News Column

Benefits of Meetup.com

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Technology and social media have made the world a much smaller place.

But in a city as transient as Fayetteville, and with loved ones often out of town for training and deployments, it can be hard to find people who share similar interests.

If that's the case, then Meetup.com might be for you. Whether it's doing something outdoors, holding conversations in German or bellydancing, the website appears to have a group to match interests of all kinds.

For Jennifer Saas, Meetup.com has helped forge friendships that will last a lifetime. She is the founder of a Meetup group called Boredom Crashers in N.C., which boasts 600-plus members.

"I've been invited to seven weddings from people in my Meetup group," said Saas. "It's pretty cool to have made some close friends through this."

Saas said she founded a similar group when she lived in Orlando nearly seven years ago. She started the Boredom Crashers here a little more than two years ago. She said the group, which is geared toward adults who are 21 to 40ish, tries to focus on going to events that are free or low-cost to encourage attendance.

"We want people to have a way to get together and do something that maybe they wouldn't do if they had to go alone," said Saas.

Whatever your interest, Saas said, Meetup.com has something for everyone. And if it doesn't, you can always start your own.

Here are a few popular Meetup.com groups in Fayetteville. More can be found at Meetup.com.

Fayetteville Running Club

Created: August 2008

Active members: 250-plus

What does your group do? "We're a nonprofit group that's here to support the running community," said president Thomas Dosier. "We provide our members motivation, inspiration and accountability. We found a lot of race events in the area that didn't have a lot of volunteers, so we're trying to get involved with the local race community."

Why did you start the group? "To promote running as a healthy lifestyle in our community, and to help motivate people who are just getting involved with running."

Who comes out? "We get a wide spectrum of people of all running experience levels," Dosier said. "We have a 'Couch to 5k' program for entry-level runners that we're hoping brings more people out. We also have cyclists, people training for triathlons and other events."

Membership dues: $20 a year, which includes water and snacks at most Meetup events

How often do you meet? 6 to 7 times a week on average. "We also hang out together a couple nights a week," Dosier said.

Why should people meet up with you? "If you're looking for a healthier lifestyle or to make a change, we can help you do that. We'll help you get rid of your excuses."

Other groups like this: Those Crazy Runners, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg "Fit Groups," Fayetteville Area Outdoor Club

Cape Fear Table Tennis Club

Created: June 2009

Active members: 20 paid members, but others take part in the club

What does your group do? "We promote table tennis in the Cape Fear region," said president Richard Perez. "We try to teach people the wonderful sport of table tennis, and we're trying to get kids involved. It's probably the only sport where a 7-year-old can take on a 70-year-old, besides chess -- but that's a game, not a sport. When we are playing for fun, we call the sport 'ping pong.' When we're serious, though, it's 'table tennis.' "

Why did you start the group? "I started a group in New Jersey at my church before I moved here, but we weren't sanctioned," Perez said. "When I came here I looked around and found a few people who played. We all loved table tennis so much, we just started the club and we've grown from there. Now we have our nonprofit status, and we're offering classes and we have competitions."

Who comes out? "We have a lot of military members. But we also have a wide range of ages and skill levels."

Membership dues: $20 a year, which goes toward USATT -- United States Association of Table Tennis -- certification fees for the club and other expenses.

How often do you meet? Every Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. inside the gym at Korean Presbyterian Church on Ireland Drive

Why should people meet up with you? "We're friendly," Perez said. "We are competitive, but we also help new people learn how to play. We offer time with a certified coach who can teach all skill levels. And we have a robot that can fire off table tennis balls at you. You can battle the robot. It's pretty tough, though."

Other groups like this: Fort Bragg Tennis, Volleyball & Other Sports in Fayetteville, Fayetteville Pick-Up Soccer Group

Making Friends Near Fort Bragg

Created: October 2012

Active members: About 40 regular members, but others are welcome to come to meetups -- and they do.

What does your group do? "We are a social group that caters to everyone -- single, married, new families," said Rachel L. Ritter, the group's founder. "We're trying to do more kid-friendly events, too. People love to get together and socialize over a few beers. We'll go out and eat at different places and go to different bars. We're all about meeting new people."

Why did you start the group? "My husband deployed, all my friends had moved away, I didn't know my neighbors and I thought 'What do I do?' " Ritter said. "I think I Googled the exact phrase 'Making friends near Fort Bragg' and came across Meetup.com. However, I didn't find one group that fit me per se. So I thought I'd start my own group."

Who comes out? "We have people who've been in Fayetteville for only a few days," Ritter said. "We have people who are social butterflies, some who are shy, as well as a good mix of military and civilians. People join us to meet people outside of their jobs. We've also got some retirees who've been here a while, people who've lived here their whole lives, and people who just want to expand their social circles.

Membership dues: $5 when people sign up, which goes toward keeping the group listed on Meetup.com

How often do you meet? "With the summer, we meet three to four times a week," Ritter said. "We don't like an empty calendar. Even if it's just something small -- like going to the movies. Otherwise, you might be sitting at your house bored on a Tuesday night."

Why should people meet up with you? "We're open to everyone, we love new people of all backgrounds and jobs, and we offer tons of different events," she said. "We have so much going on, a real wide variety of events."

Other groups like this: Boredom Crashers in N.C., Military Wives Social Club, Girls Night Out of Fayetteville

Indulge Fashion Network

Created 2006

Active members: 50 to 100, depending on the event. The group lists 900 members total.

What does your group do? "We're an active group of fashion providers," said founder John Covington. "We do group photo shoots, fashion shows, fashion parties, meet-and-greets, benefit galas, portfolio reviews, and we have our own magazine. We meet to collaborate on photo shoots, fashion shows, fashion mixers and workshops. Our group is listed in Charlotte, but most of our meetups are in Fayetteville."

Why did you start the group? "It was all about connecting and helping people that want to get their names out there in the fashion industry," Covington said. "There aren't as many opportunities in the industry in North Carolina, so we wanted to create our own. We wanted to create doors that we could open to get exposure."

Who comes out? We have models, photographers, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, fashion designers, makeup artists and local boutique owners. We have people from all over the state involved with the group.

Membership dues : $100 a year, which comes with benefits -- access and advice to various experts in the group. "Fashion is all about networking," Covington said.

How often do you meet? About twice a month

Why should people meet up with you? "You get to network with your peers in the fashion industry, and the learning experience you'll get is amazing," he said. "There are multiple skill levels within the group, so you'll get exposed to all of them. A lot of the real world aspects of working in this industry aren't taught in school. You have to learn that on your own, and we can help you with that. And we help you with your portfolio -- we teach and build. That's what we're about."

Other groups like this: Women's Power Networking: Coffee and Contacts Fayetteville, Arts & Culture Lovers of Fayetteville, Fayetteville's Food, Fun, and Fashion

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