UNIVERSITY PARK -- For the first time in 15 years, Teresa Phillips and Susan Jordan, old friends from Cleveland, happened to run into each other at a Sarasota Newcomers party. The old friends from Cleveland couldn't believe how they had crossed paths again -- let alone the fact that they had both just moved to Sarasota.
Since 1986, the Sarasota Newcomers Club has welcomed new residents of the community for the sole purpose of building friendships. The club, which is more than 300 members strong, holds monthly luncheons and outings for Sarasota residents who have been in the area three years or less.
"We call it your bridge to making new friendships," said publicity chair Marilyn Hammond. "It just basically encourages anyone who is new to Sarasota to come and join activities."
There are monthly luncheons, dinner outings, trips to the movies and to the golf course, among a plethora of other activities. Last month, 28 members went to Dancin on the Suncoast for a night of dance lessons and then dinner at Apollonia Grill.
One of the most appreciated events is TGIF, where one member hosts a get-together at their home. Bring a bottle and an appetizer or dessert and you're in.
"The club is a wonderful opportunity to meet ladies and some gentlemen from all over the country," Patricia Guazzelli said during a Newcomers luncheon Thursday at the University Park Country Club.
Guazzelli, 60, moved from New Jersey to Lakewood Ranch's Central Park community in April. She had looked at St. Petersburg, Orlando and Miami, but none of those places had Sarasota's allure, she said.
"Sarasota had the most to offer with sports, dining out and other activities for the 50 and older gang," said Guazzelli, a retired educator with the New Jersey Department of Education.
Guazzelli and her new friend Linda Silver both learned about the club by doing a Google search; however, most members learn about the club through word of mouth, Hammond said.
Members of the Newcomers Club have to be full-time Sarasota residents with Florida driver's licenses and have to have lived in Sarasota for three years or less. Membership fees are $75 per person for the three-year period.
"Usually the first activity is to come to a luncheon and see how we operate. We make different announcements and we conduct our business," Hammond said.
For Phillips, who moved to the University Park Country Club from Connecticut in 2010, the Newcomers Club is a chance to socialize during retirement.
"From here, I will go to a cemetery," said Phillips, 71. "I love Sarasota."
For more information, visit sarasotanewcomers.org.