Co-VP of Activities Bob Smith, Venue host Dave Denniston, immediate past president DaAnne Smith, and Venue host and Co-VP of Activities Todd Yancey | Credit: Gail Arnold

On July 30, the Santa Barbara Newcomers Club held a fun Fiesta Party at the stunning Riviera home of Todd Yancey and Dave Denniston. More than 100 members turned out for this event, which was geared to the newest members of this 1,000-plus-member social nonprofit organization. Drinks, Mexican food, and good cheer flowed from the multiple layers of decks on the ocean view estate of Casa Allegria.

The venue was especially appropriate, as it was the residence of former Newcomers Bob and Pat Fulmer. Bob wittingly detailed his experiences as a newcomer in this town in the book Newcomers in Paradise (2010), with a chapter on the Club titled “600 New Best Friends.”

When asked about the Club, everyone spoke passionately about their experiences. Denniston shared that he and Yancey have never been so socially busy in their lives. This comes, for him, after 30 years in New York City and 20 years in San Francisco. They joined the Newcomers Club to meet people but could never have imagined, according to Yancey, anything like this. “We have met so many beautiful people,” he related, and “it’s truly shocking how many wonderful friends we have in such a short period of time.”

Many people shared that with the 40 committees and 50-60 events to choose from each month, members can easily find activities that suit them and like-minded people with whom to enjoy them.

In the past several years, the Young Professionals group, comprising members mainly in their twenties and thirties, has grown to more than 100 members and now offers a multitude of events geared more toward their interests and schedules. The majority of Club members are still retirees.

Immediate past president DaAnne Smith related that the Club enables members, through its multitude of offerings, to really get to know the community, in some cases better than people who have lived here their whole lives. The Club arranges activities such as a backstage tour of the Santa Barbara Bowl and a tour of the Old Mission’s bell tower that are not offered to the general public.

Len Rosenthal, a recent past president who moved here from the Bay Area during COVID, equated Newcomers to the first year in college, where everyone is in the same boat, trying to meet others, so everyone has an open mind.  With Newcomers’ members being older, he noted, there’s a level of maturity. This means no competition — everyone just wants to meet others and have fun.

Debbie Rehr, who moved here a year ago from Connecticut, related how the organization has a diverse membership, with people from all over the world and all age groups. Her husband, Larry Rehr, shared how two mornings each week, they do a Newcomers beach walk; on Fridays, they do a Newcomers hike in the morning and a happy hour later in the day; and they sign up for additional events, depending on the offerings of the week.

The all-volunteer nonprofit has an entire leadership team that changes every six months. When asked about the volunteer nature and the frequent leadership change, Smith related that it all works amazingly well. Members take their positions very seriously, she noted, because they see how beneficial the Club is to the membership and so they are committed to its success. The short-term limits, Smith believes, are a positive attribute, as they make the positions attractive to members and enable the club to keep reinventing itself, taking advantage of the strengths of those involved.

Anyone can join the Club within their first 18 months of residing in the South County and can stay for two years, or qualify for a third year by serving on a committee or in a leadership position. A handful of recurring events are open to the public, including happy hours, walks, and hikes, which allows prospective members to check out the Club before joining.

Dalene Bartholomew and Susan Essaf | Gail Arnold
Peg Phelps and Sally Brandon | Gail Arnold
Kay Wood, Larry Rehr, and Debbie Rehr | Gail Arnold
Past president Curt Luthy and Co-VP of Membership Deborah Wood | Gail Arnold
Guests enjoy the party. | Gail Arnold


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