A year ago, Patricia Kantor and her husband, Alan, moved to Los Altos to be close to their new granddaughter, Emmanuelle, and their two adult children.
“They were begging us to come here,” said Kantor, a 40-year resident of Chappaqua, N.Y.
The Kantors took a leap of faith and rented out their East Coast house to people who were fleeing the city.
Their former home is now for sale, and the Kantors are in Los Altos to stay. Both she and her husband, a physician, work remotely. Kantor coaches people on how to make business presentations (visit patriciakantorassociates.com).
Making friends was a no-brainer after Kantor tried the Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Newcomers Club.
The club “was an important part of my settling in, despite the restrictions and distancing during the pandemic,” said Kantor, who added that it would have been hard for her to meet people otherwise.
After attending a Newcomers book club, she emailed some women to go on walks. Board member Nomi Trapnell responded warmly. Heidi Sloss had had foot surgery but introduced Kantor to her friends online.
Kantor’s first “live” event was an Explorers’ trip to Filoli. Newcomers co-president Birgitta Indaco, who also chairs the Los Altos Hills Planning Commission, came along. As a Filoli member, “Birgitta knew quite a bit about it, so I really felt like I got the insider’s view,” Kantor said. “I love the women in the club.”
At Filoli, new club member Yolanda Akerib and veteran Patsy Duke matched up to play bridge. Members also socialize over mah-jongg.
Evolving with the times
Times have changed since president Rose Rudikoff and 13 charter members founded the Newcomers Club in 1953. Newcomers Clubs descended from the Welcome Wagon, started in 1928. Hostesses would deliver gift baskets donated by businesses to new residents. Aided by Chambers of Commerce, Newcomers Clubs took things a step further by creating a sense of community for residents.
Trapnell, a past president, notes that in 1962, the program topic was “Take Care of the Man You Have – You May Never Have Another.” The women used their husbands’ names and identified as “girls.”
Today, the club accepts men.
“Heck, yes,” said membership chair Carol Ach, a retired CPA and 11-year member of the group.
Ach met her husband, Barry Trost, a Stanford University professor, at a fall brunch.
“We have a lot of settled married couples, so the men are really active with their wives,” Ach said.
Activities have changed, but dues are still $30 a year. Ach notes that the club has been “livelier” due to Indaco’s leadership. Because many members are aging, “we’re trying to get younger people with children,” Ach said, adding that with 113 members, the Newcomers Club continues “thanks to congenial people who like each other and who like the area.”
Because Trapnell and her husband, Fritz, had high-powered Silicon Valley jobs, “they had little time for a social life,” she said. On retiring, they joined the club, thanks to a clause that allows residents to join after a life change such as widowhood, divorce or retirement. Twenty residents from nearby towns are also members.
The Trapnells keep in touch with fellow club members through Zoom calls for board meetings, book club, total wellness and styling.
“We have made some great friends that we see in person, but very carefully” during the pandemic, Trapnell said.
After meeting online for a while, the group is starting to meet in person again.
“We are dipping our toes into in-person get-togethers,” said Mountain View resident Leslie Ashmore, co-president of the club and a seven-year member.
Using a hybrid approach, the book club and investment group meet on Zoom, while other activities meet in person, according to Ashmore, who also heads a writing group online.
Ashmore said she noticed that many members are seniors who are enthusiastic about Zoom events and even participating more.
“They could do it in their PJs, and that was really nice,” she said of the online gatherings. “They didn’t have to drive to the event or find parking, and they didn’t want to get dressed up.”
Ashmore, however, said she prefers the personal connection of meeting in members’ homes.
Tia Jurvetson, a 34-year member of the club, agreed that Zoom “has worked well during the pandemic.” She started an informational investing group in 2018 after she was flooded by phone calls when her husband, Tony, died.
“They wanted to manage my money. Some of them I listened to,” she said, as her husband had handled their finances.
Then, she thought, “Why don’t you just familiarize yourself for an hour a day?”
For her, “investing is like playing bridge – it’s all about probability.”
Jay Shideler, a veteran trader, contributes detailed stock reports every other Monday.
“We have people who have worked in positions quite high up, and as a consumer, the more perspectives you have, the more likely that you’ll make a good decision,” said Jurvetson, referring to executives such as Jon Saxe, in pharmaceuticals, and Robert Biczek, a Bitcoin leader.
For new member Qiyue Ma, the Newcomers Club provides the “warmth and kindness and gentle support” she needed during the pandemic, when people were not socializing. She said she especially appreciates the group’s older members, who are “inclusive and peaceful.”
To join the Newcomers Club and for more information, visit losaltosnewcomers.com.