Friendship in groups:

To meet people, newcomers need to open selves to the community in clubs, at work and elsewhere

To meet people, newcomers need to open selves to the community in clubs, at work and elsewhere

January 13, 2003

While the unfamiliar views in your new town may be daunting, veteran movers say the best way to start expanding your circle of friends is to step outside your home and into the community.

"You just have to get out there. It's a hard thing to do," said Anne Larew, president of the Greencastle (Pa.) Newcomers Club.

The self-titled "combat veteran of moving" moved 20 times in 26 years while her husband was in the military. She has lived in Greencastle since 1999 and has two sons, ages 10 and 18.


Larew admitted that it can be easier to make friends in military circles than in the civilian world.

"In the military, you almost have an automatic group to join," Larew said.

In order to make new friends, you have to avail yourself to the people around you, said Glenn Yeager, pastor of Hagerstown Family Church.

"If you're new to the area, go ahead and take the hand that's held out to you," Yeager said.

Don't be afraid to extend your hand, either.

If you tell people that you're a newcomer, they often will be very welcoming, Larew added.

Opportunities abound

The opportunities to meet new people vary with family and employment situations.

Those who work outside the home have a chance to make friends at their place of employment and through business connections, Larew said.

Attending a place of worship is another great way to meet people.

"I would recommend finding a church you feel good about," said Peggy Clark, who moved to Sharpsburg in 1999 from the suburbs of Chicago.

If you find a church that suits your needs, "step out and get involved," Clark advised. She has followed her own advice, playing percussion instruments for services on a regular basis at Covenant Baptist Church in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Yeager's church offers home-based groups for those who are intimidated to walk into a church without knowing anyone. Participants engage in Bible study, build relationships and pray together about "real stuff," like deaths in the family and the trials of raising teens.

Having younger children seems to be the foundation for a vast social network. Parents can meet each other through their youngsters' school and extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs and Scouting.

"Getting active in the school was a good way to meet people," said Michelle Ward, a member of the welcoming committee at Foxcrest Manor, a subdivision in Inwood, W.Va. She helps out at Valley View Elementary School near Martinsburg, W.Va., where her son Thomas attends kindergarten. She and her husband, Jim, also have another son, Jim, a fourth-grader, and a daughter, Susan, 15 months.

Ward said some of her neighbors have donated their time and skills at schools, even if they don't have school-aged children.

When moving as a family, parents often worry more about how their children will adjust, Larew said, particularly older children who are being torn from close friendships.

While those concerns are valid, it's important for everyone to seek bonds beyond the family unit.

"We were looking outside of our family immediately," Yeager said of himself and his wife, Margaret, who moved to Hagerstown four years ago from Frederick, Md. They have eight children, ages 3 to 17.

Glenn and Margaret Yeager joined the YMCA, where he plays basketball and she takes aerobics classes, and their children are involved in school and sporting activities.

"It really does take an honest effort on (people's) part if they want to be connected," Yeager said.

The club connection

Clark did not have the child link when she moved to Washington County, since her daughter was 22 and her son was 24. So she had to try something else.

She obtained a real estate license, meeting many people in her classes and later in her expanding business circles.

In 2000, Clark also joined Newcomers Unlimited in Washington County.

"It was a little bit scary," Clark said of joining the social club, because she didn't know anyone. But because she is an outgoing person, she told herself, "I'm just going to go."

Now she is co-president with Cheryl Saylor of Hagerstown and has many opportunities to spread the word about the group to her real estate clients.

The 100-member Newcomers Unlimited hosts a monthly luncheon at various Washington County eateries that includes programs with topics ranging from light to meaty. It also offers subgroups for special interests, such as golf, bridge, Mah Jong and books.

Similarly, the Greencastle Newcomers Club, for women, meets monthly at Greencastle Presbyterian Church. Members have a short business meeting, then socialize and listen to speakers who cover a variety of topics.

The Greencastle Newcomers host two or three family outings a year that involve activities such as bowling, skating and picnics, as well as events for couples.

Members have evolved into their own groups, including those who like couples' game nights, golf and day trips, Larew said.

Whether you're a club person or prefer to meet people in a less-organized setting, a positive attitude is a key ingredient when trying to make friends in a new place.

You won't gain any allies in a new town if you complain about it, Larew said.

"It pays to be positive," she said. "I chose not to be miserable. There is an element of choice to it."

If you go ...

Interested in attending a Newcomers meeting?

Newcomers Unlimited - Luncheons are generally held the third Thursday of each month at 11:30 a.m. at various Washington County eateries. For information, call Lynn Brumbelow at 301-733-5448 or Judy Waters at 301-790-3735.

Greencastle (Pa.) Newcomers Club - Meets the first Monday of every month (except for Labor Day) at 7 p.m. at Greencastle Presbyterian Church, 57 W. Baltimore St. For information, call Anne Larew at 1-717-593-4538.

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