Alexandria club welcomes 'newcomers' with open arms, creates lifelong friendships
The Alexandria Newcomers club will celebrate its 70th anniversary on Thursday, Oct. 6, at "The Barn" located next to the Holiday Inn from 5 to 9 p.m.
ALEXANDRIA — In 1951, 20 hostesses appointed by the president of the Alexandria Community Council, Harold Stemsrud, called upon more than 100 newcomers to Alexandria to introduce them to the areas, organizations, schools and churches.
By 1952, the group, with a membership of about 70 individuals, was officially organized as the Newcomers Club of Alexandria.
70 years later, with 167 members, the group continues to flourish and help new arrivals integrate into the city of Alexandria by introducing them to events and activities in the area and weaving lifelong friendships.
While the club is for women, there are quarterly meeting open for men and plans are being discussed to open up all meetings to men.
The club meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Shalom Lutheran Church at 681 Voyager Drive. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7 p.m.
Each meeting features a special speaker from a local organization who talks about what they do in the community and how people can get involved. There are also various sign-up sheets for club members to fill out if they please.
Each newcomer is allowed two guest visits where they are not required to pay club dues. This allows them to feel out the group and see if it is right for them.
Club membership lasts for five years. After five years, members can graduate to alumni and continue with their previously selected special interest groups. Alumni cannot join other special interest groups unless invited by a current newcomer.
"I think what keeps this one (Newcomers Club) so active is we have what we call special interest groups," said Anne Krueger, 73, who moved to Alexandria from Omaha, Nebraska in 2018 with her husband after retirement to be closer to their son and daughter-in-law who live in Sauk Centre.
Special interest groups (SIP) are smaller subgroups within the club focusing on specific interests like card playing, hiking and biking, knitting and sewing, wine tasting, and much more.
Kreuger said the SIPs are where members really get connected with the community and get to meet and develop friendships with like-minded people.
"That was how I met people. And I've made great, great friends," Kreuger said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's the best organization in the world for a newcomer."
Kreuger played a major role during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by insisting board meetings continue virtually through Zoom, membership gets lengthened from three years to five and board members' term length from six months to a year. Currently, she serves on the board as the club's publicity person.
"We had a lot of changes going on and to maintain everything," Krueger said. "It was hair-raising at times. My husband said a couple of times, 'I thought this is a volunteer, part-time job for you.' Well, I got to keep it going. It's too good of an organization."
When Cindy Carpenter moved here from San Diego five years ago to be closer to her adult children — who moved to Minnesota with their spouses — she joined the Newcomers after her daughter's mother-in-law recommended the club. She got involved in a special interest group that led her to participate in Lake Carlos State Park's Snowshoeing by Candlelight. She described the experience as magical.
"From then on I was not afraid of winter," Carpenter said.
The winter hike helped her get over her fear of "surviving" her first Minnesota winter and the club gave her the opportunity to make friends and assimilate into the community
"You meet people, like-minded people," Carpenter said. "Initially, you're strangers. But you do it a few times, and all of a sudden you become friends. Then once the women become friends, the men follow suit, as men do. You get this fabric that gets woven, these networks of people that know each other. It's really hard when you're past your childbearing age to make friends. When your kids are in school, you do things together. When you're old, older, it's hard. So, that's kind of cool that this has been so successful."
Carpenter, who did a term as board president for the club, recently graduated as alumni. She says without the Newcomers, she doesn't know if her transition from California to Minnesota would have been so easy.
"When people make friends and they do things socially, they start to feel connected," she added.
To celebrate the past 70 years of the club, the Newcomers are holding an anniversary party on Thursday, Oct. 6 from 5 to 9 p.m. at "The Barn" next to the Holiday Inn— 5637 State Highway 29 S. The event will feature a buffet style dinner, special appearances from the Geneva Belles and Newcomers Alumni with a performance by musician Jeff James.
Price for admission is $35 and space is limited. The club requests all ticket orders to be made prior to the event by Thursday, Sept. 22. To reserve a ticket, fill out a form which can be picked up at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Center, Traveler's Inn, Cub Foods and in the lobby of Elden's Fresh Foods. You can also request the form by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the form is filled out, mail the form along with your check or cash to 1210 Broadway Street, STE. 240. PMB 215, Alexandria, MN 56308.