Club or group for people lacking extended family?
June 28, 2021 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Where can one get that "extended family" feel that can fill the gaps? Churches are the first to come to mind but for non-believers they don't fit. Snowflakes ahead.

This is for my adult daughter, "D" who has normal intelligence but a very noticeable learning disability, making her appear younger or naive. She had been frequenting a church but she's an atheist and it was only for a place to hang out. They were very kind and accepting and didn't know she's not interested in their beliefs. However D is done with the church because they refuse to take the pandemic seriously and are anti-vaxxers The UU church wouldn't work because they have interesting speakers and she can't follow deep talks due to poor working memory.

So now I'd like to find another group that can be a better fit for group activities. She's best with older people who are patient and understanding. I'm leaning towards service groups like Kiwanis or Rotary because fundraising for charity is a great hobby and very rewarding. But those groups tend to have professionals who are career orientated. D has always enjoyed all sorts of charity fundraising and if there's a group that does this on a regular basis, it might be perfect.

Other than those service groups I've mentioned, I can't think of anywhere else where young adults would be welcome on say, a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
posted by Coffeetyme to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I imagine the best options are going to be hyper-local. Is there a local paper in the area? One that prints press releases from all the local libraries, clubs, etc? This might be a good place to start researching. I'd take a look at the local library calendar, too, to see if there are activities she might find fun- my library does regular craft events, yoga classes, and movie afternoons, to name a few.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2021

I mean, she wouldn’t be the only one to zone out during UU lay-led or outside-speaker talks (speaking from experience…) but I can see how that would be frustrating. (They also tend to be a minority of the time for a service, and the least notable parts IME.)

Seconding local stuff. If it’s an outdoorsy area something like trail upkeep or other parks volunteering— in Washington it’s coordinated through the WTA, for example.
posted by supercres at 11:57 AM on June 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

She's best with older people who are patient and understanding.

Any chance she'd be interested in volunteering regularly at a senior center or nursing home?

If she has any hobbies that can be done in company (art, gardening, knitting, sports...) then classes and clubs could be a good way to find a group, though it may take a few tries to find one she gels with.
posted by trig at 12:06 PM on June 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

A friend of mine with high-functioning autism really gets a lot out of a rock climbing group and a women's writing group. She's been part of both for years.
posted by 8603 at 12:07 PM on June 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

If going younger works as well as going older, perhaps she be interested in being a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters?
posted by foxfirefey at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2021

Best answer: Quaker silent meeting?

Many clubs skew older, especially if they meet during weekdays. “Friends of” groups tend to be fundraising focused, like friends of the library, friends of local parks or natural areas.
posted by momus_window at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Does she like animals? The animal shelter's I've gotten cats from have volunteers that seem pretty close-knit.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:01 PM on June 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I once tried to come up with a list of completely isolated, family-like social units out there. I'm not sure which would be applicable to you and yours, but here is the list!



sports teams

Runners, mountain climbers, bikers


People that show off cars


Martial arts

People that fly hot air balloons


Rotary, Kiwanis, etc


AA and other drug rehab

Industry social organizations (electricians clubs, etc)


Model train/plane people

Video game players

Magic the gathering players

Board gamers

Dating groups from Meetup


Foreign population large social groups every week in segregated neighborhoods

Political groups organized locally

Student groups

People with boats doing boat things


Gardeners / local flower beautification

Gun enthusiasts and shooting range clubs

Historical reenactment societies

PTA meetings

About a zillion kid-related activities. For example my wife goes to a weekly toddler time at the local library.


Volunteer organizations like soup kitchens

Model airplane and drone enthusiasts

Photographer groups

Old folks activities like bingo or weekly brunch at assisted living facilities

Garage bands

Book clubs

Mahjong groups

Loosely organized poker games

Investment clubs

Scuba divers



Night school

Pet groups

Marching / Mariachi Bands

“Spouses of X Profession” groups

Movie clubs

Military Reservists

Cub / Boy / Girl Scouting

Skiiers / Boarders




Art Collectives

Regulars at a bar / restaurant


Those people doing slackline in the park

LGBT associations

Equestrian clubs

(Go) Carting leagues

Language practice groups
posted by bbqturtle at 1:04 PM on June 28, 2021 [16 favorites]

Volunteering at a food bank might be great for her. Many of the more successful ones have side programs that help with things like rent and utility bills and clothing for lower and fixed income folks in the area, so it’s not necessarily all about food security. But you get to know your neighbors and are connected to people in tons of different life stages, from newborns and new parents, through school kids, young adults focused on community support and mutual aid, all the way through to seniors and elderly folks who are established philanthropists or who need extra assistance. Lots of multiculturalism typically, as well.
posted by Mizu at 1:10 PM on June 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Maybe a community choir or chorus if she's interested in music? They definitely skew older and tend to be warm and close knit communities. A community choir won't require singing ability beyond what she's probably already achieved by attending church.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 1:29 PM on June 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Volunteering for a local charity of any type (not just eg. Rotary) would probably be a good thing. For example, I've spent some time volunteering with a charity in my city that collects donated clothes, packs them, and ships them to a Syrian refugee camp. You can go to the warehouse every week, see the same people there, chat and get to know one another, spend convivial time over tea breaks and snacks, and it's mostly retired people who are very glad of a younger pair of hands. It's also possible to get involved at whatever level you like - just opening bags of clothes and repacking them into boxes, or getting more involved with fundraising, logistics etc. I'm probably slightly peripheral to the group, but there are certainly people there for whom it's like a family.

There may be a volunteering centre in your locality that's specifically set up to match volunteers with organisations and make sure they're suitable for one another, so it'd be worth a search to see if you can find one of those that would help match her.
posted by penguin pie at 1:44 PM on June 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

You might want to see if there's a Sunday Assembly group in her area. They are "churches without religion."

Otherwise, sports leagues if she's athletic, or volunteering, or local improv groups often foster close ties - no advance skills needed.
posted by hydra77 at 2:41 PM on June 28, 2021

Are you in the United States? You'll want to google "[state/county/city] Special Recreation Association" or "[state/county/city] recreation access." Or look in your local public parks & rec department for "access services" or "disability services" and find them that way. They're called different things in different states, but the bottom line is, children and adults with access needs -- including learning disabilities, working memory problems, etc. -- have a right to access tax-funded recreation services on an equal basis. In very large cities (New York, Chicago), these services might be provided directly by the park department, but in most places, park departments "club up" together so that a dozen small park departments can hire full-time access services staff and provide high-quality expertise and support across all dozen departments (rather than low-quality part-time ad-hoc services in each one). These are called "Special Recreation Associations" or "Recreational Access" or something like that.

In addition to providing support (including aides, at no additional cost to families) for individuals to attend tax-funded programs, Special Recreation Associations also provide social opportunities specifically for adults, adolescents, and children who may find some typical social options challenging. They have social clubs, bowling leagues, volunteer opportunities, walking clubs, golf lessons, camping trips -- all kinds of things.

You might not find the right thing through them right off the bat, but SRAs are scrappy, underutilized, and wildly responsive to community input. If you get on their e-mail list and peruse their offerings every few months when they release the new-season sign-ups, and answer their surveys about what kinds of services community members want, you'll start to find what you're looking for popping up. (You can also e-mail them directly about what you're after, and they'll help you search in the community to find what you want, even if they don't offer it directly.) Services can be as simple as, let the teacher of the acrylic painting class she wants to take know that she has working memory issues, and provide training for the teacher so the teacher can provide printed instructions and knows how to support working memory challenges during class time. But you may find that an SRA can either provide community groups she would enjoy, or can provide support for activities you thought weren't possible for her to engage in because she'd need extra support.

For anyone else, yes, it is true that your young child with mobility challenges, toileting delays, behavioral struggles, or anything else that qualifies them for a 504 or IEP can attend park department summer camp with age peers with a dedicated one-on-one aide at no additional cost to your family. They can play rec soccer with classmates, or take park department tennis lessons, or sign up for arts classes, and the parks department is legally obligated to provide support for your kid (or your adult, or YOU) to do that, and most will do so enthusiastically. My child with a disability was able to attend zoo camp and take fencing lessons with classmates and friends, with a one-on-one aide. It's like tax-supported magic!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on June 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Do you think she would be interested in learning or honing a skill like sewing/quilting? I grew up going to my mom's weekly-to-monthly quilting bee. I was a rowdy little guy, but something about those bees chilled me right out, and now I'm a 40 year old man who likes to quilt. I previously lived in San Francisco and was able to find a socially-minded meetup group and workshop to take the place of the bees I knew when I was a kid (i.e. a group of 5-10 moms and grandmas, chatting and stitching, often with cake and coffee and jars of pasta sauce to share etc.). When I moved to the UK, I found a local group through the Quilters Guild website (although I haven't gone to one yet because of the pandemic). You don't have to know any of the skills, or bring your own projects, generally--you just have to want to learn and participate. I love Gee's Bend-type quilts, very abstract and without a lot of precision measurement or straight edges. Nevertheless, you'll be taught a straight stitch on your first visit and handed a piece of someone else's project to work on while you learn.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:00 AM on June 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Update: the woman with high-functioning autism that I mention above has also gotten into D&D.
posted by 8603 at 3:59 AM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

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