Homeland resident Lynda Vinton: A life of smiles and teaching


Lynda VintonLynda Vinton’s father often missed school to help support his family. One day, he knocked on the door of his one-room schoolhouse and asked to take the sixth-grade exam.

“No point in you taking it,” the teacher shot back. “You’ll not pass it anyway.”

To this day, Lynda bristles at the thought.

“That upsets me every time I tell the story,” she says. “It’s one of the reasons I became a teacher.”

It’s also a story of sweet comeuppance because Lynda’s father told the teacher that he would succeed one day – and he did. As a young man, he and his wife bought a small grocery store in the northwestern Pennsylvania town of Grove City. He learned how to cut meat and expanded the business by adding a butcher shop.

“They kept that store until I graduated from college,” Lynda says, adding with a laugh, “and then I guess they figured out I wasn’t going to cost them any more money, so they gave it up.”

Life revolved around the family’s Presbyterian church. When she was a teen, a fellow churchgoer named Bob Vinton asked if she would join him on the youth group’s hayride. They began enjoying movies together, catching the 7 p.m. show at one of the town’s theaters, and walking to the second show at the other.

“I think we thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but we never talked about it,” she says now. “We both enjoyed movies very much.”

Their favorite? Lynda doesn’t hesitate.

“Gone with the Wind,” she says. “Our daughter’s name is Tara.”

She vividly remembers a Saturday in their first apartment, cleaning the gloomy, uncarpeted place. Bob opened their copy of Gone with the Wind and started reading.

“Best gift he ever gave me,” she says. “That weekend, he read the entire book. Out loud. With all the expressions. By the end, he was really getting tired.”

Before they married, both went to college. Lynda wanted to travel farther from home, so she graduated from Muskingum College, now Muskingum University (and alma mater of astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn), in Ohio.

“I graduated in June, and we married in August,” she says.

It was the beginning of teaching careers for both. Bob taught high school French. She always taught kindergarten, first grade, or second grade. She enjoyed introducing young children, especially those from deprived homes, to the joys of learning. She exposed them to books and would eat lunch in her classroom so they could come in and read.

“Some of my kids turned out to be good students,” she says. She taught for a total of about 35 years, while she and Bob raised two children, a son and daughter who now have children and grandchildren of their own.

After Bob died, Lynda’s children, both of whom live around Harrisburg, told her about a lovely continuing care community in their area. Lynda, who came to Homeland in January 2018, remembers her first sight of Homeland’s Main Dining Room.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “This is like a hotel. It’s gorgeous.”

Her bright Homeland suite commemorates a life lived with family. Wedding photos are organized in a neat array. On another wall, Lynda points out a skillfully painted still life. Bob took an art class and painted an image of flowers picked from his carefully tended garden but never showed the work to Lynda. She found it stashed in the furnace room – their home’s repository for “all our junk.” He argued that he didn’t do a very good job, but she knew a good picture when she saw one.

“I went to a framer, and they raved about it,” she says. “I walked back in and said, ‘Here’s your ugly picture.’”

At Homeland, Lynda loves playing bingo, listening to visiting musicians, and walking in the lush garden of the Catherine Elizabeth Meikle Courtyard.

“Homeland is beautiful,’’ she says, “I’ve never seen so many people so happy at their job. Everybody smiles.”

Homeland for the holidays: Events offer love, joy, and light


Christmas treeAs homes throughout the land glow with holiday traditions, Homeland does the same, ringing with the joys of the season and hopes for peace.

Traditional favorites provide opportunities for gatherings among family and friends. A new celebration of Hanukkah and a commemoration of Kristallnacht bring Jewish traditions into the halls of Homeland, with lessons for people of all faiths.

The season kicks off with a holiday bazaar and bake sale in the newly redecorated Main Dining Room and cheery Florida room. The bazaar, a longtime tradition, features a white elephant and bake sales organized by the Homeland Center Board of Managers.

The bazaar features distinctive, high-quality items donated by Board of Managers members and friends of Homeland, giving residents a chance to shop in-house for gifts for loved ones and holiday décor for their rooms and doors. Cookies and other holiday treats also make ideal gifts for residents to share, while they bring back memories of baking traditions at home.

“We like to interact with the residents, and they know us,” said Susan Batista, the former chair of the Board of Managers. “The holiday bazaar is exclusively for them and for staff, giving them a chance to do some shopping, relive memories, and maybe take home a treasure.”

The Board of Managers is a unique Homeland institution, carrying on the legacy and vision of Homeland’s founders – the women who worked to create a safe, comfortable home for the widows and orphans of the Civil War. Today’s Board of Managers takes on responsibility for instilling Homeland with its famous home-like feel by overseeing décor and organizing parties.

In recent years, the Board of Managers started decorating and hanging holiday wreaths throughout the corridors, augmenting the work of staff, who hang wreaths in each unit. The wreaths add a touch of green to all the spaces and extend a welcome to all visitors.

In the alcove across from the chapel, another tradition continues with installation of Homeland’s Hummel Nativity set. Several years ago, Batista started setting it up at the request of Lou Hepschmidt, longtime resident and benefactor who donated her extensive Hummel figurines collection to Homeland. The figurines and plates are on permanent display in the Homeland Gathering Room, and now, the Nativity scene shines in Lou’s memory, since her death in 2017.

Capping the season is Homeland’s highly anticipated holiday party in mid-December. Residents host friends and family for music, meal, and merriment. In every unit, guests and residents enjoy a buffet cooked with love by Homeland staff.

Music sounds in every unit, from the jazz of Harrisburg’s renowned Stephenson Twins to the Celtic harp of Mary-Kate Spring. In the Main Dining Room, pianist Marc Lubbers will tinkle the keys of Homeland’s Steinway grand; the rockabilly of Quentin Jones will entertain residents in the Ellenberger memory care unit.

This year, the Homeland community holds an 80th-anniversary memorial for Kristallnacht, the night in November 1938 when Nazis throughout Germany murdered Jews and destroyed synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses. The week after Homeland’s Kristallnacht commemoration, the community reconvenes for a celebration of Hanukkah, the holiday when Jews celebrate the light that good deeds can bring into the world.

For residents of the Jewish faith and all others committed to freedom of worship and other cherished freedoms, the events commemorate “the times of ‘shadow and night’ during Kristallnacht, followed by the ‘love and light’ of Hanukkah,” said Homeland Hospice chaplain Rev. Dann Caldwell.

Working with Jewish and Christian residents, Caldwell initiated the twin events as recognition of the need to address intolerance as it occurs, bring the Jewish traditions of the home to Homeland, and educate the entire community on the lessons of Hanukkah.

The array of holiday events helps Homeland residents give expression to the love they feel for family and friends, and their hopes for peace and joy.

“The holidays are a special time at Homeland,” said President and CEO Barry Ramper II. “For staff, especially, it’s a time to express the gratitude we feel in the presence of residents. Our residents share their wisdom and their trust, and that is the greatest gift we can ask for.”

Candy, family, and superheroes converge for a Homeland Center Halloween

Homeland Center Halloween

Witches – it runs in the family!

“I got candy!”

Kids said it over and over. Whether they got Dum Dums lollipops, Snickers bars, or packs of Smarties, the pint-sized guests of Homeland Center left happy on an eventful evening in late October.

Homeland’s annual trick-or-treat night for the family and friends of staff and residents attracted hundreds of children eager to show off their costumes and, of course, fill bags and buckets with candy distributed by residents.

The 2018 version expanded on past years, with crafts in the 1950s-style Olewine Diner and music in the Main Dining Room.

Children paraded the halls in colorful superhero, cartoon character, and goblin costumes. There were the Tasmanian Devil, Buzz Lightyear, princesses, a police officer, a nurse, and Batman and Robin, although the Dynamic Duo happened to come separately.

One little boy wore a red cap with black chinstrap. “It’s an Easter basket,” said his mom, delighted that he was getting two holidays from one item. “He just put it on as a hat.”

Iola, a Homeland resident, wore a witch hat while she handed out candy. With her daughter, Elaine, in a coordinating witch’s hat, Iola met girls dressed as princesses, one Cleopatra and witches. Iola remembered giving out “a lot of candy” at her home in Pittsburgh. Her neighborhood had a reputation as the area’s best trick-or-treating grounds, she said.

“They came from the other side of town to our street by the carloads,” she said.

The costumed guests grouped in common areas where residents shared candy provided by Homeland. In the Gathering Room, Kristian reminded her daughter, Anaija, to say “trick or treat” as she walked past residents in her bumblebee costume.

Kristian’s aunt, Kimberly, is a Homeland CNA and Kristian said she enjoys visiting with the residents and her daughter looks forward to the annual event.

“We come every year,” she said. “She looks forward to it and on a chilly night we appreciate Homeland providing a safe and fun spot for trick-or-treating.’’

Kimberly, who started working for Homeland more than 20 years ago, first as a temp and then as a full-time CNA in 2016, said the Halloween party is her favorite activity.

“I love it!” she exclaimed. “All the kids in their costumes. The excitement of it all!”

Across the room, Homeland resident Dona cradled her great-granddaughter, 3-month-old Lorelai, dressed in a tiny cow costume. Lorelai’s three cousins also were among the trick-or-treaters. Lorelai’s mother, Lexi, was wearing a pumpkin shirt. She loved the happiness all around, and the opportunity to make the night a family event.

Homeland dietary staffer Asia brought her 5-month-old daughter, Avah. It was Avah’s first Homeland Halloween and she smiled as her mom held her in a baby carrier. “Happy baby,” said her mom. Another Homeland staffer couldn’t resist the little pumpkin that was Avah. “You are the cutest thing!” she said.

Helping kids create Halloween-themed crafts in the Diner was Yan, a Harrisburg High School senior who earns community service hours by volunteering at Homeland. It’s excellent experience as he eyes college and a career in either education or medicine, he said.

“I just come and help and see what I can do,” he said. “It’s pretty fun. I get to know the workers. They’re very carefree, helpful, joyful. And the residents, they’re amazing. I like just talking to them and hearing their stories.”

Outside the Diner, 2-year-old Harmony showed off her spangly red and black dance costume. Her mother, Arielle, is an aide for Homeland Center’s Personal Care residents. She has always enjoyed Homeland Halloween.

“I like that the residents take an active part in the event and I love seeing the turnout from family and friends,’’ she said. “It really shows everyone is very involved.”

She thought Harmony was wandering away and called her back until she realized that Harmony had found someone to give her a treat. Harmony came running back to her mom, a Dum Dums lollipop in her hand.

“I got candy!” she said.

Homeland resident Sandy Friedman recalls Michener, Pavarotti, and Gerald Ford


Sandy FriedmanSandra Friedman’s resume said she had a “community conscience.”

“I still do,” she says today.

Her professional and volunteer career, all in pursuit of good public policy and community betterment, put her in contact with a fascinating gallery of historic figures, from presidents and governors, to Mr. and Mrs. James Michener and opera legend Luciano Pavarotti.

Known as Sandy, she is in her second turn as a Homeland resident, living in a sunny skilled-care room done up in antiques, family photos, and artwork. Her “roommate” is a stuffed dog named Penny.

Penelope the stuffed dog

Penolope (aka Penny) enjoying life at Homeland Center

Sandy grew up in Harrisburg, where her father, George Hafer, worked as a lobbyist and insurance attorney. He was a personable man, often representing and conducting business with people in the insurance business.

“He would have the Insurance Department to our house to watch the World Series,” she says. “Any time something was going on, they would leave work and come to our house to watch the games.”

After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in political science, she returned to Harrisburg and got married. She worked as a staffer for the Joint State Government Commission and state Treasurer Barbara Hafer (no relation). Staffing the 1967 state Constitutional Convention, she got to know James Michener, the Doylestown native and politically involved novelist who served as secretary for the convention, and his wife, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa.

“She liked Harrisburg,” Sandy says. “She enjoyed being here. She was part of the Junior League, so I took her to a Junior League luncheon.”

Junior League played a big part in Sandy’s life, her conduit for community service. Like her mother, she served as chapter president, followed by time as a regional official. Through Junior League, she helped support foster parents and win grants for science projects, including a Pennsylvania State Museum exhibit that took visitors through a giant replica of a human ear. The opening coincided with the March 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, but that didn’t stop 10,000 visitors from touring the exhibit.

“You wouldn’t think we’d have that many visitors to the human ear [because of the fear surrounding the TMI incident],” she says. “You would think everyone was out of town – including me. I was down in Florida. People wouldn’t sit beside us. They thought we were radioactive.”

For Junior League, she also helped organize a lecture series at the governor’s mansion, which attracted such leading names as political commentator William F. Buckley, Jr., and Gerald Ford.

Sandy also planned parties for Temple Ohev Sholom’s fundraisers, when they brought opera stars to Harrisburg. Luciano Pavarotti’s list of demands included a bottle of Korbel Champagne.

Sandy attended high school in a Massachusetts school for girls, where she met classmates from all over the world. She wanted her children, a son and daughter, to get the same exposure, so the family traveled worldwide.

“I was big on education, and traveling is a part of education,” she says. “I wanted them to meet all kinds of people and experience different countries.”

In her career, she also worked as the director of development for Harrisburg Academy and then Penn State Harrisburg, where she conducted fundraising and managed alumni affairs.

At Homeland, she has made personal connections with staff, especially skilled care CNA Marilyn Reid, who calls Sandy “Mom.”

“I love the way she carries herself,” Marilyn said of Sandy. “I take care of my family, and she keeps me going by talking to me.” Sandy’s family knows they can call Marilyn with any questions.

“She’s always very concerned,” Sandy says. “She calls me mom. That’s a big responsibility. I’m lucky to have her. If she gets married, I will be mother of the bride.”

Marilyn confirms that. “She will be there,” she says.

At Homeland, Sandy enjoys the auctions with play money. When Conductor Stuart Malina appeared at Homeland with a quartet of Harrisburg Symphony musicians, Sandy hosted friends and former neighbors for lunch and a concert. She shares her Sunday New York Times with a Homeland neighbor from New York. She also shares her copy of the Harrisburg Patriot-News with a Homeland housekeeper interested in getting her children to read newspapers.

Sandy has long appreciated Homeland, where her mother was a resident, and friends of hers serve on the Board of Managers and Board of Trustees.

“The staff is wonderful, and they have a wonderful board, both the Board of Trustees and the Board of Managers,” she says. “They’re very dedicated. They work hard.”

Passion for providing quality care drives Director of Admissions Laurynne Beth Kauffman

Laurynne Beth Kauffman

Laurynne Kauffman enjoying a moment in the Conservatory at Homeland Center

Ask Homeland Director of Admissions Laurynne Beth Kauffman about a moment that told her she was in the right place, and she asks back, “Just one?”

“It’s something as simple as the fact that you don’t walk down the hall without at least one person smiling and saying hello,” she says. “Every tour I give to families, at least one resident sells the facility for me. They say, ‘You’re going to love it here!’ You don’t find that in other places. I’m glad I found it here.”

Laurynne joined Homeland in October 2017. As a clinical liaison for Homeland Hospice, she coordinated services for hospitalized hospice patients and evaluated new enrollees. Then she transitioned to admissions, using many of the same skills to evaluate residents entering skilled care and helping coordinate their care plans. Sometimes, she helps address immediate needs, while other residents and families benefit from learning about Homeland’s continuum of care delivered through Homeland HomeHealth, Homeland HomeCare, and Homeland Hospice.

“Even if they’re not ready for a particular service, it’s nice to educate them on all the services Homeland has to offer because they might need it down the road,” she says.

Laurynne is an RN who first thought she would work in a NICU, educating parents to prevent abuse, but after working in labor and delivery and losing a few babies, she realized it wasn’t for her.

Then she got a nursing job in a long-term care facility and found she enjoyed working with older patients.

“They’re always happy to see you,” she says. “It always feels like you’ve accomplished something and done something with your day.”

Homeland’s compassion and quality of care make it “unlike any other place.”

“I love Homeland,” she says. “Residents are always first. You walk in here and know this is their home. This isn’t my job site. This is their home.”

She won’t take credit for pairing residents with high-quality services.

“They get all the credit for that,” she says while sitting in her office and gesturing back to the floor where nurses, CNAs, therapists, and many others attend to the needs of residents. “I coordinate the awesome services they’re providing. We’re all a team. We work together.”

Outside the office, Laurynne is a busy mother of four children, ages 9 to 18, or as she puts it, “college, high school, middle school, elementary.”

The family enjoys hiking and superhero movies. Asked about her own superpower, she says that her array of experiences in different fields, including hospice, long-term care, and nursing, gives her a broad perspective. As an admissions director who’s also an RN, she can “look at things from a different level, understanding more of the medical issues and potential for rehab than a someone without a medical background.”

Always looking for ways to help patients, Laurynne is working on her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), taking online classes with the University of Texas. Eventually, she wants to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and specialize in palliative care, assisting those with terminal conditions.

“Palliative care prepares people to understand their disease process and tries to give them the best quality of life possible,” says Laurynne. “I always tell people you can do anything you put your mind to.’’

Homeland Center named Harrisburg Magazine Readers’ Choice for 7th straight year


Harrisburg Magazine Readers' Choice 2018

Voters also pick Homeland at Home as 2018 Readers’ Choice for Health & Wellness

Homeland Center and the Homeland at Home network of outreach services were honored recently as the 2018 Readers’ Choice in Harrisburg Magazine’s Simply The Best competition announced earlier this year.

For Homeland Center, it marks the seventh straight year of winning the recognition, which this year was called the Readers’ Choice Award for best Retirement Facility/Independent Living. It also comes on the heels of U.S. News & World Report giving Homeland a perfect 5.0 rating for the second year in a row and including it in the publication’s Best Nursing Homes 2017-18.

Additionally, Homeland at Home was named by Harrisburg Magazine’s more than 50,000 readers as the 2018 Readers Choice for Health & Wellness. The outreach services, made up of Homeland Hospice, Homeland HomeCare and Homeland HomeHealth, also were named in the Carlisle Sentinel’s “Best of Cumberland 2018’’ contest.

“These recognitions and honors reflect the caring and dedication of our staff, who truly care about our residents and patients,’’ said Barry S. Ramper II, Homeland’s President and CEO. “Homeland remains committed to providing the highest quality of care to the Central Pennsylvania community for all services we provide.’’

Homeland HomeCare assists seniors with daily tasks such as meal preparation and transportation, while Homeland HomeHealth provides doctor-ordered medical assistance, ranging from wound therapy and cardiac telehealth care to physical and occupational therapy. Homeland Hospice works with patients and families faced with a life-limiting illness to address the physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs to ensure quality time with loved ones.

Founded more than 150 years ago to look after Harrisburg residents left widowed and orphaned following the Civil War, Homeland Center remains true to its mission of providing care to those in need. Over the past year, Homeland has provided almost $3 million in charitable care for residents, bridging the gap between the actual costs of care and shrinking public reimbursements.

“We are continuing a proud tradition, founded by citizens of Harrisburg who saw a need and gathered the resources to address it,” Ramper said. “We are proud to carry on their legacy and to demonstrate, in our daily tasks and our outlook for the future, a history of caring.”