Homeland for the holidays: Events offer love, joy, and light


Christmas treeAs homes throughout the land glow with holiday traditions, Homeland does the same, ringing with the joys of the season and hopes for peace.

Traditional favorites provide opportunities for gatherings among family and friends. A new celebration of Hanukkah and a commemoration of Kristallnacht bring Jewish traditions into the halls of Homeland, with lessons for people of all faiths.

The season kicks off with a holiday bazaar and bake sale in the newly redecorated Main Dining Room and cheery Florida room. The bazaar, a longtime tradition, features a white elephant and bake sales organized by the Homeland Center Board of Managers.

The bazaar features distinctive, high-quality items donated by Board of Managers members and friends of Homeland, giving residents a chance to shop in-house for gifts for loved ones and holiday décor for their rooms and doors. Cookies and other holiday treats also make ideal gifts for residents to share, while they bring back memories of baking traditions at home.

“We like to interact with the residents, and they know us,” said Susan Batista, the former chair of the Board of Managers. “The holiday bazaar is exclusively for them and for staff, giving them a chance to do some shopping, relive memories, and maybe take home a treasure.”

The Board of Managers is a unique Homeland institution, carrying on the legacy and vision of Homeland’s founders – the women who worked to create a safe, comfortable home for the widows and orphans of the Civil War. Today’s Board of Managers takes on responsibility for instilling Homeland with its famous home-like feel by overseeing décor and organizing parties.

In recent years, the Board of Managers started decorating and hanging holiday wreaths throughout the corridors, augmenting the work of staff, who hang wreaths in each unit. The wreaths add a touch of green to all the spaces and extend a welcome to all visitors.

In the alcove across from the chapel, another tradition continues with installation of Homeland’s Hummel Nativity set. Several years ago, Batista started setting it up at the request of Lou Hepschmidt, longtime resident and benefactor who donated her extensive Hummel figurines collection to Homeland. The figurines and plates are on permanent display in the Homeland Gathering Room, and now, the Nativity scene shines in Lou’s memory, since her death in 2017.

Capping the season is Homeland’s highly anticipated holiday party in mid-December. Residents host friends and family for music, meal, and merriment. In every unit, guests and residents enjoy a buffet cooked with love by Homeland staff.

Music sounds in every unit, from the jazz of Harrisburg’s renowned Stephenson Twins to the Celtic harp of Mary-Kate Spring. In the Main Dining Room, pianist Marc Lubbers will tinkle the keys of Homeland’s Steinway grand; the rockabilly of Quentin Jones will entertain residents in the Ellenberger memory care unit.

This year, the Homeland community holds an 80th-anniversary memorial for Kristallnacht, the night in November 1938 when Nazis throughout Germany murdered Jews and destroyed synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses. The week after Homeland’s Kristallnacht commemoration, the community reconvenes for a celebration of Hanukkah, the holiday when Jews celebrate the light that good deeds can bring into the world.

For residents of the Jewish faith and all others committed to freedom of worship and other cherished freedoms, the events commemorate “the times of ‘shadow and night’ during Kristallnacht, followed by the ‘love and light’ of Hanukkah,” said Homeland Hospice chaplain Rev. Dann Caldwell.

Working with Jewish and Christian residents, Caldwell initiated the twin events as recognition of the need to address intolerance as it occurs, bring the Jewish traditions of the home to Homeland, and educate the entire community on the lessons of Hanukkah.

The array of holiday events helps Homeland residents give expression to the love they feel for family and friends, and their hopes for peace and joy.

“The holidays are a special time at Homeland,” said President and CEO Barry Ramper II. “For staff, especially, it’s a time to express the gratitude we feel in the presence of residents. Our residents share their wisdom and their trust, and that is the greatest gift we can ask for.”