Since 1986, Open Stage of Harrisburg has given theatrical life to stories of love, memory, conflict, and courage.

Gloria Jackson Homeland Center
Resident Gloria Jackson says she is pleased every day to see her son Albert, who is one of Homeland's well-known community receptionists.  

Since 1867, Homeland Center has provided shelter, care, and dignity for people with stories of their own to tell.

So it was only natural that these two highly regarded institutions join forces. For the 2015 production of “Stories from Home: People Who Care,” Open Stage turned to Homeland for true stories demonstrating how a community cares for those who can’t care for themselves.

Stories from Home: People Who Care” is the fourth and final production in Open Stage’s series on how the people of Harrisburg have shaped its character and its neighborhoods. Homeland’s storied history made it an ideal subject – the tale of 18 women who, after the Civil War, raised money, donated land, worked with nine churches, and enlisted businessmen to help create a home for the many destitute widows and orphans in their midst.

“They made it happen,” says Open Stage Education Director Anne Alsedek.  

Today, Homeland has grown into a continuing care community offering skilled care, personal care, a specialized dementia unit, and short-term rehabilitation. No resident whose resources are depleted has ever been asked to leave. Still, Homeland remains rooted at the spot where “The Home for the Friendless” was founded in 1867.

“It’s extraordinary,” says Alsedek. “The culture there, the environment, the atmosphere is extraordinary. All the residents can talk about is how well cared for they are and how well treated they are. They’re given freedom. They’re given autonomy. They’re quite content there. The whole place was founded on extraordinarily humane principles, and those principles have been maintained for almost 150 years.”

Generous contributions make it possible for Homeland Center to provide in excess of $2 million in annual benevolent care


HARRISBURG, PA (Friday, May 8, 2015) – Sixty charter members of the new 1867 Society of Homeland were

1867 Society Honor Wall Homeland Center
From right: President/CEO Barry S. Ramper II; Morton Spector, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; and Peggy Purdy, Chairwoman of the Board of Managers, unveil The 1867 Society of Homeland Honor Board.  

honored today for generous donations that make it possible for Homeland Center and Homeland Hospice to care for those in need. 

The 1867 Society was created and tasked with raising $20 million by 2020 to support the more than $2 million in benevolent care Homeland provides annually. All donations are tax deductible. 

“The pledges these 60 charter members have made to our endowment brings us more than halfway to our goal,’’ said President /CEO Barry S. Ramper II. “Their generosity guarantees that future generations of Central Pennsylvanians will be able to count on the quality senior care Homeland Center and Homeland Hospice provides.’’ 

Marianna Bjurstrom doesn’t let severe arthritis keep her from enjoying the day trips and activities that Homeland has to offer. Her rehabilitation services have helped her retain as much mobility as possible and even taught her to use a power wheelchair

Marianna Bjurstrom and Margaret McCabe Homeland Center
Homeland resident Marianna Bjurstrom and Occupational Therapist Manager Margaret McCabe.   

“I don’t want to be a couch potato,” she says.

Homeland partners with Genesis Rehab Services, a national provider, to offer rehab for Homeland guests. They may be long-term residents, or they may choose Homeland for rehab stays of a few days or weeks while recovering from a hospital visit or injury. Some are Homeland Hospice patients and receive rehab services in their home.

All get the same level of quality service that’s infused into the spirit of Homeland.

Unintended weight loss in the elderly is serious business. When the body is forced to draw on stored protein for

Lorraine Englander and Christina Dinger
Homeland Center dietitian Christina Dinger, left, gives resident Lorraine Englander a nutritional supplement. Dinger is part of a team that ensures residents maintain a healthy weight.  

energy, the antibodies that ward off illness are diverted, and a cascade of negative health consequences can follow.

“If you have an 80- or 85-year-old who’s beginning to lose weight, that’s associated with multiple issues, and things spiral out of control,” says Homeland Director of Nutritional Services Yolanda Williams. “There can be skin breakdown, dehydration and infections because the immune system is weakened.”

Homeland’s unique approach

Spotting, preventing and treating weight loss demands true detective skills, and Homeland Center developed an individualized approach – unique to nursing homes – that’s worthy of a “CSI” episode. Instead of giving nutritional duties to multi-tasking nurse's aides, Homeland assigns a nutrition-at-risk aide to the care teams on each floor in skilled care and in the Ellenberger dementia/Alzheimer’s unit.

For F.M. Richard Simons, volunteering to fight during World War II was a way of giving back to the country that had welcomed his grandparents.

F.M. Richard Simons
"They say it's a great experience but one I'd never want to do again,'' said F.M. Richard Simons, who saw combat in Italy during World War II.  

The Korea War was in full force when a friend from nursing training convinced Marianna Bjurstrom to join the Air Force. To Bjurstrom, who was 24, it sounded like a way to make her dreams of traveling and seeing the world come true. 

While the paths that led Simons and Bjurstrom to military service were far different, both said they were proud to serve and treasure the friendships they made along the way. 

Simons and Bjurstrom spoke during a special Veterans Day luncheon at Homeland Center. Before the lunch, the 30 residents who are veterans received red carnations to commemorate their service. 

“They say it’s a great experience but one I’d never want to do again,’’ said Simons, who at 19 served with the famed 10th Mountain Division and saw combat in Italy from 1944 until the end of the war. “You build a real comradery; friendships that help keep you alive and stay with you.’’ 


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