Homeland Holiday Bazaar: Holly-jolly fun with shopping


Baubles, bangles, and beads. Plus, an Avengers puzzle and candy. Who doesn’t want a cheery gift for the holidays?

Even better, it was all packaged into one-stop shopping, with the Homeland Center Board of Managers’ annual holiday bazaar. Held before Thanksgiving, it’s a chance for residents and staff to experience the joy of giving without battling the crowds in stores and malls.

The Board of Managers has held the bazaar for at least 20 years and probably many more. This year, they operated a long line of tables in the Main Dining Room. Treasures beckoned, neatly organized by theme – holiday items, kids, décor, jewelry, and linens.

In the Florida Room, a bake sale tempted shoppers with cookies, desserts, and candy-filled jars decorated for gift-giving – no wrapping required.

Board of Managers members donate the baked goods and new or gently used bazaar items. The Board of Managers is the unique group of women devoted to upholding Homeland’s renowned quality of life and homelike feel. Proceeds go to the activities department, which can use the funds to buy supplies or bring in top-class talent for the music and entertainment programs that residents cherish.

Joyce Thomas, a Board of Managers member for 23 years, said that members “just clean out our houses” to stock the bazaar tables.

“The residents always find some little treasure,” she said. “They love their jewelry. They love their necklaces. They love their bracelets. They’re always looking for something to give to the grandkids.”

Resident Loretta Colestock snapped up the Avengers-themed puzzle for her superhero-mad great-grandson, age 8.

“He’s just at that age to like it,” she said. “This bazaar is a neat idea. They always do great things for us. I got some jewelry, something for my grandkids, and little jars of candy for the grown kids.”

Homeland’s busy, hardworking staff get a jump on their gift shopping, too. Director of Utilization Review Lisa Browne found a priceless birthday gift for her husband with custom-made golf clubs that once belonged to a resident, the late Stanley Fabiano. Lisa loved Stan dearly for his antics and his big heart, and she knew that her husband would appreciate his Cobra and TaylorMade titanium clubs.

“These are very unique clubs,” Lisa said. “My husband’s mother lives at Homeland now, so it brings everything together. This means a lot to me because of knowing Stan for years and years and years, and I cared about him so much. It’s very special.”

The bazaar also featured felt coasters handmade in wintry designs like snowmen, berries, and trees by Board of Managers members. Member Lindy Scholl designed the coasters and led laughter-filled sessions to cut and sew the pieces.

“Lindy even made dessert for us,” said Board of Managers Secretary Cathy Leeds. “She had carrot cake and a dump cake with cherries and pineapple. We are well taken care of as a group of women.”

The Board of Managers is also selling the 2024 Lottery Calendar to add to the holiday cheer. Buyers are entered to win daily cash drawings ranging from $30 to $100. At the same time, proceeds provide financial support and additional services for Homeland Center and Homeland at Home residents, patients, and clients in need.

This year’s calendar honors the nine Harrisburg churches and their women members, two from each church, who founded Homeland in 1867 as a refuge for the widows and children of the Civil War’s dead and disabled soldiers. Their legacy lives today as Homeland Center, Homeland at Home, and the 18-member, all-women Board of Managers.

At the bazaar, resident Nancy VanKirk bought children’s books and toys to donate to the Homeland Center gift shop, where she volunteers weekly. For only 10 or 25 cents, the mint-condition coloring books, crayons, and books on construction equipment would make great gifts for other residents to share with visiting grandkids.

“When kids have a birthday or something coming up, and the grandparents can’t get out to buy anything, they look for something the kids can enjoy,” she said.

Resident Carl Barna is known for growing vegetables and herbs in Homeland Center’s Catherine Elizabeth Meikle Courtyard for the enjoyment of Homeland residents. He bought a light-up snow globe at the bazaar that played “Silent Night.”

As always, Carl decided to share the delight with his fellow residents.

“I want to have that at our table in the dining room and play it while we’re sitting there eating,” he said. “I think this bazaar is excellent.”

Homeland Center offers levels of care including personal care, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation. The outreach services of Homeland at Home provide hospice, palliative care, home health, and home care to serve the diverse and changing needs of families throughout central Pennsylvania. For more information or to arrange a tour, please call 717-221-7900.

Fall fun at Homeland: Witches and staff wheelchair races


Homeland got in the “spirit” of Halloween and fall this year, making the most of everyone’s favorite season with activities full of pumpkin spice and everything nice.

Fall at Homeland is an excellent time for getting outdoors, enjoying fall-flavored treats, and, of course, dressing in costumes. The clever minds of the Homeland Activities Department dreamed up an array of colorful, tasty, and fun events that bring the people of Homeland together for autumn enjoyment.

To the delight of residents, the hallways filled with little superheroes, princesses, ghosts, and goblins on October 19, with an annual favorite – trick or treat night. The children and grandchildren of residents and Homeland employees went door to door in their costumes. The residents were all smiles as they gave out candy, supplied by Homeland, to the little ones. One resident wore a beautiful witch hat, and one couple dressed as cats. The Activities Department dressed as witches

“We were still getting compliments two weeks later,” said Assistant Director of Activities Emma Lengyel. “The residents still talk about how wonderful it was to see the kids in their costumes.”

“It’s fun to see how the residents love the kids and light up when they see their costumes,” said Director of Activities Aleisha Arnold.

This year’s employee appreciation event took on a new, fall-flavored spin. Instead of a picnic just for employees, Homeland wanted to celebrate the love that flows between residents and staff, so the event became Octoberfest.

In the Homeland parking lot, the day was warm for October, but that didn’t stop residents and staff from enjoying the taco truck and the hot drink bar offering cocoa and apple cider. The Homeland Board of Managers held a bake sale for additional treats, and Homeland CNA Anita Payne baked mini versions of her famous sweet potato pie.

Residents also got to decorate toy pumpkins to bring some fall décor to their rooms. The day’s highlight was the wheelchair race when four teams of two members each turned into speed devils. Participants came from the Board of Managers, social work department, nursing, and business. The winners were the nursing powerhouse of Sharria Floyd and the irrepressible Aprile Greene.

“It was a fun day seeing the love shared between the residents and staff.” said Aleisha Arnold.

Things got spooky but culturally enlightening with a double dose of the Mexican Day of the Dead for Personal Care residents. First, they gathered for a crafts session to create paper fans decorated like skulls, the traditional el Dia de los Muertos symbol. Two days later, Activities Coordinator Diomaris Pumarol taught them about the Mexican tradition of celebrating and remembering their late loved ones and forebears.

In Skilled Care, residents made witches’ brooms from pretzel sticks for a spooky social. They also drank witch’s brew punch featuring floating “eyeballs” – each one made by Emma putting a blueberry inside a lichi fruit.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Halloween Day without Halloween costumes, and many staff members dressed up in costumes that amused and delighted the residents. The nursing management staff dressed up as Disney characters, including Cruella De Vil and a dalmatian, plus Minnie Mouse, a pirate, Jessie from Toy Story, and the evil Maleficent. The 2nd floor charge nurse dressed as Flo from State Farm, receiving many compliments from residents, staff, and the CEO himself.

“Just doing something a little different makes the day more fun,” said Emma. “The residents were having fun just seeing us dressed up.”

On the first Saturday in November, the Board of Managers continued the fall feeling. They brought in popular duo Buffalo Mountain Bluegrass Band, who had been a big hit for Homeland Hospice’s 10th-anniversary “Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude” event, while serving pumpkin donuts and apple cider.

The Board of Managers will deck the halls in holiday style for the upcoming holidays. Elvis Presley acts are always a favorite, and a new, young Elvis tribute artist is slated to appear for a “blue Christmas.”

Plus, Homeland’s highly anticipated holiday party returns on December 8th, when residents get the joy of hosting family and friends over a delicious holiday meal made with love by the Homeland dietary team.

“We look forward to this time of the year. Seeing our residents surrounded by their family and friends makes our hearts happy.” says Aleisha Arnold.

Homeland Hanukkah: A Celebration of Lights and Latkes


Hanukkah at Homeland

Hanukkah has meaning for everyone because it recalls a time when a small, devout family of defenders repelled a force of invaders, Homeland Center Chaplain Dann Caldwell told residents attending a ceremony commemorating the Festival of Lights.

“This is all part of the shared history we have as human beings,” Caldwell said. “It should remind all of us how God values freedom, freedom to worship, and freedom to be a community of faith. That is something that all goodhearted people can celebrate, and clearly, something that Jewish and Christian friends can celebrate.”

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrian-Greeks in the second century B.C. Upon recapturing the Temple, only one day’s supply of undefiled lamp oil remained, but the oil lasted a miraculous eight days.

During Hanukkah, each of the eight days is marked by lighting a candle on the menorah.

The ceremony brought together Homeland residents and staff in the Homeland chapel to hear the history of Hanukkah, light a menorah, say blessings, sing traditional songs, and for a special surprise, enjoy latkes in the Homeland Diner.

“Homeland respects the array of religious traditions under its roof,” said resident Lee Spitalny.

“Chaplain Caldwell is so involved and thoughtful about including Jewish tradition here,” she said before the ceremony. “He and his wife came to our synagogue’s Hanukkah dinner. He will come to everything we do.”

Lee brought a greeting card, given to her by a Catholic friend, that spelled out “Happy Hanukkah” in pop-up letters. She recalled Hanukkah celebrations with her family over the years.

“A lot of people think Hanukkah is a Jewish Christmas,” she said. “It’s not. It’s a gift-giving holiday to little kids, but it really is not connected to Christmas. I hope others who aren’t Jewish realize that it’s not a big important holiday, but it’s a fun one.”

Caldwell and Homeland Manager of Information Technology and Strategy Jennifer Ross led the service, with help from Homeland’s Activities Department. Ross explained that Hanukkah is a smaller “festival holiday,” when Jews are permitted to work, unlike other Jewish holidays.

“You’ll see me at work throughout the holiday of Hanukkah because I have no restrictions,” she told the residents.

Ross led participants in the traditional blessing, or shehecheyanu, before lighting the menorah candles. She also added the one spoken on the first night only that says, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.”

“I think it’s extra special to do the first blessing because this is such a nice, joyous blessing, and it’s all about health and wonders,” she said. “There’s never harm in adding an extra shehecheyanu, so we’ll say that one particularly joyously.”

After lighting the candles, Ross led the residents in singing the familiar “The Dreidel Song” and “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah.” She closed with readings from “The Jewish Book of Days” about the festival’s meaning.

“We celebrate midwinter because of the knowledge that the sun will return to bring light and warmth,” she read.

Finally, residents got to enjoy a treat – potato pancakes known as latkes, prepared by the Front Street Diner in Susquehanna Township and served in the 1950s-style Homeland Diner.

While enjoying her latkes, resident Lois Galowitz said the ceremony was “very nice.” She still gathers for Hanukkah, sometimes over Zoom, with her extended family, which includes six nieces and nephews and 14 great-nieces and -nephews.

“We enjoy being together and celebrating,” she said. “It’s something we do every year. It’s a very special time to be together.”

While enjoying latkes, resident Chuck Glazier remembered the Jewish deli he owned in Allentown. There, he sold hot pastrami and hot corned beef.

“We’d celebrate Hanukkah, and I’d have menorahs in the deli,” he said, adding that he enjoyed Homeland’s Hanukkah commemoration. “Any service is nice, as long as you remember the holiday.’’

Homeland Holiday Party Returns: A Joyous Celebration


Homeland Center's holiday party returns

On a Friday afternoon in December, the Homeland Center annual holiday party returned for the first time since 2019.

The scents of homemade food wafted through the halls. Music filled the air. Santa posed for pictures. And best of all, Homeland residents hosted family and friends as they shared their holiday joy.

Homeland’s holiday party is a longstanding tradition when guests of all ages fill the rooms, and the halls are decked in cheerful greenery. When Covid restrictions canceled the annual event and limited visitors, staff worked hard to make the holidays happy and joyous for the residents.

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, there was no doubt that the holiday party would return, with a few basic precautions such as temperature checks and small gatherings celebrating throughout Homeland — but still featuring all the fun and food of pre-pandemic years.

“A return to normalcy and joy,” rejoiced Homeland Chaplain Dann Caldwell. “Let’s pair those together. Normalcy and joy. That’s what the world needs.”

“I’m so glad they could get back to something like this,” agreed Sandra Daily, visiting her brother and resident Rusty Keiser. Sandra serves on the Homeland Board of Managers, which decorated the halls, windows, and doorways of Homeland with pretty greenery.

Live music filled the gathering spaces. In the skilled-care dining room, a bluegrass duo sang “Christmastime is Coming.” In the main dining room, a pianist played Christmas carols and standards such as “We Need a Little Christmas” and “White Christmas.”

The food – as always – was the star. Once again, Homeland’s dietary staff went into elf mode, gearing up to make treats for everyone to enjoy. Tables were full of homemade sweet and sour meatballs, spicy chicken wings, and the perennial favorite, fresh macaroni and cheese with a crumb topping.

“I think the party’s great,” said resident Carl Barna, as he enjoyed the holiday meal with his sister, Sue Espenshade. “I like having all the people and the nice gathering, and all the good food, especially the dessert. I might have to have seconds.”

While they ate, Sue’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Mia, happily danced to the music.

“She likes to visit her Uncle Carl and be at his party,” Sue said.

Mary Ellen Smith is a newer resident and a first timer to the party who said she was having a nice time.

“I like all the things they do here, too,” she said. “I love the music programs. They get you singing along.”

In Homeland’s classic 1950’s-style diner, the party was in full swing, as residents and their guests enjoyed their food. Resident Mary Robinson, proudly shared that she recently turned 92, looked elegant in a sparkling, black-and-white sweater and skirt

“I am blessed, blessed, blessed,” Mary said. “This party is lovely. Everything is lovely. I just like how Homeland carries everything out. It’s so nice.”

Homeland’s holiday party allows residents to welcome family and friends to holiday gatherings, just as they’ve always done. Mary’s daughters, Delphine Walker, Colleen Nash, and her dear friend Elizabeth Jones came for the gathering.

“I think it’s very nice,” said Delphine. “The food is really good. It’s a very nice way to get a chance to meet other residents and host a party.”

At the next table, the Simonic family posed for pictures with Santa Claus, who came from the North Pole to greet the partygoers throughout the building. Resident Ed Simonic, who came to Homeland for rehab, was hosting his kids, Dave and Rick Simonic, Maryanne Brawley, and her husband, Terry.

The Simonic family has always celebrated the holidays with big family gatherings, cabbage rolls, and pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.

“It’s fun to see everybody here, out and about, and see the residents enjoying the party,” said Dave. “The staff at Homeland are all wonderful people. They’re very caring, sensitive and personal.”

Homeland Center’s Fall Fest and Halloween Spirit Week deliver autumn fun


Candy corn and apples. Pumpkins and witchy cupcakes.

Welcome to Homeland Center’s first “Homeland Fall Fest” – a celebration of autumn that brought residents and staff outside to enjoy a crisp day and fun with friends.

“You could tell what it meant to them,” says Activities Coordinator Emma Lengyel. “Even on a cloudy day, they were so happy to be outside and be together.”

The Fall Fest was just one measure of autumn fun at Homeland. The Homeland Activities Department scheduled Fall Fest the Friday before a “spirited” Halloween week, full of costumes and treats, ensuring that every Homeland resident experienced the colors, tastes, and sights that brought back fond memories of autumns past.

Fall Fest

As with many of the Activities Department’s efforts since March 2020, Fall Fest emerged from brainstorming alternatives for activities that were scuttled due to COVID-19. Homeland’s annual Summer Fair wasn’t held this year, but Activities staff still worked to give residents a day in the sun.

“We wanted something special for the residents and the staff, just because this past year, and almost two years now, has been crazy,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connors. “We decided to get the residents outside with a fun event planned for them.”

Fall Fest was spread across two venues – the parking lot for skilled care residents and the Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion for personal care. Each featured fun, fall-themed activities, such as a photo booth where residents posed in front of a backdrop image of hay bales and pumpkins, wearing masks depicting leaves, pumpkins, and “I love fall.”

“The residents have been talking about them all week,” Activities Coordinator Diomaris Pumarol said of the pictures, which were displayed in the Homeland Gathering Room. “Some of them are really funny.”

There also was pumpkin decorating, plenty of baked goods and even Farm Show milkshakes from the PA Dairymen’s Association food truck. Residents could even bob for apples using long-handled grabbers.

Halloween happenings

In pre-COVID years, residents thrilled to little ghosts, princesses, and superheroes – the children of Homeland staff – roaming the halls for trick or treat night. Until that popular event can return, Homeland Activities have made sure that residents aren’t missing the delights of Halloween, with daily ghostly doings for Halloween Spirit Week.

Monday was the day for wearing a favorite Halloween shirt. Nurses and CNAs wore Halloween-themed scrubs. Several staffers wore shirts from the movie “Hocus Pocus.”

On Tuesday, crazy socks peeked out from the staff’s Crocs and Danskos. One nurse in personal care wore spider web socks. On Wednesday, accessories day, Aleisha donned her “light-up” pumpkin earrings.

The week culminated with a repeat of the costume parade that was a big hit in 2020. Staff dressed in costumes, coordinated by department, and paraded to music through all four units of the building, handing out bags of candy along the way.

The Activities Department decided to dress as witches. Emma has been “going very hard into Spirit Week.”

“I made my own broom,” she says. “I have a big flouncy cape and a skirt and a witch hat with feathers.”

Residents join the fun, too, wearing colorful outfits and accessories while they find themselves reminiscing.

“It’s something festive, something that brings residents to those days, not necessarily when they went trick or treating, but mostly when they took their children trick or treating,” says Diomaris. “Those are the memories that come to them.”

Door decorating contest brings holiday spirit to Homeland hallways


Angels and reindeer. Snowflakes and snowmen. Santa and seven swans a-swimming.

Homeland’s 2020 door decorating contest brought a host of beloved characters to the hallways during an unusual holiday season. In those couple of weeks in December, the people who keep Homeland running smoothly — and always focused on the best interests of the residents — took the time to adorn their office doors in holiday style.

“With all of our responsibilities around COVID, we thought we could use a little pep and cheer in our hallways,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connor. Aleisha invited department directors to join the fun, acknowledging in an email that she was adding another duty to their long lists.

So, with that encouragement, did the department directors respond with enthusiasm?

“Oh my gosh, yes,” Aleisha says. “Everybody loved the idea.”

Adhering to regulations limiting coverage to no more than 30 percent of the door, departments got out the tinsel, decorative papers, and artificial snow. Entries came in from the business office, personal care offices, administration, dietary, therapy, activities, Ellenberger, nursing, the laundry. Even the office of Homeland President/CEO Barry Ramper II, was decorated with images of reindeer and gingerbread men made by his grandchildren.

Then came the vote. Due to COVID restrictions, residents couldn’t walk outside their areas to see all the doors, so the doors came to them. Homeland staff loaded pictures on tablets and showed them to residents individually. Then, they cast their votes.

And the winner was – drumroll, please – Administrative Assistant for Strategic Projects/IT Alice Kirchner and Administrative Assistant Esther Burnside with their angel-themed door. With 16 votes, they topped the list, just edging out the 15 votes won by Ellenberger’s “Christmas to Remember” door.

“The residents had a blast voting for all of them, and many mentioned how hard it was to pick just one!” Aleisha told all the entrants when she announced the winner.

“It was a success, and we’re definitely doing it next year,” says Aleisha.

It was all part of Homeland’s overall effort to bring cheer during a holiday season limited by COVID restrictions. Staff dressed up in holiday gear for the residents to see. The Board of Managers decked the halls with greenery. The Salvation Army donated gift packages for each resident, stocked with such goody-bag items as backscratchers, word search puzzles, and magazines.

With the hallway decorations hung by the Board of Managers, the décor “really did brighten up the environment tremendously for staff and the residents,” says Alice. She adds that she and co-winner Esther are not natural-born crafters, but they wanted to join in the holiday spirit.

Alice says she is blessed to have creative siblings, so she reached out to her sister Mary Ellen, a retired teacher in Baltimore who’s the family creative spirit and organizer.

“In about 30 minutes, I heard back from her with some pins,” Alice says. “Thank goodness for Pinterest.”

Together, they created a tableau of heavenly angels, including three whose faces were baby pictures of Esther, Alice, and Barry Ramper. The angels flew amid stars and white fluffy stuff.

As the winners, Alice and Esther won a $50 gift card for use in their office.

“All in all,’’ she says, “it was a nice demonstration of teamwork and creativity.”

Most importantly, she says, the residents liked it.

“I’m glad that it also brought smiles to their faces,” says Alice.