Club welcomes newcomers to Pa.

April 02, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

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GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Nancy Bode didn't like the yellow gravy.

Pat Fridgen didn't understand how anyone could call "something that looked like noodle soup with a crust, potpie."

Sara Picka marveled at the mountains.

That was in late 1996. The three women moved from Mankato, Minn., to Greencastle when their husbands' jobs shifted to Regency Thermographics Inc., a printing firm in Waynesboro, Pa.

The women found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings and they were a little lonely for Mankato, a town of about 40,000 about 60 miles south of Minneapolis.


"One day Pat called me and said, 'Let's start a newcomers club,'" Bode said. "I called Sara. We met, decided to do it and sent notices to the local papers inviting people to join.

"We held our first meeting in April and 14 people showed up. We were elated," she said.

Now the Greencastle-Antrim Newcomers Club has more than 30 members. It meets the first Monday of the month at the Chef's Kitchen restaurant.

"Membership is open to anyone who was not born here. We don't care if you've been here for 20 years. Our only rule is you can't be a native," Picka said.

"We want to keep it as open as possible," she said.

The women, who were friends in Minnesota, said the Greencastle area is growing by 4 percent to 5 percent a year.

"There are new people moving in all the time, so we hope to get more members," Picka said.

They said the club has helped them adjust to and learn more about their surroundings, especially through speakers invited to their meetings.

"We try to tap speakers who can teach us something about the area," Picka said.

Members meet new people and make friends at monthly meetings and social functions like club barbecues, picnics and dinners at each others' homes.

Picka, 31, works full time and is expecting her first child. Bodes, 48, works part time. She has two grown children who stayed in Minnesota and a 15-year-old son in Greencastle. Fridgen, 42, is a stay-at-home mom. She has five children, ages 3 to 15.

Picka was the first of the three to move to Greencastle.

"It was near the interstate, so it gave us a sense of direction, where things were," she said.

Next came Fridgen. She knew Picka was here and Fridgen liked the local school district.

Bode's son and one of Fridgen's were in the same class back home. Now they're in the same class here.

"We felt it would be easier for him to make the transition," Bode said of her son.

Before moving here, Bode had come East only twice, both times accompanying her husband on business trips to Washington, D.C.

Fridgen went to Washington once as a chaperone on a school trip, and Picka went there on class trip as a student.

Each has her own impression of life in southern Franklin County, Pa.

"The history is so different here. The roots of the country started here," Picka said.

Fridgen said she can't get used to the narrow roads and "how close together everything is."

Bode said she misses the snow in Minnesota, "but not the mosquitoes."

All three, their upper Midwest accents intact, said they also miss the good feeling they had from beating the tough Minnesota winters.

"The weather is very nice here," Picka said.

More information on the club can be obtained by calling 1-717-593-9058 or 1-717-593-9137.

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