All aboard the excursion van with Homeland resident Dorothy Yoder


Of all the things Dorothy Yoder loves about Homeland Center, her favorite is the van trips. Excursions take residents to lunch at a favorite restaurant or visit local sites.

“This past Christmas, we went to see a park in Elizabethtown where every single tree was lit up and covered with decorations,” she said. “It was beautiful. It took almost an hour to go through it all. It was gorgeous.”

Dorothy has settled into Homeland since arriving in September 2022. From her bright room in Personal Care, she looks back on life in a family devoted to service and togetherness.

Dorothy grew up in North Philadelphia. Her father, who worked as a janitor at a high school, served in the U.S. Navy Reserves and entered active duty during World War II.
“Sometimes, he couldn’t tell us where he was,” Dorothy remembers. “We always worried about him and prayed that he was safe.”

Attending Olney High School, Dorothy took business classes because she wanted to be a secretary and work in an office.

“I liked typing the best,” she said. “I got good grades.”

Her typing skills came in handy when she sought to follow in her father’s footsteps by joining the Navy.

“When they asked me what I could do, I said, ‘Type,'” she said. “They said, ‘Great. We need someone who can type.’ Some others were writing by hand, and you couldn’t read what they were writing.”

She served in the Navy for two years, performing clerical work at the historic Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Naval Station.

“I was able to wear a Navy uniform,” she said. “It had a skirt. Girls didn’t wear slacks back then.”

At the time, her father was performing Reserve duty on weekends, and she got to know another Reservist in his unit named Edgar Yoder.

Ed and Dorothy enjoyed going out to dance at a dance hall in Philadelphia. Mostly, they danced to records, although an occasional live act would play a gig if they were in town.

After Ed and Dorothy married, they settled in the historic Montgomery County town of Hatboro. They had three children – two daughters and one son. The family enjoyed bowling and roller skating at a nearby rink.

“There was also a pond nearby,” recalls Dorothy. “When it froze, we’d go ice skating, which was free.”

She was also active in her Methodist congregation church, where she taught Sunday school to young children.

“I enjoyed telling them the Bible stories,” she said.

Dorothy makes the most of her life at Homeland.

“It’s great,” she said. “I like it. The people are very friendly.”

Homeland Hanukkah: A Celebration of Lights and Latkes


Hanukkah at Homeland

Hanukkah has meaning for everyone because it recalls a time when a small, devout family of defenders repelled a force of invaders, Homeland Center Chaplain Dann Caldwell told residents attending a ceremony commemorating the Festival of Lights.

“This is all part of the shared history we have as human beings,” Caldwell said. “It should remind all of us how God values freedom, freedom to worship, and freedom to be a community of faith. That is something that all goodhearted people can celebrate, and clearly, something that Jewish and Christian friends can celebrate.”

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrian-Greeks in the second century B.C. Upon recapturing the Temple, only one day’s supply of undefiled lamp oil remained, but the oil lasted a miraculous eight days.

During Hanukkah, each of the eight days is marked by lighting a candle on the menorah.

The ceremony brought together Homeland residents and staff in the Homeland chapel to hear the history of Hanukkah, light a menorah, say blessings, sing traditional songs, and for a special surprise, enjoy latkes in the Homeland Diner.

“Homeland respects the array of religious traditions under its roof,” said resident Lee Spitalny.

“Chaplain Caldwell is so involved and thoughtful about including Jewish tradition here,” she said before the ceremony. “He and his wife came to our synagogue’s Hanukkah dinner. He will come to everything we do.”

Lee brought a greeting card, given to her by a Catholic friend, that spelled out “Happy Hanukkah” in pop-up letters. She recalled Hanukkah celebrations with her family over the years.

“A lot of people think Hanukkah is a Jewish Christmas,” she said. “It’s not. It’s a gift-giving holiday to little kids, but it really is not connected to Christmas. I hope others who aren’t Jewish realize that it’s not a big important holiday, but it’s a fun one.”

Caldwell and Homeland Manager of Information Technology and Strategy Jennifer Ross led the service, with help from Homeland’s Activities Department. Ross explained that Hanukkah is a smaller “festival holiday,” when Jews are permitted to work, unlike other Jewish holidays.

“You’ll see me at work throughout the holiday of Hanukkah because I have no restrictions,” she told the residents.

Ross led participants in the traditional blessing, or shehecheyanu, before lighting the menorah candles. She also added the one spoken on the first night only that says, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.”

“I think it’s extra special to do the first blessing because this is such a nice, joyous blessing, and it’s all about health and wonders,” she said. “There’s never harm in adding an extra shehecheyanu, so we’ll say that one particularly joyously.”

After lighting the candles, Ross led the residents in singing the familiar “The Dreidel Song” and “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah.” She closed with readings from “The Jewish Book of Days” about the festival’s meaning.

“We celebrate midwinter because of the knowledge that the sun will return to bring light and warmth,” she read.

Finally, residents got to enjoy a treat – potato pancakes known as latkes, prepared by the Front Street Diner in Susquehanna Township and served in the 1950s-style Homeland Diner.

While enjoying her latkes, resident Lois Galowitz said the ceremony was “very nice.” She still gathers for Hanukkah, sometimes over Zoom, with her extended family, which includes six nieces and nephews and 14 great-nieces and -nephews.

“We enjoy being together and celebrating,” she said. “It’s something we do every year. It’s a very special time to be together.”

While enjoying latkes, resident Chuck Glazier remembered the Jewish deli he owned in Allentown. There, he sold hot pastrami and hot corned beef.

“We’d celebrate Hanukkah, and I’d have menorahs in the deli,” he said, adding that he enjoyed Homeland’s Hanukkah commemoration. “Any service is nice, as long as you remember the holiday.’’

Homeland Holiday Party Returns: A Joyous Celebration


Homeland Center's holiday party returns

On a Friday afternoon in December, the Homeland Center annual holiday party returned for the first time since 2019.

The scents of homemade food wafted through the halls. Music filled the air. Santa posed for pictures. And best of all, Homeland residents hosted family and friends as they shared their holiday joy.

Homeland’s holiday party is a longstanding tradition when guests of all ages fill the rooms, and the halls are decked in cheerful greenery. When Covid restrictions canceled the annual event and limited visitors, staff worked hard to make the holidays happy and joyous for the residents.

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, there was no doubt that the holiday party would return, with a few basic precautions such as temperature checks and small gatherings celebrating throughout Homeland — but still featuring all the fun and food of pre-pandemic years.

“A return to normalcy and joy,” rejoiced Homeland Chaplain Dann Caldwell. “Let’s pair those together. Normalcy and joy. That’s what the world needs.”

“I’m so glad they could get back to something like this,” agreed Sandra Daily, visiting her brother and resident Rusty Keiser. Sandra serves on the Homeland Board of Managers, which decorated the halls, windows, and doorways of Homeland with pretty greenery.

Live music filled the gathering spaces. In the skilled-care dining room, a bluegrass duo sang “Christmastime is Coming.” In the main dining room, a pianist played Christmas carols and standards such as “We Need a Little Christmas” and “White Christmas.”

The food – as always – was the star. Once again, Homeland’s dietary staff went into elf mode, gearing up to make treats for everyone to enjoy. Tables were full of homemade sweet and sour meatballs, spicy chicken wings, and the perennial favorite, fresh macaroni and cheese with a crumb topping.

“I think the party’s great,” said resident Carl Barna, as he enjoyed the holiday meal with his sister, Sue Espenshade. “I like having all the people and the nice gathering, and all the good food, especially the dessert. I might have to have seconds.”

While they ate, Sue’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Mia, happily danced to the music.

“She likes to visit her Uncle Carl and be at his party,” Sue said.

Mary Ellen Smith is a newer resident and a first timer to the party who said she was having a nice time.

“I like all the things they do here, too,” she said. “I love the music programs. They get you singing along.”

In Homeland’s classic 1950’s-style diner, the party was in full swing, as residents and their guests enjoyed their food. Resident Mary Robinson, proudly shared that she recently turned 92, looked elegant in a sparkling, black-and-white sweater and skirt

“I am blessed, blessed, blessed,” Mary said. “This party is lovely. Everything is lovely. I just like how Homeland carries everything out. It’s so nice.”

Homeland’s holiday party allows residents to welcome family and friends to holiday gatherings, just as they’ve always done. Mary’s daughters, Delphine Walker, Colleen Nash, and her dear friend Elizabeth Jones came for the gathering.

“I think it’s very nice,” said Delphine. “The food is really good. It’s a very nice way to get a chance to meet other residents and host a party.”

At the next table, the Simonic family posed for pictures with Santa Claus, who came from the North Pole to greet the partygoers throughout the building. Resident Ed Simonic, who came to Homeland for rehab, was hosting his kids, Dave and Rick Simonic, Maryanne Brawley, and her husband, Terry.

The Simonic family has always celebrated the holidays with big family gatherings, cabbage rolls, and pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.

“It’s fun to see everybody here, out and about, and see the residents enjoying the party,” said Dave. “The staff at Homeland are all wonderful people. They’re very caring, sensitive and personal.”

Assistant Director of Activities Emma Lengyel: Having fun with friends


Assistant Director of Activities Emma Lengyel

When she was in high school, Emma Lengyel was passionate about making people laugh.

“I was in every play and musical,” she said. “I also enjoyed writing and art.”

Today, Emma still makes people laugh, bringing a note of cheer to the days of Homeland residents in her vital role as assistant director of activities.

Emma grew up in the Lancaster area, where her mother was a retirement-home aide, and her father worked in auto body repairs. In those years, she would visit the residents where her mom worked, sometimes even bringing her pet rabbit on a leash.

She continued her creative ways by earning her bachelor’s degree in art therapy from Marywood University in Scranton.

Early in her career, Emma worked in retail, but in college, she realized she wanted a job helping others, so she worked in group housing for adults with mental illnesses. After graduating, she returned to Lancaster and “got a little gig caring for a 93-year-old while her family was at work.”

“I really enjoyed talking to her and finding things to keep us busy all day,” Emma said.

That experience provided the spark of inspiration that led to working as an evening shift activity aide on an advanced dementia unit at a Harrisburg-area retirement community.

“There, I learned how to use my creativity to keep residents entertained and how to adapt and be flexible in a rapidly changing environment.”

Emma joined Homeland in 2020, seeking an opportunity for career growth. It feels full circle from those days of taking her pet rabbit on nursing home visits.

Her duties include behind-the-scenes planning and prep work for Homeland’s robust array of activities. She creates calendars, books entertainment, and orders supplies, but she also gets the fun of running programs whenever she can.

“Each day is different,” she said. “Sometimes I work at a computer all day, and the next, I’m dancing in a shark costume with a bubble machine. The best part of the job is spending time with the residents and making them smile.”

Her colleagues help keep the job light.

“We have a great activities team,” she said. “Each of us has different abilities and skills that enable us to support one another and stay devoted to the residents.”

Just like in high school, she enjoys laughing at work and creating a fun environment. Halloween and the holidays are her favorite times of the year when she gets out her boxes of themed outfits and accessories.

“I will take any excuse to get dressed up and decorate,” she said.

Emma remembers the challenging days of COVID lockdowns. She ensured residents could still play bingo, knowing how important it was to them, even though hallway games left her with a sore throat from shouting numbers through an N95 mask.

During the height of the pandemic, she spent little time with family or friends and didn’t even hug her own parents for a whole year. She and the activities team knew that residents felt the same loneliness, so they visited whenever possible.

“Just spending five minutes talking or holding someone’s hand became so significant,” Emma said. “It was a kind of mutually beneficial relationship.”

At Homeland, Emma has had the good fortune of developing “actual, meaningful” workplace relationships, and she calls the residents her friends.

“You spend so much time with them throughout the day and learn so much about their lives and life in general that you can’t help but care for them like friends,” she said. “Working with the residents at Homeland has taught me to open up my heart more.”

Homeland resident Bernice Shaffer: Always looking on the sunny side


Homeland resident Bernice Shaffer

Bernice Shaffer once lived in a nursing home where the food was dreadful. Then she came to Homeland Center, where she says her first meal and all the others that followed were wonderful.

“Chicken and waffles,” she remembers. “I like it here.”

Bernice arrived at Homeland during the pandemic and has made a home in her bright skilled-care corner room. Despite many decades of health challenges, she maintains a positive outlook and enjoys the care provided by Homeland staff and devoted family.

Bernice grew up near the small York County town of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, in the even smaller village of Clear Spring.

“All it had was a store, a hotel, a garage, and a sawmill,” she said. When she was around 12, the family moved to the nearby hamlet of Braggtown.

“All that had was a store,” she said. “A little grocery store.”

Her father worked at the Mechanicsburg Navy Depot, starting as a tank mechanic during World War II, and her mother worked in a local shoe factory. After Bernice graduated from high school, she followed in her mother’s footsteps, so to speak, with a shoe-factory job.

From there, Bernice always worked hard, no matter the challenge. When her three children were young, she was a single mother without support. She and her mother–a young widow after the untimely death of Bernice’s father from a heart attack–worked to support the kids.

“It was rough, but I didn’t feel defeat,” Bernice said. “I just wanted to be a parent. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.”

Bernice did clerical work for the state, worked in manufacturing, and handled items in a Town & Country store warehouse.

“I was so glad one day when they told me I could do underwear because they were down on the lower shelving,” she said with a laugh.

Finally, she landed at Erie Insurance, supporting the sales staff. She worked there for 35 years before retiring. At 41, she feared losing her job after a heart attack put her in recovery for several months, but her employer assured her that her job was waiting.

After a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Bernice acquired a service dog named Levi. The day she met the black Lab, they walked around the room together. Then she sat down.

“And the minute I sat down, he came over and laid his head on my feet,” she said. “They said, ‘Well, this is a match for sure. He wants you.’”

Levi, who lived to be 14 years old, “was wonderful,” Bernice said.

“I got a saddle on him with a handle, and he’d help me walk. If I dropped something, he’d pick it up and give it to me,’’ she said. “He would get the telephone for me sometimes. Everybody in the family loved him. He was like a human.”

Levi even came to the office, settling on a cushion made by Bernice’s daughter. Co-workers would take Levi outside for walks and to chase tennis balls.

At Homeland, Bernice still enjoys the food–the chicken sandwiches and chicken pot pie are favorites–and getting her lovely salt-and-pepper hair done weekly at the Homeland beauty salon.

The Philadelphia Eagles fan enjoys sparring with staff who root for rival teams. One nurse started the 2022 season by predicting that her Steelers would crush the Eagles. Then the Eagles kept winning while the Steelers struggled.

“I said, ‘Now what do you think?’” Bernice said. “She said, ‘Now I’m worried.’”

It’s just part of the support network she enjoys at Homeland.

“I get along with most everybody,” she said. “They help me whenever I need something.”