“I got candy!”
Kids said it over and over. Whether they got Dum Dums lollipops, Snickers bars, or packs of Smarties, the pint-sized guests of Homeland Center left happy on an eventful evening in late October.
Homeland’s annual trick-or-treat night for the family and friends of staff and residents attracted hundreds of children eager to show off their costumes and, of course, fill bags and buckets with candy distributed by residents.
The 2018 version expanded on past years, with crafts in the 1950s-style Olewine Diner and music in the Main Dining Room.
Children paraded the halls in colorful superhero, cartoon character, and goblin costumes. There were the Tasmanian Devil, Buzz Lightyear, princesses, a police officer, a nurse, and Batman and Robin, although the Dynamic Duo happened to come separately.
One little boy wore a red cap with black chinstrap. “It’s an Easter basket,” said his mom, delighted that he was getting two holidays from one item. “He just put it on as a hat.”
Iola, a Homeland resident, wore a witch hat while she handed out candy. With her daughter, Elaine, in a coordinating witch’s hat, Iola met girls dressed as princesses, one Cleopatra and witches. Iola remembered giving out “a lot of candy” at her home in Pittsburgh. Her neighborhood had a reputation as the area’s best trick-or-treating grounds, she said.
“They came from the other side of town to our street by the carloads,” she said.
The costumed guests grouped in common areas where residents shared candy provided by Homeland. In the Gathering Room, Kristian reminded her daughter, Anaija, to say “trick or treat” as she walked past residents in her bumblebee costume.
Kristian’s aunt, Kimberly, is a Homeland CNA and Kristian said she enjoys visiting with the residents and her daughter looks forward to the annual event.
“We come every year,” she said. “She looks forward to it and on a chilly night we appreciate Homeland providing a safe and fun spot for trick-or-treating.’’
Kimberly, who started working for Homeland more than 20 years ago, first as a temp and then as a full-time CNA in 2016, said the Halloween party is her favorite activity.
“I love it!” she exclaimed. “All the kids in their costumes. The excitement of it all!”
Across the room, Homeland resident Dona cradled her great-granddaughter, 3-month-old Lorelai, dressed in a tiny cow costume. Lorelai’s three cousins also were among the trick-or-treaters. Lorelai’s mother, Lexi, was wearing a pumpkin shirt. She loved the happiness all around, and the opportunity to make the night a family event.
Homeland dietary staffer Asia brought her 5-month-old daughter, Avah. It was Avah’s first Homeland Halloween and she smiled as her mom held her in a baby carrier. “Happy baby,” said her mom. Another Homeland staffer couldn’t resist the little pumpkin that was Avah. “You are the cutest thing!” she said.
Helping kids create Halloween-themed crafts in the Diner was Yan, a Harrisburg High School senior who earns community service hours by volunteering at Homeland. It’s excellent experience as he eyes college and a career in either education or medicine, he said.
“I just come and help and see what I can do,” he said. “It’s pretty fun. I get to know the workers. They’re very carefree, helpful, joyful. And the residents, they’re amazing. I like just talking to them and hearing their stories.”
Outside the Diner, 2-year-old Harmony showed off her spangly red and black dance costume. Her mother, Arielle, is an aide for Homeland Center’s Personal Care residents. She has always enjoyed Homeland Halloween.
“I like that the residents take an active part in the event and I love seeing the turnout from family and friends,’’ she said. “It really shows everyone is very involved.”
She thought Harmony was wandering away and called her back until she realized that Harmony had found someone to give her a treat. Harmony came running back to her mom, a Dum Dums lollipop in her hand.
“I got candy!” she said.