Despite its name, the Augusta Area Newcomers Club is not limited to new residents of the Augusta area.
It’s open to those who find themselves in a new stage in life and need to connect with new friends. Those newly retired, widowed, divorced or finding themselves with an empty nest all have a place in the Newcomers Club.
One family even joined when they had a new baby and were looking to connect with other new families, said Beth Karimi, the club’s hospitality chairwoman.
She joined three years ago after moving to Augusta from Ohio for her husband’s job.
“I must have heard about Newcomers from about five different people before I joined,” she said.
After the welcome coffee, which is the first step for many new members, she joined the bowling league and attended some of the monthly luncheons.
Members of the club splinter off into a variety of smaller groups that participate in a wide variety of activities.
The Out and About group takes an excursion every month, either around town or a day trip.
“(I participated) based on what I wanted to learn about the community,” she said.
Members are invited to start a new group if they want to participate in something that is not already offered.
“If someone has an interest and they’re good at it, and they feel comfortable leading the group, then they can introduce their activity. We’re not closed-minded,” said Club President DeRee Smith.
Groups currently include tennis, golf, meditation, Moms & Tots, Cappuccino Club, movie group, Out to Lunch Bunch, garden club, bowling, couples wine and appetizers, and a variety of games like euchre, bridge and mah jongg.
“In a nutshell, you can stay as busy as you want to stay,” Smith said.
She found the Newcomers Club through a friend who was a member. Though she had lived in Augusta most of her life, she found she was able to join because she had retired.
Smith said she had a hard time adjusting to retirement, because her job as a Reading First literacy coach meant she worked 10-hour days and a couple of nights a week, and frequently traveled. All of a sudden there was nothing.
“I think anybody who has been really, really busy and suddenly retires, no matter what you think you wanted to do, you have a period of acclimation,” she said. “It’s the same with anybody who is new (to the area). All of a sudden you’ve got more quiet time than you want,” she said.
Now, Smith is not only the president, but she is involved in bridge, tennis and golf, as well as board meetings and luncheons, and at least twice a month she is having lunch out with some of the members.
Karimi has not only been able to stay busy, make new friends and explore her new city, but she has explored her own interests through the club.
She found she does not enjoy tennis though she played for a year, but she does enjoy gardening and art. “I’ve explored new things that I probably wouldn’t have explored without Newcomers,” she said. “It’s actually given me a separate identity from my kids.”
Cynthia Stevens is a true newcomer who has experienced a major life change and a move to a new city within the past five years. She moved to Augusta a year ago to be near her daughter – she lost her husband four years ago to cancer – and needed to make new friends.
One day while waiting for her Chinese takeout order, she saw an article about the club in a senior newspaper and decided that it was for her.
She joined in February.
“It’s certainly been a good thing for me,” she said. “It’s gotten me out and about.”
She goes out to lunch with the Out to Lunch Bunch, goes to movies with the movie group, and plays golf on Wednesdays.
“I probably never would have gone to some of those restaurants without the Out to Lunch Bunch. I probably never would have gone to the movies by myself,” she said. “It’s just been good all the way around. I would advise anyone who’s new to Augusta to look into it.”