Jessica Chamberlain remembers the feeling of being a new person in town.
“I know how hard it can be to meet people in a new community, especially as adults,” she said. “… It’s so hard to meet people as a grownup. If you’ve got great co-workers, that’s wonderful. But outside of work, that’s hard.”
So she’s trying to help make space for Norfolkans to meet others.
Starting last month, the director of Norfolk Public Library oversaw the organization’s first Meet Your Neighbor event, where a handful of locals learned about Norfolk’s unusual historical events and sampled the famous bean dip from Michael’s Cantina.
Held on the second Tuesday of every month, the events aim to introduce people to local gems and make new connections.
It stemmed from conversations Chamberlain had with various community members who wanted another way to meet new people. She also wanted to help show newcomers what the area has to offer.
“Some (people) are moving here from smaller communities, some are moving from huge communities,” she said. “We want to highlight those local resources, make sure they know where to get good food and entertainment.”
To reach newbie Norfolkans, the library is partnering with other local organizations to provide welcome packets, including Realtors and the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, so more people can be aware of the free event.
But everyone is welcome to come, she stressed. The inaugural event had people from a variety of backgrounds, including a prospective resident, a newcomer to town and others who had been in the area for a while and were looking for more ways to get involved.
The next event on Tuesday will feature the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau with ideas of things to do in the summer and food samples from Eldorado Hills Golf Club.
There’s a whole year of Meet Your Neighbor events slated. Future ideas for meeting themes span a variety of topics including child care and schools, giving back, getting support, health and fitness, shopping options and local art culture, Chamberlain said.
Partnering with other groups in the community allows everyone to meet a common goal of welcoming new Norfolkans together.
“We’re trying to look at this as a partnership because we all have the same mission in mind,” she said. “We all want to be a more welcoming community. We want people to feel connected and involved. We’ll do that much better as a team.”
She also hopes attendees provide feedback on what topics they want to see in upcoming events.
“We ask people to ask anything (at events),” she said. “What’s been hard to find? What don’t you know yet? Giving people the opportunity (to ask) what questions you have.”
Her vision is to see the event grow and become a “touchstone” for recurring attendees who can connect with like-minded people.
“My real hope for it is that people will come not just once — we have programs planned for an entire year cycle where they can learn something different for a whole year,” she said. “Come as long as they want to and meet and connect with people … and find the sense of community they’re looking for.”