More than lovers, more than family, friends make life worth the trouble. Trouble is, they’re hard to make after a certain age. Enter Rochester Newcomers Connection (RNC), an organization providing relationship building activities for newcomers and long-time residents of Rochester alike.
I noticed their event listings show up in our magazine’s calendar a few months back; they run the gamut from book clubs to dinner outings. One, a game of Bunco, was announced with such enthusiasm that I had to check it out. I emailed the provided address and was connected to Meaghan Justus, president of Rochester Connection. She told me where to show up and when.
At high noon, I showed up to a big house in Southwest Rochester. A buffet of chicken fajitas, bedecked by roses and surrounded by smiling women, greeted me. The ladies were mostly regulars, women like Justus, Laura Kor, and Paula Pendergast. Justus, a seven year Rochester resident, got involved five years ago when her situation changed. She had moved into a condominium, and didn’t know anyone.
Pendergast came to town in June of 2013 to help with grandkids and credits RNC activites with at least a dozen relationships. Her first Rochester Connection event was a Riverside concert. It took her a while to try Bunco.
After my arrival, two other newcomers to the group appeared, a pair of unrelated, red-haired women. One retirement aged, one in her thirties. One had been in town for some time and got out of her social rhythms after a childbirth. Their situations, while unique, are hardly uncommon. It’s easy to get dislodged from your own social life by kids, obligations, and illnesses.
The organization puts on at least one activity every week. Turnout varies depending on the event, as does age. Apparently Bunco does not attract any men, though plenty of the rougher sex do appear at various food-oriented activities.
Fifteen plus people showed up for a recent dinner event, and eight to ten for book club a while ago. Their standard events, Bunco games, a book club, coffee, lunch, and dinner outings, a craft group, and a movie group, are agumented by other outings, like to Riverside Concerts, trolley tours, and SocialICE.
“SocialICE is a good example. If you’re new in town, that might sound appealing to you but sometimes people are intimidated, they don’t want to go by themselves. So, our group is a great way you can meet with several people or a group of people and go and it’s not as intimidating to people that way,” explained Justus.
Remarkably the current group-runners have no idea how the group originated. Like civilization, it’s a mystery with benefits stretching into the present day.
“As far as I know, they started out informally probably about six years ago. It was a group of women who just, I actually do not know how they all connected, but there was a group of women who just saw the need to sort of informally kind of trying to plan some things,” said Meagan Justus, current president of Rochester Connection.
Justus estimates the median age of participants at between 45 and 65 years old and hopes to start attracting younger people.
“Everybody has different life situations but they really enjoy having a place to go to where they can just go and have fun and hang out and it’s just, it’s like family, but then in some ways its like a non commitment, too,” said Justus.
Maybe that’s the big draw. It’s a positive thing you can show up to or not. It doesn’t ask much of its participants but gives everything in return.
That sounds like friendship to me.
For a full schedule of events and locations, go to The Rochester Newcomer Connection’s website. For now, here is a selected schedule of upcoming events:
Saturday, Mar. 25 – Movie Group: Beauty & the Beast – 3:15 p.m.
Monday, Mar. 27 – Dinner Social at Grand Rounds Brew Pub – 6:00 p.m
April 5 – Bunco (Daytime Group)
April 6 – RNC Book Club 6:30 p.m.
April 13 – RNC Coffee Social at People’s Food Co-Op – 10:00 a.m.
April 20 – Lunch Bunch at Beetles Bar and Grill – 11:30 a.m.