Group helps make Hinsdale feel like home

Patti Kolewe discovered Newcomers and Neighbors of the Greater Hinsdale Area not long after becoming a newcomer herself. Just months after she and husband Ort moved to Hinsdale from Minnesota, they spotted an announcement in The Hinsdalean about an open meeting of the Newcomers and Neighbors group.

"We joined on the spot," said Kolewe. Eight years later, she's no longer a newcomer. Kolewe is now president of the group that she credits with helping make Hinsdale her new home.

Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., Kolewe wasn't used to being the new kid on the block when she and Ort chose to move closer to their daughter and grandchildren. Making new friends and finding new places to eat and shop was new to her.

"We didn't know anyone," Kolewe said.

Through Newcomers and Neighbors, the Kolewes found people with similar interests and discovered new things to enjoy. Neither had played euchre before joining the group, but now the couple plays regularly. Even tasks like finding a dentist or a hair salon became easier, thanks to the network provided by group members.

"It really changed our lives," Kolewe said.

No matter one's interests, Kolewe said Newcomers and Neighbors likely has a subgroup dedicated to the activity. If not, members are welcome to start subgroups of their own.

There are book clubs, cooking clubs, movie groups, happy hour gatherings, chili cookoffs, wine tastings and poker nights, just to name a few.

"Whatever you are interested in, you can find others who are, too," Kolewe said.

Of course, many in-person activities were put on hold during the pandemic, but that didn't keep the Newcomers and Neighbors from continuing to make one another feel at home. Members young and old learned to use their phones and computers to meet up via Zoom. Even euchre continued online.

"We have found ways to stay connected," Kolewe said, which made those months of social distancing a little easier to endure.

As more members are vaccinated against COVID-19, gatherings are beginning to take place face to face, said Kolewe, who is looking forward to hosting book club in her condominium's party room.

Newcomers and Neighbors of the Greater Hinsdale Area includes 64 members ranging from their 30s to their 80s. As the name implies, members don't have to be new to the area. In fact, they don't even have to live in Hinsdale.

Whether they are new to town or a longtime resident seeking to meet new people and try new things, prospective members are asked to attend two events before signing on as an official member, Kolewe said. Once a member decides to make it official, the annual cost is $55.

Kolewe said that $55 is the best investment she makes each year. With new friends and new interests, Hinsdale now feels like home.

"It's truly because of this group," Kolewe said.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff