Traditions and a few surprises bring joy to Homeland Center holiday party

Quentin Jones

Quentin Jones at the Homeland Center Holiday Party

What goes better with Christmas than the song, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am”?

Actually, many songs go better with Christmas, and they played throughout the gathering spaces of Homeland for its lively holiday party. But the annual event is big enough to accommodate musical tastes of all kinds, so a few non-traditional favorites were welcome.

On this mid-December Friday, as 2018 ended, Homeland Center residents hosted family and friends. It is their chance to relive memories and convene their loved ones for holiday cheer.

Music filled every space, from a harpist in a skilled-care dining room to pianists in the Main Dining Room and Gathering Room, to that unusual selection of “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am.” That was from Rockabilly guitarist and singer Quentin Jones, adorned in red cowboy shirt, singing to an appreciative audience in the Homeland Chapel. When he was done with the familiar tune, he chided the youngsters in the crowd, saying he would tell Santa they weren’t singing along.

“It’s because they’re too young to know it!” said an adult in the crowd. “You have to be at least 66.” What the little ones did know, however, was how to dance, which they did to all of Jones’ tunes, including a few lines of Elvis Costello’s “The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes” he sang for an audience member wearing red boots.

Holiday adornments were everywhere. The halls were decked in wreaths hung by members of Homeland’s Board of Managers, who started the tradition of adding greenery to the corridors a few years ago.

Mary, a Homeland resident, wore a cheery, wintery Fair Isle sweater as she sat with her daughter, Terri, who flew in from Hawaii for an extended visit. The two caught up in the Gathering Room as a pianist played holiday classics including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. They also admired the extensive collection of Hummel figurines and plates on display, a gift from the late resident and benefactor Lou Hepschmidt.

“I can’t believe they have all these Hummels,” Terri said. “They’re beautiful.”

The two were spending the party “going room to room,” listening to the music, said Terri. Mary shared memories of Christmases past when her grandfather played instruments and sang songs from his native Poland.

Geoffrey a resident who grew up in the restaurant business pronounced the party food “very, very good, and lots of it.” Tables groaned under the feast prepared and presented by Homeland staff – beef tenderloin, a variety of cheeses and crackers, meatballs, wings, macaroni and cheese, cold cuts, and of course, brownies and lots of cookies.

Tara Frank and her husband Bob brought their teenage sons and a friend of theirs, as guests of resident Lynda Vinton, Tara’s mom. Tara and Bob declared the party “very nice.” Lynda said, “The food was outstanding.”

Lynda came to Homeland in January, just missing the 2017 party, but the family experienced Homeland hospitality when they attended the 150th Anniversary Gala thrown especially for residents in May. Members of Tara’s church have long been Homeland visitors, so she knew of its sterling reputation and its levels of continuing care, from personal care to dementia care. She rattled off the things she likes about Homeland.

“The staff is friendly,” Tara said. “Homeland has all the stages of care, which is nice. And the garden is beautiful. My mom loves the garden.”

Peggy and her son Rusty

Rusty and Peggy enjoying their first Holiday Party at Homeland Center.

For Peggy, it was the first time her family attended the annual holiday party. Sitting at a table in the Main Dining Room, the party went on while a pianist played such fun holiday tunes as “Jingle Bell Rock.” Peggy’s son, Rusty, also a Homeland resident, looks forward to bingo every week.

“We love it here,” said Peggy, who appreciates the attentive care she receives. “It’s amazing.”

The nursing staff added her daughter, Sandy, “has really been outstanding.”

Homeland Nurse Manager Trenisha Gray brought her young daughter, Ava, to the party. While residents gave Ava high fives, Trenisha said she loves the annual holiday party and the feel it brings to the Homeland halls.

“I like how the families are so involved,” she said. “Homeland is like one big family.”