Marsha Long started the Baldwin Park GalPals group out of desire to make female friends.
Although Baldwin Park had several community groups, she couldn’t find exactly what she was looking for — a group devoted to developing female friendships and supporting women’s issues and organizations.
Long started the GalPals group a little more than a year ago. The group already hosts more than 100 members of all ages, locations, occupations, sexual orientations and marital statuses.
Long says she wants the group to be about more than just a gathering.
“I want the ladies to be able to develop relationships with other women who may or may not be experiencing some of the same things they are so they know they’re not alone,” she says. “It’s important we all have someone we’re able to turn to whether it be for fun and a good time or as a form of comfort for hard times. I hope that’s what this group can do for its members, because that’s really what it’s done for me.”
A WOMAN AMONG WOMEN
Long moved in February 2018 from Texas to Baldwin Park.
She says the friendly people, community spirit, various activities, walkability, nearby shops, variety of restaurants and convenient central Orlando location all attracted her to the community.
Long says she didn’t know anyone when she first moved to the area.
“Back in Texas, I had a really good group of girlfriends (who) all got together and did tons of stuff together,” Long says. “I like to do everything, so I always talk to a wide range of people and try new things. I missed that so much when I came here. When COVID hit, it made it even harder to meet friends. I tried some of the activities offered in the area and joined some organizations, but none of them really felt like me or what I was looking for.”
After seeing an advertisement in the Baldwin Park newsletter about starting a new group, she decided to send a proposal to the community coordinator, and GalPals was approved.
“The purpose of the group is to provide women with opportunities to develop female friendships and to enjoy a variety of monthly activities,” Long says. “So far, we have enjoyed paint and sip, yoga under the stars, a day at the beach, trivia nights, Sunday brunch, a monthly happy hour, and a tour and picnic at Lakeridge Winery. We are so fortunate to have a wide collection of indoor and outdoor activities available to us; the possibilities are endless.”
The first event attracted about 50 women to The Wildflower for a happy hour.
Long says it was important to her that the group welcomed all women — no matter their story.
The group has members who are doctors, teachers, stay-at-home-moms, retirees, yoga instructors, therapists, bartenders, healers, professors, social workers and entrepreneurs.
The women come from areas such as Miami, London, Spain, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, Seattle, California, Colorado, Michigan and Panama.
“I wanted to make sure it was a very welcoming, open, respectful and inclusive group for women in all walks of life,” she says.
Member Jodi Wolfe, who moved to Baldwin Park in 2019, says she met Long when she was walking her dogs and decided to approach her because she was wearing a positive T-shirt supporting equality.
Wolfe says if there are two words she could use to describe GalPals they would be “uplifting” and “supportive.”
“When we can, we really come to each other’s rescue,” she says. “There isn’t one girl in this group who isn’t awesome. To me, I could have the worst day I’ve had in forever, and still they rallied around me. It’s really sweet. I never thought it was going to grow into this. It’s just so powerful. I know I’m forming my tribe.”
Colette Strong says a friend of hers who is a member of the group encouraged her to join. She immediately fell in love with the camaraderie.
“I knew I wanted to keep coming and just doing life with these ladies,” she says. “Having a safe space to come to with women from all different spectrums of life is really beautiful. It’s a place to plug in and have a community of girl friends. It’s an extension of family.”
Long’s favorite part about the group has been meeting the many wonderful, interesting and supportive women.
As the group continues to grow, she says her biggest challenge has been finding myriad activities that don’t require an RSVP or deposit, and are large enough to hold a big group. Finding convenient locations and days and times that work best for the majority of the group also has been a struggle.
However, she says she hopes the group continues to blossom and provides opportunities for women to develop friendships inside and outside of the gatherings.
Long also is looking to add a few specific ongoing activities such as a walking or travel group.
“I am so happy to be a part of this interesting, fun, supportive and welcoming group of women,” she says. “I hope our members are enjoying developing new friendships as much as I am.”
Long says all women in Baldwin Park over the age of 21 are welcome to join the group.
Members must agree not to share the events or member information publicly to maintain a safe, kind and respectful environment.
Invitations and reminders for the activities are sent out over email. Members are under no obligation to attend an event, and there are no membership fees.