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New to the area? Locals say get out and drive around.
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Gainesville Newcomers Club
Meets: Fourth Wednesday of each month (women only)
When: Hospitality hour at 9:30 a.m.; meetings starts at 10; lunch follows (reservations required)
Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville
How much: $30 a year
More info: 678-450-9492

When Lou Durden moved to Hall County years ago, she said the adjustment to life in a new place where she didn’t know anyone made her feel “backwards.”

But one way to get to know her surroundings — and the people who live in it — was to join the Newcomers Club.

Today, she’s been in the club 15 years and volunteers at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Northeast Georgia Medical Center. She credits the Newcomers Club with opening her up to those volunteer opportunities, along with other community service projects and discoveries in Hall County and north Georgia.

“I remember when I joined the club, I felt like a backwards person because I didn’t know anybody here,” said Durden. “It was just a way to meet people.”

Along with charity work — like projects with My Sister’s Place — and volunteering as docents at the annual Christmas on Green Street tour, the 300-member club also helps newcomers to the area meet new people and get to know their surroundings.

Within the club there are also special-interest groups for people to meet other newcomers who enjoy activities such as gardening, dining or boating.

So, we thought we’d consult with  Durden, publicity chairwoman for the club, and Mary Duvall, hospitality chairwoman, about must-see places in and around Hall County. If you’re trying to introduce new residents of Hall County to the area they live in, what are some can’t-miss places?

“Oh, there are so many things,” said Duvall, who moved to Hall County from St. Louis, Mo., with her husband about a year and a half ago.

Learn the local government

Both Duvall and Durden have completed the Gainesville Citizens Academy, a course that teaches residents about the government’s departments and lets you meet department heads. There is also a similar program through the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, which teaches residents about the daily duties of a deputy, and a Hall County citizens Fire Academy, where you can learn about the duties of a firefighter.

“You get an opportunity to go to all the departments, the mayor, the airport, parks and recreation,” said Duvall of Citizens Academy. “It’s fantastic to learn about Hall County.”

Learn the arts scene

Hall County and North Georgia is rich in art, whether it’s paintings at the  Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville or the unique town of Dahlonega, which is like it’s own piece of art.

“We have some fantastic, absolutely superb artists in this town,” Duvall said. “The artists here are dynamic. You have the (Northeast Georgia) History Center, the Quinlan arts center, which has its own artists come and go. It’s fascinating.”

Take a drive

“I think the best thing you can do is just travel up and down the road,” Duvall said. “Just fill your tank up with petrol and go.”
Duvall noted that she and her husband enjoy driving up into the mountains. Last fall they enjoyed a drive up Ga. 60 to see the fall color, and always enjoy a drive to Blood Mountain through Cleveland.

“There are patches where you can stop and look, and some of the flowers are as tall as you are,” Duvall said. “It’s really beautiful.”