Some people are content staying home watching a favorite television show. Others want more social interaction.

New Beginnings - a group that began to offer women and men support after the loss of a spouse or divorce - offers a once-a-month alternative to the everyday routine, organizer Paula Shipman said.

But the group doesn't limit its membership to a certain category of people.

"It's just a social activity group," Shipman said. "It's open for anyone."

New Beginnings, which includes men, women and couples with a range of ages, gets together to talk, visit and sometimes reminisce about days gone by.

Other meetings might include planning the group's annual trip to Churchill Downs in the spring, going to museum exhibitions in Louisville or Indianapolis or touring the Newport Aquarium.

"(Some people) have their remote control and microwave, so they're good," Shipman said, but others like a little more contact with the outside world, which is what the group provides.

Irvin Stockdale, a member of the group since it began, said he has been to most of the outings and likes the company.

"It's another group of friends to enjoy," he said.

Instead of just staying at home, he ventures out to the monthly gathering to chat with the others or play euchre after a meal.

New Beginnings doesn't charge a fee to participate or keep an official tally of who attends the events, but the group does check in with one another through a phone tree to remind each other of upcoming events. The group also contacts one another to just make sure everyone is doing OK every once in a while.

"Our people are constantly getting in touch and checking in on each other," Shipman said.

New Beginnings evolved in 2004 from a widower's and divorced group affiliated with King's Daughters' Hospital.

"I just felt like we kind of needed more companionship," Shipman said of the group.

Even though many in the group had lost a loved one or been through divorce, Shipman felt as if the New Beginnings group should focus on something other than loss.

"You don't really move on," she said, "but you're put in a different plane."

From the start, the group had a diverse membership. Some people wanted to get out of the house every once in a while and enjoy the company of others. Others in the group came from the widower's group associated with the hospital or had gone through a divorce.

After spending so many years as part of a couple, it's often difficult to go out and enjoy the things they once did, Shipman said.

"They were just kind of afraid to go out on their own," she said. "You're just kind of at a loss."

Several people used to attend the group or the group's dances that were held at the Madison State Hospital during the first few years of the group's organization, but the group has gone through changes and no longer has dances.

Long-time member Dee Gauger said the group used to have up to 45 people at gatherings, but membership has slowly dwindled without the dances, and the group took a short hiatus from its meetings. The group has about a dozen regular members at each meeting, Shipman said.

Now the group is back to holding regular meetings and is ready to expand. During a meeting on Thursday, a few new faces joined in with the other dozen that met for lunch at Gallery Cafe in downtown Madison.

"For as long as we have interest, there's no reason not to (meet)," Shipman said. "We have something to offer that people should be taking us up on."



For more information about New Beginnings, contact Shipman at (812) 920-0685.