While doing good for the community is a primary focus, the group remains devoted to providing social enrichment for its ladies. The activities offered by the group are many and varied, and expand from year to year to meet the interests of the members.
More than 50 years ago, a small group of ladies at the Lake of the Ozarks were bemoaning the plight of so many women at that time - the challenge of meeting new friends and socializing in the lake area.
Back then, bars and restaurants were few, social events were rare and far between, and life in general focused around small communities and even smaller churches. After much discussion, these ladies had the germ of an idea for a club for women that would provide them opportunities to meet and socialize on a regular basis. It just might, they thought, be a step forward in helping the ladies expand their horizons.
After bouncing around ideas for the club for about three years, they finally put the word out and hosted a card party one Thursday morning in 1964 at Lou Larson’s house. They had such a nice time they decided they were on to something, and arranged to meet again. And again.
And for the next 53 years, every first Thursday of the month the club has met for Cards and Games, initially at members’ homes, but as the club membership grew they moved to local restaurants and churches and started adding more activities. Eventually, hundreds of women became part of what for many has become a life-changing organization.
Although the lake has grown and evolved to offer so much more over the decades, one thing hasn’t changed. As so many women who move to the lake are retired and no longer have a workplace social circle to rely on, they face stiff challenges when it comes to making new friends.
“I recently bought some furniture from a couple off of Craigslist,” said Karen Robinson, who is currently the group’s hospitality chairperson.
“As our husbands were moving the furniture I was speaking to the lady, and she eventually collapsed into tears as she had been so lonely since moving to the lake a year ago. I immediately told her about Newcomers/Longtimers and invited both her and her husband to out next event. They didn’t make it, and that saddened me because I could relate so easily to her sadness,” she continued.
“My husband and I bought a resort here in 2007 and for the first five years, we struggled to find our social life at the lake and were terribly unhappy. After joining Newcomers in 2012, our lives completely changed. I can say without question that when we sold our business last May, the friendships we have made through this organization were the reason we chose to stay at the lake. It has been a life-altering experience.”
Originally called Newcomers/Oldtimers, the group traces its roots back to an idea originated by the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, which first promoted the idea for a woman’s organization during an incomparably challenging time in our nation’s history.
Beta Sigma Phi International is a non-academic sorority founded in Abilene, Kansas during the Great Depression, when the need was identified for an organization that could bring women together and provide a social, cultural and educational climate that was not available in those difficult times.
Today, the organization has more than 200,000 members in the U.S., Canada and countries around the world. While not formally associated with Beta Sigma Phi, Newcomers/Longtimers nonetheless continues to live by the values and the model inspired by that national sorority.
From its meager beginnings in the mid-60’s, the club rapidly grew to include hundreds of ladies, both full- and part-time residents of the lake. Doxiene "Doc" Stewart, who joined in 1988 and served as president in 1993-94, has since moved to Arizona but still stays very much in touch with the Newcomers organization via its monthly newsletter and emails.
“I so enjoyed being a member and I miss my many, many friends, so many have either moved away or passed away. You know how proud I am of N/L and how much the organization has grown. Instead of remaining stagnant or not doing much...they have continued to grow and I am so very proud of the organization.”
And as its membership grew, the club realized the impact it could have on the community by supporting various local charities. Over the years, in addition to enjoying the various activities of the organization, N/L dedicated itself to enhancing life in the lake area by contributing the skills and talents of the membership to the good of the community.
As a result of N/L’s dedication to the community, lives can be changed even for those who are not members of the organization. Funds from the 2014 N/L Home Tour, for example, helped extend a hand to then 38-year-old Amber Corona, a recipient of that years’ chosen scholarship beneficiary, Columbia College - Missouri at Lake of the Ozarks.
In an emotional and heartfelt thank you to N/L members at the award luncheon, Amber, a mother of three young children, stated:
“The N/L scholarship has allowed me to reach my dream, to go to college. By pursuing a Business Administration degree at Columbia College, I will be able to start rebuilding my life. I eventually want to own my own business. I am able to attend school without having to work for a semester, so I don’t have to compromise the quality of time I spend with my children. Also, I am setting a positive example for my children; it is never too late to go after your dreams.”
In addition, that same year Home Tour Ticket sales provided money to Citizens Against Domestic Violence (CADV). Amber, at no cost to her, was able to attend counseling sessions, group support sessions, and parenting classes at CADV.
While doing good for the community is a primary focus, the group remains devoted to providing social enrichment for its ladies. The activities offered by the group are many and varied, and expand from year to year to meet the interests of the members. As a result, many activities have also been opened up to include husbands and partners, a move which has also created new interest in the group.
All women who are part- or full-time residents of the lake area are cordially invited to join any time of the year. The dues are $20 annually. Information on becoming a member can be found on the group’s website at http://www.newcomerslongtimers.com/ or by calling Sue Bleigh, N/L President at 913-707-5406 or Mary Ann Overkamp, Membership Chairperson at 314-608-8613.