Resident Lee Spitalny: Feeling safe at Homeland


Despite being raised in Brooklyn, one of Lee Spitalny’s fondest memories is riding horses when she was a girl.

“There was a bridle path in one area,” Lee says. “My friend and I would take a bus dressed in our jodhpurs and boots, feeling very ‘la-di-da.’ We would ride around the area. Those horses knew; they would stop at a red light. We thought we were pretty fancy.”

Now a Homeland rehabilitation resident, Lee keeps moving. She receives physical therapy as part of the comprehensive range of services Homeland offers through partner Genesis Rehab Services.

“Their therapists are wonderful,” she says. “I feel so safe here. I’m being taken care of.”

Attending Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, Lee enjoyed acting in plays but not in musicals.

“I cannot carry a note if my life depended on it,” she says.

However, that talent gap led to one memorable moment. Famous singer Vic Damone had attended Lafayette and returned to lead a music class. Sitting at the piano, he noticed that Lee wasn’t singing, so he invited her to sit with him.

“I thought I died and went to heaven,” Lee says. “I was glad at that point that I couldn’t sing.”

Lee’s mother was a buyer for Wanamaker’s department store. Lee herself worked at Gimbel’s, selling girls’ rabbit-fur muffs and hats, which shed white fuzz all over her clothes.

“When I walked into the house, my mother said, ‘What have you got all over you?’ It was bunny fur.” Lee laughs about the memory, but her mother “didn’t think it was funny at the time.”

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Howard and Lee Spitalny – up close!

Lee continued acting while attending Upsala College in New Jersey. While in college, she met Howard Spitalny, and they married in her junior year. She graduated with an education degree but went to work for an advertising agency.

“The day after I found out I was pregnant, I retired,” she says. “It was a short-lived career.”

Once again, department stores played a big role in Lee’s life. Her husband’s career as Pomeroy’s corporate merchandising manager brought him to Harrisburg.
They grew to love the area, raising their three children from their home in Susquehanna Township.

She remembers when the cartoon character Quick Draw McGraw came to Pomeroy’s, and she and her kids had a chance to ride around in a convertible around town with the costumed horse gunslinger.

“In my heart of hearts, I’m still a New Yorker,” she says. “I loved the theater. I loved the restaurants. I guess I loved the vitality of New York, but
I love Harrisburg now. It’s a warm and wonderful place to live.”

Lee put her education degree to use teaching comparative religion at Susquehanna Township High School.

“I would have ministers and rabbis and priests come to class,” she says. “I once had a voodoo priest talk to my students. I think they got a lot out of it. I didn’t care if they remembered dates, but as long as they left with respect for another person’s faith and religion, that was the important thing.”

Even though Lee had no business experience, a lifetime’s immersion in retail prepared her for the day when a friend suggested that the area needed an upscale bridal gift shop. She opened and ran The Proper Setting in New Cumberland for about 10 years.

“We had wonderful brides registered and met a lot of lovely, lovely people,” she says.

In retirement, Lee volunteers to read to young children at her synagogue.

“They sit all around on the floor,’’ she says. “Being the ham that I am, I love it. They seem to love it, too.”

Lee also served on Homeland’s Board of Managers; the unique board charged with maintaining Homeland’s home-like feel.

She volunteers for Homeland Hospice, spending time with families in mourning. “Everybody grieves so differently, but I hope I can help,” she notes. Lee shares thoughts from her own experience of losing her son Stephen 20 years ago and her husband just three years later.

“Life goes on,” she believes. “It’s so important to remember to have good memories.”

Lee loves to cook – maybe as a creative outlet to compensate for her lack of singing abilities – and she hopes to return to the kitchen after she goes home to her condo and its wonderful neighbors.

In the meantime, she is diligent about physical therapy, walking the hallways with her therapists. She wants to participate in Homeland’s morning exercise classes – “not that I have ever been an exerciser, believe me.” She reads a lot, currently enjoying Rita Mae Brown’s “Sneaky Pie Brown” mystery series. She keeps in touch with friends by phone.

Lee appreciates the sense of security she feels at Homeland, especially given the COVID-19 crisis.

“Homeland is very well run,” she says. “The people who are residents here feel safe, particularly now. The therapists are wonderful. They’re taking excellent care of me, and everybody who’s in here.”

Reimagined activities keep Homeland residents engaged and connected


Hugs and kisses in a Covid-19 world!

At Homeland Center, residents are playing bingo, singing favorite tunes, creating fun crafts, eating pizza, and chatting with family – but not in the usual manner.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the activities department went into high gear to keep residents safe but still able to enjoy the events and routines that sustain Homeland’s renowned home-like feel.

“It’s important that we keep our residents’ spirits up, even though they’re not able to visit their families and are not going out,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connors. “Keeping them engaged in activities has been a key part. That’s where we come in, to make sure that quality of life is maintained.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Homeland Center has implemented strict containment measures based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Pennsylvania departments of Health and Human Services. They include prohibiting entry to all but essential staff (with exceptions for end-of-life situations), mandatory screening of staff, and maintaining social distancing.

Under these circumstances, residents can no longer enjoy the musicians, family visits, and social gatherings that brighten their days, but that doesn’t mean the activities take a rest. Here’s some of what’s going on at Homeland:

  • Hallway bingo: From their doorways, residents play their bingo cards. Staff pull numbers and call them up and down the hallways.
  • Ice cream cart: An ice cream cart makes rounds in the hallways and features ice cream sandwiches, Nutty Buddy cones, Twin Pops, and frozen bananas. The cart, decorated in colorful pictures of ice cream treats, even plays the familiar jangly tunes of a classic Mr. Frosty ice cream truck.
  • Masked sing-along: Homeland residents love their sing-alongs. For the modified version, they maintain social distancing and wear face masks, even as they sing along to favorite tunes such as “You Are My Sunshine” or a cherished hymn with words they know by heart.
  • Gratitude meditation: Employee Wellness Program Coordinator and Health Psychologist Dr. Roxane Hearn leads residents in meditation sessions to calm their minds and focus on thankfulness. “The residents absolutely love it,” says Aleisha.

Personal Care resident, Gladys Mumper, enjoying a sweet treat – delivered to her home!

Additionally, Homeland recently purchased 35 Pizza Hut pizzas and distributed them to residents who miss their usual lunch outings.


Restricted family visits can be the most challenging burden, but with the help of Homeland activities staff and their tablet computers, residents are delighted to connect electronically.

“Not all of them are familiar with this new technology, but when we have group chats and FaceTime with family members, they’re so excited,” says Activities Coordinator Dee Smith. “They even see their great-grandchildren and family pets. It’s a real highlight – you can see it in our residents’ faces.”

The overall goal is to maintain a sense of normalcy.

“We try to keep our residents engaged with interesting activities to help them focus on what we are doing instead thinking about not seeing their family,” says Dee.

The revamped activities require redesigned logistics. Residents are staying within their units, no longer congregating in the same common areas. Each activity coordinator is assigned to a different space, aided by reassigned Homeland at Home Hospice liaisons who can’t go into the field during the shutdown.

Staff also work hard to keep up their own spirits.

“What the residents see on the staffs’ faces is how they’re going to feel,” Aleisha says. “I’ve been telling my staff we have to keep calm and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Dee praises Aleisha as a director who “digs in and helps” with all the activities underway during long days at work. Aleisha appreciates Dee’s talent at keeping residents involved and engaged. They both admire the work of Homeland’s social work staff in assuring that residents stay sharp mentally.

“This is such a good environment to work in,” says Aleisha. “Everyone is committed to coming together for our residents.’’

Effective immediately, Homeland Center’s nursing and personal care areas are closed to ALL visitors and volunteers until further notice.


We’ll help arrange visits via computers and phones; details to follow

We understand the importance of visiting with loved ones, but we must maintain the safety and health of our residents as our top priority.

As you know, there are widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 in various places around the world and in the United States. Because older adults are at significantly higher risk of serious illness and death if infected with this virus, the Federal Government through The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has instructed all Nursing Homes to make restrictions.

Exceptions will be considered under extraordinary circumstances and will need to be scheduled and approved in advance. If you wish to discuss this option, please call Ashley Bryan, Director of Social Work at 717-350-8005.

While we are not aware of any cases of COVID-19 at Homeland Center, we take these measures out of an abundance of caution to safeguard the well-being of all our residents, youth, families, volunteers, visitors and staff.

We recommend following CDC guidelines by taking the following steps to stay healthy and help prevent the spread of the virus by visiting

Homeland Center is receiving regular communication from local and state public health officials, including the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Keystone Health Care Coalition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These restrictions will remain in place until the CDC states that we are no longer at risk for the spread of COVID-19, and the flu season is over. If you are unable to visit the community in person, residents may be reached by telephone and staff may be able to arrange a virtual visit using video conferencing technology.

The health and well-being of the residents and the staff that serve them is our highest priority. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we do our part to assist in combating the spread of the flu and COVID-19.

Check back for updates on this website. You can also call the Homeland Center Information Hotline at (717) 303-8833 for a recorded message with updates as they occur.

For Employees and Approved Vendors/Deliveries:

The doors at 6th Street and 5th Street parking lot must be used for entrance and exit to the building. You will not be permitted to enter or exit at Muench Street.

Homeland Center incentivizing employees all-around health


Homeland Center incentivizing employees’ all-around health

Winners of 2019 Homeland Well-Being Award – Missy, Stacey, Amy

Last May, Homeland Center President and CEO Barry S. Ramper issued a challenge: Two employees who excelled at improving their well-being would receive a $2,500 award.

“For us to be the best we can be for the group of residents, patients, and clients who’ve entrusted their lives to us, we have to be at our personal best,” Barry said when he kicked off the challenge that features a winner from Homeland Center and one from Homeland At Home, which provides home-based personal assistance, skilled nursing care and hospice.

Winners of the 2019 Homeland Employee Well-Being Award were Homeland Center’s Amy Kidd, Assistant Director of Nursing and Dementia Unit Manager, and Melissa Harner, an intake coordinator for Homeland Hospice. Stacey Schroder, a social worker with Homeland Hospice, also won $1,000 in a raffle drawn for participants who earned a set well-being point minimum. Winners were announced on February 4 during a small award ceremony and celebration in the Homeland Center Diner.

To keep the momentum going and encourage higher levels of employee engagement, Barry announced a new round of the award scheduled to kick off March 1, 2020.

Homeland’s Employee Wellness Program Coordinator and Health Psychologist Dr. Roxane Hearn developed the initiative by consulting other colleagues in the field of corporate wellness, applying psychological theories of behavior change, and customizing the approach for Homeland. The structure allowed all employees to participate, whether they needed to make changes or were already leading healthy lifestyles.

Participants compiled points on well-being criteria contributing to physical, emotional, and financial wellness dimensions. Criteria to earn well-being points included but were not limited to maintaining or improving biometrics such as blood pressure and visceral fat, tracking caloric intake, using a meditation app and taking yoga classes, writing a letter of gratitude to someone special, and creating a personal budget.

“Most participants reported they already considered making changes to become healthier, but the introduction of the Well-Being Award gave them the extra push they needed to turn their intentions into actions,” says Dr. Hearn. “I enjoyed working with employees who had never sought out employee wellness services in the past because they considered themselves healthy. However, they were not considering all of the dimensions of health and wellness.”

Five years ago, Amy Kidd, won a different Homeland challenge, based solely on weight. She lost 50 pounds, but over time, bad habits crept back in. The Well-Being Award was her wake-up call.

“A lot of it wasn’t about weight loss,” says Amy, who started meditating for five minutes a day and practicing yoga, which eased her muscles after a long day. “It was about being well overall.”

Amy wrote her letter of gratitude to Dr. Hearn because “she’s constantly helping other people.”

Amy and her son Vinny sharing the celebration.

Through it all, Amy’s biggest fan was her son, Vinny Beamer. He nudged her not to eat cookies, and he sat patiently through her yoga class.

“I try to instill positivity in his life and make him strive always to be great,” Amy says. “He’s been coming to Homeland since he was born. He has a volunteer badge and helps with bingo. When he hugs somebody, it’s nice to see the enjoyment on their face.”

The eye-opener that encouraged Melissa Harner to enroll was her sister-in-law’s battle with ovarian cancer.

“This will help me help her,” she says. She wrote her gratitude letter to that sister-in-law, expressing admiration for her courage.

With Dr. Hearn’s coaching, Melissa learned about maintaining a balanced diet and eating more fruits and vegetables. Melissa’s husky-German shepherd mix, Cocoa, motivates her to get moving twice daily, while she also discovered the joy of yoga.

“I would never have thought I would like it,’’ she says. “Now, it is something I plan to continue.’’

Melissa is proud that she improved her lifestyle. Her winnings will go toward the family’s Outer Banks vacation.

Both winners say Homeland’s commitment to its employees means better care in turn for residents and clients.

“When you’re feeling good about yourself, you instill those factors into others, as well,” Amy says. “You encourage your coworkers to want to do better and eat right. It puts you into a happier place to deal with stressors. If you’re in a better place for yourself, you’re able to be more functional for the care of our clients and residents.”

Homeland resident lives an eventful life in service to nation and veterans


Susan and Bill Gaylor still enjoying Valentines Day through 59 years of marriage.

The helicopter engine-fault light came on, and Crew Chief Bill Gaylor directed the pilot to land. A vast field opened up below. But when the craft hit the ground, a frantic U.S. Park Ranger drove up, insisting that they couldn’t land there.

“The hell I won’t,” said Bill. And that was how he came to make an emergency landing at Gettysburg National Military Park, on the hallowed ground of Pickett’s charge.

Homeland resident Bill Gaylor has lived a colorful life, driven by a talent for mechanics and a love of country and his fellow veterans. It follows a line from the 38th parallel during the Korean War, to crewing helicopter flights, to ensuring that every Dauphin County veteran gets a funeral with military honors.

Bill and his wife, Susan, will celebrate 59 years of marriage and a loving family that includes three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Susan, who does not live at Homeland, said she appreciates the care her husband receives.

“Homeland is well-kept,” says Susan. “Everything’s always clean. I feel he’s well taken care of.”

“I like the people,” adds Bill.

Born in Hazelton, Bill joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1954 and served in Korea, where he initially drove a truck and then chauffeured officials engaged in the peace talks at Panmunjom. One admiral treated him like a son.

“He wanted to go in style, so they gave him a new car,” Bill recalls. “I’m driving a new car, and I’m thinking, ‘I’m in heaven, driving a brand-new Chevy.’ I mean, I’m still a kid.”

One night, the MPs detained Bill for speeding when the admiral wasn’t in the back seat. When the admiral learned the next morning, he issued an ultimatum.

“If he isn’t out here within two minutes,” the admiral barked, “all of you are going to be in there, and he’s going to be out here laughing at you.”

After three years of Army service, Bill worked at a shop in Lebanon. He soon noticed a pretty young woman who often sat on the front porch of a nearby home. Susan was only 16 and he was 21 when they first met, but Bill won over her skeptical parents and they married after she graduated from high school.

After they married, the couple moved around as Bill worked for business machine companies. Then, at age 40, he took advantage of the military’s call for experienced personnel. He served two years in the Navy Reserve before transferring to the Army National Guard, which led to his going to Fort Indiantown Gap and learning to repair helicopters.

Progressing to in-flight crew chief, he was responsible for ensuring the helicopter was in working order and that loads were evenly distributed.

Bill’s helicopter missions included lowering air conditioning units onto the roof of the Pentagon and lifting lighthouses off eroding Great Lakes beaches.

The mission that ended with the Gettysburg emergency landing started as a test of air defenses for the president’s retreat at Camp David. Luckily, the helicopter was quickly repaired.

Bill had to retire from duty at 60, but that was not the end of his service. He recruited other veterans to form a volunteer honor guard that provides military ceremonies at about 100 funerals a year.

Members buy their own uniforms and give their time traveling throughout Dauphin County. Any donations go toward supplies such as matching overcoats. Though others took on Bill’s organizing duties recently, he is still considered commander.

“Families would come up to us after funerals and thank us so much,” says Bill. “We’d be hugged and kissed. They were so happy to see that somebody cared that their loved one served.”

Update:  Bill and Susan continue to visit using FaceTime during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are part of an expanding group of loved ones able to visit through FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype. These visits are coordinated by our Activities and Social Work teams and are making a difference!

Romance fills the air as Homeland crowns Valentine’s Day King and Queen


Homeland Center’s 2020 Queen and King of Valentines – Colleen and Lester Grotzinger

The Valentine’s Day luncheon guests grew silent as Homeland Center Activities Director Aleisha Connors made her big announcement.

“And the 2020 Valentine’s Day King and Queen are . . .” she paused for dramatic effect, while the crowd performed drum rolls on the tables, “. . . Mr. and Mrs. Grotzinger!”

The luncheon guests cheered while staff placed crowns on Homeland residents Colleen and Lester Grotzinger. Colleen received a beautiful bouquet.

The Sweetheart Lunch is an annual tradition, allowing married couples who are residents and those residents whose spouses live outside of Homeland to share a romantic meal. Floral centerpieces and tablecloths adorned with hearts graced the tables in Homeland Center’s unique 50s-style diner. Over lunch choices catered from Olive Garden, guests exchanged memories and kisses.

The Grotzingers were chosen King and Queen by a vote of Homeland residents and staff. Among the couples attending the Sweetheart Lunch, they had the longest marriage.

“In July, it’s 69 years,” said Lester.

The two were high school sweethearts who met in their hometown of Renovo, in northcentral Pennsylvania. They married in 1951, just after he finished basic training for the Army. She was a teacher and he was a mechanical engineer.

What’s the secret to a long marriage?

“We just always got along,” said Colleen.

Connors organized the luncheon as a way to help residents from all Homeland units to recall treasured memories.

“They get to have a special meal together, just like they’ve always had,” she said.

Mickey (l) and Bob (r) Jostenski

Mickey Jostenski, visiting her husband Bob Jostenski, recalled their longstanding annual tradition of going to Ocean City, New Jersey, for Valentine’s Day and their anniversary in June.

“It was just relaxing,” Mickey said. “It was a way to get out of ‘Dodge.’”

The Jostenskis also shared their love for Homeland. Bob enjoys a full range of activities and recently attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

“We went bowling one time,” Bob said, pantomiming a bowling-ball throw. He also unleashes his inner artist through Homeland art classes, and he presented a gift to Mickey – a painting of two wine glasses clinking, with a heart rising between them inscribed, “I love you.”

Hearts and symbols of love were everywhere throughout Homeland. A poster in the elevators reminded everyone to “Let this day be filled with memories and reminders of how much you are loved.”

On the Gathering Room mantel, photographs of Homeland couples – from their wedding days to date — decorated large letters spelling out “LOVE.’’

At the diner, Michael Keane was enjoying the Sweetheart Lunch with his wife, Marian.

“This is very nice,” Michael said.

Like the Grotzingers, the Keanes were high school sweethearts, now married 64 years. Celebrating Valentine’s Day usually meant going out to dinner. Early in their relationship, they went to Hershey regularly to hear the big bands that came to town – and there were some very big names on the lineups.

“Tommy Dorsey,” Michael said. “Harry James. We didn’t appreciate what we had then.”

In the Valentine’s Day spirit, Michael came with a card for Marian. “Love of my life, friend of my heart, my wife,” it read. “A love like ours happens only once in a lifetime.”

He signed it, “All of my love always.”