Staff Pantry Cleanse Fills Pantries, Bellies, and Hearts


“When was the last time you went through and cleaned out your pantry?”

It was an excellent question, posted on the first Homeland Community Outreach Pantry Cleanse flier. Most people have extras or unwanted items in their pantries. The taco mix packet purchased when there were three at home. The beans for a never-made recipe.

With Homeland Center’s Pantry Cleanse, staff brought those unused items for fellow staff to take home. Cupboards were cleared, and food went to good use.

It was the latest endeavor by Homeland Community Outreach, which builds meaningful connections to local institutions and among staff.

A similar drive occurred at the Homeland at Home offices, which oversees Homeland Hospice, Homeland Palliative Care, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare. Jen McCauslin, Homeland at Home’s HR Representative, spearheaded the effort, and unclaimed items were donated to Bethesda Mission.

At Homeland Center, the Pantry Cleanse began when the facility’s Assistant Director of Human Resources Tracey Jennings, leader of Homeland Community Outreach, was clearing out her home pantry. Her unwanted but still unexpired items sat on her table for a few days until she had the idea to take them to work. She put them in the Homeland Diner with a “help yourself” sign.

“They were gone in 30 minutes,” Tracey  said. “That’s where I got the idea. Clear out your closets and pantries. Make room for the new.”

With the support of her supervisor, Tracy set a date for after the holidays. She asked Homeland staff and supporters to clear out their pantries of unopened, still-in-date nonperishables and bring them to the Homeland Diner.

Homeland Director of Skilled Admissions Susan Horvath found herself awake early one morning and used the time to clear out her pantry. Like many of us, she admits to overbuying on grocery trips, so she was happy to bring some dried and canned beans and other goods to Homeland.

“I’m sure there are a lot of us that have more than enough, and there are others who probably need the help,” Susan  said. For staff filling their own pantries with a few extra goods, it’s “one less thing they have to worry about.”

Some Board of Managers members also donated. They always keep staff in mind when organizing the special events that give Homeland its homelike feel, said Board of Managers Chair Alicelyn Sleber, and participating in the Pantry Cleanse was one way of giving back.

“Whatever we need, whether it’s carts, tables, masks, gloves, tablecloths, ice pitchers – somebody on staff will help,”  Alicelyn said. “They help us be better, so why wouldn’t we want to help?”

Homeland’s Community Outreach demonstrates to neighboring organizations, including churches and fire companies, that Homeland is approachable. At the same time, Alicelyn believes that internal outreach builds a sense of belonging that engenders superior care for residents.

On Pantry Cleanse Day, many donated items filling the Homeland Diner were brand-name pantry staples – Campbell’s tomato soup, Jif peanut butter, Del Monte corn, and strawberry Jell-O. Bakers could find chocolate chips and bread mix. For pasta night, there were boxes of spaghetti and ziti.

“I had a lot of positive feedback,” Tracey said as she looked at the display. “Someone took two boxes of pasta because they said they’re making spaghetti today.”

Homeland Quality Assurance CNA Supervisor Sharria Floyd helped Tracey organize the donations, making it easy for busy staff to pinpoint the items they needed for their own pantries.

“Just so it’s not mixed all over the place,” Sharria  said. “I’m glad they can go right to whatever they’re looking for.”

“Just like the grocery store,” said Tracey.

In a couple of days,  all the donated items were claimed. While the Pantry Cleanse fills bellies and keeps food from going to waste, it also builds goodwill that radiates throughout Homeland.

“It’s a way to bring people together,” said Sharria. “Everybody likes food. It shows compassion and teamwork. It’s kind of like paying it forward, from my home to your home.”

Added Tracey: “Kindness and compassion are contagious.”