(This column originally ran in Harvey County Now based in Newton, KS)
I am not from Newton. I didn’t grow up in Harvey County, and outside of Harvey County Now, I haven’t one connection to the whole community. Without this newspaper, I probably wouldn’t know a soul in Newton or in Harvey County outside of my stint as a reporter for the Harvey County Independent when I was in my early 20s.
My wife and I grew up in Reno County, both in small towns, and most of our family and childhood friend networks still reside out there.
Moving to Newton was oddly scary. I had a network in Hutchinson. I had lots of friends and family to lean on if I wanted to go out to dinner, play fantasy football, have folks over for game night or whatever. It wasn’t hard to be social in Hutchinson for me.
That wasn’t the case in Newton. In a lot of ways it still isn’t, even years after we have called Harvey County our home.
It’s sometimes awkward to try and turn business relationships into friendships, even if many of them border that already. It isn’t always smooth to see if someone you know professionally wants to go grab beers or hang out and watch football.
That is probably why, if you are a longtime reader of this opinion section, you catch a lot of references to Adam, the editor of Harvey County Now, and I and our spouses all hanging out in our free time.
Adam and I were friends before we became teammates at the newspaper. It was easy to hang out as we had a lot in common, and when moving to Newton, I have leaned heavily on that friendship as a social outlet.
It’s hard to make new friends when you are an adult—especially when there is a serious lack of social gathering spaces that are open after 5:30 p.m. in this town.
So how is someone supposed to make friends and socialize here? It’s a good question, and it’s one that we felt needed a solution, not just for the town’s viability to bring in younger professionals, but just for my personal sanity.
A lot of folks have asked what the mission of Press Club is. If you have read this far into my column, I think you are starting to get the idea.
The mission is simple: we want to connect folks and make it easier to be social in a community that has no shortage of non-profits but a huge shortage of outlets just for the purpose of socializing.
That is why Press Club isn’t political. It’s not a civic group, either. It’s just a reason to make friends and socialize for the sake of socializing.
We have held two open-to-the-public mingles at the Harvey County Now office in Newton, and both were well attended. We ate some snacks, drank a few brews, and socialized. It was nice. I even met some new people.
Now that we have dipped our toes in the water, we want to do more, though. So if you have signed up for our Press Club e-mail list, you will start seeing more than just monthly mingles on the calendar. We are going to have a group dinner in mid-August and plan to organize more later. We are finalizing a field trip to El Dorado and Walnut River Brewing Company for October. We are going to try to organize some teams to compete at Newton Recreation events, and we are even going to see if we can get a bar trivia team or two out to Moxie’s on a Thursday night in the near future.
The idea behind Press Club is just infrastructure to hang out with folks who are interested in getting to know their neighbors and also happen to support the newspaper. If you have questions about it, let me know. If you are interested but not ready to sign up just yet, that is OK, but sign up to get the weekly e-mails so you know what is going on, and maybe you will pull the trigger soon.
Just like when we launched Blues, Brews and Barbecue years ago, we took a leap of faith and prayed folks would come and not just leave us hanging out in Athletic Park by ourselves for the evening.
And just like seven years ago when we launched this newspaper, I am asking again to take a leap of faith and become a founding member of something new and exciting. I would really appreciate the support, as if I don’t make some new friends soon, Adam is going to get sick of me.