When Teri Albus moved from Naperville to Lake Forest a couple years ago, she looked for a way to make a connection to the community.
Albus sought out Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Newcomers, which has been providing opportunities for new residents to connect for fun and friendship for more than 50 years.
“From the first Newcomers coffee I went to, I knew I was in the right place,” Albus said. “This group is 100 percent social and there are so many activities to fill the voids of being new.”
Albus is now president of Newcomers, which has evolved from the time her parents made the same move back in the 1970s.
“Back then, evening socials were called Fork & Fiddle (dinner and dancing),” Albus said. “They didn’t have as many activities as we do today, but the bonds of friendship were the same.
Albus’ parents still get together with their original Newcomer Potluck Dinner friends that they met more than 40 years ago.
Today’s Newcomers organization offers activities for all ages and interests, including walking groups, crafty ladies gatherings, wine tasting, play groups, ladies and men’s nights out, luncheons, book discussions, a gourmet group and tennis, to name a few. New residents can join anytime within their first 18 months of residency.
The Newcomers group takes pride in “meeting the changing needs of members,” said Albus.
Membership Numbers Climb
Membership is higher now than it has been over the last five years, according to Membership vice president Shawn Ward.
“We have welcomed 77 new members since last June,” Ward said. “In reality this is more like 200 new members when considering each number usually represents a family unit.”
Many realtors purchase first-year memberships for their clients, according to Janita Reehl, Newcomer vice president of activities. “They know Newcomers gives people a safe and friendly group to begin to make new friends,” Reehl said.
Reehl, a former recruiter who currently is at home raising her kids, explained Newcomers' mission is to 'connect people,' who might not otherwise.
"Frequently I say you should meet this person,” she said.
Diversity in Members and Activities
When Liz and Rich Brandel joined Newcomers a couple years ago, they immediately loved the variety of events and activities offered for couples and for women.
However, Rich Brandel, a stay-at-home father, believed more men-only activities could be added. He planned and hosted a pilot men's event that was well received. Together with James MacEachern and Rich Martin, they established a 'Men's Night Out' group that continues to be offered as one of the popular Newcomer activities.
The joint effort is an example of members taking the initiative to improve the organization.
“What makes the club so great is that people want to get involved” said previous Newcomer president Kirsten Maxwell.
They never lack nominations for selfless serving members and can quickly reach consensus.
“It is just all fun, all the time” said Maxwell. “I enjoyed constantly meeting new people, learning about different places people have lived, their families, and their history. Everyone has a story to share and I got to learn about all of them.”