Roy Justice blows on a conch shell, eliciting amazingly musical notes, and the regular presentation of “The Singing

Roy Justice at Homeland Center
Roy Justice, "The Singing Historian,'' brings his blend of storytelling and song to skilled care residents in Homeland's solarium.  

Historian” at Homeland Center begins.

Twice a month, Justice brings classic American songs and the stories behind them to Homeland Center. The popular presentations explore the side streets of history while also using effective methods to spark memories and intellectual engagement among residents.

On this day, Justice is continuing a series of patriotic songs. He tells, in story form, the confluence of events that led Francis Scott Key to climb above deck on a British ship in 1814 to see how Fort McHenry survived following an all-night bombardment.

Justice choked up as he described Key’s vision of the Star-Spangled Banner visible in the morning fog.

“No matter how many times I talk about this, I’m overwhelmed with what he must have felt when he looked at the harbor,” Justice said. Now that residents had a refresher in the meaning behind the lyrics, he led them in singing the National Anthem.

Gillian Lawrence is focused on helping others.

Whether she’s on the job or volunteering in the community, Gillian Lawrence is always doing good for others. 

Gillian Lawrence Rosie Massaro and Ethel Boyer
Homeland Center Activities Assistant Gillian Lawrence, left, enjoys a visit with residents Rosie Massaro and Ethel Boyer  

“I’m very passionate about helping people, especially individuals who are not able to help themselves,” she says.

Lawrence is Homeland’s Activities Assistant, becoming a full-time employee in July 2016 after working part-time for two years. The Harrisburg native left the area as a teenager, attending high school in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating, she returned to Harrisburg to help care for her older sister, who was battling pancreatic cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease.

She stayed in the city, building a close relationship with her sister’s five children. She studied early childhood education for a while, but her career trajectory changed when her mother suggested she apply for a job at Hamilton Health Center, the Harrisburg-based community health care provider. As HIV/AIDS educator, counselor, and case manager, she realized she could “give a little bit of hope to people in a devastating situation.”

“As soon as I started working in it, I found my niche,” she says now. “I didn’t want to be a nurse, but I noticed that I liked the education, awareness, and prevention side of health care.”

Now at Homeland, Lawrence’s goal is finding new ways to help residents enjoy their days and stay active. For the morning exercise class, she introduced kickball, and by the second day, residents were kicking the ball to each other like soccer pros.

For the fifth year in a row, a poll of Harrisburg Magazine’s more than 50,000 readers resulted in Homeland Center being 2016 Harrisburg Magazine Readers' Choice Awardselected as the Readers’ Choice for Best Long-Term Care Facility. 

“We are honored to again be recognized for our quality service to the Central Pennsylvania region,’’ said Barry S. Ramper II, Homeland’s president and CEO. “Next year Homeland will celebrate its 150th anniversary and throughout our history we have always looked for way to meet the needs of our community.’’ 

In keeping with that goal, Homeland earlier this year unveiled two new services to help seniors remain in their home while receiving the quality care they need. Homeland HomeCare will assist seniors with daily tasks such as meal preparation and transportation, while Homeland HomeHealth will provide doctor-ordered medical assistance, ranging from providing intravenous therapy and other medications to physical therapy. 

Residents and guests often comment on Homeland’s home-like atmosphere, where everyone feels like family.

Patty McGowan and Loretta Jean McCauley
Homeland neighbors Patty McGowan, left, and Loretta Jean McCauley discovered an amazing coincidence -- they grew up in the same part of Perry County and are first cousins by marriage. At Homeland, they enjoy playing bingo together and reminiscing about their relatives.  

Now, two residents in facing rooms have taken the family theme one step further, discovering not only that they have roots in the same rural enclave but are first cousins by marriage. What are the odds? Who knows? But it all centers around the tiny village of Reward in Perry County, Pennsylvania.

The residents are Patty McGowan and Loretta Jean McCauley, and their coincidental discovery started with a laundry mix-up. One day, Loretta Jean sent her granddaughter to Patty’s room, right across the hall, with some mismarked laundry. Could these be Patty’s? Yes, indeed. They even included Patty’s favorite blouse.   

Patty crossed the hall to thank Loretta Jean for returning the blouse. They got to talking, and Patty asked where Loretta Jean was born. Reward, she said. Patty immediately knew the connection. Her husband’s family came from Reward, and she grew up nearby.  

“When she said Reward, I thought, ‘I know who this is. I know how this happened,’” says Patty. “I knew about her. There’s nobody else who could have been born there. Her dad was a brother of my father-in-law’s.”

Kathy Kuchwara looks after Homeland's feathered friends!

Resident Mary Jane Baum noticed that the birds in Homeland’s second-floor aviary seemed to appreciate their new toys.

Kathy Kuchwara looks after Homeland Center's feathered friends
Homeland's "Bird Lady,'' RN Kathy Kuchwara, explains why birds love swings and millet to residents (from left) Mary Jane Baum and Peg Harnish.  

“They love the swing,” agreed nurse Kathy Kuchwara. “They’re probably like people and the way we love to rock. For birds, maybe it’s the same type of thing.”

Kuchwara has been a registered nurse at Homeland since 2005, full-time until retiring and part-time in 2015. And while she performs such nursing duties as immunization audits and teaching CPR to staff, she is also known throughout Homeland as “The Bird Lady.”

That’s because the avid birdwatcher brings her knowledge about birding and bird care to Homeland, which has aviaries in the first-floor gathering room, second-floor solarium, and Ellenberger dementia care unit.

Kuchwara, of Hampden Township, started working in healthcare at age 16. Homeland excels because “the quality of life is very good,” she says. “I’m very happy to be here. The staffing ratios are better, and activities are very, very attuned to residents’ needs. They work on getting resident input on activities offered. It’s a lot of fun. It makes it very special.”

Kuchwara’s lifelong interest in birds took flight around 2006. Since joining the Appalachian Audubon Society, she has developed a cadre of friends with whom she takes birding trips. She might go to the shore, balmy Monterey, Canada in February, or somewhere in Central Pennsylvania, where the birding is excellent. She once took a day for birding while in Guatemala, and just when she despaired of seeing the rare pink-headed warbler, one popped out of the greenery to show off its bright colors.


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