I’ve spent many an hour discussing the woes of online dating with my gal pals. Most have tried — and subsequently given up on — the standards: the friend fix-up, the late-night bar scene, cruising church or another local community, and, of course, online dating websites. Each has at least one dating nightmare story to share and they’ve usually been left feeling alone and discouraged by the superficiality of it all.
But dating is continuously evolving, and thanks to the “Do It Yourself” attitude of Bellingham transplant Kimberly Kerr, Whatcom County singles have a new, safe, less awkward and frustrating option that helps singles find both new friends and potential dates. Kerr’s creation, North Sound Singles, brings Pacific Northwest singles ages 30 to 50 together for fun, active events that foster friendship in an active, welcoming environment.
Kerr checked out a lot of different places before settling in the Bellingham-area. Originally from Upstate New York — and after working in the Southern U.S. — Kerr first came to the Seattle-area several years ago to work for Microsoft. While there, she met and got engaged to someone she met online. Together they checked out East Coast living and had a son together. When deciding where to raise their young son, they chose Bellingham.
“We had tried city life. We wanted an easier lifestyle. Here we’re surrounded by mountains and the ocean — and the schools here are great. Bellingham has a sense of community and you see people you know everywhere you go. That’s what attracted me. It’s such a cool place.” Kerr now works from home as a Manager of Licensing Operations for a global Information Technology (IT) company.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out between Kerr and her son’s father and she found herself a single parent in Bellingham. Eventually, Kerr was ready to date again, so she began to check out her options. But like my gal pals, she soon found herself discouraged.
“I’ll go to a bar with friends, but it’s not the place I’d go to meet someone. I have my own first date horror stories. I knew there had to be other options,” remembers Kerr. “I had used the website and app Meet Up when I lived on the East Coast to find new friends, so I went to that site and found a Bellingham group.”
The group Kerr found was for activities like hiking and dinner. While she enjoyed meeting those kinds of new people, she found that most were couples younger than her, and they had little in common with a professional single mom. “Out of pure frustration, I created my own group,” says Kerr. “I just wanted to be able to go somewhere and have fun and meet new people, whether they were girlfriends, guy friends, or potential boyfriends — whatever. I just wanted to make connections with like-minded people.”
North Sound Singles has evolved gradually since Kerr started it in November 2014. “I began with an age range that worked for me, from 35 to 45. As the group grew, we’ve expanded it to 30 to 50 to better suit the people who come out,” Kerr explains of the group’s adaptable format.
“Sort of just by accident, the group attracts talented, professional, working people with interesting stories. The majority are transplants to the area brought here by their work. We have nurses, teachers, border patrol, IT, and lots of people who work from home,” notes Kerr. “Like me, when you work from home, you don’t spend time with other people, so we have to make the extra effort meet new people.”
How It Works
“We wanted to keep it simple,” explains Kerr. Sign up is only $5 per year and takes less than five minutes at the group’s Meet Up website or on the phone app. Events are listed in order by date. “We ask members of the group to RSVP with a simple click of a button so local businesses will be sure to have enough staff available to support us,” adds Kerr.
Activities Foster Connection
North Sound Singles’ events are as diverse as its members because they are the ones that propose new meet ups. “We do lots of outdoorsy activities, restaurants, wine tasting, and breweries, but there are also single parents in the group so we do family-friendly events that I’ve been able to bring my 7-year-old to like snowshoeing, sledding, and picnics,” explains Kerr.
Kerr also considers safety a real benefit. “Our events are group-related. There is safety in numbers. We’ve never had a real issue, but it’s nice to know that you always have an escape plan,” notes Kerr. “It also takes the pressure off a first meeting. If you meet someone there for the first time and it doesn’t work out, they could potentially just move on to meet one of the other 20 people there who might.”
North Sound Singles has grown a lot over the past two years, now including more than 200 singles living between Seattle and lower British Columbia. Although Kerr still considers herself single, she measures the success of North Sound Singles by what else it has brought her and the other members of the group. “My core group of girlfriends is mostly people I met at North Sound, and it’s comforting to know that I have guy friends I can call if I need help moving a sofa,” explains Kerr, laughing. “It’s also great for singles to have friends and events they can count on around holidays.”
Others are also finding the group useful. “The most common comment or review we get is that the group is so welcoming. Most say that even though they felt awkward walking into the event, it wasn’t cheesy. They soon felt comfortable and relaxed and they had fun and will be back,” explains Kerr. “To me, that’s the most important thing. I make sure everyone feels like they should be there.”
Not every dating experience works out, of course. But that hasn’t seemed to impact the group. “We’ve had one or both return to the group after a few months of dating, because even if that didn’t work out, they still felt thankful for having had the chance to meet someone there,” notes Kerr.
Women currently outnumber the men in the group, so North Sound Singles tries to encourage local single men out there to join by offering events that appeal to and relax most everyone. The group constantly schedules new events including monthly happy hours, summer picnics, holiday-centered events, and outdoor activities. Meet ups are also coordinated to attend local events like outdoor concerts, local festivals, live music, and dancing opportunities. “We’ll often have a meeting time and location scheduled and then will walk to a public event together as a group, but we’ll also post a contact phone number so you can find us at a larger event.”
North Sound Singles is always looking for suggestions for new activities and places to meet as well. “Our gatherings usually have between 15 and 35 people so we sometimes reserve a room at local businesses,” explains Kerr. “We’d love for new people to join us and help us decide where to meet next.”
For more information, visit North Sound Singles online here: www.meetup.com/North-Sound-Singles.