Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Newcomers Club Offers; Welcome for Residents

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Newcomers Club Offers; Welcome for Residents

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

When retiree Jeri Ruane moved to Jacksonville, her first few months were lonely ones. She lived in a sprawling unfamiliar city and knew only a handful of people.

Then she joined the Southside Newcomers Club. Eighteen months later, the former New Yorker has a different perspective on her new home.

"I don't feel like a newcomer anymore," said Ruane, who lives in a Southside condo with her husband. "It's a wonderful life for us. Now I feel like we belong."

Ruane, who is vice president and membership chairwoman, said the club offers a wide range of activities, from a book club to beadmaking to an antiques roadshow to monthly luncheon programs.

"There's something to do every week and sometimes several times a week," she said.

Those activities are now available to residents no matter where they live or how long they've lived there. During January, the club is sponsoring an open membership drive in which the Southside residency rules are being waived. Normally, new members must have moved to the area within the last three years.

"We do this for people who would really like to join and don't meet the criteria," President Lena Schulwolf said.

Dues are $25 a year, but are half-price for those joining in January. Members remain in the club as long as they like.

"It's a great way to try us out," Schulwolf said.

Activities run from September through May, though some go through the summer. The club's 170 members are all women ranging from their mid-30s to their 80s. (Husbands or male companions can participate in certain events.)

The club, part of a worldwide organization, started on the Southside in the 1980s, said Schulwolf, who moved to Jacksonville from Coral Gables in 2002. The club has helped her learn about the community, she said.

"We have evening activities that are a lot of fun," said Schulwolf, who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach. …

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