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Aiken Newcomers' Club provides social, charitable opportunities for members

Linda Kanc, Melissa Denardo, Carol Wood and their compatriots in the Aiken Newcomers' Club haven't had much fellowship over the past 18 months, due to COVID-19 precautions, but the women's club is meeting again – in person – and continuing the effort to "undertake and complete charitable, humanitarian, and social welfare projects," as outlined in the mission statement.

The club, which supports a variety of local charities, dates back to 1972 and now has Kanc as president, with help from Denardo, the first vice president; and Wood, the second vice president. Among other leaders are Sharon Kahl, secretary; B.J. Schreier and Jeanne Majidi, co-treasurers; and Linda Sliger, immediate past president. 

Kanc pointed out that club members reside throughout Aiken County and that at least one member, formerly a local resident, now lives in Columbia but has maintained her membership and still attends club events. 

The definition of "newcomer," she added, is highly elastic. "We've had women who have been here for quite a few years and never joined, and then all of a sudden, decided to join ... We're kind of a mix. We have our old-timers, some new people, and then we have people who come in and people who've been here for a few years, but we welcome anybody that wants to come, regardless of whether you're a newcomer or an old-timer or whatever.

"You just never got around to joining, or you were working and you never really had the time, and now you're retired so you've decided to come and join our organization."

Meetings are normally held on the second Tuesday of the month, with Newberry Hall as the host site – quite a leap from about 45 years ago, when the club was relatively new and member Betty Thomason wound up using borrowed soup bowls to fulfill a promise she had made, pledging to provide a "soup to nuts" meal for a major club gathering.

Thomason recalled that the host site, Houndslake Country Club, was relatively new at the time and did not have bowls ready for service. Most of the meetings, at the time, were held at the Ramada Inn that was a feature of Richland Avenue. 

Meetings normally include a social hour, club business and a guest speaker, possibly with a theme to fit the season, such as Veterans Day or Christmas. A fashion show in April is also a club tradition. 

Another tradition involves special-interest groups, with club members meeting on a regular basis to pursue their particular interests, such as travel, books and card games. 

Monthly meetings of the entire club, however, were canceled from April 2020 until September 2021, due to the pandemic. "We didn't meet for a year and a half," Kanc said, noting that club members were kept up to date via email.

Among local organizations and causes that benefit from the club's generosity are Saratoga WarHorse, Area Churches Together Serving, Wreaths Across America, Friends of the Animal Shelter, Equine Rescue of Aiken and Camp Gravatt.

The mission statement, as stated on the club's website, is to "provide opportunities to its members to become acquainted with other members, as well as with the many community activities and functions," and to "undertake and complete charitable, humanitarian, and social welfare projects, while being nonpartisan, nonsectarian, nonpolitical, and nonprofit."

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