Sunday, June 10, 2012

Does Gemeinschaft Home Need a Name Change?

As someone with a German background, I love Gemeinschaft as the name of the local recovery and re-entry program for ex-offenders I’ve supported as a board member for many years. The word is usually translated “community,” or “fellowship,” an alternative to the more formal German word “Gesellschaft,” a designation for a corporation, association, or organization. 

The stately old building housing our present program was named Gemeinschaft well before the board of the present Home acquired it 25 years ago. Some visionary EMU students and grads lived there and offered hospitality to a variety of people in need, including refugees. So the name has a venerable history.

The only problem with the name is that even most supporters of the program, along with the majority of folks who live and work at the Home, are unable to define, spell, or pronounce it. It usually comes out as “Gee-MINE-Shaft” rather than the correct “Guh-MINE-Shoft” (the “o” in the last syllable pronounced like the “o” in “shop”).  The Home once received a letter addressed to “The Mine Shaft,” and “shaft” is almost always the way the last syllable is pronounced.

Our Board would like feedback on the idea of changing  the name of the house and the program while preserving “Gemeinschaft Home” for the organization that operates it. Thus we would avoid the complications and costs associated with a legal name change but simply change what appears on our sign and on our letterheads. Something like “a program of Gemeinschaft Home” could still appear as the subtitle. 

The name “Community House” has been suggested. This would simply be an English translation of the existing name, and suggests the kind of life we want residents to experience within the house--along with the sense of ownership and partnership we want with our local community. This is easily spelled and pronounced and would be meaningful to any English-speaking person.

One objection to that choice has been that there are too many other programs in our area with “community” in their name, like “Our Community Place,” “Community Mennonite Church,” “The Community Resource Center,” and “The Community Foundation.”

Please give us your suggestions, along with your rating, on a scale of 0 to 5, each of the following possibilities (with “0” meaning “strongly disapprove” and “5” “strongly approve”).

Here’s a list:

___Gemeinschaft Home (keep it the same)
___Community House
___Harrisonburg House of Hope
___Fresh Start or (Fresh Start Community)
___Freedom House
___House of Hope
___New Start (or New Start Community)
___Second Chance
___Samaritan Inn


Each of these could have “Gemeinschaft Home” in the sub heading or even as a part of the title, as in “Gemeinschaft Freedom House.”

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