A chatty group of good friends met this summer at . They laughed and teased each other and, for a moment, seemed to be on the verge of a food fight. It was if every woman in the room had known the others forever.
Although, of very divergent generations, each woman had something in common: at a point in her life, she’d felt isolated and lonely and found the remedy in an organization called Newcomers and Neighbors.
The social club sprang from Newcomers, a worldwide welcome wagon-type association that seeks to connect people as they move into a new area.
As part of the official organization, Barrington’s Newcomers had bylaws to follow, most were innocuous. But one was universally despised: Membership was limited to three years.
So many were disappointed by the practice that Newcomers and Neighbors was established; members were welcome to remain as long as they wished.
“It’s a social organization for anyone that lives in or in ZIP code 60010,” former President Susan Rodgers said.
Having moved from Singapore, Cori Fiddles has been a member for a year and has found the group has removed much of the stress from being new in town.
“It’s hard to move into an area and get the inside track, especially when you move somewhere (where) everyone is from the same place, have grown up in the same place to break in,” she said. “With Newcomers it’s not one stereotype. There’s people from all different walks of life.”
The organization boasts 96 members who have moved to from 18 states and five countries. Members either have found the club through an Internet search or by a personal recommendation. Some have become aware of the club by means of the annual September open house at the library.
“Realtors have been very helpful to us,” Rodgers said.
As a result, Newcomers and Neighbors has introduced many families and single people to friends and activities.
“We have golf, we have tennis, we have ‘Mom and Tots’ every Friday, which is great for the little ones,” Rogers said. “We have Weekend Gourmet, which is for couples; we have wine tasting. We have a myriad of activities.”
The list of activities bears Rogers out, with everything from bridge, bowling and bunco to scrapbooking and gardening.
According to Rodgers, one of the more popular activities is “Almost Gourmet.”
“Almost Gourmet is group that once a month has a cooking team of four to five people, and they plan a theme and cook everything, and then everyone else comes and they divide the cost among them,” said Rodgers, who chairs the activity. “Then all the recipes are put online, and if there’s something you particularly want, you can get (the recipe) right there.”
President Nina Stephenson is enthusiastic about the many activities and benefits the social club offers.
“The thing about our club that is so unique is that we are an umbrella club, right now we’re 96 strong. You can join any activity that suits your interest and you can join as many as you wish. There are no requirements. So, every time you join a new activity, you meet new people.
“We have young members, we have retired members, people that have just moved to Barrington, people whose circumstances have changed,” she continued. “For example, your children are finally in school or the kids are in college. The members that are well-established actually mentor the newer people, and the new people bring us a lot of activities that we didn‘t know about.”
Close friends Jan Sheppard and Cheryl Tack are an object lesson in the merits of joining Newcomers and Neighbors. Sheppard is from the Barrington area, Tack, from out of state. Each joined the club for different reasons but now share a friendship. Had they not joined, they most likely never would have crossed paths. As it is, they’ve both found a kindred spirit in one another.
Tack, who is retired, moved to Barrington from Florida to help with a health issue in the family, ending up as the youngest person in a retirement community.
“I needed some friends my age,” she said. “I debated because I wasn’t sure, at my age, if I’d fit in with the young. I can’t tell you, they are so much fun. We just laugh and I’m so welcomed.”
Sheppard has lived in Barrington for more than 25 years. “I was invited in by Nina because of the gourmet club. I had always worked and raised money for the community and been in a lot of groups, but this one is such a fun group, we have a fabulous time.”
“We have young women who have children to our newest member who is about 75,” Sheppard continued. “We’re all equal. We all support each other as women, and that’s unique — to be in that age group and fit in with someone who is so much younger than you.
Tack and Sheppard chattered happily, sometimes finishing each other’s sentences.
“We’re like family because once you’re part of the group, we totally support each other. Whether it’s through illness, or problems or if somebody needs help,” Sheppard said. “Everyone has been like an extended family.”
Barrington Newcomers and Neighbors will host its annual open house event at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 14 at the .