Blooming where they’re planted

By Stacey Hewitt Orobona | | No Comments »

One of the hardest parts of moving to a new location can be meeting new people and forging new friendships. For women wishing to meet people from other local areas, there is the New Clevelanders Club.

“We currently have about 152 members. Our members live in Stow, Hudson, Chagrin Falls, Aurora, Beachwood, even Novelty,” says club president Natalie Mandry, listing off various locations throughout Northeast Ohio. “Anything to the east of the Cuyahoga River.”

According to Mandry, the group’s directory dates back to 1971. The club was established as a social organization to help women who move to Cleveland make friends and adjust to their surroundings.

Mandry became involved with New Clevelanders after moving from New Jersey to Solon a couple of years ago. She heard about the group from some of her neighbors who were active in the club. One woman gave her past newsletters to look through. Mandry was intrigued by the diverse activities offered by the group.

“I decided to join with the thought that there would be one activity or another that would interest me. The great part about New Clevelanders is that there are so many options to pick from,” Mandry says. “You could be busy every day of the week if you’d like.”

Some of those activities (both day and evening) include various outdoor pursuits (hiking, biking, etc.), Book Club, Bunco, Sip and Sew, Lunch Bunch, Movie Nite, Canasta, Mah Jongg, and Yummy (a cooking group). There are even events for couples, such as Couples Bon Appetit (a dining out group) and Couples Social Bridge.

Mandry particularly enjoys the monthly luncheons, which draw the largest number of members and are held at different locations.

“We attempt to book in venues that are outside the ordinary, such as country clubs,” she says.

One memorable luncheon took place in the shoe department at Saks in Beachwood Mall. During lunch, members were treated to a fashion show. In February, they toured Severance Hall, the concert hall where the Cleveland Orchestra performs. March’s luncheon in Hudson included a life coach speaker.

Mandry’s other favorite event is Benefit Beat, a philanthropic activity that the club participates in. Members volunteer at different charities throughout the area.

“In the past, we’ve helped pack backpacks at the Cleveland Food Bank, sorted clothing at Shoes and Clothes for Kids and painted offices at Habitat for Humanity,” Mandry says.

The group’s main philanthropic event, however, is a British Tea which took place in April at the Chagrin Valley Country Club in Chagrin Falls. The British Tea Chairperson, Sue Farrell, began planning the event last summer, along with a committee of 18 women.

“We started researching different local charities. We try to pick a charity that doesn’t get a lot of corporate money,” Farrell says. “It must also be a local Northeastern Ohio organization that deals with women, children, or families.”

This year’s recipient will be The Gathering Place, which has locations in Beachwood and Westlake. According to the organization’s website, www.touchedbycancer.org, their mission “is to support, educate and empower individuals and families touched by cancer through programs and services provided free of charge.”

Farrell said that two years ago, the New Clevelanders donated $12,500 to Providence House as a result of the British Tea. Although this will be the third year that the New Clevelanders Club has hosted the tea, the event was started in 1995 by the Chagrin Valley Welcome Club in honor of a member who had passed away. In 2003, that group realized the potential of the tea as a fundraiser, and it has continued to grow ever since.

“Two years ago we had 108 attend,” Farrell says. “This year we’re expecting much greater than that. I would love to see between 125 and 150.”

Each member of New Clevelanders receives an invitation and is asked to invite a guest. Non-members are encouraged to attend but must RSVP in order to ensure an accurate head count. Tickets are $40 per person.

Half of the ticket proceeds go to the designated charity with the other half being used to defray food costs.

“It’s like a high tea,” Farrell says. “It will be set up as a buffet. There will be finger sandwiches and mini quiches. All desserts are made by the members.”

The event will also include a silent auction and raffle. Of those proceeds, 100 percent go directly to the charity. Among the silent auction items is a vacation in a Spanish villa, and raffle donations include the new iPad, a handmade quilt, and a Kindle Fire.

The latter item was donated by members of the Book Club. Other donations come from local merchants frequented by the New Clevelanders.

“It will be a fun afternoon with a great group of ladies, great food and the chance to do something worthwhile for an organization that’s in need,” Farrell says.

Nancy Agler, a member of the British Tea Committee, is representative of the typical New Clevelander. With both children in college, Agler and her husband Stu moved to Hudson, from Texas, in 2010 as empty nesters.

“In the past it was easy to meet people through school, but I didn’t have that opportunity this time,” Agler says. “I joined the group because I hoped to find like-minded women who wanted to explore their new hometown and make friends. New Clevelanders has helped make this move a very easy and pleasant one.”

Farrell, who has been a member of the group for four years, echoed that sentiment: “Regardless of what your niche is, you can meet so many wonderful people by participating in the activities. It’s been a real lifesaver for me.”

Those interested in joining or finding out more about New Clevelanders should visit the club’s website at newclevelanderseast.wordpress.com. Dues are $35 per year.

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