Transitioning to a new area can be difficult, and no one understands better than Newcomer Friends of Greater Plano (NFGP) Publicity Chair Marcia Stout. She moved to Texas from Ohio three years ago.
Stout is not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between mid-2018 and mid-2019, Texas received 367,215 new residents, the largest population increase of any state in the nation. And three of the top Texas cities to see this increase were in Collin County: Allen, Frisco, and McKinney.
Stout relocated to Plano to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law, but didn’t know a single person outside her family circle. She knew she had to make the effort to reach out and meet new people on her own, so she turned to the internet for help. Stout says: “I was just sitting in my apartment and just thought: ‘How in the world am I going to meet new people down here?’”
Whether due to fate or logarithms, Stout landed at the NFGP website. Stout immediately RSVP’d to the group’s monthly welcome coffee meet-and-greet and found herself at home with club members almost instantly. “It was a godsend for me, I mean, being new to the area and finding NFGP. It was just a wonderful experience and I made so many friends and connected in so many ways,” she says.
Now, Stout holds a board position and is actively involved in the many activity programs provided by NFGP, she estimates about 12 a year. While COVID-19 health recommendations have put a stall to or increased restrictions on community gatherings, the group has managed to adapt by using the video conferencing application, Zoom.
“It’s a very creative group of women anyway and everyone is missing face to face interaction and the many activity groups. [But we said], ‘Yeah, we’re not going to let this virus stop us from seeing our friends and doing what we love to do.’ So there are quite a few groups that said, ‘Let’s find a way to make this work on Zoom.’ and we are,” Stout says.
Though some events have had to be postponed to 2021, like their monthly Program Meetings and annual fundraiser, NFGP is still hosting coffee meet-and-greets and their annual Activity Fair online.
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The Activity Fair has been adapted to a Adobe Acrobat presentation with slides listing the more than 40 groups they offer, including descriptions. Members and prospective members will have access to the document until December 2020.
Potential members are able to test or try out activity groups they are interested in for 30 days. After that point, an individual can either decline membership or pay the yearly $50 membership fee. Potential members who join later in the year can also expect to have a prorated membership fee to accommodate for missed activities and meetings.
NFGP activity groups accommodate many different interests, including happy hour gatherings from home, card games, book clubs, dancing, singing, charity, crafting, cooking, and in pre-COVID times, trying new food at restaurants or visiting local landmarks, for example. The newest activity group to be added this fall is hosted by “Chef Sharon.” Activity leader, Sharon D., sends ingredient and supply lists in advance. Then over Zoom, on the scheduled date, members cook the same dish together through instruction from Chef Sharon. Other activity leaders have adjusted their groups in similar ways to adapt to long-distance socializing, with much success according to Stout.
NFGP, a 501(c)(7) nonprofit organization, provides a social service to neighboring communities, and also does charity work when able. The group has an established scholarship partnered with Collin College to give to a nursing student who meets the criteria for the scholarship. Titled the Camille Klein Memorial Scholarship, it was named for founding NFGP member, nurse, and community activist, Camille Klein.
Stout says, “The club provides a supportive and friendly environment for both new residents to the area as well as people who have lived in North Texas for all of their lives.” And most importantly, “There’s really no geographical boundaries.” The group accepts members from all across the metroplex, regardless of age or background.
For anyone interested in more information on NFGP visit: newcomerfriends.org