To the editor:
We're thrilled to call Cape Coral our new hometown. Surprisingly, we've found that one of its best features isn't connected to weather, water, or any of the things that people often talk about. It's a group-The New Resident Club, a club that helps strangers become friends.
NRC's primary purpose is social networking-the old fashioned kind, face-to-face. The club organizes monthly events (lunches, game nights, dinner dances, community service, to name a few) and hosts educational tours of local venues and facilities.
New residents (many of whom would not have met otherwise) establish relationships. Some develop sustaining friendships as they learn more about their city and what it has to offer.
The club's roots can be traced to the early '60s when Cape Coral was managed privately. The Gulf American Corporation had a community relations director back then. Employees Richard Crawford and Paul Sanborn were involved actively in community affairs. Later, city resident Helen Peck helped make the club a civic organization, becoming its first president.
The founding year was 1967-three years before Cape Coral became a city. What was a women's club at first is open to everybody today. The one-time membership fee is $35 per person.
One of the most impressive things about NRC is how it operates. Officers serve for six months only-from November to May. They can serve another term, but only if they're elected to a different office; and a second term is limited to six months, too.
That's a dicey approach because it requires a constant flow of new leaders. But it has a big advantage: NRC can't be controlled by a dominating leader or cabal.
Members are time-limited also-two years is the term. After that "graduates" can transition, if they choose, to The Cape Coral Social Club, an organization that was established about 20 years after NRC was founded.
NRC blends large- and small-scale participation. All members meet at the Cape Coral Yacht Club on the first Tuesday of each month, 9 a.m. sharp. Hundreds of people attend. They learn about upcoming events, listen to committee reports, and hear a guest speaker talk about a local issue of interest (e.g., gardening in southwest Florida).
Members sit at tables organized by the month and year they joined NRC. Many are dressed alike in tropical shirts that identify-through member-selected logos and designs-the month they joined NRC. Each of these sub-groups get together monthly to interact, typically at a pot-luck dinner hosted at a resident's home, and at other social gatherings that members organize.
It works! NRC combines a workable structure with sustaining participation to keep things active. It's about developing and deepening relationships, what social scientists call "building social capital."
It's so refreshing for us to witness this investment in people, especially when it's done so well. NRC is also a good example of how to attract and sustain civic participation; and its leadership approach serves as an antidote to a frequent and stagnating organizational reality: "tyranny of the minority."
Cape Coral residents owe a debt of gratitude to generations of NRC leaders: to the founders who blended vision with capacity to create something worthwhile; and to the successors, who have kept a good thing going-for 50 years.
For more information about NRC go to www.newresidentclub.org
Frank and Kathy Fear
NRC "Paradise Pirates" (January 2014).