Lawrence D. Carlson

In the course of more than a century of serving seniors, one of New Jersey’s leading organizations in senior living and care has grown the ministry far beyond its walls. As is true with others nationwide, our mission has expanded in response to a growing population that is living longer and living better.

To that end, United Methodist Homes of New Jersey rebranded itself as United Methodist Communities (UMC). Our mission, “compassionately serving in community so that all are free to choose abundant life,” partners seamlessly with our new tagline “Abundant Life for Seniors.”

It was important for United Methodist Communities to retain a connection to our long and rich history. It was founded in 1906, when there was no Social Security, no such thing as a r

etirement community, and no safety net for older adults. Compassionate leaders and laymen of the Methodist Episcopal Church dreamed of a better way to care for “the lonely aged.”

Throughout our 110-year history as a leader in senior living and care, UMC has grown and changed to reflect the needs of our communities, residents, and families. With the development of our current strategic pla

n, UMC has broadened its scope to include home and community-based services. A major thrust is growing the ministry in many communities across New Jersey and reaching beyond the campus’ walls to seniors wherever they live.

Today UMC has a more influential voice as a system of ten communities, versus ten individual communities. The shorter, more accurate new name will help build statewide impact and long-term name recognition.

A larger statewide brand presence is now reflected among our ten sites, with the parent name placed first.  The individual community names retain their heritage, but align with the parent organization.  For example, the Shores at Wesley Manor is now United Methodist Communities at the Shores (Ocean City).  The others are United Methodist Communities at: Bristol Glen (Newton), Collingswood (Collingswood), Covenant Place (Plainfield), Francis Asbury (Ocean Grove), PineRidge of Montclair (Montclair), Pitman (Pitman), Wesley by the Bay (Ocean City), The Wesleyan (Red Bank), and Bishop Taylor (East Orange).  

Transitioning from homes to communities emphasizes multiple levels and types of service, and shifts away from anursing home-only perception. Additionally, including the word “communities” in the new name speaks to engagement with older adults and forming partnerships with other organizations that focus on seniors and improve community health.  It emphasizes person-centered living, and both home and community-based services.

The branding process started with vetting and then collaborating with BrandEquity of Newton, MA. Of note, over the past 15 years the firm has successfully developed more than 30 branding projects in the Senior Services market. It wanted to showcase UMC as a unified and highly regarded organization, not just a collection of parts.

BrandEquity’s challenge was to assure that the brand going forward would be true to UMC’s mission, legacy and values. Maintaining “United Methodist” in the name and signifying the strategic commitment to serving older adults wherever they live, in whatever “community,” emerged as key branding decisions. BrandEquity skillfully used its broad experience in older adult services to guide the strategic branding process, which took many months.

Our new logo is derived from the roof shape of the previous logo, expanding it into four distinctly colored and connected houses in the form of a cross and conveying unity in mission, diversity, and faith-based roots and values. The four houses symbolize a colorful and rich tapestry of abundant life and point outward, indicating a reach outside of our physical locations into the broader community.

The logo’s Rockwell font with square serifs, designed at the turn of the 20th century shortly before the organization was founded, visually links to UMC’s past but simultaneously looks and feels contemporary.

UMC will continue to offer independent and assisted living, memory support, post-acute rehabilitation, respite, long-term care, and hospice and palliative care, in addition to a broadened focus on home and community-based services through a program called “HomeWorks.” Our goal is to help seniors successfully age-in-place, whether they remain in their own homes or choose to live on one of the ten campuses across New Jersey. 

Today, United Methodist Communities has 1,400 residents, more than 1,000 employees and more than 100 years of compassionate care to seniors in New Jersey.  Striking the perfect balance, the fresh new brand retains the Methodist name and also honors the organization’s equity of the past.

Lawrence D. Carlson is the president and CEO at United Methodist Communities.