• Kim Piekos

Desire for Connection Draws Women to Encore Club

By Kim Piekos

Alexa Karkazis found the Encore Club at the perfect time in her life.

Having just left a job in town, she had more free time and knew she liked being busy. Friend Allison Waggoner, who had led events for other organizations with Karkazis and was president of Encore Club at the time, asked Karkazis to join her as co-president. Being a consummate “yes” person, she agreed.

Lisa Kluever, Co-President of the Encore Club, Khris Condon, First Vice President of Membership, Alexa Karkazis, President, and Allison Waggoner, Former President get together at an event this year.

“My husband would say, ‘Can’t you just join something? Why do you have to run it,’” she laughs. “But that’s what I enjoy doing.”

Separate from the popular Newcomers Club in town, Encore was created by women in the 1950s who had enjoyed their five years in Newcomers and wanted to continue to gather, promote friendship and continue to be active members of the community.

“Women have always been drawn to natural bonding groups as a way to create community,” explains past Encore President Waggoner. “Encore is an example of this.”

The club appeals to women experiencing life transitions. “Recently retired women find an opportunity to connect with others with similar interests,” says Waggoner. “Empty-nesters who are new to the community as well as those who have lived here for a long time find an easy way to reconnect with women they may have known earlier in life and meet new friends as well.”

Karkazis underscores the reality of how isolating life can be when children head to college and the need for connection with peers. “When my children were growing up, my social life was made up by the people who were sitting next to me on the bleachers and in the theatre seats,” she remembers. “The kids go off to college and you’re left going, ‘Wait a minute! Where did my social life go?’ Women need to reinvent themselves a bit. This club helps people do that.”

Encore offers a range of opportunities to be involved. For athletic types, there are groups that play tennis, pickleball and golf as well as ones for walking, hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. Members can join a book discussion group or participate in groups that pass a puzzle or book from one member to another each month. There’s a group that goes to the movies together as well as one that attends plays and shows at local theaters. For those craving social gatherings, there is a group that meets for lunch at local restaurants, Ladies Night Out gatherings and themed gourmet dinner parties at members’ homes. For card game lovers, there are groups that play Canasta and Hearts.

The all-volunteer organization thrives because of its dedicated volunteers.

“We love it when members lead new activities that they have an interest in,” Karkazis explains.

An example is a recent class where members learned to mix a variety of drinks. Notes Karkazis, “If a member has something they want to try and they want others to do it with them, we encourage members to let the Board know and we support them in the development of the activity.”

Karkazis says club membership is booming since the pandemic, growing to nearly 260 currently from about 170 in 2019.

“After being separated for so long, we expect our numbers to keep growing as women continue to crave connection,” she says.

Encore is open to any women who live in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff and costs $45 to join. The annual membership fee gives them access to the Encore calendar.

“I’ve made so many new friendships through my involvement in this club at this stage in my life,” Karkazis says. “I now have the opportunity to get to know local women at a deeper level, and it’s made this stage in my life both fun and fulfilling.”