Friday, February 03, 2012

A Place for Newcomers

Eugene Newcomers Club

I think it was my ex-wife-in-law's idea. OK, my future ex-wife-in-law. That is, the mother of my step-children-to-be. Or would it be simpler to say she's Chris's ex? Anyway, Michelle and I haven't talked much but I want to have a civil relationship with her and am optimistic that it might be possible. And she did give me some good ideas about how to get connected with people in Eugene.

Yesterday I went to visit the Eugene Newcomer's Club. They meet the first Thursday of every month at the Presbyterian church. Anyone is welcome to drop in, though after a couple of visits you are expected to join up and pay dues. I actually met a few Oregon natives and a number who had been in town for quite some time, though others were the transplants or frequent movers I expected to find in such a setting. Jobs, family, and the like had brought them from California, or Colorado, or Virginia - they were people who knew what it was to be from somewhere else.

Since the meetings are during the daytime I realized they'd probably attract people who didn't have jobs, but I was a little surprised that it was a women's club; nary a man there. Also, I was the youngest one there by a couple of decades. Yes, mostly retired women. I don't think I heard anyone mention a husband in the present tense, though references to daughters and grandchildren were frequent.

They seemed to be outgoing, social women, comfortable with themselves and with strangers. Several were still working, while others seemed very active in community groups, etc. One of the other first-timers there - I think there were five of us - explained that she was 80 years old and had come to Eugene because she's just not able to take care of herself anymore; she's got a mother-in-law apartment at her daughter's place. She felt bad that she couldn't join a committee or something - but what a smile: she was so glad to be with us.

Everyone seemed to have a story and be interested in other people's stories. Nobody treated me like a freak or outsider in any way, though  the two women in their 60's who were the first to get to me with a lunch invitation said it was because they wanted to rescue me from the old ladies.

Well, I like old ladies and middle-aged ones too. I may not be able to spend a half day with them every month. I am working full-time, and family relationships are going to add some pressure to make sure I get my work done during that traditional 9-5, M-F period. But I think I'll go to another meeting when I can, and maybe their luncheons, and see what else shows up in the newsletter. One of the ladies told me about her writer's group and gave me tips about restaurants and outings; I bet she could help me find a good book club, too.

Food for Lane County

The Eugene Newcomers Club frequently hosts representatives from other community groups and local charities, and this month there was a presentation from a group called Food for Lane County. I was so encouraged to hear about all the good things they're doing - many of which would be very easy to plug into through a really broad range of  volunteer opportunities.

So that could be another way to  make some friends and be part of the community. While I'm disappointed that the church I'm attending is so weak in providing ways to connect or contribute, there are some real plusses to going outside the church for those things; could be that that's what I need to do, for this season. And maybe (if we stay at this church) that will help me find or create some pathways for others who are interested in local or global outreach.

I'll write a separate post about Food for Lane County.


Gretchen said...

Yes, book club would be a wonderful way to connect - so long as you find the right one...with like-minded people! I know that my aunt in Eugene (Neil's mom) has volunteered with the Oregon Bach Festival and really enjoyed that...

Marti said...

I think Eugene probably has more opportunities to volunteer in community activities than most towns its size. I've never done much that kind of thing, but maybe this is a good season to give it a go.