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Newcomers club a community treasure

September 11, 2011

By RUTH MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News

The Starkville Newcomers Club offers friendship, fun activities, and valuable information to new arrivals in Starkville.
Moving to a new city can sometimes be a frightening experience, especially if you don’t know too many people, what to expect or what the community has to offer.
That is why the Newcomers Club puts forth an effort to make new arrivals feel at home and welcome them to the community.
The club had its origins in a meeting at Michael’s Restaurant in 1982 when the then City Goodwill Hostess HelenSue Parrish and Janet Jackson invited several newcomers to meet with them to discuss the formation of a club that would bring together new arrivals in Starkville with both University and non-university connections. From this initial meeting the Starkville Newcomers Club emerged, a constitution and bylaws were drawn up, and Imogene Triplett was elected the first club president.
In the beginning people could only stay in the club for three years. That was changed a few years later because club members had formed such a strong bond, they wished to continue their membership. Because of the ties created, many women have continued their membership which has provided a good opportunity for recent arrivals to become better acquainted with Starkville women generally and become engaged in other community activities.
Today, there are no restrictions on membership. HelenSue, Ann Chiles and Imogene Triplett were at the initial organization meeting, and their membership has been continuous. 
HelenSue began her business as the City Goodwill Hostess on Oct. 12, 1982, and quickly saw the potential for such an organization, basing it on an earlier one that had been allowed to lapse several years earlier. She continued her City Goodwill Hostess role until 1999, during which time she welcomed over 4,317 newcomers to Starkville in 17 years.
She represented various merchants, taking cards for free services or gifts so that newcomers would get to know their way into the different businesses as they used them.
She also helped newcomers find a church, register to vote, match up with others whose children might be of the same age, and find a doctor or other needed service. She also invited them to the Starkville Newcomers Club. She found out about newcomers through word-of-mouth, various records and land transactions and friends. She saw her business as a ministry, offering a lifeline to people moving into Starkville.
“It was a way to help people find their niche in the community,” Parrish said.  
The club meets monthly on the third Tuesday, August through May, with a program and they have a “dutch treat” lunch during June and July.
The Newcomers Club has also established numerous interest groups, such as book discussion, bridge, scout about, bowling, lunch around, bunco and stitchery to allow for a broad range of interests.
For several years the club sponsored a float in the annual Starkville Christmas parade.
An ongoing project has been donating Christmas gifts to the women and children at Safe Haven Shelter in Columbus during the club’s December meeting. The club also makes contributions to various charities, participates in other community activities and works with the animal shelter.
Bettye Wilson, who moved away for 20 years and then returned to Starkville and joined the Newcomers Club, said, “the diversity of the people in the club is great. There are young and old people in our club with the oldest being 91 years old.” 
Others who moved away and returned as newcomers include Patsy Stuart and Myrna Lott. When former Mayor Jesse Greer and his family moved to Starkville after having lived in 20 different cities in about eight or 10 different states, his wife, Pat, joined the Newcomers and said, “I love Starkville better than any place I have ever lived and the best thing about Starkville is the people.”
Pat Cole is the current City Goodwill Hostess and says that “the Newcomers Club is a support group. Club members support each other through the various interest groups.”
Cole continues to provide welcome packets with coupons from various merchants and information about schools, churches, and city government, including voter registration. She may be reached at 323-5492.

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