Picnic rainout can’t dampen a good time for Homeland Center’s Ellenberger residents

Ellenberger picnic

Residents, family and staff gather for the annual summertime picnic

A rainy day couldn’t spoil the fun of when Homeland Center kicked off the 2018 summer season with an annual tradition – the return of monthly all-American picnics for residents and families.

Since Ellenberger Unit memory care residents couldn’t go outside for the picnic, the picnic came inside. Seated at tables decorated in summery red, white, and blue, residents hosted family members over traditional picnic fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, pickled eggs, and watermelon.

While some ate in the Ellenberger dining room, other picnic-goers enjoyed their meals in the Dorothy S. Hollinger Conservatory, Homeland Center’s signature space filled with greenery and water features. Even on this wet afternoon, daylight breaking through the clouds streamed through the glass walls and ceiling.

Homeland Center also holds picnics for residents in its Personal Care and Skilled Care units.

Mary Ballos enjoyed the picnic with her mother but was sorry the event had to move from Homeland’s breezy Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion. Mary said that on many of her visits with her mother, they go outside to the beautiful garden beside the pavilion.

“It’s pretty back there,” said Mary, who came to the picnic with her husband. “We look at the flowers. The lily of the valley smell so good.”

At Homeland, she said her mother’s favorite activities center around music.

“When I come in during the music programs, she’s always clapping her hands and being happy,” Mary said.

Volunteer Martha Morgan appreciated the picnic’s social aspect.

“Residents get a chance to be with their families,” she said. As a volunteer for about a year, Martha said the residents “have me laughing.”

“Homeland is so personable,” she said. “It’s a place for residents to live. Their family might not live in the area, so I just go in and sit and talk. I enjoy that, doing their nails and chitchatting.”

Among the picnic guests was Barbara Collins, who served as Homeland’s director of nursing for 13 years, until she retired in 2001. She started her career in nursing, left to raise her children, and returned to long-term care.

Barbara Collins and Ethel Boyer

Barbara Collins (L) and her mother Ethel Boyer enjoy their visit and the picnic

“It was a lot of fun,’’ Barbara said of her experiences working with residents. “They always have wonderful stories to tell you.”

Homeland stands out for the quality and quantity of its staffing, Barbara said. Staffers approach their tasks calmly and professionally, and their longevity is evident when Barbara walks in the door because she hired some of them.

“Everybody is friendly, and they care about the residents, which is so important,” she said. “I know so many of them, and I feel comfortable with them. Some of the nurses treat my mother like she’s their grandmother.”

Barbara’s 98-year-old mother, Ethel Boyer, has been a Homeland resident since 2011, starting with six years in personal care. Since moving to Ellenberger, staff members from personal care often come to visit.

“She loves it,” Barbara said. “It’s one happy family.” Her mother enjoys all the activities available, including an appearance by Elvis Presley impersonator Brad Crum.

Even though the picnic moved inside, Barbara said they were having a good time.

“Oh, we love the picnics,” agreed another guest, Sharon Haederer, who was visiting her aunt, Lorraine Boyanowski.

The picnic was fun, Ethel agreed. The big, delicious meal would put her to sleep, she knew, but “I sleep good,” she said. “Thank the Lord for that.”

Coming from a family of 12 children, Ethel was a middle child who helped take care of her brothers and sisters. She attended a one-room schoolhouse in Stoverstown, Pennsylvania, a little York County town “down in the valley,” just like the old song says. Her brothers played guitars and violins, while all the siblings sang the hymns they knew from church.

“I enjoy myself anywhere,” she said. “I try to make the best out of every situation. That’s the only way to live.”