Homeland resident Mary Robinson: A blessed life

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Ask Mary Robinson one of her favorite gospel songs, and she’s happy to sing it for you.

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” Mary sings from her home in Homeland’s Skilled Care. Her daughter, Delphine Walker, sings harmony.

Mary believes that God brought her to Homeland, where she is a regular presence at activities and a beloved friend to many.

“I know she’s getting well taken care of,” Delphine said. “The people love her, and she loves them.”

From her bright room filled with family photos, Mary reflects on a life devoted to family and God, serving her church and being a mom to all.

Mary was born in Philadelphia, the oldest of nine children. Her father was a World War I veteran and worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps. She enjoyed attending church, including Sunday services that stretched into the afternoon. It’s where she learned to play the piano – self-taught, without lessons.

Mary’s mother was busy raising the kids, with considerable help from Mary. Her mom would say, “I don’t have to worry about anything while Mary is there because she takes care of everything.”

And Mary would think, “As soon as I get to 18, I’m going to get out of here.” Then again, those early responsibilities nurtured her growth into a reliable adult.

At age 18, she did exactly as planned: Mary married Jamaican immigrant George Robinson – and then introduced her mother to her new son-in-law.

“My mother really loved my husband,” Mary said. “He was a good man. He was a good father.”

In 1949, Mary and George left Philadelphia for Harrisburg. She didn’t consider it a culture shock.

“I liked Harrisburg because it was smaller,” she said. “Philadelphia was nice, but it’s a big city.”

George worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an auditor. Mary devoted herself to their four kids, volunteering for everything from helping with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to chaperoning school trips.

“They kept me busy, going all the time,” Mary said. “They would volunteer me for things sometimes. They didn’t even ask me, but they knew I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”

Everyone at school knew her mom, Delphine said.

“She was ‘Mom’ to everybody,” Delphine recalls. “We didn’t mind sharing.” Her parents included the kids in everything, she adds. There were country drives, outings for ice cream, excursions to watch planes taking off, or visits to museums.

“All the other kids used to say, ‘Where are you going? Ask your mom if we can go with you,’” Delphine said with a laugh. “There wasn’t a whole lot that we had, but we felt rich just because of the love and support they gave us. They were always looking for ways to enrich our lives that, now when we think about it, made us what we are today.”

The church continued to play a central role in family life. Mary played piano, sang, and taught Sunday school. George was an elder. During services, the kids sat by themselves in a pew. Usually, they behaved well, and if they did start to act up, their mom, sitting at the piano, would stop it with just a glance over her shoulder.

Even after their kids were grown, Mary and George adopted and raised a niece. They were married for 64 years until his death 10 years ago. Mary came to Homeland in November 2021. Knowing of Homeland’s reputation for excellence, the family felt there was only one place for her, and a room opened at just the right time.

Mary hangs a calendar of Homeland activities on her wall and attends nearly everything offered, from music programs to weekly Bible study.

“I love this place,” Mary said. “People are very friendly, and everybody is nice. Whatever I need, they’re right there.”

She can even practice on the chapel piano when she wants to, maybe playing and singing another favorite hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

“God has blessed me,” Mary said. “I’m very thankful. I’m very blessed. God is the love of my life. He’s first in my life and then my family. I enjoyed my life and family and felt like I was the queen.”

“They call her the queen here, too,” Delphine adds.

Mary nods. “They sure do.”

A people person: Homeland Director of Personal Care and Director HomeCare embodies trust

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When Jennifer Murray gives tours to potential personal care residents and their families, she shares Homeland Center’s amazing 156-year history of devotion to the community.

“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “A lot of times, people like our homey feel. It’s cozy and comfortable here. When I’m doing tours, everyone stops and says hello, and that makes visitors feel welcome. It’s all genuine. That’s how it is all the time around here.”

Jen’s role has expanded since she first joined Homeland in 2016. With a career in nursing – the only thing she ever wanted to do – and 11 years in administration, she stepped in as Director of Personal Care in 2017.

Now, she is in the dual role of Director of Personal Care and Director of HomeCare. Like the Homeland Center personal care staff, the CNAs of Homeland HomeCare help clients through their daily tasks, ensuring they take their medications, eat right, and get any help needed with bathing, dressing, or other needs.

Maintaining Homeland’s stellar reputation for quality across a new front isn’t hard because the foundation of quality “was already there,” Jen said.

“The staff we have in place are exceptional in HomeCare and Personal Care,” she said. “The HomeCare clients absolutely love their caregivers. They care. They get involved. They will let us know if something seems wrong. Their relationships with families are so good that the families will often call the caregiver to tell them that a loved one has been hospitalized before they call the HomeCare office. That’s the level of trust they have in the staff.”

Speaking of trust, Jen is the person you’ve seen in Homeland Center’s television commercials. She is proud to raise awareness of Homeland’s exceptional care, whether at Homeland Center or in clients’ homes.

Her dual role lets her give inquiring callers more options – perhaps letting them know about home care if a loved one isn’t ready for a facility or pointing out available personal care suites for someone who can no longer live at home.

Once in Homeland, residents flourish. Jen works closely with the maintenance department, housekeeping department, and the dietary staff to uphold living and dining standards. She also collaborates regularly with the activities department, cooking up a roster of fun that keeps residents engaged. For Assisted Living Week 2023, Homeland held a fashion show, and residents’ family members got in the spirit, wearing everything from a Rosie the Riveter costume to Hawaiian shirts and leis.

“I love that our families get so involved,” said Jen. “If we invite them to things, tons of family members show up. I’ve never worked anywhere else where families were so involved. Our staff love the residents so much that it’s not work to do special things for them.”

Outside of Homeland, Jen and her husband enjoy traveling to regional sights such as the Poconos, Niagara Falls, and the Finger Lakes. A Florida fishing trip her husband dreams of, postponed by COVID, is back on for next year.

Jen also loves to cook, and she carries on her childhood tradition of Sunday dinners with family, including her daughter and son, who recently returned home from military service.

With her love of decorating, she also brings seasonal cheer to her office in Homeland’s original 19th-century building. Fall décor includes pumpkin figurines and a plaque saying, “I love fall most of all.”

“Fall is my favorite season,” she said. “I like the cooler weather. I love everything pumpkin spice. I just love all of the smells and colors of fall.”

Jen can say, with complete honesty, that work is fun. She carries on the Homeland tradition of treating staff respectfully, recognizing that they have family and obligations outside of work. In turn, the staff focuses on the residents’ needs.

It all comes back to that word — trust.

“Our families trust that their loved ones are going to get the care they need,” she said.

“I’ve had people come up to me and just say, ‘Trust,’ because they hear me say it in the commercials. People see our name, and that’s what they will think of,” Jen said. “You want to have someplace where you can trust the staff and know your loved ones will be cared for. It’s part of Homeland’s legacy.”

Homeland Celebrates Achievements at Annual Meeting

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Homeland’s Board of Trustees in September held its annual meeting, during which the Board and Homeland staff celebrated several significant accomplishments and achievements that the organization experienced during the past 12 months.

“Overall, Homeland experienced both a very challenging and very successful year as we served in the best interest of our organization’s mission, heritage and, most importantly, our residents, patients and clients,” said Carlyn Chulick, the outgoing Chair of Homeland’s Board of Trustees.

Homeland Chaplain Rey Villareal in an opening meditation offered gratitude for “bringing together these caring, steadfast and gifted people for the purpose of serving at Homeland,” which enables the organization to carry forward its 156-year tradition of providing comfort, healing and care.

Among the achievements celebrated during Homeland’s annual meeting:

  • Skilled Nursing and Personal Care at Homeland Center, and Homeland HomeHealth and Homeland HomeCare, were all found to be “Deficiency Free” based on the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s annual licensure and certification inspection. This is the first time all four service lines earned a “Deficiency Free” result in the same inspection year.
  • Homeland Hospice was named a 2023 Hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Award recipient by HEALTHCAREfirst, a national provider of services for hospice and home health agencies. The Hospice CAHPS Honors Award recognizes the highest performing agencies that continuously provide a positive patient experience and high-quality of care as measured by the patient and caregiver point of view.
  • In May, Homeland graduated its inaugural Certified Nursing Assistant program The training program, which was designed using Homeland’s core principles and values while meeting Pennsylvania Department of Education accreditation guidelines, develops current talent at Homeland as well as trains new employees interested in becoming CNAs. To date, 13 students have graduated from the program.
  • Also in May, Homeland Center held a special ceremony to commemorate the installation of the first set of Tribute Medallions on the fence at the Sixth Street Kunkel Circle Entrance. The medallions serve as a tribute to loved ones who received Homeland services, as well as recognize individuals who make a difference through their volunteerism and dedication to Homeland. (Medallions are available on an ongoing basis. For more information, visit Tribute Medallions or call Myra Badorf at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.)
  • Homeland participated for the first time in the Historic Harrisburg Association’s annual Garden Tour. Over 100 guests visited Homeland Center’s gardens, many of whom were introduced to Homeland for the first time. Building on this relationship with the Historic Harrisburg Association, Homeland is a participant in the association’s Candlelight Tour schedule for December 10, 2023. A tour area will be designated in Homeland’s Personal Care area for guests to experience first-hand the quality living experience at Homeland.
  • Homeland held its 9th Annual Homeland Hospice 5K and Memory Walk, which attracted over 300 walkers, runners, staff and volunteers – and event record – and raised over $50,000. The Homeland Hospice 5K and Memory Walk raises funds for benevolent services for hospice patients and their families. Homeland Hospice depends on the generosity of donors for its enhanced care for hospice patients such as massage therapy, music therapy, and extra in-home-relief hours for caregivers, as well as for residents at Homeland Center whose financial resources have been exhausted.

In addition to celebrating these accomplishments during the annual gathering, Homeland appointed H. Glenn “Bub” Manning and Christopher Baldrige to its Board of Trustees and Andrea Freeman to its Board of Managers. Congratulations and thank you, Bub and Chris!

Those in attendance also expressed appreciation to Carlyn Chulick, who retired from the Board of Trustees at the conclusion of the annual meeting after 10 years of service. Carlyn will remain engaged with the Board as Immediate Past Chair.

Dr. Charles K. Fetterhoff, Jr. was appointed chair and Michael Thomas was appointed vice chair of the Board of Trustees for 2023-24.

Fall fun at Homeland: Witches and staff wheelchair races

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Homeland got in the “spirit” of Halloween and fall this year, making the most of everyone’s favorite season with activities full of pumpkin spice and everything nice.

Fall at Homeland is an excellent time for getting outdoors, enjoying fall-flavored treats, and, of course, dressing in costumes. The clever minds of the Homeland Activities Department dreamed up an array of colorful, tasty, and fun events that bring the people of Homeland together for autumn enjoyment.

To the delight of residents, the hallways filled with little superheroes, princesses, ghosts, and goblins on October 19, with an annual favorite – trick or treat night. The children and grandchildren of residents and Homeland employees went door to door in their costumes. The residents were all smiles as they gave out candy, supplied by Homeland, to the little ones. One resident wore a beautiful witch hat, and one couple dressed as cats. The Activities Department dressed as witches

“We were still getting compliments two weeks later,” said Assistant Director of Activities Emma Lengyel. “The residents still talk about how wonderful it was to see the kids in their costumes.”

“It’s fun to see how the residents love the kids and light up when they see their costumes,” said Director of Activities Aleisha Arnold.

This year’s employee appreciation event took on a new, fall-flavored spin. Instead of a picnic just for employees, Homeland wanted to celebrate the love that flows between residents and staff, so the event became Octoberfest.

In the Homeland parking lot, the day was warm for October, but that didn’t stop residents and staff from enjoying the taco truck and the hot drink bar offering cocoa and apple cider. The Homeland Board of Managers held a bake sale for additional treats, and Homeland CNA Anita Payne baked mini versions of her famous sweet potato pie.

Residents also got to decorate toy pumpkins to bring some fall décor to their rooms. The day’s highlight was the wheelchair race when four teams of two members each turned into speed devils. Participants came from the Board of Managers, social work department, nursing, and business. The winners were the nursing powerhouse of Sharria Floyd and the irrepressible Aprile Greene.

“It was a fun day seeing the love shared between the residents and staff.” said Aleisha Arnold.

Things got spooky but culturally enlightening with a double dose of the Mexican Day of the Dead for Personal Care residents. First, they gathered for a crafts session to create paper fans decorated like skulls, the traditional el Dia de los Muertos symbol. Two days later, Activities Coordinator Diomaris Pumarol taught them about the Mexican tradition of celebrating and remembering their late loved ones and forebears.

In Skilled Care, residents made witches’ brooms from pretzel sticks for a spooky social. They also drank witch’s brew punch featuring floating “eyeballs” – each one made by Emma putting a blueberry inside a lichi fruit.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Halloween Day without Halloween costumes, and many staff members dressed up in costumes that amused and delighted the residents. The nursing management staff dressed up as Disney characters, including Cruella De Vil and a dalmatian, plus Minnie Mouse, a pirate, Jessie from Toy Story, and the evil Maleficent. The 2nd floor charge nurse dressed as Flo from State Farm, receiving many compliments from residents, staff, and the CEO himself.

“Just doing something a little different makes the day more fun,” said Emma. “The residents were having fun just seeing us dressed up.”

On the first Saturday in November, the Board of Managers continued the fall feeling. They brought in popular duo Buffalo Mountain Bluegrass Band, who had been a big hit for Homeland Hospice’s 10th-anniversary “Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude” event, while serving pumpkin donuts and apple cider.

The Board of Managers will deck the halls in holiday style for the upcoming holidays. Elvis Presley acts are always a favorite, and a new, young Elvis tribute artist is slated to appear for a “blue Christmas.”

Plus, Homeland’s highly anticipated holiday party returns on December 8th, when residents get the joy of hosting family and friends over a delicious holiday meal made with love by the Homeland dietary team.

“We look forward to this time of the year. Seeing our residents surrounded by their family and friends makes our hearts happy.” says Aleisha Arnold.