspect.

“Residents get a chance to be with their families,” she said. As a volunteer for about a year, Martha said the residents “have me laughing.”

“Homeland is so personable,” she said. “It’s a place for residents to live. Their family might not live in the area, so I just go in and sit and talk. I enjoy that, doing their nails and chitchatting.”

Among the picnic guests was Barbara Collins, who served as Homeland’s director of nursing for 13 years, until she retired in 2001. She started her career in nursing, left to raise her children, and returned to long-term care.

Barbara Collins and Ethel Boyer

Barbara Collins (L) and her mother Ethel Boyer enjoy their visit and the picnic

“It was a lot of fun,’’ Barbara said of her experiences working with residents. “They always have wonderful stories to tell you.”

Homeland stands out for the quality and quantity of its staffing, Barbara said. Staffers approach their tasks calmly and professionally, and their longevity is evident when Barbara walks in the door because she hired some of them.

“Everybody is friendly, and they care about the residents, which is so important,” she said. “I know so many of them, and I feel comfortable with them. Some of the nurses treat my mother like she’s their grandmother.”

Barbara’s 98-year-old mother, Ethel Boyer, has been a Homeland resident since 2011, starting with six years in personal care. Since moving to Ellenberger, staff members from personal care often come to visit.

“She loves it,” Barbara said. “It’s one happy family.” Her mother enjoys all the activities available, including an appearance by Elvis Presley impersonator Brad Crum.

Even though the picnic moved inside, Barbara said they were having a good time.

“Oh, we love the picnics,” agreed another guest, Sharon Haederer, who was visiting her aunt, Lorraine Boyanowski.

The picnic was fun, Ethel agreed. The big, delicious meal would put her to sleep, she knew, but “I sleep good,” she said. “Thank the Lord for that.”

Coming from a family of 12 children, Ethel was a middle child who helped take care of her brothers and sisters. She attended a one-room schoolhouse in Stoverstown, Pennsylvania, a little York County town “down in the valley,” just like the old song says. Her brothers played guitars and violins, while all the siblings sang the hymns they knew from church.

“I enjoy myself anywhere,” she said. “I try to make the best out of every situation. That’s the only way to live.”