Nancy May of Whitehouse, and Zandi, her rescue hound, greet Pat Leithead of Berkley, Mich., during a fundraiser Feb. 9 sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Great Dane Meetup and Rescue.
The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
When you're new in town, you work crazy hours, or your hobby is a bit quirky, it's not always easy finding like-minded people who want to hang out.
No worries, there's an app and a Web site for that. It's called Meetup, an online social networking site that brings neighbors together offline.
Meetup.com is touted as a way to make friends, pursue hobbies and immerse yourself in your community. After organizing online, participants meet offline for group outings. Group members communicate via online message boards, suggesting events and planning carpools.
Overall, the site has more than 11 million users interested in just about everything. The users are spread across 45,000 cities and make up 105,000 local groups that host 340,000 meetups a month.
Like the Web site, the Meetup smart phone app allows users to find nearby meetings and RSVP from their phones. The download also allows users to keep track of upcoming meetups, get directions, upload photos and view guest lists. The app has been downloaded more than a half-million times.
Mom groups and dancers are the most popular throughout the site. In the Toledo area, career professionals and women's groups are some of the most active. Members connect for outings that include everything from happy-hour gatherings to game nights and travel excursions.
After members of his club grew stagnant, Tom Hudak decided to expand the group's activity base.
"We had a bunch of members, but they weren't doing much," said Mr. Hudak, 31 of Toledo. "So we talked to people and found they were more interested in having it be an adventure club."
That's when the Toledo Hikers club became the Toledo Hikers Bikers Paddlers and Other Adventurers. With 315 members, the club has met up 32 times for mountain biking, walking, kayaking, sand volleyball and other activities. An upcoming meetup is scheduled at an area gun range.
"It's just a way to bring people together," said Mr. Hudak, an insurance agent. "You don't have to rely on a small group of people for all of your activities. The majority of the time I spend with people I met on Meetup."
Often times, Meetup is the starting point for long-term friendships and other ventures. Kim Kadel, organizer of the Northwest Ohio Great Dane meetup, teamed with some of her club members to start a non-profit rescue for the breed.
"Originally, I was looking for other people with Great Danes to have play dates," said Ms. Kadel of Waterville. Membership grew quickly for the club, which now has 225 Great Dane lovers. "It's a great way to find people that have the same interest as you and that are local. I don't think the rescue would be here without it."
Foodies, singles of all ages and adventure seekers also attract large followings. There are groups for atheists, vegetarians, flag football players, Tai Chi enthusiasts, scrap-bookers, political junkies and more.
Jennifer Miller was looking for a book club when she stumbled upon the site. After spending 11 years out of town, in 2009, Ms. Miller, a Perrysburg native, returned to find that her old friends had moved away or were married.
"It was really hard to find other single professionals," said Ms. Miller, a Montessori teacher. "[Meetup] is how I established a social network. I've gained personal friendships through the site."
Ms. Miller is now the organizer of Glass City Young Professionals Meetup. She inherited the group about a year ago. The group has 270 members and holds get-togethers several times a week.
"Everything from after-work drinks or dinner, to art gallery tours, bowling, rock climbing, movies," said Ms. Miller, 32 of Perrysburg. "You name it, we've done it. Even trips out of the area."
There aren't any requirements to join the group. Most members hold degrees and reside in Greater Toledo and Ann Arbor.
Once in a while, the young professionals hold "newbie" dinners, to welcome new members and out-of-towners.
"We do it so that they're not the only new person walking into a strange atmosphere," Ms. Miller said. "It's really become like a family for some people."
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.