Door decorating contest brings holiday spirit to Homeland hallways


Angels and reindeer. Snowflakes and snowmen. Santa and seven swans a-swimming.

Homeland’s 2020 door decorating contest brought a host of beloved characters to the hallways during an unusual holiday season. In those couple of weeks in December, the people who keep Homeland running smoothly — and always focused on the best interests of the residents — took the time to adorn their office doors in holiday style.

“With all of our responsibilities around COVID, we thought we could use a little pep and cheer in our hallways,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connor. Aleisha invited department directors to join the fun, acknowledging in an email that she was adding another duty to their long lists.

So, with that encouragement, did the department directors respond with enthusiasm?

“Oh my gosh, yes,” Aleisha says. “Everybody loved the idea.”

Adhering to regulations limiting coverage to no more than 30 percent of the door, departments got out the tinsel, decorative papers, and artificial snow. Entries came in from the business office, personal care offices, administration, dietary, therapy, activities, Ellenberger, nursing, the laundry. Even the office of Homeland President/CEO Barry Ramper II, was decorated with images of reindeer and gingerbread men made by his grandchildren.

Then came the vote. Due to COVID restrictions, residents couldn’t walk outside their areas to see all the doors, so the doors came to them. Homeland staff loaded pictures on tablets and showed them to residents individually. Then, they cast their votes.

And the winner was – drumroll, please – Administrative Assistant for Strategic Projects/IT Alice Kirchner and Administrative Assistant Esther Burnside with their angel-themed door. With 16 votes, they topped the list, just edging out the 15 votes won by Ellenberger’s “Christmas to Remember” door.

“The residents had a blast voting for all of them, and many mentioned how hard it was to pick just one!” Aleisha told all the entrants when she announced the winner.

“It was a success, and we’re definitely doing it next year,” says Aleisha.

It was all part of Homeland’s overall effort to bring cheer during a holiday season limited by COVID restrictions. Staff dressed up in holiday gear for the residents to see. The Board of Managers decked the halls with greenery. The Salvation Army donated gift packages for each resident, stocked with such goody-bag items as backscratchers, word search puzzles, and magazines.

With the hallway decorations hung by the Board of Managers, the décor “really did brighten up the environment tremendously for staff and the residents,” says Alice. She adds that she and co-winner Esther are not natural-born crafters, but they wanted to join in the holiday spirit.

Alice says she is blessed to have creative siblings, so she reached out to her sister Mary Ellen, a retired teacher in Baltimore who’s the family creative spirit and organizer.

“In about 30 minutes, I heard back from her with some pins,” Alice says. “Thank goodness for Pinterest.”

Together, they created a tableau of heavenly angels, including three whose faces were baby pictures of Esther, Alice, and Barry Ramper. The angels flew amid stars and white fluffy stuff.

As the winners, Alice and Esther won a $50 gift card for use in their office.

“All in all,’’ she says, “it was a nice demonstration of teamwork and creativity.”

Most importantly, she says, the residents liked it.

“I’m glad that it also brought smiles to their faces,” says Alice.