A Dinner Group? Why Not!

A Dinner Group? Why Not!

by Steve Gamel

Jessica Johnson figured everyone in the neighborhood would think she was crazy. It was 2008 and she and husband, Randal, were excited to be newly-minted Lantana residents. The only problem was that neither knew anyone in the immediate area, and the idea crept into their minds that they had forgotten how to make friends.

That’s when Jessica, normally an introvert, stepped outside her comfort zone and posted a message to the neighborhood internet site asking if anyone was interested in starting a dinner group — nothing fancy, just an opportunity to meet people.

“Keep in mind, I felt anonymous behind the safety of my computer,” Jessica said with a laugh. “But I was nervous.”

Not only did Jessica receive positive responses, but the group created that day will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in April. The group, dubbed Nosy Neighbors, is exactly what it was designed to be: a collection of former strangers who meet once a month for dinner and conversation. Each member hosts dinner on a rotating schedule at their house, and while new members have been added, the core group of seven original couples is relatively intact.

That’s an accomplishment considering most groups start with people who already know one another. All seven of the original couples may have lived in the same community, but they had never met before Jessica’s email. Over the years, they’ve bonded and become like family. Their kids play together, and some of the couples have gone on vacation together.

“We had nothing in common except that we all lived in Lantana, and to say we have built strong friendships since then is an understatement,” Jessica said. “There have been vacations, new babies, moves, job changes, loss — all the things that typically happen over the course of 10 years. And yet, this group has stayed committed to our monthly dinners. It has been a blessing, and if you met all of us, you would quickly learn how different we all are.”

Kim Waddelow and husband, Jeff, are also original members, and Kim remembers Jessica’s message like it was yesterday. They, too, had moved to Lantana from Dallas and didn’t know anyone. The original members all met at Jessica’s house for an initial afternoon meet and greet to gauge everyone’s interest. Like anything else, they laid out a few ground rules. But it was also very laid-back, and they started almost immediately.

“I had no expectations. But my husband and I figured, ‘Sure, might as well,’” Kim said. “We’ve had spinoff bunko groups and things like that. But this core group has managed to stay together after 10 years. Even one couple that was part of the group at first but eventually moved comes back to visit from time to time.”

Fellow group member David Allen agreed. He and his wife, Emily, joined the group three or four months after it started.

“It’s a great group of people, and the good news is that everyone can cook,” David said. “There’s no way I would have known some of these people if not for this group. There are a couple of ladies, Jessica being one of them, who are the glue of this thing and keep it going.

I’ve heard of different clubs, but this is different. We’d do anything for each other.”

And to think, it all started with one random email.

“I am a believer that God put these people in our path and knew what we’d need over the years,” Jessica said. “They’ve become family.”

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