The Healing Power of Music: Homeland Hospice Releases Music Compilation for Patients


homeland hospice presents beacon of hope cdThe sound of familiar melodies and lyrics can transport us back in time to the most poignant moments of our lives. Memories like listening to music while driving our first car to dancing on our wedding day become picture-perfect flashes in our minds after hearing a few recognizable chords.

Homeland Hospice has captured the power of music in a new compilation of popular hymns and scripture readings, which will soon be available for patients to download or listen to on CD. Homeland’s chaplains, pastors and a music therapist performed the recordings. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

The inspiration for the CD came from patients who cherish their time of fellowship through music. Homeland is fortunate to have talented chaplains and pastors who share their love of music with patients during routine visits. In addition, Homeland offers music therapy as a complementary service to help patients manage pain and lift their spirits. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily prohibited musical instruments in nursing homes.

“Patients may find comfort by listening to familiar voices,” says Reynaldo (Rey) Villarreal, chaplain for Homeland Hospice. “Through this project, we can connect with our patients spiritually when we cannot be with them in person.”

chaplains recording beacon of hope cdThe music compilation is a true project of unity around a shared goal to bless others. The Charlton United Methodist Church in Harrisburg served as the performance location and Derek Sandstrom, director of worship ministries for Fishing Creek Salem United Methodist Church, helped direct the production.

“We hope our patients love listening to the recording as much as we loved creating it,” Rey says. “Our spiritual team is bonded by a love a music and service to others.”

While the CD is a new project for Homeland Hospice, a commitment to the therapeutic benefits of music has long been part of the organization’s holistic approach to care. Homeland is certified in Music & Memory, a program to help aging Americans with cognitive and physical challenges find renewed meaning and connection in their lives through the gift of music.

“Music helps patients relive fond memories,” says Laurie Murry, volunteer coordinator for Homeland Hospice. “Playing a patient’s favorite song often helps them connect with family members and friends.”

Homeland staff members ask patients about their favorite songs or artists and download their choices for a personalized playlist. Research shows that the music individuals are exposed to from the ages of 12-24 has the greatest impact on their lives.

“It’s often the little things that make the greatest impact,” Laurie adds. “We hope the gift of music brings comfort to our patients in their time of need.”

Spiritual counseling is a component of Homeland’s holistic approach to health care. Counselors and chaplains respect each individual’s beliefs and offer support and encouragement. In addition, Homeland offers bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of a loved one.

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Wreaths Across America 2020



fort indiantown gap decorated with wreathsFor many years, Homeland Hospice staff and volunteers have participated in Wreaths Across America, a movement to remember and honor fallen Veterans with wreath-laying ceremonies. Homeland has been in attendance and assisted with ceremonies held at Fort Indiantown Gap and at the Dauphin County Cemetery.

Like most of this year’s events and activities, Wreaths Across America at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville will have a different look. Despite the amended event, the ceremony will accomplish the same goal as in years past: to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach our children the value and price of freedom.

On Saturday, December 19, instead of a live ceremony there will be a recorded event shared with media stations and available to watch on the Fort Indiantown Gap and Wreaths Across America Indiantown Gap Facebook pages.

Due to crowd-size restrictions, wreath placement will also look a lot different. Wreath placement will not be open to the general public but will instead be completed by Wreath Distribution Security Teams and Sponsorship Groups during specific time slots throughout the day.

wreaths prepared to honor veteransIn stark contrast to the Fort Indiantown Gap ceremony involving crowds, dignitaries, beautifully landscaped grounds, rows of white tombstones, and thousands of wreaths, Homeland Hospice also supports a second, more secluded Wreaths Across America ceremony held at the Dauphin County Cemetery. Also known as Potter’s Field, this is an obscure cemetery tucked behind industrial buildings along Gibson Boulevard in Swatara Township.

Homeland Hospice became involved two years ago when Volunteer Coordinator Laurie Murry researched local Wreaths Across America events. “My heart was immediately drawn to this cemetery and the people who have found this as their final resting place,” said Laurie.

The cemetery’s background is not unlike that of Homeland. Originally chartered as the “Home for the Friendless,” Homeland was founded to support the dependents – widows and children – of Civil War soldiers. “Continuing that tradition of recognizing the forgotten just seems like the right thing to do,” said Laurie.

Homeland Hospice has been involved with the ceremony at Dauphin County ceremony for the past two years. Six to eight Hospice staff and volunteers, along with the site coordinator Suzanne Sheaffer meet at noon and share in a small, informal ceremony. Wreaths are decorated to represent each military service branch and hung on the chain link fence surrounding the small field. A wreath is placed at the tombstone of the one identified veteran and other wreaths are placed throughout the field should there be any unidentified veterans.

Many poor, homeless, and unclaimed bodies have been buried at Potter’s Field for generations. “PennLive reported in a story about the cemetery that some could be veterans from as far back as the Civil War. Everyone who has sacrificed for the benefit of our country deserves to be remembered and honored. This is just one way we can do that,” said Laurie.


For information about Homeland Hospice and volunteer opportunities, call (717) 221-7890.

Care Cards Continue to Flow into Homeland Hospice



a pile of lovingly decorated care cardsIn the midst of a global pandemic that’s left people of all ages shut off from normal activities, a kind greeting or gesture from a friend or stranger takes on greater meaning.

In July, Homeland Hospice started a Care Card program and shared the opportunity with the online volunteer-engagement network VolunteerMatch. Since then, packages of cards have been arriving in the Homeland Hospice mailbox each week. Homemade, store-bought, crafted from construction paper — the cards came in every size and a rainbow of colors. Some have stickers. Some have jokes and riddles, others include crossword puzzles and search words. Some are from children who express love and respect to total strangers along with crayon drawings of flowers and smiles.

The reasons people are becoming involved are as varied as the cards. Some are looking for opportunities to complete community service hours, others want a project to do with their children, and some simply want an outlet for their creativity. “It has been very heartwarming to connect with people from all over the country who want nothing more than to bring joy to person’s day and a smile to their face,” says Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice.

One 10th grade student from Pittsburgh created over 70 thinking of you cards and a few paintings and inspirational signs. She shared that she worked to earn the money for supplies and to be able to buy some pretty cards. “I hope they will make people smile and feel a little happy! I can’t think of a better cause to earn the volunteer hours I need for my National Honor Society application.”

Another student from Texas shared that she spent approximately 20 hours gathering supplies, designing, and making her cards. She expressed excitement in making another batch of cards since she has developed a more efficient “system.” She commented, “Thank you so much for organizing and letting me join this volunteer activity. I greatly enjoyed making the care cards and knowing that they might help brighten someone’s day!”

A woman from New York City responded to the posting and shared that she is a finance professional with a secret passion for painting and she would love to make some custom cards with personal messages to encourage others.

A fourth-year student from the University of Florida stated that his personal life mission is make an impact on the lives of others, and he wanted to become involved.

“People simply want to help and it is very refreshing since so much of what we see and hear is negative or bad news,” said Laurie.

Learn more or sign up to participate in the Care Cards program on