New name, rebranding for former Ava Dorfman Senior Center

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Keeping in mind that the now former Ava Dorfman Senior Center is a place where “friendships are made and grown,” board members, staff and members have helped re-brand the facility with a new name.

Copper City Community Connection at 305 E. Locust St. is now a place where not only seniors, but the baby boomer generation, can come socialize — meeting new people while engaging in a variety of activities that encourage learning and growth.

“Our board had been thinking of a name change for several years now, and recognizing the need for change had a lot to do with the decision,” said Executive Director Susan Streeter. “Our society, in general across the nation, has a had negative view of what a senior center is. Centers weren’t getting that younger population.”

“That increasingly became our goal when I came on (as executive director) almost three years ago, but we still were not capturing that age 50-55, or 60-year-old person,” she said. “The baby boomers’ perception of a senior center is negative — their vision is that of a group of old people sitting in rocking chairs, watching TV, but that’s just not the case.”

On Jan. 30, the Ava Dorfman Senior Center will officially become Copper City Community Connection where “Life Is Better with Friends” with a special celebration and re-dedication party. The organization is re-imaging aging, and Streeter said Copper City Community Connection hopes to change that perception and to be viewed as a fun, active and vibrant community of friends, living life to its fullest.

Copper City Community Connection is a fresh approach for today’s more active senior in leading a more inclusive energetic community life.

“It will help seniors to maintain independent vibrant lives, connecting adults to resources and programs to enhance both social and physical health,” said Streeter.

The organization will continue to offer its calendar of events and activities, but in addition, will also include offerings to reach a broader community audience. The facility continues to be responsive to its current clientele while embracing new groups with new interests.

As a community resource Copper City Community Connection will continue to educate its members about the things that worry them most: money, health, loss of independence and loneliness, Streeter said.

“Learning something new and growing friendships are important life goals which Copper City Community Connection will help its members achieve,” the executive director said. “Adult children want a place for information. Copper City Community Connection will be that source of peace of mind knowing there is a community resource tailored to mom and dad’s goal of maintaining an independent lifestyle.”

Just as its founder Ava Dorfman did some 60 years ago, Copper City Community Connection looks forward to meet the needs and desires for all aging citizens.

“It does not want to lose sight of Ava’s contributions recognizing her important role in the history of the organization,” Streeter said. “Just as Ava was a forward thinker, Copper City Community Connection wants to carry on moving the organization forward.”

Streeter explained that board members, staff, plus old and new members of the center who volunteered, participated in a series of workshops to help come up with a new name that fit the center’s vision.

“There was a re-branding group and our members, some community members, staff from the county Office for the Aging and other community resources, all met together with the board,” she said. “We had a discussion about all the good things happening here and where we want to move. We did a lot of small group exercises.”

During the second phase of the renaming/re-branding process, board members, staff and members looked at common themes that would attract people to the center.

“Key words were that we wanted to become a resource to the community. We wanted to have a more hip approach to our facility. And we wanted to be viewed differently,” Streeter said. “One of the key functions of the organization is that we’re a place where friendships are made and grown. That came out from every single group that the first session broke us into. Then we had our second session and after the third, we put some of those words into names.”

Because Rome is known as the Copper City, the group chose a name that also made that historical connection, she said.

“And we also wanted to be connected to our health and wellness programs, adult day care... it’s a resource for families now taking care of a loved one who needs to be in a social model adult day care program, and a place where we’re re-imaging aging,” Streeter said.

Ava Dorfman will continue to be remembered as the founder of the Senior Citizens Council of Rome, New York, with the council/board keeping its name.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water — we want to recognize that Ava had an instrumental impact on the community...We don’t want to lose sight of her, but to do what she did, Ava had to be a forward thinker. She had to see what her community needed and where that needed to go. I think she would be proud of what we’ve done.”

There will be a plaque located outside the building in honor and memory of Dorfman.

In addition to its programming, Copper City Community Connection will continue to host new activities, like movie nights, cooking demonstrations, its lunch-and-learn series, dances and concerts, and other “night out” events.

“Some of our members were interested in speed dating, and I’m researching how to do that,” Streeter said.  “We want to be known as a place where life is better with friends, and I think that’s what I’ve learned in my last three years here.”

Senior Citizens Council of Rome, NY, Inc. Board of Directors are: Anthony Recco, president; Barbara M. Chilluffo, vice-president; Daniel Tartaglia, treasurer; Darlene A. Burns, secretary; the Rev. Philip A. Hearn; David Carello; Judge John C. Gannon; Michael A. Polce; Rena Hughes; and Elliott Friedman.

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