Homeland Center Halloween puts magic in the air


Legend has it that on one night of the year, Homeland Center is haunted by ghosts and goblins. Also, pint-sized firefighters, princesses, Ninjas, and many, many Spidermans.

This is Homeland’s annual Trick or Treat, an evening in late October when residents and staff join to relive Halloween memories, celebrate family, and of course, get candy.

On this night, staff bring their youngsters, dressed in their Halloween finest, to trick or treat in Homeland’s hallways and gathering places. Homeland provides the candy that residents distribute.

Resident Caroline Cruys, doling out generous helpings of lollipops and Reese’s peanut butter cups, called the tradition “one of the treasures of my life.” When Cruys was a child, her mother would paint up the children’s faces and take them trick or treating around their Brooklyn neighborhood. As an adult, she enjoyed handing out candy on Halloween night.

“You do it at home, and to be able to do it here is just wonderful,” she said.

Cruys wore a sweater adorned in pumpkins, ghosts, and scarecrows. On her head, she wore a hat topped with a spider. As 7-year-old Alisha Hidalgo, a witch in purple and black, accepted her candy, she said, “Hi, Miss Cruys. You look very beautiful today.”

Hershey Foods played a big role in the Halloween fun, donating 75 pounds of Twizzlers and Hershey kisses. Many family members made donations as well, making it possible for Homeland to purchase additional candy for the special night.

Resident Betty Wise once sat on her stoop at home and handed out candy. At Homeland, she enjoyed seeing kids in costume, “and we don’t have to do any of the work.”

“The kids are very nice,” she said. “You love giving to kids when they’re nice and say thank you.”

Up the hall came 1-year-old Zion Jones. Toddling around in his police officer costume, he attracted attention everywhere he went. He even got the nod as best costume of the night from Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter, who was there that evening.

Zion’s godmother, certified nurse’s assistant Sam McNeely, introduced Zion to Wise. “It’s my godson, Betty,” she said. Wise marveled at seeing McNeely out of her CNA uniform. “Look at glamourpuss here!” she said.

McNeely said the event “gives the kids a chance to go trick or treating, and not on the street. It’s safe in here.”

It’s a night when residents get to see the children of staff as they grow up from year to year, and staff get to show off the children and grandchildren they’re always talking about.

“I talk to the residents a lot and tell them about the kids,” said Connie Lewis, a Homeland cook there with her granddaughter, great-nieces, and infant great-nephew, dressed as the character Woody from “Toy Story.”

Ten-year-old twins Christopher and Thomas Lovelidge, dressed as Indiana Jones and Harry Potter, had already started consuming Pixie Sticks as their mother, Melody Lovelidge, marveled over their overflowing candy buckets. Lovelidge, the daughter of resident Caroline Cruys, said she appreciated the opportunities the event gave her mother and all Homeland residents.

“It’s so nice to see the residents out mingling,” she said. “It brings them a change of pace. They remember Halloween. The costumes are terrific, and the kids are adorable.”