Then: Connie McFerron was a "person of size" on the verge of a second marriage who saw a need and decided to fill it. After months of chatting online to other folk who faced similar issues — including social anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and anger at feeling judged by outward appearances — McFerron started a real-time group, Cincinnati Plus Size Pals (CPSP). It began with 60 members in 1997 who decided to meet to have fun, socialize and support one another. (Issue of Nov. 19, 1998)
Now: CPSP is still going strong. The 60 members quickly grew into 175, and the e-mail distribution list reaches nearly 1,000 people across the country. The group still meets about once a month for a social event, although McFerron acknowledges that it's more difficult to cull members from their homes in the winter. This month, CPSP will host a low-key ornament exchange, an event that's "more of a get-acquainted dinner for about 30 people" she says. "It can be intimidating to walk into a dance with 150 people there and not know anyone." The dance she's referring to is the annual CPSP Spring Fling, which draws vendors such as massage therapists and tarot card readers as well as CPSP members and prospective members.
McFerron herself is still going strong, although there's a lot less of her. She underwent gastric bypass surgery "because of health problems" and has since lost 200 lbs. Divorced from her second husband for almost a year, she's dating again and is the self-proclaimed "matchmaker" of CPSP. "I can sense who will get along with whom," she says. "For dating or for friendship."
Though the group has grown in scope, their mission remains the same. "We provide people with an arena where they can be themselves," McFerron explains. "We're looking at people for who they are, regardless of appearance or upbringing." For additional information about CPSP, check out their new Web site at plussizepals.com.
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