A holiday riddle: How do Santa and Mrs. Claus get around?
On an icicle built for two!
In a year when quarantine restrictions sidelined many holiday traditions, the Homeland Center team got busy creating new practices – such as delivering holiday riddles to residents in their rooms -- and keeping an atmosphere of joy ringing through the halls.
“We’re bringing as much Christmas cheer as we can to the residents,” says Activities Director Aleisha Connors.
A full calendar of events assured that residents in every unit – personal care, skilled care, and Ellenberger – got a healthy, happy dose of holiday fun. Much of the bustle brought activities right to residents’ rooms to help keep them entertained.
In the hallways and common areas, members of the Board of Managers – the unique, volunteer board charged with helping maintain Homeland’s renowned homelike atmosphere – brought a festive feeling by hanging greenery and wreaths. Residents were glad to see them (all were COVID-tested before entering). In the Main Dining Room, they decorated a culinary-themed tree, complete with cooking-utensil ornaments and a red chef’s hat tree topper.
“The decorations add a bit of color,” says Board of Managers President Joyce Thomas. “This way, they know it’s Christmas. It’s nice that residents can see those icons that are specific to the holiday.”
As the holidays were underway, Homeland‘s activities included:
• Christmas Sweater Day: Staff usually have an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest, but this year, they’re encouraged to wear their sweaters on one day. They’ll then go to the rooms delivering holiday cookies and hot chocolate so that residents can see their funny attire.
• Individual gingerbread houses: Staff will help residents make gingerbread houses or gingerbread cookies in their rooms. Before COVID-19, everyone gathered in the Homeland Diner.
• Door decorating contest: Every Homeland Center department was invited to decorate their doors for residents to see and vote on a winner. “That’ll be a fun thing for residents and staff and, hopefully, lift some spirits,” says Connors.
• Photo greeting cards to family: Residents don their favorite holiday apparel and sit for a photoshoot in front of a cheery Christmas display. Each resident gets a copy of the photo, which also gets turned into a personalized card sent to family.
• Christmas cards for soldiers: Director of Personal Care Jennifer Murray suggested that residents send cards to troopmates on active duty with her son, and the residents loved it. Murray shared a photo of her son and his unit so that residents could see the faces of the heroes receiving their cards.
• Holiday coloring contest: Residents color holiday-themed images printed on card stock, and a panel of employees picks a winner for each unit. The winners get a lunch of their choice from a favorite restaurant.
• Caroling in the hallways: The festive mood also includes halls decked with greenery by the Homeland Board of Managers.
• Entertainment: With creativity and planning, residents have enjoyed some of their favorite musical entertainers via Zoom and a young dance troupe performed outside in multiple locations so residents from around the building could enjoy their presentation.
In November, residents made Thanksgiving cards to send to loved ones, similar to the Christmas cards sent in December. Kristee Myers, the daughter of Homeland resident Maxine Myers, called Aleisha to say that the Thanksgiving card brought tears to her eyes, and she looked forward to holiday greetings.
Opening her mail to find a construction-paper card from Homeland, depicting a turkey in Pilgrim garb and decorated with feathers, “really warmed my heart, and it helped during difficult times,” says Kristee of Susquehanna Township.
“Even during these times, the residents still need to be mobile and active,’’ Myers says. My mother’s always been a helper. It’s wonderful that Homeland helps my mom be the best she can be, especially under the circumstances. It means a lot to my family and me.”