Opinion: Shalom Community Center adopts a great new name befitting its role as a beacon

Last week, Bloomington’s city council meeting grew a bit contentious when it was revealed that the city’s administration has a notion to rename the planning and transportation department.

Unaware photographers will learn what some people already know: At the heart of the Shalom Center on South Walnut, you will see a reflection of yourself. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The idea is to eliminate “and transportation” from the department’s name. I made a Shakespearean joke of it: A road by any other name would spell a street.

This week’s bigger news about an organizational renaming deserves better than a dumb joke.

On Tuesday night, Shalom Community Center’s executive director, Forrest Gilmore, announced that the local nonprofit, started two decades ago, will now be called Beacon.

The collection of programs that house or prevent homelessness now reaches more than 700 people per a year, according to a press release.

The press release puts it this way: “The spark has grown into a beacon of hope and hospitality in Bloomington, and so the name ‘Beacon’ was chosen to represent this organization and its many programs.

The press release quotes executive director Gilmore: “Our capacity to care has grown so significantly that we needed a new way to express that.” The press release adds, “All our efforts work together to be the light that guides you home.”

Under the umbrella of the name “Beacon” will now fall the various initiatives of the nonprofit, which will keep their individual names: Friend’s Place; Rapid Rehousing; Phil’s Kitchen; Street Outreach, and Crawford Homes.

Likewise, the day center on South Walnut, which provides meals, clothing, laundry, showers, and case management, will still be named the Shalom Center.

A beacon is a guiding light that helps people find their way. Objectively measured, I think it’s a great name for an organization that seeks to combat hunger and homelessness by helping to give people access to basic life necessities.

Of course it’s also a great word to include in the name of a news publication, like this one.

Do I see any potential for confusion between Beacon, a non-profit that is dedicated to combating homelessness, and The B Square Beacon, a one-person online news operation? Nope!

And that’s what I told Gilmore when we met at Inkwell for coffee in January. When the announcement came this week, I recalled easily that our conversation was pre-pandemic. But it was so long ago that I had to search through my emails to pin down exactly when that it happened.

Gilmore had asked to meet, because he wanted to give me a heads-up on the possibility of the name change. It was a thoughtful and meaningful gesture. The fact that it has taken nine months to finalize and several months before that to study, means it was not a decision taken lightly.

One habit I changed at the time was the way I abbreviate the name of this publication. Instead of shortening it to “The Beacon” I include “Square.” So after mid-January, self-references to this publication are either the full name “The B Square Beacon” or just “The Square Beacon” but not “The Beacon.”

No matter what it’s called, Forrest Gilmore and Beacon will continue to need our community’s support to do their work. I have no doubt they will continue to live up to the name.