Carol Hanover: Building community through conversation
When Carol Hanover graduated college with a degree in journalism, she wanted to be the next Barbara Walters. Although her life took a different path, focused on family and working at her husband’s software business and in public relations, Carol still has a passion for news. She shares that passion with 2Life residents through biweekly current events discussions at Shillman House and Coleman House.
It all started 11 years ago when Carol was completing her term on the board of Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE), 2Life’s predecessor organization. An active volunteer since childhood, Carol was anxious to continue contributing to 2Life in some way. Carol recalls, “I thought perhaps I could lead a discussion group, and the leadership said ‘great!’” She notes that she started conducting sessions at Shillman, later expanding to Coleman. When she spends the winter months in Florida, Carol keeps up the conversation via Zoom.
Every two weeks, Carol selects timely topics and gathers material to help inform the conversations. Topics run the gamut — from politics and health care to everyday pocketbook issues and human-interest stories. But participants are empowered to steer the conversation to topics that are on their minds.
“It’s really about offering an opportunity for social interaction, so whatever the group wants to discuss is fine with me,” Carol explains, noting that a recent session shifted to a discussion on the high cost of food, sparked by a question from one of the group members. “Sometimes the direction the discussion takes is very surprising.”
Carol says the group makeup has been fairly consistent over the years, with some new members joining from time to time. “It’s a great group of people who like to be together,” she adds. One of those people is Sylvia Susman, a resident at Shillman House who has been attending the discussion group for just over a year.
“I’ve always been interested in politics and current events, so I thought I might like it,” says Sylvia. “I found Carol to be delightful.” Sylvia notes that she particularly likes Carol’s careful preparation and her manner of moderating discussions. “She’s very inclusive; everyone gets a chance to contribute to the discussion. I’m very fond of Carol.”
Carol says she gets as much out of the discussions as the group, expanding her community connections even as it expands theirs. “Over the years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the buildings, some of whom also attend my synagogue,” Carol says, noting that she’s working to strengthen involvement of her congregation at nearby Shillman House.
“I want people to recognize that 2life is an important part of the larger community.” - Carol Hanover