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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
Local News
NOTL Newcomers a welcoming place for women
NOTL Newcomers Susan Ksiazkiewicz, president and Peggy Hook, past president at Sweets and Swirls, community centre cafe. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Women in Niagara-on-the-Lake undergoing significant life changes need a place to connect – that’s just what the NOTL Newcomers are offering.

Since 1991, the group has been providing a place for women to come together socially, sharing common interests and familiarizing themselves with the town.

Susan Ksiazkiewicz, president, said the club is about more than just meeting up with people and going to events – it aims to build lasting friendships and bonds.

Opening its doors to women going through transitional periods in their lives, the club offers a chance to start fresh. Whether being new to town, going through a separation or reaching retirement – it’s available to add a sense of community to women’s lives.

The National Newcomers Association operates Canada-wide – the NOTL chapter is the only one that keeps membership to just women.

The group is a not-for-profit organization with a board of directors and annual meetings. Special interest programs are hosted throughout the group, covering activities such as knitting, book clubs, lunch meet-ups, etc. They are operated independently, organized by a convenor who keeps track of membership and feedback.

Peggy Hooke, past president, said while the special interest groups are run independently, they need to remain structured.

“If you run an interest group there has to be a convener. We don’t want it random and loose, there has to be someone keeping a list, making sure (attendees) are members, and reporting back to the board. Someone taking pictures for the newsletters.”

Clubs need to stay within predetermined guidelines. Specifically, no political, religious or business affiliations.

Susan Ksiazkiewicz, president, said it’s a common ground for like-minded women to come together.

“We try to keep it neutral.”

The NOTL Newcomers host Coffee and Conversations on the last Friday of every month in the Simpson’s Room of the community centre, offering members and those interested in joining an opportunity to catch up, chat and sign up for groups and events.

Ksiazkiewicz said the monthly meet-up is a great place for women who are interested in joining the club to get an idea of what they are all about. They provide an added value to outings that wouldn’t necessarily be experienced individually.

Hooke said the monthly meet-up tends to be weighted to the new people.

“We also find that friends tend to be clustered, not by deliberation, but by when they come into the group. People who are new this year will tend to make friends with other people who are new this year, and they’ll join groups together. Five years down the road they’ll still be good friends.”

Hooke said they do more than just visit an attraction.

“We wouldn’t just go to a winery, we’d have a whisky tasting. There’s a program over and above what you yourself might do if you were to visit these places,” she said, adding that they don’t just go out to social events. “It’s important to note that we get added value from what we’re doing.”

As to why the group wanted to keep it women-only?

“That’s really a funny story,” said Hooke.

Rosanne Fedorkow, the founder of the NOTL University Women’s Club, with Betty Hilton, who had recently moved to town, wanted to organize a club for people new to the area. Their aim was to provide intellectual stimulation while introducing members to NOTL.

The first meeting, held in Hilton’s living room, was attended by three women and one man. The man never returned for subsequent meetings – setting the woman-only precedence for the club.

Hooke said the club is open to women of any age, but membership tends to center around the age of retirement.

“It’s for women of any age, but we would be pulling your leg to say there isn’t a dominate demographic, that is which parallels the rest of the town. It’s the point in your life when you have finished work, your kids have grown up.”

Ksiazkiewicz said they are always hoping for new members. She said they want to encourage any woman in NOTL who is going through some kind of significant change in their lives to drop in and see if the club is for them.

“We have something for everyone.”