Coffee Social

A Heartfelt But Virtual Welcome


How was LLI going to make new members feel welcome and show them how to get around LLI Online? Kim Sears and the Membership Development Committee met that challenge with imagination and humor. She and Barbara Burns, Volunteer Coordinator, matched every new member with a current member, and recruited experienced members to serve as mentors, some mentors taking on two or three mentees.

Next, Kim organized Zoom orientation meetings, and used them to show new members how to access our website, how to navigate in Zoom, and how to sign up for classes. Finally, she organized social gatherings in Zoom for groups of mentors and mentees.

In addition to finding session managers for each gathering, Kim added “social managers” to spark conversations and help everyone feel comfortable. For fun, the groups were polled on such questions as “have you cut your own hair yet?” and the answers shared with everyone.

Impressive Introduction

So how did it go? Nancy Amiel said, “As a new member of LLI, I was impressed by the continued outreach by LLI volunteers welcoming me, guiding me through the registration and participation process and offering an opportunity to socialize via Zoom with other members. I’ve rarely experienced such a professional, efficient and supportive welcome when joining a new group.” And Rory Carlton added, “As a new member, I’ve been impressed by the attention paid to helping us ‘newbies’ find our feet at Bard LLI. The orientation programs and mentor-mentee socials have quickly helped me feel integrated into a very welcoming community. Kudos to all who have worked to make this happen!”   

Thank You, Kim!

LLI President Nanci Kryzak participated in the orientation programs and social gatherings and summed up by saying, “I think Kim is the perfect person to greet our newest LLI members! She has an innate understanding of what the goal is for both the new member orientation and the online coffee gatherings. It includes but is much more personal than our providing needed information about the organization and answering immediate questions. It’s actually more about introducing our new members to the unique experience of LLI, wherein members share a real interest in one another and become comfortable expressing themselves and contributing to our ongoing conversation.

She added, “Kim approaches the task with considerable organizational skill and also with humor and a natural exuberance that draws in all the participants, including the meeting leaders. She uses the tools we have today — Zoom, polling, and the intimacy of gallery view — to create a friendly environment and transform what could be perceived as a new member obligation into a fun time. She is fully present and it shows! I think others who attended would agree that we are the lucky ones!”

It Takes a Team!

As always with LLI, many hands contributed to the success of this project. Robert Inglish kicked off the orientations with wit and fun. Session managers for the meetings included Robin Berger, Jeff Christensen, Carmela Gersbeck, Chuck Mishaan, Deborah Schwartz, and Bill Tuel. And the social managers for the mentor-mentee gatherings included Dorothy Baran, Robert Inglish, Nanci Kryzak, Jill Lundquist, and Cathy Reinis.