Singles in Cenla, especially those living in small towns, often have trouble connecting with other single folks. The dating scene can be a nightmare. Online dating websites can make your head spin with the many choices. Challenges arise for singles to meet other singles, whether they are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s or 60s or older. The single life often is a baffling realm. Friends and family members, in a well-meaning way, may offer suggestions to help end your singlehood. “Change your hairdo”, “Lose some weight”, “Dress up more”, “Sit up straighter” and a plethora of other “helpful” hints are suggested. Friends will try to set you up on a blind date. But if you are not successful with finding a soulmate, and remain single, frustrations may build. Research shows the best way to change your single status is to get involved in your community where other singles are venturing out. Get up off the couch, put away the remote control and go to a meet-up event to meet other singles.
Involvement with the Young Professionals Group of Central Louisiana could offer a solution for singles wanting to meet other singles with similar interests. Caitlin Murphy, the president of YPG, said the organization can open social doors for singles to network with other singles. “We’re a friendly group receptive to new people. We like to mix and mingle, and we love to see people coming from different places,” Murphy says, adding that if a single person will email her to say they are going to a YPG event, they will have people on the “look out” for them.
The group offers several venues to meet other singles. Their “Third Thursday” get-together will be August 18th at Jack’s in Alexandria, and on September 22nd, the YPG will gather at the Mirror Room. Besides the monthly “meet and greet,” the organization touts a “Lunch and Learn” speaker series. Often, young professionals are transplanted to the Cenla area for their job, and the speaker series could be a ticket to branch out and build relationships. “The luncheons are laid back and not stuffy. There is a lot of camaraderie. I would encourage singles to come and get connected,” Murphy invites.
The YPG will get together to go bowling or team up to do a community service project. Volunteer activities “for a cause” have warmed the hearts of many singles as they join together in a common bond. The YPG also has a tailgate party planned and usually have a big Christmas party to celebrate the season. In addition, the group sponsors an annual crawfish boil. Currently, there are about 140 active members. Even though the YPG is not exclusively for singles, Murphy says its ranks include a large number of single members. More information about the group can be found at www.ypgcenla.org.
While the YPG members tend to be a younger crowd, Ann Lowrey saw the need to start a group last summer that would host “meet and greet” socials for singles, and its members tend to be age 35 to 65. Lowrey, who is single and knows first-hand the challenges of online dating, decided to create a Facebook page called Single in Cenla? Meet. Mix. Mingle. To date, there are 400 members. To join, Lowrey says a single person makes a request to join online by searching “Single in Cenla” on Facebook and they’re in! “Last June, we had our first meet and greet at Spirits on their patio. We had about 30 people show up and we had a blast. We closed the place down,” Lowrey enthuses.
Although the group is not a formal organization, Lowrey plans special events. “We got together and did fun things! We went canoeing and grilled ribs on Memorial Day, and we had a gathering at Tunk’s Cypress Inn. The main thing is we want to make new friends who are single. Everyone is welcome to join,” Lowrey says. Sometimes the group will meet up at local restaurants to sample new cuisine while enjoying live music.
The main challenge in Cenla for singles, Lowrey adds, is there is not any specific one place in town where single people gather to meet other singles. “Our friendship site can bring people together. Come join us and make some friends.” On Saturday, August 20th, the “Single in Cenla” group will meet at 7:00pm on the patio at Spirits to relax, eat and hang out. Later that evening, they plan to go dancing at the Diamond’s Edge. Lee Gwinn, owner of Spirits Food & Friends, located on Texas Ave. in Alexandria, says Spirits is the perfect gathering spot for singles to meet up with other singles. “We have a unique environment where you can sit and listen to music and feel welcome and safe. We have plenty of well-lit parking,” Gwinn notes, adding that every Wednesday and Friday night there is free live music. Different styles of music are featured, including rock, acoustic, folk, jazz and blues.
Sometimes the best way to meet someone is to step out of your comfort zone and participate in something new. Tammy DiBartolo, assistant director for outreach services for the Rapides Parish Libraries, says the 10 branches of libraries offer activities, special events, clubs and classes that singles could get involved in to possibly meet someone. “Libraries are really changing. You can bring your coffee and relax at the library, download music, play a game, join a class and meet other people who like what you like. I would encourage singles to come take ownership of a library near them, and make a friend,” DiBartolo says.
In the works, the parish libraries are looking to host a type of “speed dating” event in the fall where participants will be able to meet new people and talk about their interests. Currently, the libraries offer a variety of book clubs comprised of men and women of different ages. A “gamers” group meets regularly for a “You’re as Young as You Feel Day” at the library where they play bingo and checkers and have a luncheon. Every fall, the libraries sponsor the “Rapides Reads” event where entire communities get involved and encourage folks to read. Last year, the chosen author was Edgar Allen Poe. “We had a Po-boys with Poe” event which was a lot of fun,” DiBartolo says.
One of the library’s book clubs recently met at the Tamp & Grind Coffeehouse in downtown Alexandria. The library system also hosted a barbecue at Harley Davidson which featured a book about the Viet Nam war.
Karen Schexnayder, owner of Lagniappe Theatre Company, believes boosting confidence would help single people open up more, which in turn, could help them meet new people. The theatre company will offer adult acting classes starting in mid-September. “In the classes, you are almost forced to communicate with people, and you interact with others. It’s a way a single person could get to meet other single people really fast. And we have people from every age group imaginable participating,” Schexnayder remarks.
The theatre group just completed the production of “Sister Act,” and plan to produce “Peter Pan” next. “After rehearsals, usually the singles will go out and hang out or go out to eat together. The whole thing is about commitment and interacting with others. We are a close-knit community and everyone gets to know each other really fast,” she adds.
For the active set, area health clubs, gyms and groups offer a wide variety of great opportunities to get fit in group settings. The Courtyard Health & Racquet Club in Alexandria offers something for everyone across all fitness levels. “The great thing about our club is that we offer a little bit of everything,” says owner Heidi McMickens. “If you’re not a runner or don’t want to lift weights, we offer over 30 different fitness classes each week.” Not only will the exercise help improve your overall health and well-being, the classes serve as a great opportunity to meet like-minded people with similar goals.
For the avid runners out there, Run GDN is a running group open to anyone who wants to walk or run through the Garden District with a fun group of people. There is a 3-mile route or a 5-mile route available. The group meets every Tuesday at 6:30pm—rain or shine—on the patio at Spirits in Alexandria. Run GDN’s purpose is to have fun as a social group. All the participants have at least two things in common: they like to run and they like to support local business. It is also a great way to feel connected to others in the community. Spirits offers an added incentive for the participants, where after running six times, you get a free beer.
Perhaps the best place for singles to meet other like-minded people is at church. Kent Clark, the college and career singles pastor at the Pentecostals of Alexandria, says people age 18 to 25 are going through a transition period and are making many decisions that will affect their lives. “It’s good if they have a support group where they can get help and make solid decisions. We want to connect them first to God, then secondly, to each other. We help them connect with other people their age in a positive environment,” Clark says.
The college and career group meets in the Journey room at the church for worship and a service, then often share a cup of coffee afterward. Besides the Bible study, the group also hosts social and outreach opportunities. Each summer, the “Journey” group reaches out to others on a mission trip. Recently, the group did an outreach for a home church in Arkansas by setting up a community block party with old-fashioned games and grilled hotdogs. “We had a blast and it was a huge impact,” Clark says, adding that it was a blessing to serve others. The singles who participate in the outreaches foster friendships and lasting bonds.
Calvary Baptist Church, on Jackson Street in Alexandria, has changed the way they reach out to singles. They formerly featured a dedicated singles ministry with planned events, but now want to focus more on having a positive environment where people can build their faith. Seth Carnes, the education minister, says for those aged 18 to 25, the church has started a new service on the second floor of the student center on Wednesday nights where they can be immersed in worship and hear a message from God’s word. “We have started the 6:05 for college students and young singles. They can come and have a positive experience in the middle of the week, and it’s a place where they can grow their faith,” Carnes notes, adding it was a positive environment where college and young singles can meet other people their age.
For those singles out there who would like to meet other singles in the hopes of finding “the one,” the key is to seek out opportunities to network with like-minded people in settings doing things you already enjoy. Both Louisiana College and Louisiana State University at Alexandria have classes that could peak a new interest and offer opportunities to meet other singles. Bookstores, grocery stores, laundry mats, restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs, sporting events, local festivals and theatre productions all offer a chance for singles to meet and mingle. But singles, what is essential is to “get out there”! No matter your age, don’t be afraid to shake hands with strangers, smile and speak up! You never know what other great folks you might meet as an active Single in Cenla!