Club offers newcomers friendship, support

Club offers newcomers friendship, support

They’re called Newcomers, but some members have been in the area
for more than a decade, sharing coffee, friendship, advice and
support for one another. An informal precursor to the wildly
popular Red Hat Society, the club’s branches reach around the globe
to every continent except Africa and Antarctica.
They’re called Newcomers, but some members have been in the area for more than a decade, sharing coffee, friendship, advice and support for one another. An informal precursor to the wildly popular Red Hat Society, the club’s branches reach around the globe to every continent except Africa and Antarctica.

The Newcomers Club is a loosely organized group with chapters that serve as a way to welcome new people to town. While some chapters have strict rules limiting the number of years members can be involved in the club, Morgan Hill’s chapter, the only one in the South Valley, does not turn away any of the 40 or so women that claim membership at any given time.

Started in 1992 by a Swedish expat, the local chapter began, simply enough, with an ad in the newspaper.

“It said, ‘I’m new in town. Would you like to get together for coffee?'” said Kathy Whiteaker, one of the founding members in the local chapter. “I’d been in town probably about three weeks, so I called and said I’d love to.”

Whiteaker arrived for coffee the next week, and within a few more meetings their tête-à-tête had expanded to five people.

“We’d take trips – go down to Carmel or Monterey and all these places that we’d never seen,” said Whiteaker.

Karen Anderson joined the group when she moved to town from Saratoga in 1998, quickly making friends among established members. Having belonged to chapters in Saratoga, Calif.; Tarzana, Calif. and Vancouver, British Columbia, she was excited to get out and start meeting people. “It gives you an instant mini social life,” said Anderson. “If you want to get out or go to lunch, you know who to call right away. It helps you to move into the community immediately – you run into people you’ve met at Safeway.”

Marlene Sherwin, one of the local club’s organizing forces, says “It’s just a great place to find out a doctor, a dentist, a window washer. Plus, there are people who have similar interests, so we have a group that golfs, a bridge group and a set that plays Bunco.”

The club, made up mostly of retirees and other unemployed women, has no official officers, but Sherwin is its de facto president say Whiteaker and Anderson.

Meetings are generally small as many of the members travel frequently. Anderson and her husband each logged more than 100,000 miles on United Airlines in 2004 alone visiting tropical Myanmar as well as the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Anderson plans to keep up with her Newcomers membership, despite the fact that she’s now been in town nearly seven years.

“I was in Newcomers in Saratoga during the late 60s and early 70s,” said Anderson. “The club got so popular that they limited the number of years you could stay to three, but all these people who were getting kicked out missed their club, so they started a new one called Encore where they didn’t have to leave. I like being able to stay around here.”

Still, Anderson fears for the future of women’s clubs in general.

“It was very fashionable to belong to one 30 years ago, but I think women’s clubs in general are shrinking,” said Anderson. “The reality of these clubs is that they don’t keep reaching out and then they die.”

But Whiteaker said to just give things time.

“So many younger women have jobs and children in school,” said Whiteaker. “I think when you have children in school you have a lot of avenues for meeting people, but that’s not as easy when you get a bit older, so a club like Newcomers is very helpful.”

The informal women’s group meets for coffee or an activity twice a month. Men are welcome to join, although the club currently has no male members.

Quarterly outings within the community take members to see things like Christmas in the Park, which was featured in the last outing, along with lunch and The Polar Express in Imax format.

New members of the community as well as established residents looking for a couple of social hours are welcome to any of the events, held on the second Wednesday and fourth Friday of each month. For more information, call Marlene at (408) 779-4559.

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