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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Compass Club Helps Orient Newcomers To Life In Spokane

Nina Culver Correspondent

Those of us who have lived in the area for many years are intimately familiar with Spokane. We know the best restaurants, where to find that little shop that has exactly what we want, and whom to trust with our health, our teeth and our kids.

But for people moving into the area, stepping out into Spokane’s streets is like launching into untested waters. That’s where organizations like the Compass Club come in.

A newcomers group geared specifically toward women, the club offers opportunities to socialize with other newcomers and to be introduced to what Spokane has to offer.

Once women join, they can remain members as long as they like. Members who have been here a few years often offer tips on where the good restaurants are and which dry cleaners to use, says vice president Ginny Bott, a retired professor of political science.

Members ranging in age from early 20s to early 80s come from all parts of town to monthly luncheons and occasional coffees. The club also has a wide variety of special-interest groups, including reading, moms and tots, gardening and quilting.

The non-profit club also does various fund-raising projects that benefit Crosswalk, an organization that helps homeless teenagers.

One thing the club doesn’t quite have a handle on is how to get the word out about the group.

“It’s pretty much been word-of-mouth,” says Bott. “It’s not a very effective way of recruiting membership.”

Bott, who made her way to Spokane from San Clemente, Calif., two years ago, stumbled onto the group a year after her arrival when she happened to meet a member.

The club was founded in 1948 and had 108 members from 40 different states by the end of the first year. It has grown to 300 members, but there is a lot of turnover when people move on and new people come in.

The Compass Club is so named because its members come from all over - from all points of the compass, Bott explains.

The club originally recruited new members by getting lists of newcomers from churches, Washington Water Power Co. and moving companies.

“I don’t think you could do that today,” says president Ro Lisk, who volunteers at various Spokane organizations.

The club makes a determined effort to include new faces in its leadership positions, says Lisk. Members are limited to three years on the board, and each position can be held for only a year.

Accustomed to participating in her community, Lisk was like a fish out of water when she first arrived. Then she found the Compass Club.

“The club has certainly helped me,” says Lisk. “It made a tremendous difference.

“The first few months I was here I was really languishing. It’s a resource that every woman should know about.”

Shari Russell, Lisk’s neighbor, watched her come and go as she went to meetings and finally asked her where she was going all the time. Lisk invited Russell along for a meeting in February, and she’s been going ever since.

A self-described military brat who married a career Army officer, Russell was accustomed to being the new kid on the block. But when she and her husband Steve moved here after he retired, she found herself missing the way the military made her feel at home no matter where she was.

“In the military we know how to make the newcomers feel comfortable, and on the civilian side it’s not like that,” says Russell, who works in marketing.

Being a club member is a great way to be exposed to what is in the community, says Russell, and it’s a terrific way to make friends.

“They’re dedicated to making you feel warm and comfortable,” says Russell. “This really helps you get out almost immediately. I’m really enthusiastic about this club.”

Russell is also very enthusiastic about Spokane. She points out that she and her husband have lived around the world and could have lived anywhere they wanted.

“We chose Spokane,” she says. “I think this says a lot about this city. It’s a great place. We’re happy to be here.”

For information on becoming a member, call Lisk at 466-9645. The club plans a fall luncheon next Tuesday.

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