Senior leadership program making strides

Most of us are familiar with the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world." That is exactly what the Orange Senior Leadership Program Class of 2006 is doing in their own respective parts of the world. The Senior Leadership Program is a premier, first-time program of the Orange Community Services Department in conjunction with the Leadership Center of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

The program is funded by United Way of Greater New Haven, which will be recognizing the partnership between the Town of Orange Senior Services Department and the Leadership Center at the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce with a Community Impact Award at its annual Community Spirit and Recognition Award Luncheon Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 500 Blake Street.

The purpose of the program is to identify aspiring community leaders over the age of 55 and support their growth through leadership training and community education. Last summer a selection committee composed of representatives of the Town of Orange and the Leadership Center reviewed applications to select 15 individuals to embark on this pilot program. The group has been meeting once a month from 9 am to 3 pm in various locations throughout town to hear presentations on such topics as the history and economic development of Orange, community services, educational services, communication and the media, advocacy skills and team building. For the Feb. 22 session, the group will be on air with the Jerry Kristafer morning show (960AM-WELI), tour the New Haven Register, and then take a tour of Channel 8, followed by watching the noon news in the studio. In March, the group will travel to Hartford for a tour of the State Capitol and meetings with local legislators.

One of the requirements and opportunities of the Senior Leadership Program for the participants is involvement in a community service project team. Each team investigates, researches and addresses issues of concern in the community. By focusing on a critical issue and through the efforts of the team, positive community change is made possible. Part of the team experience is the process of defining a focus, developing information sources and resources, gathering background materials, and developing a working team. The second part of the experience is the product that can extend beyond the conclusion of the leadership program. This product is part of the legacy of the Senior Leadership program.

Participants in this year's program are participating on three team projects of their own choosing. The Computer Team, consisting of Pat Lucey, Michael Galaty, Bob Garvey, Baxter Walsh, Kathleen Gorelick, and Jim Mossey, has been working to establish a computer-training program at the Orange Senior Center. They have conducted a survey of older residents to assess the interest in a computer-training center and received an overwhelmingly positive response. The team is in the process of contacting local civic groups, foundations, and businesses for start-up funding to purchase five to six computers, a projection screen, and tables and chairs for a room that has been designated at High Plains Community Center to house the training program. The team is also looking for experienced volunteer trainers. The Computer Training program is anticipated to begin in late spring.

The Arts Council Team, consisting of Pat Miller, Ronnie Hendrick, Sandy Dadlani, Bonnie Cappola, and Vickie Grande, chose as its project, the re-establishment of the Orange Arts Council. The group has met with members and staff of the Greater New Haven Arts Council, the Milford Fine Arts Council, the Connecticut Department of Tourism and Culture as well as other resources around the state to obtain information and guidance. Team members have also attended regional arts council meetings in Milford and Middletown. The team organized an informational meeting and sent invitations to Orange residents and to Orange arts and civic organizations. The proposed goals of the Art Council include the presentation of cultural experiences for the town, the development of a working relationship and ongoing support from town officials, the facilitation of awareness of and participation in regional cultural experiences, and ultimately, to secure a performing/exhibition space in town.

The Senior Housing Team, consisting of Joy Habib, Trish O'Leary Treat, Raymond Fildes, and Rose Bradley, has done a survey to determine the level of interest in senior housing among the residents of Orange. They have met with architects to educate themselves about the barriers involved in senior housing construction. The team will continue to gather information and hopes to compile a report with recommendations to be presented to town officials.

If anyone is interested in completing a computer or housing survey, donating funds for the computer center, becoming a volunteer computer trainer, being on the Arts Center development committee, or in an application for next year's Senior Leadership Program, they can contact Joanne Byrne, senior services coordinator, at 891-2154.