If you need convincing to drive to Mt. Laurel for a singles seminar, Barbara Freire – who presents "101 Ways to Meet People Besides the Bar Scene" at Burlington County College on Monday, January 24 – will give you one very good reason. "One of my key strategies that I talk about in the seminar is ‘expand your geographic area.’ If you go to a gym that has multiple locations, go to another location. If you go to the same Starbucks or Barnes & Noble regularly, go to another location. A guy I know from my gym went to all my singles events at the Cherry Hill Learning Studio. Then he came to an event I had at the Learning Studio in Princeton in 2000 and met his future wife. I was invited to their wedding and I just got a birth announcement. He never would have met her if he hadn’t driven to Princeton."

Freire, who was born in Queens, calls herself a "singles scene specialist," a title she acquired quite by accident. Her father worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which closed when she was 10 or 12. When he was relocated to the Philadelphia Navy Yard the family moved to Mt. Laurel. Her mother was a regional manager at Sears. "It didn’t dawn on me until recently that when my parents divorced my mother used to run singles events. I used to work the coatroom with my sister. Here I am doing the same thing. She met my stepfather at own of her own events. Now she comes and helps me at my events."

The "101 Ways" workshop, an interactive session that provides a bonanza of information on finding out about parties, clubs, sports events, trips, and "other cool stuff for singles," grew out of a class Freire was asked to teach several years ago. "I was divorced in my late 20s and had been out of the dating market for 10 years," says Friere, who graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1982 with a BA in marketing communications. "I was running my church singles group and teaching aerobics at the Learning Studio, when someone said to me, ‘We need someone to teach 50 Ways to Meet…" From that first class of six people, Freire has expanded her events to include the "101 Ways" seminar and other events like the extraordinarily popular "Mistletoe Madness," which drew 325 singles to the Holiday Inn Cherry Hill in December, and "ExpeDate." Over 3,900 have attended Friere’s events over the past five years.

The audience at the "101 Ways" events, says Friere, "is a real mix. So many people are single again as well as those who have always been single. There is the comfort factor of they’re not alone. I always start out by telling success stories, then I move into specific strategies." Some of these include sitting on couch versus getting out; selecting activities of interest; how to get in and out of conversations – icebreaker tips; good ‘non-single’ places to go like coffee houses, bookstores, gyms, gourmet supermarkets that hold events, classes and courses, business events, wine tastings, and comedy clubs; single-specific bars, sports, and outdoors clubs; and dance groups (great for men since there’s always a dearth of partners).

In addition to "thinking outside the geographic box," Freire also recommends these strategies:

Volunteering. "When you volunteer you put yourself in a good light to others, and you are deflecting from your own issues. I always tell women to volunteer at golf events, fundraising events. You go to these great expensive events, you’re in front of a ton of people. Get on the greeting committee or work the registration table. I call it inconspicuous sleuthing. You can do it once a year or more frequently. Whatever you like."

Change your habits. "If you have a habit of going to the gym at 5:30 p.m. don’t go at 5:30, go at 8 p.m. You’ll see a whole new crowd of people. Sure you won’t know anyone at first but that forces you to interact with new people."

Friere gives a break in the middle of the two-hour session, saying to the audience, "It would be a shame if I’m the only one you met tonight. Go up to three people. Ask them ‘What do you do in the winter?’ ‘What did you do for the holidays?’ People walk out exchanging numbers. And pals to go out with."

Calling herself a professional "mish-mosh" – video producer and owner of New Outlook Productions, Century 21 real estate agent ("I sold five houses just in the last month"), singles scene specialist – Freire is now the poster child for expanding your geographical borders. She has been long distance dating a man from Chicago. She met him through friends who were clients from her real estate business. The friends had met him while on vacation in Cancun and thought he and Freire would be perfect together. Over the last year he logged so many frequent flier miles on American Airlines visiting Freire in New Jersey that the couple is going to be featured in the airline’s American Way magazine. "He just moved here for me and started a new job (selling and designing high-end home theaters and ‘smart house’ systems). When my friends told me about him, they said, ‘He’s looking for a life-altering experience and we decided it’s you.’"

New Outlook Singles, 856-787-0699. Upcoming events: Monday, January 24, "101 Ways to Meet People Besides the Bar Scene," singles scene specialist Barbara Freire, Burlington County College, Mt. Laurel, 7 to 9 p.m. 856-222-9311, ext. 7415; February 13, Singles cruise with Clubgetaway – vacation with hundreds of singles Valentine’s week aboard the luxurious Costa Atlantica, rates beginning at $799. Call 877-7GO-Play and mention New Outlook Singles referred you or E-mail info@clubgetaway.com.

Singles Groups

New! A+ Singles Exchange, E-mail contactaplus@aol.com. Because life is too short for the boring stuff! Singles "Activities Club" based in Princeton and serving Mercer County area for the "just right" age group (35-45) with eclectic, well-rounded taste in cultural arts, selective pop culture, and outdoor leisure activities. Professional E-mail address and personal contact phone number required to participate.

Alternative for Singles, 609-750-1910. Romantic house parties – crackling fire, live piano music, refreshments. Ages 30s through 50s. Will meet regularly second and fourth Fridays. Call now for a reservation.

Mercer County Single Volunteers, www.mcsvnj.org, for all ages 21+. Organizes volunteer projects for singles to help the community while interacting with other like-minded popele. Also hosts numerous social activities. General meeting is the third Tuesday of each month at the Hamilton Township Library, One Municipal Drive, Hamilton, at 7 p.m.

Princeton Singles, Box 1457, Princeton 08542 or E-mail prinsings20@aol.com. A 50s-plus social club with more than 100 members who meets for pitch and putt, house parties, theater, dining, and dancing. Dues are $25 a year.

Professional and Business Singles Network, 800-537-3859. House parties, dances, seminars, barbecues. Ages 30s to 60s. Also Voice Personal Ads and an introduction service for shy singles. Newcomers welcome. Events hotline: 800-537-3859. Contact: Ralph Israel, 888-348-5544. For a schedule of events, visit www.pbsninfo.com. One-year membership, $65.

SingleFaces, 732-345-9900 (24/7 hotline). An upbeat upscale scene that brings singles together at Top 40 dance parties in 30 different north Jersey and Central Jersey locations, $12. Ages 30s, 40s, and 50s. For a schedule of events visit www.singlefaces.com.

NEW! Single Moms, Hillsborough/Princeton Area, 908-884-6842. Single moms, ages 35-50, get together once a month at area restaurants. E-mail: mickel123@hotmail.com.

Single, Separated, Divorced, and Widowed Support Group, 609-588-0790 or 609-658-6455 or E-mail ssdwsg@aol.com. Meets Monday nights, 7:30 p.m., (Tuesday nights during July and August), St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church Community Center, 4690 Nottingham Way, Hamilton. Nonsectarian. Adults of all ages welcome.

NEW! Singles on the Move, 856-589-2844, www.singlesonthemove.org. South Jersey’s social club for singles age 35 to mid 50s.

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