Looking for Love in All the Right Places

BY Michelle Billman

With celebrations for the holiday season now behind us and Valentine’s Day right around the corner a desire for companionship may linger for singles on the Azalea Coast. But where can you connect if you’re wary of the bar scene and skeptical about making online friends? No worries; be happy. We talked to 10 local organizations that are active in the area ready to have fun and looking for new members like you. Seventeenth-century writer Mark Twain said it best: “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” In this spirit we hope these ideas provide positive opportunities to meet other people in the community who share your interests.

{1} Cape Fear Singles Club

With only eight members the Cape Fear Singles Club began three years ago with one simple goal: having fun with friends. Now the group has more than 300 members who meet for happy hour live music holiday celebrations and outdoor activities like walking biking and kayaking along with many other local events. Assistant organizer Matt Werner says “On a personal level it’s been wonderful. It’s gotten me out doing things I probably would not have tried on my own.”

While several people have met through the club and started dating Werner explains that the club is “a safe comfortable no-stress group.” Unlike some singles groups the Cape Fear Singles Club is event-driven instead of dating-driven so that members can have fun without any pressure. Werner adds “For a single person in town who may not have friends or know other people it’s wonderful.” To find out more about the Cape Fear Singles Club and its weekly events visit http://singles.meetup.com/234/.

{2}  New Hanover County Public Library Book Clubs

“Book clubs are great places to make friends ” says Dorothy Hodder public services librarian for the Main Library on Chestnut Street in Wilmington. “If you find a book club you love and stay with you get close with those people ” Hodder explains adding “You become support groups for each other when people are going through tough times.”

New Hanover County Public Library branches offer several book clubs that focus on different genres and themes like mystery nonfiction culture adventure and more. Each book club meets once a month to discuss a featured book.

Since most book club members are women in their 40s and 50s Hodder points out “Men really add a lot to a book club when they participate because women get a different viewpoint that men are open to giving.” She adds “For single men who are middle-aged a book club would be great.” Visit www.nhclibrary.org for more information.

{3} Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association

Robert Choate president of the Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association thinks that you can learn a lot about someone by joining his or her group. “You would probably learn about their love of the sport the most but you could also figure out someone’s humility by putting together a surf contest as well as their patience since it’s pretty trying on your nerves ” Choate says.

Every year the Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association hosts the Longboard Classic where young men and women compete for $1 000 scholarships. The group also raises money for Surfers Healing an organization that hosts a free surf camp for children with autism. When they are not helping others group members can be found surfing at Wrightsville Beach meeting at King Neptune Restaurant every first Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. and enjoying fun gatherings like their Christmas Oyster Roast and potluck dinners. To join stop by King Neptune Restaurant for their monthly meeting or visit www.wblasurf.com.

{4} Church Singles Groups

Every Friday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church hosts a singles social where anyone in the community can participate in activities like movie nights and dinners. Parishioner Carman Poindexter helped start the program in December and says “The Lord laid this on my heart and we just feel that there’s a big need for Christian singles to be able to socialize.” Poindexter explains that the group is geared toward people over 20 and that the activities planned are based on the needs and interests of its participants.

For more information visit www.wrightsvillebaptist.org or call (910) 256-3682. Other local churches to check out include Little Chapel on the Boardwalk (www.littlechapel.org or (910) 256-2819] Wrightsville United Methodist Church (www.wrightsvilleumc.org or (910) 256-4471) and Saint Therese Catholic Church (www.stthereseparish.net or (910) 256-2471).

{5} Cape Fear Camera Club

Snapshot: Eighty people of different backgrounds and ages gathering for monthly meetings local photo exhibits competitions social events scavenger hunts and workshops with professional photographers like Curtis Krueger and Fred Norris.

Caption: The Cape Fear Camera Club allows Wilmington community members to share their common interest in photography and learn from one another.

Richard Haas president of the Cape Fear Camera Club further describes the scene saying “We learn about each other’s lives where we’re from and we find that we have other common interests besides photography.” All you need to join is a camera and interest no experience required. Visit www.capefearcameraclub.com for more information.

{6} Wilmington Road Runners

Tracy Christian membership chairman for Wilmington Road Runners describes the group’s Tuesday night hill run as “a happening social event that keeps getting bigger and bigger with more young people joining.” In addition to this popular run Wilmington Road Runners also hosts track and long runs throughout the week and both public and member-only races. Christian has been a member of the group for four years and says “It’s a nice alternative to the bar scene because you meet people who are healthy and driven — people who have goals for themselves.” She adds “We have some good-looking runners in their 20s and 30s who are single and it’s just a great place to meet quality nice people.”

Interested in joining? Membership is $25 a year and includes club-only runs a 10 percent discount to Omega Sports and social events throughout the year. Even before you join you can visit www.wilmingtonroadrunners.org and find a weekly run to try.

{7}  Cape Fear Cyclists

The most important thing you may need to know about Cape Fear Cyclists is its motto: Nobody gets left behind. Additionally all members must wear helmets and can fall into three different rider categories: need for speed middle of the road and fun in the sun.

“We put together plans for safe and enjoyable bike rides in the Cape Fear Region ” explains Al Schroetel president of Cape Fear Cyclists. Group members also raise money and awareness for the East Coast Greenway and Safe Routes to School programs. Schroetel says that with four to five bike rides a week and plenty of social gatherings throughout the year “It’s an excellent way to meet people ” adding “If you’re interested in bicycling you can’t find a better way to meet people with similar interests since we’re the only organized bike group in town.” Anything else? “The most interesting thing to me is that we have club members from all walks of life ” says Schroetel “and what you learn is that everyone can meld together and become good friends regardless of what their background is.” To join a weekly ride or simply learn more visit www.capefearcyclists.org.

{8} Airlie Gardens Bird Hikes

On an Airlie Gardens monthly bird hike this winter you’ll probably come across ducks warblers woodpeckers and other seasonal birds that live in Airlie’s 67 acres of gardens and 10 acres of freshwater lakes. Environmental education program coordinator Matt Collogan says that the hikes allow participants to forget they are within city limits.

“We call it a bird hike but it’s really more of a meander ” Collogan explains “so it gets people talking and moving around.” Talking about what? “We take our time learn explain teach each other and have an open discussion along the tour.” Collogan adds that many times participants end up talking about their travels fun experiences and what they see in their own backyards. “It’s a great way to meet people because everyone’s laid-back and anecdotal when they’re wildlife-watching.”

Bird hikes are every second Wednesday of the month from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and are included in the $5 admission cost. Visit www.airliegardens.org or call (910) 798-7700 for more information.

{9}  Nonprofit volunteering

One sure way to meet like-minded people is to volunteer your time with a local nonprofit organization. If it’s a cause meaningful to you it’s a cause meaningful to the other volunteers too. It goes without saying that you won’t be trying out your best pickup lines while you’re building a Habitat house serving dinner on a food line volunteering as a docent at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher or caring for the ecology at the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust; no doubt your heart will be otherwise occupied with the work at hand. But you’ll be surrounded by giving concerned and warmhearted people just like you so you’ll be bound to strike up some friendships and then … who knows what comes next? The Azalea Coast has dozens of nonprofit volunteer opportunities and one of them has your name on it. Visit www.volunteermatch.org or check out page 172 in the Wrightsville PhoneBook to find the perfect organization for you.

{10} Dog Park at Empie Park

Along with people dogs need time to socialize as well. Why not do both at Wilmington Dog Park in Empie Park? At the corner of Independence Boulevard and Park Avenue your pooch can run free with his furry friends while you chat with fellow dog owners. Marian Doherty program specialist for the city of Wilmington describes the park as “a very social environment where you know you’re going to meet other animal lovers.”

Wilmington Dog Park spans 2 acres and offers wooded areas for both large and small dogs. “The thing about the dog park is that in addition to being an opportunity for dogs to socialize it’s an opportunity for people to socialize too ” Doherty says.

Go to www.wilmingtondogpark.com or call the city of Wilmington at (910) 341-3237 to learn more.