Assisted Living Week 2021: Drive-by parade shows a depth of love for Homeland personal care staff


The sign Sandy Daily held out of the car window said it all.

“From Peggy, Rusty, and the Dailys, thanks for caring.”

Homeland Center celebrated National Assisted Living Week 2021 with style, putting extra-special touches into a show of appreciation for employees who have performed heroically since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Events included a big surprise for personal care staff – a drive-by parade of family members showing their appreciation for the kindness and care that Homeland staff exhibit for their loved ones.

Every September, Assisted Living Week shines a spotlight on the people and places providing loving care for the aging and people with disabilities. For Homeland, the week offers the opportunity to highlight its personal care side, where residents get companionship, socialization, and any help needed with the tasks of daily living.

For many people, assisted living is like “aging at home,” but better and safer, amid trained professionals in providing attentive care.

“Assisted living offers a chance to receive assistance 24 hours a day from dedicated and caring staff,” says Director of Personal Care Jennifer Murray. “Homeland Staff is like no other. There is no worry from the family members (especially those who have jobs and family responsibilities) on whether or not their loved one will receive the proper supervision and assistance.”

Assisted living is also less isolating than living alone and, at Homeland, much more fun.

“We encourage our residents to attend activities, and they have a great time with our staff,” says Murray. “At an end-of-summer party in the pavilion, we had residents up dancing with the staff and playing with squirt guns and water balloons. You can’t do that at home!”

Assisted Living Week 2021, themed “Compassion, Community, Caring,” brought an array of fun to Homeland. In personal care, the week started with a word search puzzle for staff, who circled words that are the hallmarks of Homeland: caring, compassion, dedication, community, gratitude, teamwork, respect, thankful, appreciation.

Other activities included a recognition photo display, provision of lunch or dinner, “Western Wear” day, and a cake and ice cream party with gifts in the form of a keychain and sugar cookies in the shape of a scrubs top. Residents voted for the winners of a mask decorating contest – first place to CNA Patti Moore and her Mr. Potato Head mask, second place to med-tech Anna Leland for her bedazzled mask, third place to CNA Aprile Greene for decorating her mask with a face complete with earrings. Honorable mention went to Michael Quinones from transportation, with a SpongeBob mask.

“The staff in personal care don’t need anything special to do what they love to do,” notes Murray. “They love the residents and provide the best care all year round. The activities and gifts were the least that I could do to show them that they are appreciated.”

The midweek surprise family drive-by brought tears to the eyes of many staffers. Murray asked Sandy Daily and her family to lead the pack. Sandy sat in the back seat, waving the sign that her son made. Her mother, Peggy Keiser, and brother, Rusty, love Homeland and constitute the only mother-son pairing in residence.

“As far as I’m concerned, Homeland is topnotch,” says Sandy. “It’s topnotch care, and they keep me abreast of everything that’s going on. They’re wonderful to work with. The staff goes out of their way. They’re so friendly.”

Ann Gralski and her husband also joined the parade to show appreciation for the compassion staff shows her dad, Bill McGinley.

“I was blowing kisses,” she says. At Homeland, “communication is never a problem. Dad sometimes requires that extra help and kindness from the staff. They are always there for him. They do what needs to be done to make the residents comfortable and feeling good. They’re all experienced, and they know how to take care of people.”

Ann often takes donuts or cookies to Homeland staff. During Assisted Living Week, other family members of residents did the same, dropping off treats and gifts.

“They all say much they care about my dad. He makes jokes. He likes them, too,’’ Ann says. “That’s the bottom line.”

Charlie Fetterhoff: Board of Trustees member puts Homeland “in a class by itself”


Charles Fetterhoff has seen the inside of many nursing homes, visiting friends and his sister, born with cerebral palsy, as she went in and out of rehab.

He also knows Homeland Center from the years that his mother and his sister – both named Mary – lived there.

“You couldn’t compare anything to Homeland,” he says. “It was night and day.”

Now, Charlie is putting his love for Homeland into service, joining the Board of Trustees in September 2021. He has watched Homeland grow in renown as it extends its legendary excellence in care. From residential services at Homeland Center into the community through Homeland at Home, the continuum of care provider boasts Homeland Hospice, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare.

Charlie’s mother spent her final three years in Homeland, enjoying “happy hour” in personal care and flower arranging in skilled care. His sister, who lived independently until age 70, lived there for her last seven years. She loved to play bingo and, as an avid reader, would pick out biographies in the Homeland library.

“Those were good years for both of them,” he says. “At that point in their lives, Homeland helped them live a very nice quality of life. Homeland was always clearly above the rest.”

Charlie grew up in the city of Harrisburg, in the historic Bellevue Park neighborhood. His father was an obstetrician, who inspired him to pursue a career in health care – but one with better hours. He chose dentistry, earning his bachelor’s and DMD degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. He stayed in Philadelphia for his internship but returned to Harrisburg for a quieter lifestyle near his family.

For 45 years, he had a practice in Harrisburg’s Colonial Park area. He joined a group practice for the last three, but now, beginning October 2021, he is retired.

Charlie also chose dentistry for the chance to work with his hands. It’s in his blood. His great-grandfather and ancestors were blacksmiths and wagon builders in the Dauphin County town of Lykens. As a kid, he built model railroads.

“We’ve always worked with our hands,” he says. “You have that three-dimensional way of looking at things in dentistry.”

Retirement leaves him more time for building things and working around the house.

“When you have a house, there’s always something to fix,” he says. “Some people relax in the kitchen, but for me, if I can be down at my workbench puttering with something, that’s joyous. When you’re finished, you’ve created something or repaired something, and it’s meaningful.”

Recently, he became quite good at working with plastic wood, staining, and polyurethane. It’s all due to his greyhound, Marla, who “has an affinity for furniture. I don’t mean sitting on it. I mean chewing it.”

Marla is the newest of five greyhounds Charlie has owned for over 25 years, all of them ex-racers. He started with one after a friend introduced him to the gentle dogs.

He quickly realized that, as track animals that lived their whole lives in kennels, they are used to being around other greyhounds. So, he got another.
“You realize how much they enjoy each other,” Charlie says. “It makes it a happier time for the dog.”

Marla’s companion is Jimmy, aka Lebron James. As Lebron was a champion basketball player, Jimmy was a champion racer, but some of the others weren’t destined to succeed at the track (which is now illegal in Florida).

“There’s something about a rescue,” he says. “When I went to State College to pick up Marla, she not only had her head on my lap, but she pressed her body against me. They’re happy to have a home.”

Charlie serves on the Market Square Concerts board and is president of the Medical Bureau of Harrisburg, a phone answering service for medical and other offices. He has helped with fundraising with Homeland, including the successful 150th-anniversary gala that raised funds for Homeland’s benevolent care.

“Homeland is in a class by itself,” he says. “I’m hoping that with everybody’s support and care, it will last another 100 years.”

Homeland resident Hannah Sprow: Remembering special summers


Hannah Sprow is Steelton born and bred, but her heart belongs to a cabin in the woods.

From childhood, Hannah and her family would spend summers amid the forests of Pine Grove Furnace.

“I loved that place,” she says. “It was more like a home to me than my own home.”

Today, Hannah is a resident of Homeland Center skilled care, enjoying the company of attentive staff and offering her family peace of mind from knowing that she is well-cared-for.

Hannah’s father was a tax collector and sheriff, working in the Steelton Borough office. Her mother cared for Hannah and her siblings.

One day, while walking to high school, a friend pulled up and said that his friend, Bob Sprow, would like to take Hannah out on a date. Bob had already graduated from high school, but they started going steady.

“That’s where it started,” Hannah says. After she graduated from high school, they got married – but with a twist.

“We were married six months before anybody knew it,” she says. “Marrying him was the best thing I ever did.”

They kept their marriage a secret because Hannah was still young, but when the family learned the news, “they didn’t have much to say about it,” she says.

“My father helped me. My mother helped me,’’ Hannah recalled with a smile. “Every time I wanted to cook something for dinner, I’d call her on the phone, and she’d tell me what to do.’’

The young couple got an apartment with a view up and down Steelton’s main street. Their three children, two boys and a girl were born while they lived there.

Soon after the birth of their youngest daughter, Luanne, the family moved to Steelton’s East End, where they enjoyed being part of the tight-knit community. Across the street, her friend Lucille fixed up her basement, and the women would get together for exercise while the kids were at school.

The Sprow boys were athletes at Steelton-Highspire High School. Luanne was a cheerleader. Every Sunday, the family stepped out the back door of their home and walked a few steps straight to the side door of their church, Mt. Zion Methodist.

“I never got bored,” says Hannah. “I always had something to do.”

Luanne agrees that those were eventful years.

“It was great,” says Luanne, who still lives in Steelton and remains a proud Steel-High Roller. “We had a lot of fun. I was a lot younger and the only girl. We enjoyed being together.”

Those summers in Pine Grove Furnace are etched in Hannah’s mind. When she was a child, the family would stay in the historic ironmaster’s mansion, now a hostel and event venue. In 1944, they built a cabin on their land – Hannah’s dad completing the shell and her husband fitting out the interior.

“It was beautiful,” Hannah recalls. “Our porch was so big that when it was hot, the kids would sleep on the porch.”

For years, the cabin was the Sprow family getaway, and it remains in the family.

“As soon as school was out, our bags were packed,” Luanne says. “We stayed all summer long.”

After Bob retired, the couple continued spending summers in Pine Grove. They also traveled to Myrtle Beach in the winter – although they were usually ready to come home before their three months were up.

Bob died in 2011, after 70 years of marriage. Hannah, who has six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, came to Homeland in 2018.
“I meet a lot of nice people,” she says of Homeland.

“It’s wonderful,” Luanne agrees. “They’ve been very good to my mom. They’re taking very good care of her. We’re very happy with Homeland.”

Homeland Board of Trustees member Jeff Mattern: Devoted to serving others


For Jeff Mattern, post-surgery rehab at Homeland Center was eye-opening as well as physically recuperative.

“It was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had,” Jeff says. “I learned a lot about what goes on in a nursing facility. I was able to observe the attention to detail that the folks who work at Homeland spend on the individual.”

Jeff already knew Homeland well, but never as a resident. As a member of the Board of Trustees, he helps Homeland conduct the fundraising that sustains excellence while assuring benevolent care for all residents who deplete their resources.

Ten days of rehab in summer 2021 expanded his outlook on Homeland’s outstanding quality of care.

“It was a great experience,” he says. He enjoyed hearing the memories of other residents, including his roommate, whose family owned fondly recalled restaurants in the Harrisburg region.

Jeff spent his entire career in fire protection engineering with the insurer FM Global, rising to chief engineer for mid-Atlantic operations. Today he is so devoted to community service that after an early retirement at age 58 in 2005, he turned down a lucrative offer to do consulting work. A friend had offered the job in Gaithersburg, MD, and kept expecting, month after month, that Jeff would arrive to get started.

Finally, the friend called and said, “You’re not coming down, are you?” Jeff admitted that he was having too much fun with civic organizations. The friend countered, “But I pay you. They’re getting you for free.”

“And I said, ‘Yeah, but I like it,’” Jeff says. “So, I stayed in the philanthropy mode, and it mushroomed from that point on.”

Jeff’s charitable endeavors have included The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, where he served as board chair for four years, and the Newport Lions Club in Newport. The Lions Club raises money to stock the emergency needs funds of local organizations, helping residents, for instance, get a gas card so they can drive to a job interview.

Jeff’s road to Homeland started with a 5K that his daughter ran. After the race, Jeff first met Homeland Center President/CEO Barry Ramper, joining him for breakfast. “If I ever need a member for my Board of Directors,” Barry said as they parted, “I’ll let you know.”

Nearly a year later, Jeff ran across Barry’s business card and thought, “I guess I’m not going to get on that board.” An hour later, the phone rang. It was Barry, asking Jeff to consider joining the board.

In his work, Jeff had seen poorly run nursing homes. Still, the praise he heard for Homeland assured him that a continuing care retirement community could achieve excellence and even, in Homeland’s case, earn a five-star Medicare quality designation.

“I knew it was a good organization,” he says. “It’s the idea of providing good care to good people.”

Jeff continues to make progress since his surgery. He insisted that he have his rehab at Homeland and says his decision proved correct.

“They were very thorough in their explanations of what to do and how to do it, and the effects of doing it and not doing it,” he says.

Jeff and his wife, Shari, have two daughters and three grandchildren, including their 15-year-old grandson, who lives with them. They keep busy with family and civic activities.

He admits to saying “yes” too often when a cause comes calling, but he adheres to a simple motto for Homeland and the other organizations he supports with his time and talents.

“I hope that I have been able to contribute to the community,” he says. “It’s about what the Lions Club logo says. ‘We Serve.’ That’s how I’d like to be remembered.”


Homeland Employee Appreciation Day 2021: Time to celebrate


Overheard at Homeland Employee Appreciation Day 2021:

“They have chicken tacos and chicken and beef.”

“Oh, no! Where’s the strawberry?”

“That’s the best milkshake I ever had.”

It was a bounty of food and treats, with a generous side helping of information from employee benefits providers, at the recent summertime celebration of Homeland Center and Homeland at Home employees.

Employees enjoyed the delicacies offered in a small-scale version of a food truck fest in Homeland Center’s parking lot. The annual event is Homeland’s way of extending thanks to employees for their service, especially after a year-plus of unswerving devotion to keeping Homeland Center residents and Homeland at Home patients safe and healthy.

The message was clear: Homeland protects the well-being of every team member so they can protect the well-being of residents and patients.

The smell of barbecue from Blazin’ Swine filled the air, but that wasn’t the only tempting fare. Employees could choose tacos from 717Tacos, or pasta bowls, or pizza from What’s Cookin’. For dessert, there were the delicious Lancaster Cupcakes or world-famous Farm Show milkshakes from the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association (chocolate, vanilla, or half-and-half, but to the disappointment of at least one diner, no strawberry).

The event underscores Homeland’s commitment to protecting the physical and financial health of employees so they can, in turn, assure the well-being of residents and patients. Representatives from Homeland’s insurance providers, retirement plans, and financial services arrived with packets of information and opportunities to answer questions face-to-face.

Tricia Heisey, business development/financial education provider for Belco Community Credit Union, was excited to be among the people she has been serving for a year and a half.

“We’re so happy to work with Homeland,” she said. “I’ve always been impressed that the board and the managers serve the employees. That speaks volumes. I think the employees feel special and appreciated.”

Pandemic or not, Homeland’s partnership with Belco, a community-chartered institution, has brought affordable financial services and financial education to help Homeland employees manage their money wisely. As Heisey noted, research shows that easing financial stress can reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, and even keep down health care costs.

Homeland’s Employee Wellness Program Coordinator Roxane Hearn, a.k.a. “Dr. Rox,” reflected over a busy year of organizing fun theme weeks meant to keep the focus on health. A Buddy Walk Week encouraged staff to stay active. Kindness Week inspired one employee to bring her massage chair into the Homeland Hospice office. During Self Care Week, employees posted photos of themselves meditating or getting manicures.

Today, Hearn was distributing gift cards rewarding employees for completing the Walking and Wellness Challenge.

Despite a year of disruptions and uncertainty, “everyone’s been doing well,” Hearn said. “They’re taking care of themselves so that they can take care of the residents.”

Homeland Center Dietary Purchasing Supervisor Brian Wallace was enjoying the chance to eat food that someone else prepared. He’s a Homeland Center rookie who joined the team in early 2021, but he knew Homeland and its reputation because his wife, Felicia Wallace, is Homeland’s endeared hairdresser.

The best part about Homeland, he said, is getting the chance to engage with residents – a rarity in other settings where he has worked.

“Here, it’s more personal,” he said. “I like that.”

Wallace appreciates Homeland’s customized approach to dining. When residents have thoughts to share about the food, he meets with them and adjusts their menu.

“It’s satisfying to be able to provide that service and be one-on-one with people,’’ he said. “I’ll get out and talk to residents. We’re trying to give them what they like.”

Employee Appreciation Day offered “a sign of normalcy” to Homeland staff after a challenging year, said Homeland Hospice Chaplain Dann Caldwell. “It’s a reason to celebrate. Celebrate the fact that you have a wonderful place to work, family to care for, and just being together, out in the open air.”

Centenarian Minerva Ward enjoys Homeland after a life of hard work and service


From an early age, Minerva Ward was independent. She taught her children a world of values.

“Hard work,” said her daughter, Charlene Saunders. “Ethics. Compassion.”

“We do a lot of complaining these days,” said her son, Ty Ward. “She never complained about a lot of stuff. She just went ahead and did it.”

Today, Minerva Ward belongs to an exclusive club – Homeland Center’s centenarians. Born in 1921, she celebrated her 100th birthday this Summer with an outdoor party in Homeland’s beautiful Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion.

Minerva, the oldest of six children, was born in Front Royal, VA. There weren’t many local opportunities, so her father enlisted in the Army. Minerva had her first taste of central Pennsylvania when her father was stationed at the New Cumberland Army Depot, and the family relocated.

At 14, Minerva struck out on her own, moving to Harrisburg to work in a laundromat and do domestic jobs.

“Back in the day, when you were Black, you only went to school to a certain age,” said Ty. “She had to help the family out.”

Minerva found a circle of friends through the Steelton Elks and its marching club. The group held monthly dinners, with Minerva cooking, to raise funds for annual trips to theme parks and vacation spots. There, the group would don their crisp white uniforms and march in local parades.

On her travels, Minerva met her husband, Charles Ward, through friends in Los Angeles. She was in her 40s, but she started a family. Charlene was born in Los Angeles. Ty and their brother Morris were born back east, where Minerva moved to be with family and friends. The family lived for about 10 years in Newark, NJ, before moving back to Harrisburg in 1970.

For many years, Minerva babysat for neighborhood families and ran daycare centers in her home.

“She raised a lot of children,” Charlene says. “Some of them still stay in touch with her. She always had a love for helping other people and watching children.”

Minerva also was active in Harrisburg’s Harris AME Zion Church, serving as an usher and advisory board member, and earning the honored title of “Mother.” Whether it was newspapers or tabloid magazines, she was always reading to keep up with the latest news from her beloved soap operas.

“She’s still watching ‘General Hospital,’” says Charlene.

Minerva instilled a respect for learning in her kids.

“She made sure we stayed in school and studied,” Charlene says. “She exerted the right amount of discipline and control to keep us out of trouble. None of us had any problems with school because we knew mom didn’t tolerate that.”

All three kids finished high school. Ty and Charlene graduated from college, while Morris entered the military.

After a lifetime of hard work, Minerva retired around 1990. She closed out her career in housekeeping with a Harrisburg-area nursing home.

“She did whatever she had to do to take care of us,” Ty recalled.

In retirement, Minerva helped take care of her grandchildren – six total, and now five great-grandchildren. She also had more time to indulge her love of cooking and made dinner for friends and family. Her gumbo was a favorite dish.

“It’s a lot of work, but I do like to make the gumbo,” says Charlene. “I play around with her recipe and Emeril Lagasse’s recipe.”

Minerva came to Homeland Center in early 2021. Ty talked to others and researched the choices in continuing care retirement communities around Harrisburg. Homeland Center emerged as the best place he could find, with its reputation for excellence and personalized care.

Minerva still has a healthy appetite, and she loves Homeland’s food. She and her roommate, who is nearly her age, chat happily. She attends worship services and has bonded with the staff.

“They’ll wash her hair and braid it and put it in a little style,” says Charlene. “She just primps at that point because she loves when they do her hair.”

Minerva’s 100th birthday fell during COVID-19 restrictions and Homeland made sure there was a safe celebration. Ten family and friends attended the outdoor festival, bedecking her in a tiara and sash declaring, “100 & Fabulous.” A proclamation from state Sen. Christopher Gebhard extended congratulations from the Senate of Pennsylvania. Homeland employees sang “Happy Birthday” and presented her with an outsized birthday card. In her room, she was hardly visible behind the flowers sent by well-wishers.

The family is pleased that they found Homeland for their mother.

“They have a good group of volunteers and staff there,” says Charlene. “They take pride in their work.”