American Heart Month at Homeland: Healthy staff, happy residents


When Homeland Employee Wellness Coordinator Roxane E. Hearn, PhD sees Homeland Center staff wearing scrubs that have grown baggy from weight loss, it warms her heart.

“You see them moving faster,” she said. “They say they’re not as tired on their shift or feel they have more energy to spend time with family.”

“Dr. Rox,” as she is affectionately known, is a resource for helping to keep Homeland Center and Homeland at Home staff healthy and on their toes. For American Heart Month this February, she offered fun incentives and challenges to protect the hearts that, in turn, protect Homeland’s residents and patients.

A human heart at peak condition keeps the body energized and alert. When the heart pumps blood properly, a person stays focused and avoids fatigue. Shortness of breath makes it hard to push carts of meals or medical supplies through the halls. The body is strong enough to help a resident move around the room or get out for an activity they enjoy, whether listening to a musician or making a craft.

A healthy heart also shows up outside of work, giving staff the motivation and energy to play with children, exercise, and enjoy a favorite hobby. All are essential to the work-life balance that equips Homeland staff to manage life’s daily stressors.

Put it all together, and Homeland keeps its heart-health initiatives beating. Dr. Rox is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a doctorate in health psychology, a certification in functional nutrition counseling, and has recently begun to place strong emphasis on the use of a functional medicine approach to health and wellness in the Homeland employee population. Functional medicine doesn’t replace traditional medicine. Instead, it takes a holistic view that considers the whole person and seeks to identify and address the root causes of health issues, aiming to understand the underlying imbalances or dysfunctions that contribute to symptoms.

“Hearts don’t always send warning signs when they start becoming unhealthy; even when they do, people often ignore them,” Dr. Rox said. “It is imperative to teach employees to listen to their bodies and get their preventative screenings.”

She provides blood pressure screenings and helps staff see signs of approaching danger in all by understanding the medical terms on their lab tests. From there, she recommends steps for improvement. As she likes to say, family predispositions to heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are no excuse for complacency.

“Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle and diet pull the trigger,” she said. “With that in mind, you do have some control. You can change the trajectory.”

For American Heart Month, Homeland staff participated in the Commit to Fit Wellness Challenge, a six-week mobile app-based program that helps employees take proactive steps towards healthy lifestyle goals. Participants receive points for tracking physical activity, taking steps, rating their nutrition, and checking their weight routinely. Cash rewards are given through the challenge to support their efforts.

Additionally, Heart Healthy 7-Day Meal Plans approved by a Registered Dietician with the matching grocery list and step-by-step recipes were emailed and posted on the Homeland Employee Wellness Board. The meal plan focused on key nutritional considerations for a healthy heart and recommended meals that were low in sodium and reduced saturated fats and included healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, and plant sterols that block cholesterol absorption in food.

“We are now starting to teach the employees how to use food as medicine. We are empowering them to take charge of their health by not just telling them what to do but teaching them and giving them the tools to execute,” said Dr. Rox.

The emphasis on heart and overall health doesn’t end after February. Every quarter brings a new wellness challenge. Webinars zero in on specific health topics, such as fighting inflammation or maximizing digestion. One-to-One health coaching by Dr. Rox provides personalized support for employees by helping them set and achieve their health goals. This support includes tailored guidance on nutrition, exercise, disease management, stress reduction strategies, and overall wellness. Through regular meetings both in person and via a telehealth portal, the employees are provided with accountability, motivation, and education, empowering them to make sustainable lifestyle changes and improve their health outcomes. Lifestyle and diet recommendations are a staple in the Homeland Employee Wellness Program, with constant suggestions to eat right, exercise regularly, quit smoking, limit alcohol, get quality sleep, and manage stress.

“We are giving employees the information and support they need so they can take charge of their health,” said Dr. Rox. “Proactiveness is crucial.”

She recalls a Homeland Hospice nurse who cared for multiple family members and patients. About eight years ago, Dr. Rox helped her quit smoking, change poor eating habits ingrained by long days of driving, and learn “box breathing,” a form of deep breathing known to calm frazzled nerves. Gradually, the nurse lost 50 pounds.

“Lifestyle change is something you’re able to maintain and be flexible with, despite life’s twists, turns, and hurdles,” said Dr. Rox. “Habits can change in 21 days, but the more sustainable change takes longer.”

Creating sustainable changes is key to Homeland’s commitment to health and well-being – for staff and residents.

“When staff are healthy, the environment for the residents is safer, and they receive better-quality service,” said Dr. Rox. “Happy, healthy employees make for happier, and healthier residents.”

Barbara and Phil Talarico’s Carpool Love Story


A love connection often begins at the most unexpected time. An ordinary day can be the start of an extraordinary relationship. Call it destiny or luck, 40 years ago on a cold and wintry day, Phil Talarico saw his now wife Barbara waiting for the bus to go to work. He offered her a ride and the two have been together ever since. The couple has created a beautiful life filled with faith, family and love of serving others, including volunteering with Homeland Hospice.

Before that momentous winter day, Barbara and Phil knew each other from their coworkers. On Thursday nights, Barbara and Phil would join their friends who worked at various departments at the State of Pennsylvania for a night out. Conversation was easy on their first ride to work and soon the couple was carpooling regularly.

“Most people looked forward to the weekends,” Barbara says. “I looked forward to the weekdays so I could see Phil.”

Barbara and Phil were married a year and half later. They recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary and have two grown children. For the past three decades, the couple has lived in Mechanicsburg. They began volunteering for Homeland after retiring more than 10 years ago. Barbara’s mother had received excellent care through a hospice organization in Altoona and the couple had a friend living at Homeland Center.

“Several signs pointed us to Homeland,” Barbara adds. “We were ready to jump right in to helping out.”

Barbara and Phil completed a comprehensive volunteer training program provided by Homeland before visiting patients receiving hospice care. Barbara’s first patient was Charlie who quickly became a grandfather figure to her. Charlie was under care for more than two years which gave Barbara time to get to know him and hear his life story.

“Charlie was family to me,” Barbara says. “I was heartbroken when he died.”

Phil understands the heartache and wonderment of life that comes when you walk with a patient on their end-of-life journey. Phil’s most memorable patient was a young man who passed away at 30-years-old.

“I cried my eyes out when he died,” Phil says. “It was one of the saddest moments in my life.”

During his time with a different patient, Phil was by the man’s side as he was actively dying. The man told Phil he saw an angel standing close to Phil. The utter awe of this moment stays with Phil to this day.

“I have read books about people describing their experiences as they are close to death,” Phil adds. “I was blessed to hear this firsthand.”

In addition to patient visits, Barbara and Phil participate in the Wreaths Across America event held each December across the country. Locally, Homeland Hospice holds a wreath-laying ceremony at Dauphin County Cemetery. Volunteers place wreaths and flags on the fence outlining the cemetery. The flags represent each branch of the military, soldiers missing in action and prisoners of war.

The couple has also helped support countless Homeland events like the Homeland Hospice 5K and Memory Walk and remembrance dinners. This shared volunteer experience helps the couple further connect and bond.

“I learn so much from the patients I visit,” Phil adds. “I enjoy telling Barbara about my experiences.”

Barbara has also taken on administrative duties at Homeland’s office. She volunteers to make bereavement calls and helps with mailings and general office duties. This has given her added insight into the scope of Homeland’s work.

Barbara and Phil exemplify the power of compassionate volunteerism in action. Their positive spirit and love for others fill the hearts of those around them, especially those of the hospice patients they serve.

“We love Homeland,” Barbara says. “We can’t imagine our lives without this organization.”

For more information on how to volunteer with Homeland, call (717) 222-7890.

Homeland Director of Emergency Preparedness and Purchasing Kelly English: A passionate steward


When buying Homeland equipment — from large purchases down to the right chair a resident needs to live and move comfortably — Kelly English makes one thing clear.

“I will never sacrifice quality to get a better price for something,” he said. “I’m never going to skimp on quality just to get a cheaper price.”

Kelly English joined Homeland in July 2023 in the dual role of Director of Emergency Preparedness and Purchasing. His career and degrees in law enforcement and homeland security prepared him for his crucial responsibilities in emergency preparedness. Still, he also takes his purchasing responsibilities seriously for their power to save money while upholding Homeland’s renowned quality and consistency in care.

English graduated from Penn State University, main campus, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He spent 20 years with the Harrisburg Police Department, retiring in July 2022. For 15 of those years, he was a detective handling the city’s bomb-detecting K9. The role familiarized him with the city’s institutions, including Homeland.

His immersion in homeland security training inspired him to earn a master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security, with a concentration in cybersecurity policy, from Arizona State University’s top-rated program. Upon retirement from policing, he started talking with Homeland about bringing his skills and passion here.

Since joining Homeland in July 2023, English has overseen upgrades that directly impact the lives and wallets of patients and their families. With his knowledge of emergency preparedness and security procedures, he procured systems that leverage the latest technology to ward off threats and protect residents, staff, and visitors of Homeland Center and Homeland at Home.

In purchasing, English has renegotiated contracts to enhance Homeland’s buying power and, by extension, save money for the families of residents. Recently renegotiating the contract for alternating pressure mattresses – a fundamental need to keep residents safe and healthy – he helped Homeland retain the same high-quality mattresses but brought down the monthly fees.

He also ensures that vendors share Homeland’s commitment to the residents and their quality of life. After joining Homeland, he scheduled one of his first meetings with a local medical device supplier who, he knew, could provide the necessary pieces at a moment’s notice.

“This is a 24/7 facility, and our residents can arrive at any time with a new condition that requires specialized equipment,” English said. “I need to know that 24 hours a day, I can get a hold of something no matter where it is. It goes back to never skimping on the quality of care for our residents, so I believe in creating relationships locally with businesses to ensure that the supply chain remains strong.”

The team at Homeland has welcomed him.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Everyone has been extremely welcoming. It is definitely a family atmosphere, which is nice. It’s very supportive. People have been very receptive to me and to what I can bring to the table. It’s a very, very good working environment.”

Outside of Homeland, English and his wife have two kids – a 15-year-old son who plays ice hockey including with the Hershey Jr. Bears and lacrosse, and a 17-year-old daughter who plays lacrosse and field hockey. The busy family lives on a 4-acre farm in the Hershey area. There, they raise pigs, sheep, chickens, and ducks.

The farm is his wife’s passion, but a team effort, caring for livestock – another 24/7 venture – and slaughtering and curing their charcuterie meats. About twice a year, they team with a pair of Ohio butchers who come to the farm and teach interested students, such as organic farmers, their traditional curing processes learned directly from elderly artisans throughout Europe.

English likes taking on challenges, embracing them with his role at Homeland.

“I definitely come to work every day with a passion to keep all of our residents and staff secure and try to make the next day better than the last,” he said. “There is a lot of support throughout central Pennsylvania for Homeland, and I want to be a good steward of that and help Homeland be around for many years to come.”