By Pamela A. Morton
When Diana Kafka moved to Dunwoody almost 14 years ago, she felt she needed help finding her way.
“I moved here from Wisconsin when my children were just starting out at Woodland Elementary School,” she said. “I had never lived in the South before and needed to reach out to local, longer time residents in town to help me navigate the area, find shopping, local businesses, a new hair salon, doctors.”
A neighbor invited her to a Dunwoody Newcomers Club coffee. “Everyone was so friendly and helpful that I joined on the spot,” Kafka said.
Since its inception in 1972, the Dunwoody Newcomers Club has been part Welcome Wagon, part social club. The women-only group acquaints newcomers to the advantages of living in Dunwoody and seeks to foster friendships and to create a civic interest in the community.
“We currently have 91 members. Any woman who has lived in the Dunwoody area for three years or less is considered a newcomer and can become a member. But she must live within the geographical boundaries of the club,” Kafka said.
The boundaries encompass essentially all of what is now considered the city of Dunwoody and several zip codes within what is now the city of Sandy Springs. Those areas were included before the city lines existed.
Once in the club, members may retain their membership as long as they’d like. Annual dues are $30, and meetings or gatherings are usually held monthly at a local restaurant.
“Many of us have been in the club for several years. So we are not really newcomers. But with the economic influence of slow housing sales, we haven’t had many people move into Dunwoody. We recently asked our board to consider opening our membership up to women in town who have lived here longer than three years, but who never had a chance to join because of a job or childcare issues,” Kafka said.
Within the club is a roster of more than 20 special interest groups. “We foster friendships through our special interest groups that all members may participate in. These groups change from year-to-year based on the interest of our current membership,” Kafka said. “Members step forward each fall to lead interest groups…about once a month. This year, some of our most well-attended groups have been “Treasure Hunters” (antiquing), “Women and Wine,” “Chick Flicks,” “Book Club” and “Martha [Stewart] Wannabees.” New groups have recently been formed in cooking, photography, card playing, and garden touring.”
Dunwoody resident Jay Stogner joined the club in 2010 after moving back to the area from Boca Raton, Florida. “When I attended the first (DNC) coffee, I was impressed with the women I met. I wanted to expand my social circle and this club has a very full calendar of activities, tours and luncheons,” Stogner said.
Stogner has made the most of her membership, joining several of the special interest clubs and even hosting a few of her own.
“I’ve been having fun meeting new friends who live nearby and who share some of the same interests. I’ve been impressed with the quality and variety of activities the club has to offer. For example, this month I learned how to select and arrange live plants in a decorative planter; attended a “hands-on” cupcake decorating class and made a four-inch whipped cream rose to top a cupcake. Yesterday, we attended a play and had lunch in the Marietta Square. My calendar is full of fun events,” Stogner said.
Recent club events included an evening learning and playing the popular Chinese tile game, Mah Jongg; Bunco gaming on St. Patrick’s Day; lunch atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in downtown Atlanta; an Alice in Wonderland-themed tea party on Valentine’s Day; and a bus tour of some of Atlanta’s most notable historical places. More activities are planned for the spring.
“Several of our members will be volunteering at the upcoming Dunwoody Arts Festival, getting to know a bit more about their new hometown festival and artists and helping other newcomers find their way around that weekend,” Kafka said.