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Here’s the scoop

What’s in a name?

By John J. Tassoni, Jr.

William Shakespeare answered this question in his play, Romeo and Juliet, like this:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, religious ceremony, and even in pop culture. Certainly, everyone recognizes himself or herself by name. It is our first and most lasting identifier. But sometimes a simple name change can mean a world of difference to someone who needs help.

Last month, I suggested to the Town Manager and members of the Town Council that the name of the town’s Public Welfare Department be changed to Human Services. A motion was made to do so, and the name change was approved by a unanimous vote.

Why was this name change so significant?

One of the biggest problems of people who must rely on welfare for support is attitude. The harsh stereotypes of welfare recipients are often humiliating and degrading. The stigma of people who live in poverty has long suggested waste, fraud and abuse, though nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, only a small percentage of welfare recipients have been proven to abuse the system. People on welfare often feel ashamed and inferior because they had to ask for assistance.

Within the past decade of a slumping economy, there are many individuals and families who are only one paycheck away from needing the help provided by a department such as Human Services. As the name suggests, this department is a service, one that helps people in need of food, assistance with utility costs to keep their heat or lights on, and with other basic amenities needed to survive.

Additionally, the town’s Human Services is now located in the Smithfield Senior Center, located at 1 William J. Hawkins, Jr. Trail in Deerfield Park, to offer complete confidentiality and convenience in a pleasant community setting.

One such example of their prompt assistance was when a homeless man recently visited the Senior Center in dire need of food, shelter and care. The staff immediately helped place the man in a warm, safe place to help restore his dignity and get him on a better life path.

Whether it is a one-time visit or repeated visits, the newly named, newly located Human Services department is there to help and not judge anyone’s circumstances.

As always, donations to help our townspeople, especially gift cards to buy groceries or health and beauty items, and non-perishable foods for the food bank, as well as cash, are always welcome.

So, what’s in a name? Plenty. The Human Services department is there to help meet the needs of humans by providing an interdisciplinary base of knowledge that focuses on prevention as well as remediation of problems and maintains a commitment to improving the overall quality of life for our neighbors in Smithfield, just like the name says.

For more information, contact the Smithfield Senior Center at (401) 949-4590. They are always happy to help.