Is a pandemic a good time to join a new club?
The women who make up the Tri-Cities Newcomers Club think so.
Don’t let the club’s name throw you off. It isn’t strictly for newcomers. It’s a group designed to help women meet one another through social activities and special interest groups.
And there are oodles of activities to choose from: coffee dates, wine and dine events, a monthly luncheon, bunko groups, needlework, pinochle, golf, cooking, gardening, book clubs and bridge.
Of course the past year’s Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns meant many of the group’s activities moved online or were postponed, but the members hope this changes soon as more people are vaccinated and infection rates drop.
The club’s six-page March newsletter announced that the Chick Flicks group wanted to plan an outing to Fairchild Cinemas. “I am ready to try a new movie release,” wrote Patty Kroy, chairwoman of the group, in the newsletter.
Trudie Walsh of Kennewick, the group’s president, said the club will follow all the state’s phase guidelines.
“No exception. We’ve asked each of the activity chairs to talk to their people and get back to us to let us know how they feel. So far, there’s almost a consensus about this. People are OK with meeting outside and staying apart and bringing your own food,” she said.
A diverse group
Tri-Citians who have lived in the area for a long time also are welcome to join Newcomers. “There are people who are members who have lived here for years,” said Jane Rickel, publicity chairwoman.
The club is a member of Visit Tri-Cities, which Rickel said has been great for attracting new members.
Only women are allowed, although the club does organize mixers that include men.
Walsh said it’s a diverse group with a lot of members who have lived all over the U.S. “That gives us a better mix of ideas,” she said. She also said the group’s political makeup doesn’t necessarily reflect the area’s, which she found refreshing when she first joined.
Most members are seniors who are retired but that’s not a requirement to join.
“I’m 60 and I’m one of the younger people,” Walsh laughed.
“We welcome everybody and there’s so many different things to do, and we’re trying to get more things going like board game nights,” she said.
Walsh said the group’s book clubs, held online via Zoom, have thrived in the past year.
During a recent meeting, the nine in attendance talked about why they joined the 119-member club.
Nancy Kaushal of Richland joined the group when she moved to the area in 1999.
“I did not plan to look for a job, and since my children were grown and gone, I needed a way to meet people. I have made many lifelong Newcomer friends here and have learned to play golf and pinochle in the process. As a former English teacher, books have always been a part of my life. The book club Zoom meetings were a godsend during the pandemic,” she said.
Nancy Barnum of Richland, who joined the group in 1991, was used to military life providing a social lifeline as a Navy wife.
“When I got here, I didn’t know where to turn. I went to the Atomic Bowl (now Fiesta) because I had been on bowling leagues before. The man at the desk gave me the name of the secretary of one of their daytime leagues. But, he said, they have some funny rule about joining them. I called the secretary and she laughed and said the funny rule was that I had to join Newcomers. That was my lifeline and I have made many friends over the years and held most of the offices at one time or another,” she said.
When Carole Davis moved to the Tri-Cities in 2019, the only person she knew was her daughter.
“I knew from my move to California 50 years ago that Newcomers Club was a wonderful way to meet wonderful people. And I was not disappointed. I went to every event I heard of and met wonderful people,” she said.
Keeping the club going during the lockdown of the 2020 pandemic was vital, she said.
“I don’t know what I would have done without Newcomers. I would have been totally isolated and completely dependent on my daughter. Thank goodness for Newcomers and Zoom,” she said.
No one knows exactly when the group started but it goes back to at least in 1968 when there were separate newcomer clubs in Richland and Kennewick. The two groups merged in 2005.
Annual membership has been reduced to $10 due to pandemic. It will return to $20 annually in 2022, Walsh said.
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