The President’s Message

Hello Guilford Friends and Neighbors,

The Guilford Newcomers Club has been a wonderful social group for my family, but taking on the role of President and having access to more history about the club has opened my eyes to a much deeper and more profound purpose of our club. Did you know that prior to 1973, being called a “newcomer” was an insult, a dismissive exclusion, a word whispered behind your back by “true locals?”

Did you know that in 1968 the (then) Guilford Country Club, the only social outlet besides church, effectively BANNED all newcomers from joining? The club instituted a policy that you could only be nominated for membership if you were sponsored by a Third-Generation member.  Did you know that in the early 1970s polling locations were changed in the dead of night to almost hidden locations just so Newcomers could not participate in local elections?

In the first half of the 20th century this quaint New England town had very few “newcomers” until I-95 was built in the 1960s allowing commuting. The “Mad Men” model was born: Men working in New York City started buying up the quaint old homes here, putting their kids in the quaint schools, and left their wives to enjoy the quaint life.  In 1967 the highway exits connecting Guilford allowed a crazy land rush as developers swarmed in building a slew of new colonials. The resulting strain on local resources was put to the test. Schools became overcrowded. Shops ran out of special goods. The library started waiting lists for books. And many of these new families had new ideas of how things should change, modernize, and accommodate their not-very-New-England tastes.  In short there was a social upheaval and the locals didn’t want the Newcomers here at all. It must have been lonely in 1970 Guilford for a newcomer; no social clubs to join, not invited for bridge at your neighbors home, not allowed on PTO committees, not allowed to have your voice heard, no one to turn to if you needed help. Isolation. Exclusion.

In 1973 a small group of women started a civics group called the Guilford Newcomers Club. Using the word ‘newcomer’ was semi-revolutionary. Owning the insult, proudly using the word “newcomers”, they were looking to make a statement. But they didn’t get loud, they didn’t fight, they didn’t demand respect… they decided to “Go High”. They began to quietly meet in each other’s homes, to raise money, and give back to various Guilford Charities.  They made their own bridge group, cookie exchange, and dinners out.  They entertained each other for New Years Eve.  They formed a community inside of a town that said it didn’t want them here.

Slowly, word started to spread around town that the Newcomers were helping. They helped the school get new lockers, the senior center got a TV, the clock on the church green got a big check to help with repairs. By 1977, in just 4 years, there is mention of the GNC in the newspaper as a group of ladies helping out.

When I talk to my elderly, sixth-generation Guilford neighbors they say what a nice group the GNC is. They are proud of me for joining an organization that helps our town so much.  I feel at home here and I know I have a tradition of strong New-coming Woman to thank for that.

So, now it is OUR TURN. It is our time to GIVE BACK to Guilford.  Our Thanks4Giving PotLuck is next Thursday. This exact event has been repeated many times in many Newcomer’s homes in the last 44 Years.  We will meet and eat and drink wine together and then we will pull out our ATM cards and donate a huge abundance of Turkeys and Hams and food to our local food bank. We will give back. We will continue the tradition of service and civic pride that so many strong women before us have given to this quaint New England town…our town.  Our home.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sincerely,
Jennie Dean
GNC President 2017-18
JennieDean42@gmail.com