The name suggests that these folks are necessarily new to Annapolis.
Well, that's certainly true, but the organization is so successful
in its mission that many of those same "newcomers" have become
"oldtimers"---they simply don't want to miss out on all New Annapolitans
has to offer.
Mary Ellen Dial, who is serving this year as the club's 19th president
says, "There were 18 presidents before me and two-thirds of them
are still active [members]."
Why, then, would the "old newcomers" to the community still be
involved with New Annapolitans so many years down the road? "The
current and continuing focus of the club," says Dial, "is to assimilate
new members into the community." But she thinks members stay members
for two reasons: "First, they really enjoy the friends they make
and the activities. Second, there's a large number of them who
want to help new people get assimilated, so it's kind of like
passing on the friendship and fellowship that they found so that
no one else feels unhappy or isolated."
Dial believes that "the longevity of the organization is a function
of the enthusiasm of its members and their willingness to grow
and change and adapt to the needs of newcomers while, at the same
time, meeting the needs of the existing membership." She explains
that her own experience was one in which "I've gotten to go places
and try things that either I didn't know existed or didn't know
how to access."
New Annapolitans was founded nearly 20 years ago by Tecla Murphy
who moved to Annapolis from Boston. She had sold a bookstore and
thought it might be fun to start a book group as a good way to
get to know people. The book club was slow to take off, so she
approached a couple of local organizations to see if there was
a newcomers club. She was discouraged by their response, frustrated
by her lack of friends and was having no success meeting people
in the usual places (through kids' school, neighbors, volunteering).
"Tecla is a make-it-happen kind of person," says Dial, "so she
put a notice in the local newspaper." Says Tecla Murphy, "I let
the world know that the first meeting of the New Annapolitans
would take place at the library on West Street." And, true to
form, the first meeting of the club was held on the first Wednesday
in Februrary 1985. Twelve women attended, including a woman named
Pat Branch, whom Murphy had met the week before and who would
join her to become one of the founders of the club.
Says Murphy, "All of the women had left behind active lives and
were trying to assimilate into our new community. We all very
much wanted to make friends. It was difficultas many women worked
and were not home during the day, but the New Annapolitans grew
from this core of a dozen ladies."
Murphy continues to praise the women who compose the organization.
"Over the years, we've had so many wonderful women join---a unique
group. All the women have come from something---rom interesting
careers, interesting places where they've lived or traveled."
Dial has witnessed these qualities herself during meetings, with
audience responses such as, "That was what I did before I moved
here," or "I've always wanted to live there," or "I'd like to
hear more about that." Murphy adds, "They all seemed to be able
to make friends quickly. I found that one could be best friends
with just about any of them-they're busy, they're involved, they
have opinions, and they'll do or try almost anything."
profile of the average woman in the group, says Dial, is "married
or widowed, most with grown children or grandchildren, most from
formerly professional positions, and most retired." Dial explains
that because the group leans towards the older woman, most younger
women with small children have not been attracted to New Annapolitans.
Murphy's daughter, after she had her first child, started a group
called Professional Moms at Home. Says Dial, "This seems to very
nicely answer the needs of younger women moving into the area.
It's a dynamic group fashioned much like New Annapolitans, only
centered around moms and kids."
The organization has grown steadily over the years. "The first
year there were 12 [members of New Annapolitans]," says Dial.
"At the end of this year, there will be 600. Tecla was the first
president, 1985-1986; I am the current president, 2003-2004. We've
had a new president every year...because this is a busy little
job!" Dial goes on to explain that "We lose more than 90 members
a year, people who move away or become active in other aspects
of the community and don't feel they're newcomers anymore. But
we always have 90-plus members join."
For the 600 members of the club, there is certainly something
for everyone. The nearly 30 interest groups cover three major
areas: arts/literature/film/antiques/crafts/needlework; outdoor
activities (kayaking, tennis, golf, hiking, boating, walking);
and groups with a social focus ("after hours" group, couples activities,
bridge, mahjong). The programs at the monthly meeting are selected
and designed to introduce new members to local cultural activities,
political structure---things that will enhance the experience
of living in Annapolis. "The club runs things that are either
free, or very affordable, or on the other end of the scale---special
events," Dial says.
Over the years, Tecla Murphy has remained an active member of
New Annapolitans. She is lauded frequently for having the foresight
to address being a newcomer in a community with frequent compliments
from members who say they were almost totally alone with no support
groups until they found New Annapolitans. Says Murphy, "I've been
told more than once that it was a lifesaver, and I don't think
the term was being used lightly."
New Annapolitans still meets the first Wednesday of every month,
except for February, July and August, at the Unitarian Universalist
Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Road. New members are invited
at 9 a.m. to meet people; the general membership starts their
social time at 9:30 a.m., and the meeting itself starts at 10
a.m. For further information, call 410-216-6000.
not wearing one of her hats for Inside Annapolis
Magazine, Carolyn Lee can be found paddling her kayak or
working in her garden.