Newcomers is not just for newcomers
When I was new to Ridgefield almost four years ago, I attended an event hosted by the Newcomers Club. I had been here a matter of weeks, and when I asked other women at the party how long they had lived here, I was shocked that their answers varied from a few months to several years. In Ridgefield, Newcomers isn’t just for newcomers.
Co-president Beth Steele, who moved here around the same time as I, in 2011, says, “I’m going on four years and I still want to do it. There’s always something different, and every year I meet new people. It was one of the reasons we moved here—it’s instant access and an instant network.”
With close to 250 members, Newcomers is constantly evolving. This past year, the board approved a change in the by-laws to state that the purpose of the organization is to bring together residents (both new and existing): you do not need to be new to town to join. Many of the new members are new to town, but many join because their lifestyle has changed and they want to meet people with like interests—for example, they have had their first baby, got married, become empty-nesters, or become single.
Activities are broad enough for everyone—adults, kids, teens, just men, couples, just women, working women, stay-at-home dads. They offer Cooking Club, Foreign Exchange, book clubs, lunch groups, playgroups, hiking trips, and men’s and women’s nights out, just to name a few. “Every year there’s a different dynamic, different energy, different ideas,” says Steele. “People come from different areas with different activities, so we’re flexible and open to new ideas.”
Steele and the other president, Lori MacDonald, who moved here in 2013, have become close friends because of Newcomers. Steeele has a seven-year-old daughter; Lori has 12-year-old twins at a different school. “Beth and I never would have met, but through Newcomers we have so much in common,” says MacDonald. “My friendships from Newcomers are not kid dependent. They all have a different perspective from town,” adds Steele.
A goal of Newcomers is not just to bring people together but also to expose people to all that Ridgefield has to offer. People who sign up for ClubFit, for example, get to try out different fitness studios and sports around town. Cocktails and dinner take people to new restaurants. Newcomers has partnered with Prospector Theater for its movie group. They partner with other non-profits who are looking for volunteers.
For new residents as well as for those who have lived here for longer, it’s basically one- stop shopping. “My town in New Jersey had no newcomers group, so I had to throw myself into a variety of clubs. Here, you have access to all of that,” says MacDonald.
“You go from a newcomer to a part of a community. It’s not just for people who just moved to town.”
Another recent change to Newcomers is a new format to the fall kickoff event. Instead of the traditional daytime and evening Open House, this year’s Welcome Back event is an End of Summer Picnic, to be held September 13 at the Louns-bury House on Main Street. Organizers promise that there will be something for everyone, and it’s open to the general public, not just members.
The club, which was created in 1967, also has a new tagline: “We’re serious about fun.”
“You never know what you’re going to find, but the people you meet along the way are going to be fun,” says MacDonald.
“There are completely different groups of people but all within the same network. That network then becomes bigger and bigger,” she adds. “Ultimately, that builds a stronger community and every-body stands to benefit. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
JOIN THE CLUB
Newcomers in Ridgefield currently has 193 family members and 37 individual members—the longest standing member joined in 2007. Dues are $65 per year for families, $35 for singles. There are about 20 activity groups, the most popular: the Cooking Club (pictured above).