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Newcomers Club celebrates 45 years of welcoming women to the area

The St. Catharines and District Newcomers Club celebrated its 45th anniversary over the weekend with a high tea at the Thorold Seniors' Centre

Women in fancy hats filled the Thorold Seniors’ Centre on Saturday afternoon as the St. Catharines and District Newcomers Club celebrated its’ 45th anniversary with a high tea.

“We’ve been here for 45 years, welcoming women to the area,” said the club’s president Jeanette Liberty-Duns, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “We have almost 120 members and about 20 activities that people take part in: everything from walking clubs to book clubs and Rummikub.”

The club is for and by women and welcomes newcomers to the St. Catharines, Thorold, Fonthill, Niagara Falls and Welland communities.

Liberty-Duns first became acquainted with the club after moving here from Saskatoon.

“I knew nobody when I came here,” she said. “It’s completely essential to get to meet people. We also help people find doctors, places to shop and local restaurants, all of that.”

The high tea on Saturday was accompanied by a presentation from the national president of the Newcomers Association, Suzanne Brett Welsh.

“When people move to a new city they are looking for connection,” Brett Welsh told ThoroldToday. “Not just with people but also connection with the community. Through our activities we do that.”

There are about 54 newcomers clubs all across Canada. The first one was founded back in 1961 in Calgary by Kay Dant.

“When this started it was back in the day when women maybe didn’t have jobs, so it was oil wives,” Brett Welsh said. “They would come up from the States and they would settle in Calgary. They were really looking for a connection and they found it through Newcomers.”

Brett Welsh became involved with the Newcomers Association after moving to Calgary over two decades ago.

“The only way I got to know how Calgary worked is because the dinners would be anywhere and you had to find them,” she said. “I know that sounds silly but if I didn’t have those dinners to go to I wouldn’t have found those women. I wouldn’t have found my way and made it home.”

Liberty-Duns credits the longevity of the Niagara chapter of the association to “women who are willing to step up to be part of the executive.”

She hopes to see the club continue to grow for another 45 years.

“Most of us are older, most are retired, but young women move to the area too and they’re certainly looking for ways to meet people,” Liberty-Duns said. 

Brett Welsh says the success of the National Newcomers Association comes down to the friendships it fosters.

“It’s that connection, that sense of belonging,” she said. “There are even some here today who knew the originator of the Newcomers, Kay Dant. That’s how long those relationships can stay with you.”