Women's center sees mission evolve

Mystic - The former Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut unveiled its new name, Safe Futures, Thursday night in a ceremony at the Hilton Mystic.

More than 200 invited volunteers, donors, supporters and local partners were at the event to celebrate the 36-year-old agency's new brand, which Executive Director Catherine Zeiner said better reflects its mission and the people it serves.

"Over the last 36 years, our mission has evolved and refocused," Zeiner told the crowd. "After a lot of thinking and soul-searching, we decided to change our name."

The agency operates an emergency shelter and a transitional living program for families whose members have survived domestic violence or sexual assault. It also provides legal assistance, counseling and advocacy, support groups and education programs for all 21 towns in New London County.

Over the years, these services have expanded to help more and more men, boys and teenagers alongside women. Zeiner said of the people served last year, 26 percent were male - up from less than 9 percent in 1999.

But the old name and its accompanying logo of a mother holding hands with her two children no longer represented the agency or welcomed all those who might need help, Zeiner said.

At the end of a video showcasing a diverse group of volunteers for and people served by the organization, the name Safe Futures was unveiled with a new logo, designed by Providence- and New London-based branding agency Ninedot - an abstract wing coming out of the new name, with a light blue transitioning to a dark purple.

"We are not changing who we are or what we stand for," Denise Lindell, president of the agency's Board of Directors, said after the unveiling.

Emma Palzere-Rae, director of development and communications for Safe Futures, said in a phone interview that the new name will hopefully encourage a broader spectrum of victims to seek help.

"We want to be sure that the name Women's Center isn't an obstacle to anyone getting services, whether that's someone in a same-sex relationship, whether that's an adult male, whether it's a teenager or an adult male who's experiencing a bullying relationship," she said.

Other developments for Safe Futures this month include a new partnership with area police to put domestic violence victims in direct contact with the agency, which operates two 24-hour hot lines, and the reopening of its Norwich walk-in counseling center.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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