Lee Moyer sprinkles history into a musical program for Homeland residents


Musician Lee Moyer, singing holiday songs for Homeland residents, added a unique twist to one familiar tune.

“You’ll recognize it. I just changed the words a little bit,” he said as he introduced his next number. “This is from 1954. I think Perry Como had a big hit.”

Then he launched into singing, “Oh, there’s no place like Homeland for the holidays.”

Lee is a popular entertainer at Homeland, brought in as much for his engaging ways with residents as for his multiple musical talents. The proprietor of Moyer’s One-Man Orchestra presents regular programs that blend the American songbook with a kind of interactive trivia about the songwriters of the 20th century and the times they lived in.

The Hershey native discovered his love for music as a youngster. His mother cultivated his interest in music and played trumpet in his high school jazz band and, as an adult, began playing at events throughout the region.

He learned to play the keyboard while first working at Marty’s Music Store in Lebanon, Pennsylvania – a store he would later own. In those early years, he realized he could play the cornet and the keyboard simultaneously. He has honed an act playing rhythm and bass on the keyboard with his left hand, while he plays the cornet – smaller and lighter than a trumpet – with his right.

His feet get in the act, too. On the Monday after Christmas, he was performing in the Homeland Chapel, sitting in front of a poinsettia display. His left foot tapped a tambourine sitting on the floor, providing seasonally appropriate jingle-bell sounds when needed. (Due to masking requirements, he could not play the cornet.)

At age 81, Lee realizes he is near the age range of the Homeland residents who love his act and the songs he performs.

“They do remember things from almost 100 years ago,” he said. He chooses songs from the 1920s through about 1980 – songs popularized with the progression of the new technology called the radio, then motion pictures, Broadway, the Big Band Era, Elvis Presley and the dawn of rock and roll.

He has been performing for nursing homes since the early 1990s. Homeland has been on his circuit most of those three decades.

“The audience is very attentive,” he said. “They’re happy to see you come. They pay attention for the whole hour.”

That attentiveness was evident on this Monday; about 16 residents happily engaged with the program. Lee provides song sheets so the residents can sing along, but with a program stocked with holiday favorites – “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – most didn’t need much prompting.

Each song was introduced with a bit of backstory and trivia. For “Silver Bells,” he said he was sharing President John F. Kennedy’s favorite Christmas song, written in 1949, “and we’ve been singing it ever since then, 72 years ago.”

“I think it’ll make it,” quipped a resident sitting in the front row.

As he introduced a song about a reindeer, Lee asked, “What was his name?”

“Rudolph!” said the audience.

Lee kept going.

“And he had a . . .”

“Red nose!” said residents.

Lee added that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” hit the airwaves was 1948, the year in which “a very famous baseball player died. He was the most famous baseball player of all time. Do you remember?”

“Babe Ruth!”

With each song, residents needed no prompting to sing along and tap their feet. They greeted the end of each song in the brisk program with enthusiastic applause. Lee figures he has developed 50 different programs that he can choose from, tailored to audiences and the season.

While the pandemic sidelined many musicians, he has been able to continue playing when conditions warrant because he is a one-man orchestra. He was well-positioned to perform solo, without the need for group rehearsals or performances.

Moyer is well-known in local music circles, playing with such groups over the years as the Lebanon Community Concert Band and the Lebanon Big Swing Band. His playing for shows with such legends as Gordon Macrae, Jonathan Winters, and Ed McMahon puts Homeland residents in the orbit of some of the entertainment greats of their lifetimes.

The theme of being with loved ones for the holidays returned with the standard, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It became very popular in World War II, he reminded residents, when American servicemen and women were far from home. Now, he said, Homeland residents are already there.

“’I’ll Be home for Christmas’,” he said. “You’re here. Your home is Homeland.”

Reimagined activities keep Homeland residents engaged and connected


Hugs and kisses in a Covid-19 world!

At Homeland Center, residents are playing bingo, singing favorite tunes, creating fun crafts, eating pizza, and chatting with family – but not in the usual manner.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the activities department went into high gear to keep residents safe but still able to enjoy the events and routines that sustain Homeland’s renowned home-like feel.

“It’s important that we keep our residents’ spirits up, even though they’re not able to visit their families and are not going out,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connors. “Keeping them engaged in activities has been a key part. That’s where we come in, to make sure that quality of life is maintained.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Homeland Center has implemented strict containment measures based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Pennsylvania departments of Health and Human Services. They include prohibiting entry to all but essential staff (with exceptions for end-of-life situations), mandatory screening of staff, and maintaining social distancing.

Under these circumstances, residents can no longer enjoy the musicians, family visits, and social gatherings that brighten their days, but that doesn’t mean the activities take a rest. Here’s some of what’s going on at Homeland:

  • Hallway bingo: From their doorways, residents play their bingo cards. Staff pull numbers and call them up and down the hallways.
  • Ice cream cart: An ice cream cart makes rounds in the hallways and features ice cream sandwiches, Nutty Buddy cones, Twin Pops, and frozen bananas. The cart, decorated in colorful pictures of ice cream treats, even plays the familiar jangly tunes of a classic Mr. Frosty ice cream truck.
  • Masked sing-along: Homeland residents love their sing-alongs. For the modified version, they maintain social distancing and wear face masks, even as they sing along to favorite tunes such as “You Are My Sunshine” or a cherished hymn with words they know by heart.
  • Gratitude meditation: Employee Wellness Program Coordinator and Health Psychologist Dr. Roxane Hearn leads residents in meditation sessions to calm their minds and focus on thankfulness. “The residents absolutely love it,” says Aleisha.

Personal Care resident, Gladys Mumper, enjoying a sweet treat – delivered to her home!

Additionally, Homeland recently purchased 35 Pizza Hut pizzas and distributed them to residents who miss their usual lunch outings.


Restricted family visits can be the most challenging burden, but with the help of Homeland activities staff and their tablet computers, residents are delighted to connect electronically.

“Not all of them are familiar with this new technology, but when we have group chats and FaceTime with family members, they’re so excited,” says Activities Coordinator Dee Smith. “They even see their great-grandchildren and family pets. It’s a real highlight – you can see it in our residents’ faces.”

The overall goal is to maintain a sense of normalcy.

“We try to keep our residents engaged with interesting activities to help them focus on what we are doing instead thinking about not seeing their family,” says Dee.

The revamped activities require redesigned logistics. Residents are staying within their units, no longer congregating in the same common areas. Each activity coordinator is assigned to a different space, aided by reassigned Homeland at Home Hospice liaisons who can’t go into the field during the shutdown.

Staff also work hard to keep up their own spirits.

“What the residents see on the staffs’ faces is how they’re going to feel,” Aleisha says. “I’ve been telling my staff we have to keep calm and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Dee praises Aleisha as a director who “digs in and helps” with all the activities underway during long days at work. Aleisha appreciates Dee’s talent at keeping residents involved and engaged. They both admire the work of Homeland’s social work staff in assuring that residents stay sharp mentally.

“This is such a good environment to work in,” says Aleisha. “Everyone is committed to coming together for our residents.’’

Creative spark: Homeland residents’ artworks bring cheer to sick children


Homeland residents' artowrkAfter Homeland resident Joanna Kaisin colored an intricate scene of sun and leaves in green, yellow, and orange, she chose purple for the border.

“It’s a happy color,” she said.

A “spark of creativity” surged through Homeland Center for September’s National Assisted Living Week. The 2019 theme, “A Spark of Creativity,” recognized the potential for personal care residents, staff, and families to unleash their inner artists and find such benefits as improving cognitive and sensory-motor functions, building self-esteem, and reducing stress.

Homeland Center embraced the theme with an array of creative ventures, bringing new ideas to its weekly art classes and introducing an initiative that benefits hospitalized children.

On a Saturday morning, residents gathered in the Homeland solarium to decorate bags for Caitlin’s Smiles. The organization is named after Caitlin Hornung, a Harrisburg-area girl who spent the last years of her short life in and out of hospitals, getting treatment for a malignant brain tumor.

Young Caitlin’s spirit never wavered, and she found her greatest joy in creating art. After her death in 2000, her mother, Cheryl Hornung vowed to bring the same relief from pain and fear to hospitalized children. Today, Caitlin’s Smiles recruits an army of volunteers to prepare craft kits for children and teens. They are distributed to hospitals throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and other states.

Those craft kits are packaged in “Bags of Smiles” that start out as plain white but are decorated with love by caring individuals. That’s where Homeland residents enter the picture. Every other Saturday, they are now decorating bags that will deliver cheer to a hospitalized child somewhere.

The opportunity to brighten the day of a sick child gives residents new purpose and a feeling of contributing, says Homeland Activities Assistant Lateefah Battle.

“When you tell them about Caitlin’s Smiles and give them a bag to decorate, it brings out more of their energy,” she says. “They say, ‘We’re doing it for the children.’”

Homeland residents' artworkResident Ann Soder agrees that her bag was sending best wishes to a sick child somewhere.

“It’s a good project for us to do, that children have cancer, and maybe we can bring some brightness into their day and show that we care for them,” she says. “Our wishes for them is to keep up their treatments, and we pray that you will be well.”

Ann started by pasting her bag with stickers declaring “Think happy, be happy,” and “Good things take time.” Then she picked up a blue marker and drew a kite flying in the air.

“Well, somewhat of a kite,” she said. While the residents might disparage their artistic talents, they love pouring their hearts into their imaginative works. Homeland staff and volunteers provide the encouragement residents need to nurture their creative instincts.

Earlier in National Assisted Living Week, a weekly art class offered a new idea – the chance to contribute to a mural. Under the direction of art instructor Taqiyya Muhammad, residents colored inspirational sayings – “Believe you can, & you will,” “You are amazing” – intended to hang as a mural-style grouping in Homeland’s popular Main Gathering Room.

At that session in Homeland’s Lick Library, resident Joanna Kasian says she’s not a good artist. “I would put eyes, probably on each finger I draw,” she says. But that doesn’t stop her from bringing her inspirational motto – “Believe in yourself” – to life with yellows and greens and purples.

Homeland residents enjoy their artistic endeavors, says Muhammad.

Homeland residents' artwork“They do amazing work in art class, our little hour,” she says. “It seems like it goes by so fast.” Some are so enthusiastic about their pieces that, “depending on how intricate or how detailed they want to make it, they say they’ll come back and finish it next week.”

Resident Gloria Mineur also admits that she has no artistic ability, but she’s pleased with her efforts at adding colorful details to a drawing declaring “Love One Another.”

Mary Graves appreciated what she and her fellow Homeland residents were accomplishing. She decorated her bag with a yellow sunflower, sprouting from a pot bejeweled with sparkly stickers.

“The kids will like that,” she says.

Homeland’s Family Feud: Gunn-Mowery brings the popular game show to residents

Homeland's Family Feud

Let the fun begin!

Name an animal you wouldn’t kiss. That was the question. Team 2 debated it among themselves. Gorilla, someone said. Or a monkey?

“I’d kiss a monkey,” one teammate objected.

They decided on “frog,” but that brought up a red X on the screen and a loud buzzer. This was Family Feud, Homeland-style.

The Family Feud game came to Homeland on a rainy Thursday afternoon courtesy of Gunn-Mowery, LLC, the venerable insurance company based in Lemoyne. Gunn-Mowery has long done business and volunteer work with Homeland, and when staffers there expressed a desire to extend their community volunteerism to retirement homes, Homeland was the perfect fit.

The game was played much like the beloved TV show that first aired in 1976, when teams guess the answers that survey respondents give to questions. Homeland residents joked about the absence of original host Richard Dawson and current host Steve Harvey, but they easily got into the spirit. Residents and staff divided into teams. One team member had a bell to ring when the question for each round was presented.Homeland's Family Feud

From there, the competition was friendly but lively. Teammates debated answers to such queries as “Name a reason someone might wake up at 2 in the morning,” and “Name another word for garbage.” Controversy almost erupted when the moderator, Gunn-Mowery’s Marketing Director Jamie Mowery Lewis, gave Team 2 a point for “disposable” when the answer was “litter.”

The Fast Money rounds tested the skills of individual team members, each given one minute to give a single answer to 10 questions. Homeland resident Helen “Polly” Myers burned up the board, matching seven out of the 10 answers.

“I do watch game shows, to see if I know the answers,” she said. And as for her scorching performance? “I did all right,” she admitted.

Gunn-Mowery encourages staff to give time to community causes, spreading cheer and getting jobs done for local nonprofits. Staffers have supported Special Olympics, United Way Day of Caring, and Dress for Success South Central PA.

“I feel you should give back to the community and those who need assistance,” said insurance agent Mary Markel.

Homeland's Family FeudResident Ann Soder eagerly suggested answers to the Family Feud questions.

“It was fun,” she said. “It keeps you on your toes.”

Ann loves the full range of Homeland activities and suggested that anyone looking for a retirement community should “check out Homeland before they go to other homes.”

Gunn-Mowery, whose slogan is “The Upside of Insurance,” has used its online version of Family Feud for internal events and then decided to try it out with the community, said Lewis, a member of the company’s Upside of Giving Committee. A recent survey of employees found that many had a desire to help the elderly. As a Gunn-Mowery client, Homeland has been very active in leveraging the resources the insurer offers to sustain safety and security efforts, so it made sense to reach out with a fun activity for residents to enjoy, said Lewis.

Insurance agent Debra Walburn, who assisted Team 1, is passionate about helping the elderly.

“I’ve always enjoyed being with older people,” she said. “They have so much to tell. They have so many stories. They have a lot to offer the world, and they’ve given so much.”

In the end, Lewis couldn’t quite calculate which team won the most points, so she declared that everyone was a winner. Polly Myers enjoyed the afternoon’s competition, but she appreciated that spirit of sportsmanship, too.

“Everyone won,” she said. “That’s what’s important.”

Renowned music educator Robert Lau regularly brings piano stylings to Homeland

Robert Lau

A regular lunchtime renowned guest, Robert Lau performs at Homeland Center.

It’s a sunny Wednesday and Homeland residents are enjoying a lunch of salmon patty or country-fried chicken in the Main Dining room as a pleasant string of tunes floats from the piano in the corner. The songs are familiar standards and Broadway classics – “Misty,” “People,” “Maria,” a medley from “The Sound of Music.”

Residents applaud each number. Some sing the words. Others converse quietly among themselves to a gentle musical accompaniment. While they clearly enjoy the music, only a few realize the pianist was an award-winning music teacher at Lebanon Valley College and Penn State Harrisburg, as well as a composer with a storied career.

Dr. Robert Lau comes to Homeland once a month during lunchtime to play a selection of tunes on Homeland’s Steinway grand piano, a gift from a former resident.

“I always enjoy him very much,” said resident Phoebe Berner. “He’s an accomplished musician.”

Lau grew up in a musical family and knew as a child that he would pursue a career in music. He started playing the violin at age 7. By his teen years, Lau was concertmaster for the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College and supported himself by playing piano at local nightspots. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in theoretical studies from Eastman School of Music and Catholic University.

His composing career was inspired by a guest artist at a conference who suggested he try his hand at writing. When a former LVC student played one of his pieces for a master’s-degree recital in New York City, an eminent organist on the judging panel called Lau to say he wanted to have it published.

In total, Lau has written more than 500 pieces of music, mostly choral anthems and keyboard pieces. Around 2013, his best-selling “Sing To the Lord A New Song” made the American Choral Directors Association’s list of 10 anthems that members should know – a “meaningful moment,” he says, “because it came from my peers.”

Lau’s latest work, based on one of the biblical Psalms, premieres in April 2019 as a commission for Voices of the Valley’s 40th-anniversary concert. A touring choir at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome sang another piece — an accomplishment requiring the stamp of approval from the Vatican itself.

While some classical musicians frown on playing lighter fare, Lau enjoys works by Broadway and pop composers. In retirement, he plays the organ for churches throughout the region. He began playing for Homeland’s residents in 2016.

Robert Lau and Rita SperlingResidents, he adds, are “very generous with their comments.” On this particular day, resident Rita Sperling approached Lau following his performance.

“I close my eyes, and I could see my mother play,” she told him. “When I played, it never sounded like that. My fingers didn’t work as well as theirs. It’s enjoyable when you can close your eyes and see your mother play piano.”

That is a typical reaction, Lau says.

“They’re such wonderful people,’’ he said. “Somebody always comes up to me and tells me how much they appreciate it. That makes it all worthwhile.”

Pianist Domingo Mancuello brings ragtime melodies to Homeland


Domingo Mancuello told the Homeland Center audience that he would play three songs by a little-known songwriter names Isham Jones.

“One is called ‘Sweet Man,’ and the other is called ‘Sugar,’” he said. “And I’m not going to tell you the name of the third song because you’re going to know the title, and when you recognize that song, I want you to shout it out. Shout it out loudly, because this piano is loud.”

As the medley approached the end of the second tune, Mancuello burnished a few chords on the piano, slowed down the pace, and launched into a song that was recognizable in the first three notes.

“Sweet Georgia Brown!” Homeland residents shouted with delight.

On a Monday afternoon in early March, the young Mancuello brought an old form of music to Homeland. Under his fingers, the sounds of ragtime practically exploded from Homeland’s Steinway grand piano, a gift from a former resident.

“This is a great piano,” he said during his presentation. “It was definitely made in the 1920s because it feels good under my fingers.”

The large crowd of Homeland residents gathered in the Main Dining Room appreciated the serendipity. Toes tapped and heads nodded as Mancuello played familiar tunes and introduced lesser-known compositions, almost all from ragtime’s heyday in the first half of the 20th century.

Mancuello has played piano since age 4 – he’s now 25 – and discovered ragtime when his grandfather sang with a barbershop quartet. He and his grandfather were prowling antique shops, hunting for phonograph needles, when he heard a player piano for the first time. He was transfixed.

Today, he is production assistant at Fulton Theatre, Lancaster, while also pursuing his passion for ragtime. He tries to preserve an old tradition while refreshing it for the 21st century. He even played two of his own compositions for Homeland residents, including one soon to appear on “Ragtime Wizardry 2,” a compilation of new ragtime pieces from Rivermont Records.

“I don’t frown on modern music because what I’m playing was once the loud music,” he said.

Music wasn’t Mancuello’s only early love. As a child, he was obsessed with Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, not only watching the show but delving into its origins.

“I read books on how it was made, the animation process, how it was produced, and how the producers lived their lives to be the people who made Rocky and Bullwinkle,” he said after his performance for residents. “The show itself brought me so much joy that I thought, ‘How do I create something like that?’ My whole M.O. is, let’s just try to make people feel happy.”

During his Homeland performance, residents happily sang along when they knew the words to the songs. They joined in with “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby,” and “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” When Mancuello played “Sweet Georgia Brown,” someone whistled the tune, just as it’s been performed for decades as the Harlem Globetrotters’ theme song.

Mancuello, veteran stage manager of many theatrical productions, has a quick smile and a relaxed manner. He thanked the residents and the sponsors who made his performance possible, Donna K. Anderson, president and CEO of On-Line Publishers, Inc., and her husband, Stan Anderson.

“It gives me such great pleasure to get to play this music for people because normally it’s just me in my apartment with a piece of sheet music,” he said.

Resident, Naomi Packer, called the performance “wonderful.”

“He brought back memories of my mother,” she said. “She was quite a piano player. She played all of this ragtime, but she also played very soft, smooth music. She was a great person, too.”

At the conclusion, resident Phoebe Berner stood up to thank Mancuello on behalf of everyone in the room.

“When this young man plays on Broadway, we can say we saw him at Homeland,” she said.