On a Friday afternoon in December, the Homeland Center annual holiday party returned for the first time since 2019.
The scents of homemade food wafted through the halls. Music filled the air. Santa posed for pictures. And best of all, Homeland residents hosted family and friends as they shared their holiday joy.
Homeland’s holiday party is a longstanding tradition when guests of all ages fill the rooms, and the halls are decked in cheerful greenery. When Covid restrictions canceled the annual event and limited visitors, staff worked hard to make the holidays happy and joyous for the residents.
Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, there was no doubt that the holiday party would return, with a few basic precautions such as temperature checks and small gatherings celebrating throughout Homeland -- but still featuring all the fun and food of pre-pandemic years.
“A return to normalcy and joy,” rejoiced Homeland Chaplain Dann Caldwell. “Let’s pair those together. Normalcy and joy. That’s what the world needs.”
“I’m so glad they could get back to something like this,” agreed Sandra Daily, visiting her brother and resident Rusty Keiser. Sandra serves on the Homeland Board of Managers, which decorated the halls, windows, and doorways of Homeland with pretty greenery.
Live music filled the gathering spaces. In the skilled-care dining room, a bluegrass duo sang “Christmastime is Coming.” In the main dining room, a pianist played Christmas carols and standards such as “We Need a Little Christmas” and “White Christmas.”
The food – as always – was the star. Once again, Homeland’s dietary staff went into elf mode, gearing up to make treats for everyone to enjoy. Tables were full of homemade sweet and sour meatballs, spicy chicken wings, and the perennial favorite, fresh macaroni and cheese with a crumb topping.
“I think the party’s great,” said resident Carl Barna, as he enjoyed the holiday meal with his sister, Sue Espenshade. “I like having all the people and the nice gathering, and all the good food, especially the dessert. I might have to have seconds.”
While they ate, Sue’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Mia, happily danced to the music.
“She likes to visit her Uncle Carl and be at his party,” Sue said.
Mary Ellen Smith is a newer resident and a first timer to the party who said she was having a nice time.
“I like all the things they do here, too,” she said. “I love the music programs. They get you singing along.”
In Homeland’s classic 1950’s-style diner, the party was in full swing, as residents and their guests enjoyed their food. Resident Mary Robinson, proudly shared that she recently turned 92, looked elegant in a sparkling, black-and-white sweater and skirt
“I am blessed, blessed, blessed,” Mary said. “This party is lovely. Everything is lovely. I just like how Homeland carries everything out. It’s so nice.”
Homeland’s holiday party allows residents to welcome family and friends to holiday gatherings, just as they’ve always done. Mary’s daughters, Delphine Walker, Colleen Nash, and her dear friend Elizabeth Jones came for the gathering.
“I think it’s very nice,” said Delphine. “The food is really good. It’s a very nice way to get a chance to meet other residents and host a party.”
At the next table, the Simonic family posed for pictures with Santa Claus, who came from the North Pole to greet the partygoers throughout the building. Resident Ed Simonic, who came to Homeland for rehab, was hosting his kids, Dave and Rick Simonic, Maryanne Brawley, and her husband, Terry.
The Simonic family has always celebrated the holidays with big family gatherings, cabbage rolls, and pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.
“It’s fun to see everybody here, out and about, and see the residents enjoying the party,” said Dave. “The staff at Homeland are all wonderful people. They’re very caring, sensitive and personal.”