Artist Evelyn Dunbar: A moment of respite for Homeland staff and residents

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Look closely at Evelyn Dunbar’s paintings, and you might find “a little gift” – a tiny fairy worked into the scene or a little light.

“That’s for my mom,” said Evelyn, also known as Evo. “She was my biggest fan. She always encouraged me and was so devoted.”

Evo is Homeland’s featured artist for Spring 2024, showing her works in the sunny gallery of the Florida Room. Every three months, Homeland exhibits the work of a local artist, arranged through the Art Association of Harrisburg’s Community Gallery Initiative. The exhibits give residents, staff, and visitors a moment to pause and bask in the beauty of nature and people as seen through the eyes of the region’s most talented artists.

Evo knows the power of art to bring peace to a fast-paced setting. She is a retired emergency department nurse who remembers stopping to view the art displayed at a hospital where she worked, “even on the busiest days.”

“I was happy to come to Homeland,” she said. “What better place for my work than someplace where I have done service? I know how people who work and live here can be transported. I remember how I was transported by seeing somebody’s paintings.”

Like many of Homeland’s residents, Evo tells a life story of resilience and service. She began drawing as a child and once chalked a “Star Wars” mural in her bedroom. The second of seven children of hardworking parents, she grew up in Puerto Rico, graduated from high school with honors, and studied theoretical physics in college.

Evo entered the U.S. Army Reserves to help pay for her education and loved it so much that she dedicated her time to the military. She and her husband met while they were both in the Army, and Evo was deployed only a few months after her first child was born.

Her husband left college to care for their son. Evo came home as a combat veteran to a baby who didn’t recognize his mom. To cope with her PTSD, she built walls around her life, returning to school to study nuclear medicine and nursing. She worked in “several wonderful places” until 2020 when her granddaughter was born with the debilitating genetic condition known as Edwards Syndrome, which causes physical growth delays during fetal development.

When the baby died at only a few weeks old, “it just broke me,” Evo said. “Every wall I had built after the war just came plummeting down. After that, I used painting as therapy. I would lose myself in my room and paint for hours.”

Evo said she sees colors everywhere and translates them to the canvas. Many of her paintings reflect her husband’s love of diving and their shared joy in hiking scenic trails, “where you find yourself transported to a magical place.” Other works project a magical realism, where mermaids frolic, or a cliff transforms into a woman’s face.

Her hikers and kayakers blend in with the scenery, becoming one with nature. One painting, “The Journey,” depicts a canoeist flanked by water, trees, mountains, and sky.

“When you kayak and canoe, there’s a calmness,” Evo said. “You have to stop in the middle of it. There are no sounds but nature — just the birds and water. There’s so much calmness.”

Evo lives in Frenchville, Clearview County, and she and her husband travel and enjoy time with their eight grandchildren. You can see her paintings and photographs at www.artworksbyeodunbar.com.

At ArtsFest in Harrisburg, May 25-27, 2024, she plans to bring her fantastical paintings custom-matted to match and set in repurposed antique frames.

For the Homeland Center showing, Evo brought some of her more serene pieces, including landscapes, dragonflies, and depictions of the Victorian-era women she envisions in historic settings she has visited. While hanging her works, Homeland Center staff and residents stopped to look and admire, just as she hoped.

“I’m delighted to be part of Homeland, and I hope they can enjoy the paintings I have brought,” she said.

Homeland Center (www.homelandcenter.org) offers levels of care including personal care, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Homeland also provides hospice, home care, home health and palliative care services to serve the diverse and changing needs of families throughout central Pennsylvania. For more information or to arrange a tour, please call 717-221-7900.

Staff Pantry Cleanse Fills Pantries, Bellies, and Hearts

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“When was the last time you went through and cleaned out your pantry?”

It was an excellent question, posted on the first Homeland Community Outreach Pantry Cleanse flier. Most people have extras or unwanted items in their pantries. The taco mix packet purchased when there were three at home. The beans for a never-made recipe.

With Homeland Center’s Pantry Cleanse, staff brought those unused items for fellow staff to take home. Cupboards were cleared, and food went to good use.

It was the latest endeavor by Homeland Community Outreach, which builds meaningful connections to local institutions and among staff.

A similar drive occurred at the Homeland at Home offices, which oversees Homeland Hospice, Homeland Palliative Care, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare. Jen McCauslin, Homeland at Home’s HR Representative, spearheaded the effort, and unclaimed items were donated to Bethesda Mission.

At Homeland Center, the Pantry Cleanse began when the facility’s Assistant Director of Human Resources Tracey Jennings, leader of Homeland Community Outreach, was clearing out her home pantry. Her unwanted but still unexpired items sat on her table for a few days until she had the idea to take them to work. She put them in the Homeland Diner with a “help yourself” sign.

“They were gone in 30 minutes,” Tracey  said. “That’s where I got the idea. Clear out your closets and pantries. Make room for the new.”

With the support of her supervisor, Tracy set a date for after the holidays. She asked Homeland staff and supporters to clear out their pantries of unopened, still-in-date nonperishables and bring them to the Homeland Diner.

Homeland Director of Skilled Admissions Susan Horvath found herself awake early one morning and used the time to clear out her pantry. Like many of us, she admits to overbuying on grocery trips, so she was happy to bring some dried and canned beans and other goods to Homeland.

“I’m sure there are a lot of us that have more than enough, and there are others who probably need the help,” Susan  said. For staff filling their own pantries with a few extra goods, it’s “one less thing they have to worry about.”

Some Board of Managers members also donated. They always keep staff in mind when organizing the special events that give Homeland its homelike feel, said Board of Managers Chair Alicelyn Sleber, and participating in the Pantry Cleanse was one way of giving back.

“Whatever we need, whether it’s carts, tables, masks, gloves, tablecloths, ice pitchers – somebody on staff will help,”  Alicelyn said. “They help us be better, so why wouldn’t we want to help?”

Homeland’s Community Outreach demonstrates to neighboring organizations, including churches and fire companies, that Homeland is approachable. At the same time, Alicelyn believes that internal outreach builds a sense of belonging that engenders superior care for residents.

On Pantry Cleanse Day, many donated items filling the Homeland Diner were brand-name pantry staples – Campbell’s tomato soup, Jif peanut butter, Del Monte corn, and strawberry Jell-O. Bakers could find chocolate chips and bread mix. For pasta night, there were boxes of spaghetti and ziti.

“I had a lot of positive feedback,” Tracey said as she looked at the display. “Someone took two boxes of pasta because they said they’re making spaghetti today.”

Homeland Quality Assurance CNA Supervisor Sharria Floyd helped Tracey organize the donations, making it easy for busy staff to pinpoint the items they needed for their own pantries.

“Just so it’s not mixed all over the place,” Sharria  said. “I’m glad they can go right to whatever they’re looking for.”

“Just like the grocery store,” said Tracey.

In a couple of days,  all the donated items were claimed. While the Pantry Cleanse fills bellies and keeps food from going to waste, it also builds goodwill that radiates throughout Homeland.

“It’s a way to bring people together,” said Sharria. “Everybody likes food. It shows compassion and teamwork. It’s kind of like paying it forward, from my home to your home.”

Added Tracey: “Kindness and compassion are contagious.”

Artist A. Wendy Warner Brings Verdant Scenes and Charming Portraits to Homeland

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A. Wendy Warner felt a sense of oneness with art and nature as a little girl.

“It sounds sort of crazy, but I felt like I could almost touch things that were beautiful in the sense that I would drive down a mountain and lift my arm and feel as if my arm was touching the treetops,” Wendy said. “That’s how I enjoyed both the visual and the tactile.”

Wendy is the first artist of 2024 to exhibit in Homeland’s Florida Room gallery. The quarterly rotating exhibits showcase the works of local artists hand-picked by the Art Association of Harrisburg to bring artistry and beauty to the residents, staff, and visitors of Homeland.

Behind Wendy’s shimmering landscapes and piquant portraits is a determination to hone her skills through constant learning. Wendy was born in the Boston area. Her parents owned businesses, but she wanted to emulate her grandfather, an artist who painted in oils.

In her 20s, she tried to learn oil painting but put away the brushes after a few unsuccessful tries.

“I had no idea what was wrong, except that I didn’t like them,” she said.

In the meantime, she pursued a career in the nonprofit sector, helping schools and communities manage and program their grant funding.

“I felt very comfortable in the world of nonprofits,” she said. “I loved it.”

Fast forward to her retirement years. Wendy wanted to paint the faces of her “gaggle of grandchildren” – 10 of them.

“I wanted to leave something to them,” she said. “It’s a natural part of me.”

Still unsatisfied with her solo attempts, she tried a couple of teachers and finally enrolled online with Evolve Art Education. Evolve’s systematic rigor demanded commitment, but “if you just muddle through and work and work and work, I’m convinced that probably 90 percent of people can actually paint,” Wendy said.

As her work matured, Wendy served as an artist in residence at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. She also found her community with the Susquehanna Valley Plein Air Painters. ”Plein air” translates to “fresh air,” which challenges painters to sit in nature and capture a scene even as light and weather change. It’s all part of her never-ending learning trajectory.

“Getting to know people who have been painting for so many years and are so skilled, in a group where there are people of every level, was very good for me,” she said.

Going public was a big step, overcoming the feelings of vulnerability that come with “putting your work out in front of perfect strangers.” Her expert work in portraiture is attracting commissions, including winsome portraits of children and a skateboarding bulldog named Charley Girl.

A portrait of a smiling boy peeking out from the corner, posted on her website and on display at Homeland, is one of Wendy’s grandsons. Her two children live in Pennsylvania, one in Pittsburgh and one in Dillsburg, near her home.

People like to know the stories behind the artworks and their titles. Viewers at Homeland get to see “Kuerner’s Pig,” depicting an interior from the landmark Kuerner Farm in Chadds Ford, PA, that inspired artist Andrew Wyeth for decades.

Another painting at Homeland depicts a young woman wearing an enigmatic expression as her loose hair falls around her face. Its title, “Climate Change,” inspires different interpretations because “you can’t really quite figure out what’s going on with her.”

“I call it that because I see her as being so changeable,” Wendy said. “Her mood can change so quickly. You don’t know if she’s happy, whether she’s sad or whether she’s concentrating on something. You have to stop when you walk past it. You have to take a look to understand it.”

Wendy said her time in painting has been a joy.

“I still have a massive amount of learning to do, but I’m very happy with a brush in my hand,” she said. “Very, very happy.”

Wendy has heard of Homeland’s stellar reputation, and she hopes that her exhibit further brightens the hallways – and the days of its viewers.

“When you see someone walk by a painting and they stop because they need to look at it, it’s like giving a gift to someone,” she said. “It takes them away for a couple of minutes while they’re looking at it.”

Anyone interested in commissioning a custom painting is welcome to view Wendy’s portfolio and contact her at awendy1@yahoo.com or (717) 903-4875.

American Heart Month at Homeland: Healthy staff, happy residents

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When Homeland Employee Wellness Coordinator Roxane E. Hearn, PhD sees Homeland Center staff wearing scrubs that have grown baggy from weight loss, it warms her heart.

“You see them moving faster,” she said. “They say they’re not as tired on their shift or feel they have more energy to spend time with family.”

“Dr. Rox,” as she is affectionately known, is a resource for helping to keep Homeland Center and Homeland at Home staff healthy and on their toes. For American Heart Month this February, she offered fun incentives and challenges to protect the hearts that, in turn, protect Homeland’s residents and patients.

A human heart at peak condition keeps the body energized and alert. When the heart pumps blood properly, a person stays focused and avoids fatigue. Shortness of breath makes it hard to push carts of meals or medical supplies through the halls. The body is strong enough to help a resident move around the room or get out for an activity they enjoy, whether listening to a musician or making a craft.

A healthy heart also shows up outside of work, giving staff the motivation and energy to play with children, exercise, and enjoy a favorite hobby. All are essential to the work-life balance that equips Homeland staff to manage life’s daily stressors.

Put it all together, and Homeland keeps its heart-health initiatives beating. Dr. Rox is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a doctorate in health psychology, a certification in functional nutrition counseling, and has recently begun to place strong emphasis on the use of a functional medicine approach to health and wellness in the Homeland employee population. Functional medicine doesn’t replace traditional medicine. Instead, it takes a holistic view that considers the whole person and seeks to identify and address the root causes of health issues, aiming to understand the underlying imbalances or dysfunctions that contribute to symptoms.

“Hearts don’t always send warning signs when they start becoming unhealthy; even when they do, people often ignore them,” Dr. Rox said. “It is imperative to teach employees to listen to their bodies and get their preventative screenings.”

She provides blood pressure screenings and helps staff see signs of approaching danger in all by understanding the medical terms on their lab tests. From there, she recommends steps for improvement. As she likes to say, family predispositions to heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are no excuse for complacency.

“Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle and diet pull the trigger,” she said. “With that in mind, you do have some control. You can change the trajectory.”

For American Heart Month, Homeland staff participated in the Commit to Fit Wellness Challenge, a six-week mobile app-based program that helps employees take proactive steps towards healthy lifestyle goals. Participants receive points for tracking physical activity, taking steps, rating their nutrition, and checking their weight routinely. Cash rewards are given through the challenge to support their efforts.

Additionally, Heart Healthy 7-Day Meal Plans approved by a Registered Dietician with the matching grocery list and step-by-step recipes were emailed and posted on the Homeland Employee Wellness Board. The meal plan focused on key nutritional considerations for a healthy heart and recommended meals that were low in sodium and reduced saturated fats and included healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, and plant sterols that block cholesterol absorption in food.

“We are now starting to teach the employees how to use food as medicine. We are empowering them to take charge of their health by not just telling them what to do but teaching them and giving them the tools to execute,” said Dr. Rox.

The emphasis on heart and overall health doesn’t end after February. Every quarter brings a new wellness challenge. Webinars zero in on specific health topics, such as fighting inflammation or maximizing digestion. One-to-One health coaching by Dr. Rox provides personalized support for employees by helping them set and achieve their health goals. This support includes tailored guidance on nutrition, exercise, disease management, stress reduction strategies, and overall wellness. Through regular meetings both in person and via a telehealth portal, the employees are provided with accountability, motivation, and education, empowering them to make sustainable lifestyle changes and improve their health outcomes. Lifestyle and diet recommendations are a staple in the Homeland Employee Wellness Program, with constant suggestions to eat right, exercise regularly, quit smoking, limit alcohol, get quality sleep, and manage stress.

“We are giving employees the information and support they need so they can take charge of their health,” said Dr. Rox. “Proactiveness is crucial.”

She recalls a Homeland Hospice nurse who cared for multiple family members and patients. About eight years ago, Dr. Rox helped her quit smoking, change poor eating habits ingrained by long days of driving, and learn “box breathing,” a form of deep breathing known to calm frazzled nerves. Gradually, the nurse lost 50 pounds.

“Lifestyle change is something you’re able to maintain and be flexible with, despite life’s twists, turns, and hurdles,” said Dr. Rox. “Habits can change in 21 days, but the more sustainable change takes longer.”

Creating sustainable changes is key to Homeland’s commitment to health and well-being – for staff and residents.

“When staff are healthy, the environment for the residents is safer, and they receive better-quality service,” said Dr. Rox. “Happy, healthy employees make for happier, and healthier residents.”

Homeland resident Loretta Colestock: A life of love and service

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After 65 years of marriage, Loretta Colestock lost her husband to Alzheimer’s in 2015.

It was a challenging time. In the years after his death, she got tired of rambling around alone in the house, but she also wanted to retain her independence.

Loretta had heard about Homeland Center’s stellar reputation and decided, “Homeland is a good spot for me.”

“I told the kids and surprised them,” she said. “They went on the tour with me and seemed to like everything about it.”

Since coming to Homeland last August, Loretta has settled in comfortably. Enjoying crafts, attending music programs, hosting family visits, and singing with the staff — it suits her joyous and dynamic nature.

Loretta was born in Harrisburg and lived in the area between Harrisburg and Hershey, known as Lawnton, from sixth grade on. She was the second of five siblings raised by a hard-working single mother.

“She was a jewel,” Loretta recalls. “She never wanted to ask for help. She thought she could do it all herself. My siblings, we all got along so well. We were very close because we knew that Mom was doing her best. We were brought up on hand-me-downs, but we survived, and I think it made us stronger.”

Loretta graduated from high school in 1955 and worked at the former Harrisburg National Bank. In those days, Loretta would attend games fielded by the bank’s softball team. One player recruited a friend who was a good hitter and pitcher, and that’s how she met David Colestock, “who kind of swept me off my feet, I guess.”

David and Loretta were married in 1959 and raised four children. They settled in the Lenker Manor community of Swatara Township. He worked as a draftsman designer for Gannet Fleming, the engineering firm.

They stayed active in the community, with David coaching Little League, serving as a Swatara Township commissioner, and volunteering on the Swatara Township Police Commission.

Together, they served in the Paxtang Lions Club, participating in projects such as providing eyeglasses for the visually impaired. Loretta also sang soprano in their church choir, taught Sunday school, and joined church outreach efforts, including volunteering at a local nursing home.

“We always did a lot of volunteer service work,” said Loretta. “It’s kind of in our blood. They say if you want something done, ask a busy person. People would ask me, ‘Can you do this?’ and I’d say, ‘I don’t know,’ but I’d always give in.”

After the kids were grown, Loretta taught nursery school for 20 years.

“It was fun,” she said. “Kids today need more playtime rather than being on devices and the TV all the time. They need to play with other children.”

The Colestock children all did well, and Loretta is very proud of them. While still in her home during the pandemic, she heard voices singing outside. Looking out the window, she saw her children and their families there to serenade her.

Music remains an integral part of Loretta’s life. When Homeland CNA Aprile Greene breaks into song in the dining room – maybe singing “You Light Up My Life” or “You Are My Sunshine” – Loretta sings along.

Often, Loretta enjoys the peace of her personal care suite. Still, she’s also likely to be found playing bingo or dominoes, making wreaths in a craft session, or enjoying the performance of a visiting musician. For her first Christmas in Homeland, she adorned her room with cherished decorations she brought from home, including small glass lanterns inherited from her mother.

“I’m happy at Homeland,” she said. “I think it’s good. I like that it’s so clean, and the girls are so nice when they come in to help.”

But her independent streak still shows sometimes.

“They want to make the bed,” Loretta said. “I won’t let them. They say, ‘We’re supposed to do that,’ but I say I have to do something. I can’t just sit around.”

Loretta has nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and is a frequent guest at birthday parties and weddings. When she hosts family visits, the youngsters enjoy running around the Homeland gardens and getting ice cream sandwiches in the Gift Shop located in Homeland’s ‘50s-style diner.

Her suite is decorated with family pictures and furnished in antique pieces refinished by her husband. All provide mementos of a rich life, and she said she’s received compliments on her decor from the staff.

“They love the room,” she said. “They like the way I have it decorated.”

Homeland senior prom brings sparkle to a winter’s day

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“Time to crown the king and queen!”

Every prom needs a king and queen, and Carl Barna and Loretta Colestock entered like royalty – which they were!

The first Homeland Masquerade Senior Prom was underway. Created by the Homeland Activities Department to brighten up a late January day, the prom had everything – corsages and boutonnieres, masquerade masks, ball gowns, crowns for the king and queen, and music to dance by.

For many residents, the Homeland prom brought memories of proms past. Katherine Harrity, wearing a sparkly blue sweater and rhinestone necklace, remembered the proms in her hometown of Hamburg, NY.

“I always got a new dress,” she said while Judy Garland’s song “Embraceable You” played in the background. “It was a real dress-up time, and of course, everyone was trying to outdo somebody else.”

She didn’t remember much about the music and admitted that dancing to pop tunes of the day wasn’t her thing.

“I did square dancing,” she said. “Modern, Western-style square dancing. I enjoyed it greatly. I had a lot of fun.”

Resident Alice Lowe, adorned in sparkly earrings and a red sweater with rhinestone snowflakes, has a distinct memory of her prom – especially the strict chaperones.

“They were very guarded,” she said. “You went in the building, and you stayed in the building, and if you left the building, uh-oh.”

Betty Hungerford, Homeland’s longtime development director, enjoyed the prom with her fellow residents. The dress she wore to the junior prom stood out in her memory.

“My daddy took me shopping for it,” she said. “Bowman’s had a beautiful department store. It was really pretty. It was navy blue over pink tulle.”

King and Queen Carl Barna and Loretta Colestock, voted into the honor by residents, were crowned with fanfare and proceeded to give the royal wave to the crowd. Activities Coordinator Diomaris Pumarol, who came up with the prom idea, placed crowns on their heads and sashes across their shoulders. As he will probably be known from now on, King Carl also got a fur-lined red cape.

Loretta was resplendent in an elegant, navy-blue gown with a touch of beading. She bought it for a class reunion and figured she’d bring it along in the move to Homeland. She was surprised to be named queen, but “it’s nice that fellow residents voted for me,” she said.

Carl said he was initially reluctant to accept the honor because he’s never been one for dressing up. Loretta convinced him to take the crown.

“I said if everybody voted for him, then he should do it,” she said. “He said, ‘Well, I won’t dress up,’ and I said, ‘You’re you. This is the way you are, and they still voted for you, so that’s what you do.’”

Now that he was king, Carl said he felt “like a million dollars.”

“It’s very nice of everybody,” he said.

After the coronation, the dancing began. Residents, their family members, and staff danced to the music of Glenn Miller, Elvis Presley, and the Four Tops.

One resident took to the dance floor looking glamorous in a winter white gown that she got for a granddaughter’s wedding.

“I couldn’t do this every day, but I love it!” she said.

Dancing with her was Kathy Griffey, daughter of a Homeland resident. As they danced to “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” Kathy called the prom “a wonderful thing for the folks that live here.”

Homeland’s reputation for excellent care attracted Kathy’s mother. She chose Homeland after the family studied their options extensively.

“It’s a good way to welcome the new people that have moved in,” she said of the prom. “Homeland has a wonderful reputation, and this is a nice affair. I thought it was really sweet.”