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Princeton Newcomers Club Is Not Just for New Princeton Residents

By Annabelle Wang l September 7, 2021


When Paul Varjak said, “You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, ‘Okay, life’s a fact,’” he could have been talking to anyone, not just the eccentric Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Life, in its sometimes frightening way, just happens. Plans fall apart, picnics get rained out, or a pandemic shuts down the entire world. But as Sonia Lee, the outgoing marketing manager of the YWCA Princeton Area Newcomers and Friends (NC&F), pointed out in an interview with The Montgomery News, those unexpected twists and turns don’t have to be negatives. By supporting one another as an inclusive community, we can lift our chins and say with a smile, “Yes, okay, life is a fact.”


This theme of togetherness is central to the mission of the NC&F. A program within the YWCA Princeton, the NC&F provides a welcoming space for female newcomers in the Princeton area to come together and explore their interests, as well as network with longtime residents of the region who constitute the “Friends” portion of the program. Its 212 members represent women from the “middle-aged to the primes,” although Lee is hopeful the program will expand to include more teenagers and younger women.

Club members at their end-of-year gathering in June. All were fully vaccinated. The fall is a perfect time to join the club.

According to Ann Strootman, the NC&F secretary, the program provides “a nurturing environment for women to develop their mental, spiritual, and physical capacities.” “We support each other as we transition through the stages of our lives—from raising children, relocating, transitioning to retirement, rebuilding a life / social network after the loss of a spouse, and more,” she says.


The core of the program is their interest-group system. Member-led and organized, the interest groups are ways for the NC&F women to pursue existing passions, discover new ones, and engage in educated discussions about topics ranging from books to racial diversity to politics. There are also groups for hiking, morning walks in Skillman Park, Broadway, bridge, cross-country skiing, gardening, and cooking, to name a very few.


Throughout the program season from September to June, the NC&F holds luncheons called Friday with Friends on the second Friday of each month to allow members to meet each other and enjoy a potluck together. Members can also attend Social Coffees, which are more informal gatherings with the same goal of allowing women to form new social bonds.


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Lee said that the purpose of the interest groups is to help people “realize their identities so that they can contribute to and develop society.” This reflects the program’s relationship to the global YWCA, an organization dedicated to empowering women and girls to become leaders in a fairer, more peaceful world. The approach is two-pronged: members develop their ability to find harmony in their own lives by sharing their opinions and learning from others while assisting and supporting others in acts of charity. By simultaneously engaging in both functions, the group helps people become more comfortable with life so they can change it for the better. Holly Golightly would definitely have benefitted from participating in the program.


The NC&F works closely with other mission-based programs in the YWCA Princeton, including the Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center. Each year, NC&F members hold wrapping parties to decorate holiday gifts for children with families in need. During the pandemic, they donated cash to families who were unfairly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. They also sponsor a successful team in the Firecracker 5K, an annual YWCA tradition that “eliminates racism and empowers women, and keeps programs such as childcare, English as a second language, and the Breast Cancer Resource Center accessible to those in need,” according to Lee.


During the pandemic, members were forced to take to Zoom for their Social Coffees and interest group meetings. However, with careful planning that always prioritized member safety, the NC&F was able to hold a socially distanced Spring Luncheon at the end of the 2019-2020 season in May 2020. Despite the difficulties of operating in a virtual world, Lee is proud of the growth of the program. “It was really a testimony from members that we are making a beneficial difference in their wellbeing.”


To join the program, email NewcomersMembership@ywcaprinceton.org. You will be asked to attend at least one Friday with Friends luncheon, one Social Coffee, and one interest group meeting to test whether or not you want to join. Membership is $90 per year and there is no limit on the number of years you can be a NC&F member.


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