Homeland family gathers for the holiday


Homeland family gathers for the holidayMusic? Check. Santa hats? Check. Heaps of homemade food? Check.

On a Friday evening in December, residents and their guests agreed that Homeland’s annual holiday party has all the makings of a family gathering at home.

Every year, Homeland residents invite their friends and family to this spirited celebration of the holidays. Throughout the building, hundreds of people mingle, catch up, and of course, enjoy delectables made with love by the Homeland staff.

In the second-floor skilled care dining room, residents Betty Dumas and Helen Schroll adorned matching outfits of bright red vests bedecked with glittery snowmen. The two coincidentally wore the same outfit the first year that Betty arrived at Homeland, in 2015. Since then, their daughters, Donna Longnaker and Pat Fortenbraugh, have gone shopping together to maintain the tradition.

Betty Dumas and Helen Scroll“Last year we went to get our mothers a red vest with Santa Clause on it, and this year, we got them with snowmen,” said Donna. “I love this. It’s so fun. I think everybody loves being here and hearing music, and all the food’s good.”

Homeland, she added, has been wonderful. “Everybody’s so nice. They take good care of Mom.”

Betty Dumas said she likes everything about the holiday party. “The singing,” she said. “The food.”

Music was as plentiful as food. Anthony Haubert, pianist, played holiday tunes on Homeland’s Steinway grand piano in the main dining room. A honky-tonk guitarist in the chapel played decidedly non-Christmas blues riffs and Hank Williams songs, to the delight of dancing residents and staff.

In the first-floor skilled care dining room, a fiddle-hammered dulcimer duo played “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and other carols in soothing tones. Above, in the second-floor dining room, John Kelly sang and played upbeat holiday classics on guitar, accompanied by his wife, Joreen, on keyboard. Kelly’s weekly song sessions on Sunday afternoons are a favorite among Homeland residents.

Tables loaded with turkey, beef tenderloin, chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, vegetables, cookies, and pies were in every dining area. Amid the bustle of the main dining room, Homeland’s day cook, Connie Lewis, watched residents and guests enjoy the staff’s creations.

“We did it all,” said Lewis. “I make the macaroni and cheese every year. We make the meatballs. We make the sauce. We put the sauce on the chicken. We put this all together from early this morning. This has been going on all week long, preparing for this.”

All the hard work is worth it, she said.

“We look forward to this every year, Lewis said. “It’s my pleasure to help people be happy.”

Upstairs, in the Homeland solarium, Sue Fortney, daughter of resident Maryanne Walker, gave a big hug to Dietary Supervisor/CNA Aprile Greene, dressed in a long red-and-green stocking cap.

“She’s our angel,” Walker said. “She feeds my mom. She’s so kind and friendly. She’s very cheerful. She does a great job. She loves her work.”

The holiday party is “always nice,” said Fortney, who was attending the party with her father, brother, and sister. “It gives us a chance to get together. This is like coming to grandma’s.”