A Thumbnail History of the Chatham Harwich Newcomers Club
It is said the Club was formed in 1978 as the Newcomers Club of Chatham but the earliest records we have for the Club are dated November 21, 1988. Bob Geiger was the Club's President that year; the "unofficial" membership count was 188 with 22 new members in the fall. At its May 1989 meeting, the Club's bank balance was $212.81.
The Club held its annual meeting to elect new officers on October 20, 1989 at the Riverway Lobster House. In addition to the four officers, the Club had nine committees: Hospitality, Programs, Membership, Bowling, Bridge, Poker, Dance, and Home Dinners. Although meetings were held and minutes taken, the archived file is very incomplete for those years and give only an occasional glimpse of how things were then, e.g., a proposal to allow members to stay in the Club beyond three years as Associate Members.
We do not seem to have a copy of the Club's original By-Laws. The By-Laws revised March 15, 1993, indicate the name of the organization is the Newcomers Club of Chatham and its purpose is limited "exclusively to assist newly arrived permanent residents of Chatham and its environs in making the transition from their former homes to our community."
Three categories of members are described in Article VI.
1. Charter Members: All persons joining the Club prior to October 1, 1979.
2. Active Members: All persons joining the Club on October 1, 1979 or after.
3. Associate Members: All active members after the 1st day of May following their 4th anniversary of joining the Club are eligible to continue on as Associate Members.
Any person moving into Chatham or its contiguous towns as a permanent resident is eligible for membership. There is an annual dues fee of $5.00.
At the May 1993 meeting, the Club had approximately 230 members and a bank balance of $531.12.
The Board meeting minutes for June 27, 1994 show a discussion of membership limitations since the meeting room at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Chatham had a limit of 180 people. An unidentified person said: "People seem to drop out after five years."
The 1994-1995 Newcomers Club of Chatham minutes reflect some interesting changes in the Club's activities: In addition to Bowling, Dine & Dance, and In-Home Dinners, we now see the following groups: Ladies Bridge, Men's Bridge, Duplicate Bridge, Bikers, Skiing and Birding, Singles and Book Review. The May 1995 membership report indicates the group had grown to 282.
At its annual meeting in May 1996, the membership voted to increase the dues to $7.50 and proposed some revisions to the By-Laws. These included a five year restriction on membership in the organization, a statement that "any person moving into Chatham or Harwich is eligible for membership," and a change in The Club's stated purpose to include newly arrived residents of Harwich.
By 1997-1998, Newcomers had added to its list of activities: Anything But Bridge, Golf, Kayaking and an Investment Club. The name of the organization was changed from the Newcomers Club of Chatham to the Newcomers Club of Chatham and Harwich to reflect the changes made in the By-Laws the year before.
Meanwhile, a group of people who found themselves no longer eligible for membership in Newcomers, because of the five year rule, organized to create a "Newcomers Graduate Club." This organization subsequently renamed itself CONCH -- Continuing On Newcomers Chatham Harwich.
The Harwich Community Center opened in 2000. Although the Chatham-Harwich Newcomers Club 2003-2004 brochure said it would be meeting at the Harwich Community Center, the Club continued to meet at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Chatham until June 2004. Since September 2004, however, all general meetings have been held at the Harwich Community Center.
Because of the move, space was no longer a problem. Hence, at the May 2008 Newcomers meeting, the Club voted to rescind the five year term limit rule. By secret ballot, the five year rule was eliminated: 96 in favor, 23 opposed. CONCH then revised its rules to eliminate the requirement that members must be residents of Chatham or Harwich or have been a member of Newcomers before joining CONCH.
As these events unfolded, the leaders of Newcomers and CONCH agreed that there could be a number of shared activities between the two clubs. This would allow members of both groups to continue to enjoy each other's company. The Newcomers 2008-2009 brochure identified 20 of its activities as "run with CONCH."
In June 2010, and again in 2011, the Chatham Harwich Newcomers Club and CONCH co-sponsored a clam bake for the two organizations attended by 130 plus Newcomers and members of CONCH. A wonderful afternoon with great games, food and door prizes.
CONCH voted to dissolve in May 2016. Its members have been, and are, invited to join Chatham Harwich Newcomers. Those 20 members of CONCH in good standing, who do not live in Chatham or Harwich, will have their memberships "grandfathered" in Newcomers.
Residency in Chatham or Harwich is the only prerequisite for membership in the Chatham Harwich Newcomers Club other than an interest in meeting new people and making new friends. Recently retired longtime residents are welcome. As of June 2016, there are roughly 600 members in the Club.