Greater Good

Southlake Newcomers Club

Interview by Jennifer Acosta Scott

After the college years are over, many people find it hard to get to know others when they move to a new town. Thatâs exactly where the Southlake Newcomers Club comes in. Though they began asâand still remainâa social club, the group has also found that it is quite adept at doing some good for the North Tarrant community. The Southlake Newcomers Club began in 1994, when a handful of women banded together to cater to the flood of new people moving in from outside of DFW. The group initially met at Whiteâs Chapel United Methodist Church. As the North Tarrant corridor grew, so did the club, and now, it has about 155 women on its membership rolls. Most members are from out of state, and though there are some younger women that attend functions, most are past the days of preschool playgroups.

âWhen my husband and I moved here, our children were all grown,â says Cheri Ross, the clubâs president, who moved to Southlake from Pennsylvania. âItâs difficult to make new friends at this age. If youâve got children in school, youâre at the bus stop and chatting with neighbors.â

Clubs can get stale without new members, so to keep things interesting, the group holds an annual open house event in late summer. New Southlake residents are invited to stop by to sample wine and cheese, socialize with current members, and learn about the club and its get-togethers. Special-interest groups within the club cater to mah-jongg fans, movie buffs, ladiesâ nights out and moreâso new members are bound to find at least a few new friends that they click with.

âEveryone is so friendly,â Ross says. âIâve made so many new friends and weâre very diversified as far as where weâve come from.â

The Southlake Newcomers Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month, from September to May, at the Trophy Club Country Club. Meetings include a lunch and usually feature a guest speaker from a local organization. âWeâve had speakers on womenâs health issues,â Ross says. âWeâve also had authors come and speak to us. We even had someone come thatâs representing the DFW Connector project.â

As the Southlake Newcomers Club has matured, its mission has evolved from a purely social aim to one that also tries to effect change within the community. At each monthly meeting, the club collects material donations for a specific cause, like the Wounded Warrior Project or Meals on Wheels. Their most notable charitable event, however, is âDancing with Our Stars,â a splashy event that puts local celebrities on the dance floor to compete against each other. The next installment of the event is on Saturday, March 23rd at the Marriott Solana in nearby Westlake. Last yearâs gala raised over $30,000 for various local charities. In preparation for the competition, five local âstarsâ and their chosen partners have begun taking professional lessons from area dance studios. The studios that have donated lessons are Danaâs Studio of Dance and Majestic Dance Academy in Southlake, as well as Barbaraâs Dance Studio in Hurst. Each couple will perform two dances for the galaâs attendees, which could include styles like foxtrot, waltz, swing, andâfor the first timeâfreestyle.

âIn the past, weâve always chosen the dance styles for the couples,â says Judy Gaman, a club board member and the chair of the âDancing with Our Starsâ event. âThis year, we thought it would be fun to give them a list and see what they come up with.â

Those who attend the eventâthemed âAn Evening in Parisââcan expect to witness expert rug-cutting by familiar faces, including the Newcomers Club board member Mary Grace Thoennes. This year, the event will also feature two competitors who are quite familiar with performingâCandy Branson, former cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys, and Melissa Page, director of Southlake-Carroll High Schoolâs Emerald Belles drill team. âMelissaâs very, very tough on the girls, so it will be interesting to have her in the hot spot,â Gaman says. (Each âstarâ picks their own dance partner, and those names had not been finalized by press time.)

This year, the honor of determining the winning couple goes to a panel of three judges: Southlake real estate magnate Roxann Taylor, Southlake Journal columnist Larre Green, and Dana Bailey, owner and artistic director of the DFW Performing Arts Conservatory in Southlake. The winning couple will receive trophies and $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. The event will be emceed by Jeff Crilley, a former FOX 4 reporter and head of Real News Public Relations.

In addition to watching dancing, guests at âDancing with Our Starsâ will enjoy a sit-down dinner and silent auction featuring products from local businesses. For the first time, they can also bid on prizes in a live auction, and vote for their favorite dancing coupleâthe winner of the most audience votes will receive a âPeopleâs Choiceâ award.

Since the venue at the Marriott Solana is relatively small, attendance will be limited to 320 peopleâso residents are encouraged to buy their tickets early. The event has sold out every year it has taken place.

âEvery year, it never failsâpeople want to get tickets the night of the event. Unfortunately, because it sells out so quickly it just doesnât happen,â Gaman says.

Dress for the event ranges from formal to semiformal, so those who choose to not don a tuxedo or evening gown wonât feel out of place. âPeople come in everything from black tie to Sunday clothes,â Gaman says. âItâs a fun, fun night.â

Rather than just making a large donation to one charity, the Southlake Newcomers Club has set up âDancing with Our Starsâ to be an event that benefits many organizations around town.

Through February 15th, the club is accepting applications for grants that are disbursed out of the eventâs proceeds. Past recipients have included the Bob Jones Nature Center, Call a Ride of Southlake and Mid-Cities Christmas Providers. âOnce we have the proceeds and know what they are, we sit down as a committee and go over the applications,â Gaman says. âThen, we vote on where the money will go. We always try to make sure we help out charities in different categories. Itâs a distribution of money as diverse as our club.â Scholarships for the Southlake-area graduating seniors are also given out of the galaâs proceeds. The deadline for scholarship applications is April 25th.

Besides presenting Southlake with an excuse to have a good time, âDancing with Our Starsâ is also an opportunity to educate the public about the many organizations that depend on community donations to continue doing good work in the community.

âWe live in an area of the country where many people are well off,â Ross says. âBut there are also many charities and still so much need. That is the reason we want to help as many people as we can.â or (817) 233-3371