By Sherri Coner
While quarantined to avoid Covid, Sheryl Ginaven of the Southside daydreamed again about visiting her favorite local shops and choosing different area eateries for meals.
She also thought about meeting new people.
Surely other women were as starved for face-to-face interaction as she was.
As Ginaven focused on exactly how to cultivate new friendships after leaving the workforce, she mixed that idea with sharing meals and discovered a post-retirement mission.
By the time Covid restrictions were lifted, Ginaven had a plan in place.
She posted on social media about her idea, a friendly social group she calls Neighborhood Ladies.
She invited women to enjoy one monthly luncheon as well as a monthly dinner.
She collected email addresses of interested women and started a newsletter.
“We have more than 100 women who get the newsletter,” Ginaven said. “We have between 30 and more than 40 who come to the lunches.”
The majority of the women in Neighborhood Ladies reside on the Southside and in Greenwood.
The majority are retired.
Some have lost close friends.
Most are grandmothers.
Several are divorced.
Several are widowed.
The rest are married.
All of them love to laugh and talk.
“We had 14 ladies attend the first lunch,” Ginaven said of July 2021, the first Nextdoor Ladies’ gathering.
“At the next lunch, the idea just exploded,” Southsider Judy Carnine said of attendance.
“After Covid, we were all ready to get out of the house,” Ginaven said with a grin. “Women need other women.”
Initially, Sue Ryan of Wanamaker was drawn to the idea of occasionally lunching with other women her age.
In the months since joining the group, several new friends have come into Ryan’s life.
She has also joined a book club, started by another Neighborhood Lady.
Since joining the group nearly two years ago, Shelly Heal of the Southside still sticks with her plan. As she walks into the designated restaurant of the month, Heal waves at familiar members but looks for an empty chair by new faces.
“I always sit with different people,” Heal said of her tried-and-true approach for getting to know everyone in the ever-growing group.
Some women discovered they live only a few streets from each other while others live even closer.
Discovering women who share common interests has led to smaller groups of Neighborhood Ladies.
Some of the women enjoy evening telephone conversations with one another or they get together to walk or share crafts.
A group of 10 movie-loving women attend a matinee or evening movie together.
Others have formed Bible study groups and prayer groups.
A few of the ladies attend church services with their new friends.
“I was alone until Sheryl started this,” said Southsider Kim Hook, who joined a year ago.
“I never miss one of these lunches now. I have met the most impressive, wonderful, loving women in this group.”
As a Southside member since the beginning, tears flooded Carolyn Beckart’s eyes as she struggled to explain what she found by joining Neighborhood Ladies.
When Beckart underwent surgery, several friends in the group showed up for her like they do for so many others.
Members drive each other to doctor appointments and check on one another during illnesses. They speak honestly in smaller friend groups about personal issues.
In an unconditional way, they care for and trust each other.
There’s also plenty of laughter.
“I have never had friends like these ladies in my life,” Beckart said. “I love these women. I could never do enough to deserve them.”
As Ginaven requested the attention of nearly 40 Nextdoor Ladies recently dining in a Southside restaurant, she introduced Chuck Holzer, the only man to ever attend one of their lunches.
“Pat cherished these lunches with all of you,” said Holzer, who recently lost his wife of nearly 50 years to cancer. “I wanted to thank all of you for the support you gave her.”