Homeland resident Bob Hostetter: “You have to want to make a difference”


Bob HostetterBob Hostetter loves history. He also loves iron-willed people who fight for change. His two loves converge at Homeland Center, founded in 1867 by a group of Harrisburg women determined to provide a home for widows and orphans left destitute after the Civil War.

“They built Homeland as a place to live, a place to go when you needed some help, and that is really the overarching concept today,” he says. “It’s an amazing phenomenon.”

Bob lives in Homeland while rehabbing from a leg injury. He brings to Homeland a lifetime of service to Harrisburg arts, education, and racial justice.

As a schoolboy in Pittsburgh, Bob loved art classes, making mobiles in the style of Alexander Calder. His father was the executive secretary for an association of printers and papermakers. His mother “was an old-fashioned housewife. She baked pies. The apple pie was great. She would back gorgeous cakes.”

The dinner-table conversation often centered on civil rights.

“I was raised by parents who were actively committed to anti-racist dynamics,” he says. “They brought us up about ways to be sensitive towards racism.”

After studying at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, he moved to the Harrisburg area and served as pastor for a suburban Presbyterian church. But it was the turbulent 1960s, and he felt drawn to serve a church in inner-city Harrisburg.

He and his African American congregants were “active in confronting public officials” over politics and policies. One contingent of older women marched to City Hall, demanding improvements in education and health care. He still marvels at the impact and organizational skills of women who were descended from slaves and who were denied many opportunities in life.

His determined congregants taught him that “you have to have a dream, and you have to have a reason to be, and you have to want to make a difference. That’s what drove those women every day. They never faltered.”

A friend of Bob’s – a pastor equally dedicated to community change – was an official at WITF, Harrisburg’s public broadcasting service. Bob joined him and worked there for 19 years, mainly in community project development, rising to the position of vice president.

Most memorable was the PBS Time to Act campaign, when public television stations nationwide made local productions targeting anti-substance abuse messages to teens. In Pittsburgh, Bob met First Lady Nancy Reagan, then leading her “Just Say No” campaign.

Working for social change also included decades of service with the Rotary Club of Harrisburg, including a year-long term as president. He spearheaded an initiative introducing middle school students to real-world business skills.

“It was a group of people and businesses dedicated to the community who have no other reason to be in Rotary other than to be of service,” he says. “I love the people and still do.”

Bob and his former wife, Martha, raised two children, supporting their son’s love of soccer and daughter’s love of music. His own, lifelong passion for art led him to help create the Allied Arts Fund, a former regional arts facilitator.

For many years, Bob has lived along Harrisburg’s Susquehanna riverfront – first, in the historic Shipoke neighborhood, and then in the equally historic Riverview Manor. From his sixth-floor apartment, he can “see right up the river, where the views are just striking.”

“You can stand in the living room and see a storm coming,” he says. “It’s a magnificent jewel we live with.”

Bob believes that Homeland’s commitment to delivering excellent care sustains support from the region’s generous donors. Their backing directly benefits residents through Homeland’s cheery spaces, diverse activities, and the benevolent fund that assures no resident is ever displaced due to depletion of resources.

“Those women who started Homeland would be stunned to know and see what their efforts have grown into,” he says. “The day-to-day life here is so positive. People are friendly. You pass someone in the hall, and whether you know them or not, they say hello. Anyone who has the need for help like I do would be a fortunate person to come here.”

Creative spark: Homeland residents’ artworks bring cheer to sick children


Homeland residents' artowrkAfter Homeland resident Joanna Kaisin colored an intricate scene of sun and leaves in green, yellow, and orange, she chose purple for the border.

“It’s a happy color,” she said.

A “spark of creativity” surged through Homeland Center for September’s National Assisted Living Week. The 2019 theme, “A Spark of Creativity,” recognized the potential for personal care residents, staff, and families to unleash their inner artists and find such benefits as improving cognitive and sensory-motor functions, building self-esteem, and reducing stress.

Homeland Center embraced the theme with an array of creative ventures, bringing new ideas to its weekly art classes and introducing an initiative that benefits hospitalized children.

On a Saturday morning, residents gathered in the Homeland solarium to decorate bags for Caitlin’s Smiles. The organization is named after Caitlin Hornung, a Harrisburg-area girl who spent the last years of her short life in and out of hospitals, getting treatment for a malignant brain tumor.

Young Caitlin’s spirit never wavered, and she found her greatest joy in creating art. After her death in 2000, her mother, Cheryl Hornung vowed to bring the same relief from pain and fear to hospitalized children. Today, Caitlin’s Smiles recruits an army of volunteers to prepare craft kits for children and teens. They are distributed to hospitals throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and other states.

Those craft kits are packaged in “Bags of Smiles” that start out as plain white but are decorated with love by caring individuals. That’s where Homeland residents enter the picture. Every other Saturday, they are now decorating bags that will deliver cheer to a hospitalized child somewhere.

The opportunity to brighten the day of a sick child gives residents new purpose and a feeling of contributing, says Homeland Activities Assistant Lateefah Battle.

“When you tell them about Caitlin’s Smiles and give them a bag to decorate, it brings out more of their energy,” she says. “They say, ‘We’re doing it for the children.’”

Homeland residents' artworkResident Ann Soder agrees that her bag was sending best wishes to a sick child somewhere.

“It’s a good project for us to do, that children have cancer, and maybe we can bring some brightness into their day and show that we care for them,” she says. “Our wishes for them is to keep up their treatments, and we pray that you will be well.”

Ann started by pasting her bag with stickers declaring “Think happy, be happy,” and “Good things take time.” Then she picked up a blue marker and drew a kite flying in the air.

“Well, somewhat of a kite,” she said. While the residents might disparage their artistic talents, they love pouring their hearts into their imaginative works. Homeland staff and volunteers provide the encouragement residents need to nurture their creative instincts.

Earlier in National Assisted Living Week, a weekly art class offered a new idea – the chance to contribute to a mural. Under the direction of art instructor Taqiyya Muhammad, residents colored inspirational sayings – “Believe you can, & you will,” “You are amazing” – intended to hang as a mural-style grouping in Homeland’s popular Main Gathering Room.

At that session in Homeland’s Lick Library, resident Joanna Kasian says she’s not a good artist. “I would put eyes, probably on each finger I draw,” she says. But that doesn’t stop her from bringing her inspirational motto – “Believe in yourself” – to life with yellows and greens and purples.

Homeland residents enjoy their artistic endeavors, says Muhammad.

Homeland residents' artwork“They do amazing work in art class, our little hour,” she says. “It seems like it goes by so fast.” Some are so enthusiastic about their pieces that, “depending on how intricate or how detailed they want to make it, they say they’ll come back and finish it next week.”

Resident Gloria Mineur also admits that she has no artistic ability, but she’s pleased with her efforts at adding colorful details to a drawing declaring “Love One Another.”

Mary Graves appreciated what she and her fellow Homeland residents were accomplishing. She decorated her bag with a yellow sunflower, sprouting from a pot bejeweled with sparkly stickers.

“The kids will like that,” she says.

New activities director Aleisha Connors: Enriching the quality of life at Homeland

Aleisha Connors

Aleisha Connors, new Director of Activities at Homeland

A Homeland resident once offered some advice that Aleisha Connors took to heart.

“Live every day as an adventure,” the resident said. “You only live once. Always take time for yourself. Remember where you came from and why you’re here.”

Aleisha’s adventures have taken her to France, Barcelona, and Ireland, while her professional journey brought her to the Homeland Center, where in August she became the activities director. In her new job, she oversees the vibrant array of activities in all three of Homeland’s continuing care units, Ellenberger, Skilled Nursing and Personal Care.

It’s a role she feels was made for her.

“I can honestly say this is the perfect job for me,” she says.

Aleisha assumed the activities director post after more than a year and a half coordinating activities in the Ellenberger dementia unit and then in personal care. Working with the elderly has been her passion since helping to care for her grandparents. She also volunteered at retirement homes when she was young.

“You can make their day just by saying hello,” she says. “I love hearing their stories, of how they grew up and how they raised their families.”

Aleisha grew up in Mechanicsburg, attending St. Joseph School and Trinity High School. She entered St. Francis University, in the western Pennsylvania town of Loretto, as a physical therapy major but graduated with a degree in public health.

One of her internships brought her to Homeland through her mother, a Pennsylvania Department of Health administrator whose career included nursing home surveying. After graduation, she knew she wanted to work in long-term care.

When she saw a job posting for a Homeland activities coordinator, she seized the opportunity.

“I absolutely love what I’m doing,” she says. “I love the residents. I’m here for them.”

As activities coordinator for Ellenberger and personal care, Aleisha learned the varied needs of residents at different phases of their lives. For Ellenberger residents, she developed activities that opened pathways to treasured memories, to “help the brain function and bring back memory recall.”

Personal care residents, she learned, enjoy hands-on activities, trips, and Homeland’s weekly happy hours – “every Friday around 3 o’clock.”

Now, she brings to all activities a firm belief in their power to deliver excellent quality of life touching on its every aspect – “mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.”

Aleisha always strives to incorporate family members into activities, even if it’s as simple as updating them on the pursuits their loved ones enjoyed each day.

“Family involvement makes a huge difference in the lives of our residents,’’ she says. Aleisha remembers an Ellenberger resident who loved talking about her son, and when he visited, “her eyes lit up. She would pop up and give him a big hug. It just melts my heart.”

Aleisha’s own, close-knit family plays a significant role in her life. Their extensive travels instilled in her a taste for new places around the globe. During college, she spent three months studying in France. In Ireland, the home of her ancestors, she cherished the Cliffs of Moher.

Homeland is “a happy place,” and she never experiences a morning where she has to drag herself into work. Her appreciation for Homeland is rooted in its residents, families, and staff.

“It’s the homey atmosphere and the quality of care,” she says. “The way we treat residents here is wonderful. It’s a gentle environment, a great atmosphere. You can feel it walking down the hallway when you say hello to everyone.”

As she started her new position at Homeland, she also began pursuing an online master’s degree in public health from St. Francis University. She hopes to complete it in two years and to “continue growing with Homeland. I know I see myself here.”

Homeland Hospice celebrates 10 years of providing quality care with “Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude” on November 10!


Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude

In Central Pennsylvania, the Homeland name is synonymous with quality, compassionate care and a focus on serving the community’s evolving needs.

In keeping with Homeland’s mission of investing in exceptional community outreach, Homeland Hospice was launched 10 years ago. With hope, dignity, compassion, peace and comfort, Homeland Hospice is committed to improving quality of life for families facing a serious illness in the 14 Central PA counties we serve.

Please join us in the coming year as we celebrate the enormous impact on those with whom we have been privileged to uplift and serve!

• A celebration of Homeland Hospice’s 10th Anniversary – “Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude” – is planned on Sunday, November 10th at the Scottish Rite Theatre in Harrisburg. Doors open at 12:30 and the program starts at 2 p.m. Featured artists include local native, Cedar Cliff grad and Nashville’s newest country sensation Ben Gallaher, as well as the Buffalo Mountain Bluegrass Band. Stroll through a unique Guitar Gallery while enjoying the Grand Ole Beer, Cider & Wine Café.

• Sponsorships and program advertising opportunities for this special event are still available. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit homelandathome.org/homeland-hospice-guitars-gifts-gratitude/.

Homeland Hospice’s team of specialists provides holistic-focused hospice care. We offer pain relief, comfort and peace to patients in end-of-life situations.

Homeland is a 501(C) (3) non-profit organization and in keeping with the spirit of its founders, Homeland Hospice costs not covered by insurance are never charged to the patient or family. Similarly, no one has ever been asked to leave Homeland Center due to lack of funds, and the center provides almost $3 million annually on charitable and benevolent care.

Compassionate support to families and loved ones is a primary focus as well. Each month, Homeland Hospice provides caregivers 32 hours of complimentary in-home relief. Bereavement support is available for a full 13 months after the death of a loved one.

Homeland Hospice has touched thousands of lives. We continue to look toward the future, working hand-in-hand with caregivers, friends and medical professionals to offer our support and care for your loved one and family.