It almost seems a truism that if you meet someone doing something you love, you'll have a lot in common — or at least one key activity.
Couples have met while hiking, ballroom dancing or volunteering in the community (see sidebar). Others get together through religious groups or political functions.
Dawn Bieser just wanted to learn how to dance, so she signed up for a few of Robin Rebello's workshops in Los Altos. Every week Rebello invites her students, as well as the general public, to come to Cubberley Community Center for an hour of lessons followed by a dance party.
Bieser met her future husband Charlie Follis at her very first Friday Night Dance party 11 years ago. Follis had been coming for a year.
"I went with the expectation of learning to dance. The very nice thing about the dancing is you do meet people who enjoy the same things. It's a very non-threatening environment," she said.
"I was in my late 30s and single and didn't like the bar scene. I just wanted to meet quality singles in an environment that was happy and healthy, just a clean environment as opposed to the bar scene," Follis said. "It was a nice mix of people. I made some friends and I learned to dance."
Bieser had come for the beginners' lesson at 8 p.m. and was strolling out at 9 when Follis approached her, saying "You can't leave until you dance with me." They spent the evening dancing and one thing led to another.
Bieser and Follis celebrated their sixth anniversary last summer.
Bieser said Friday Night Dance "is a nice place to go. People are not there to pick people up. Maybe some people are, but it's not that kind of scene, like going to a regular bar."
According to Rebello, in the early 1990s, when 500 people would typically show up on a Friday night, there were six weddings a year from people who met at Friday Night Dance. Today the party attracts closer to 200 people, but couples do connect.
"A guy from New Zealand stopped by one year. He walked out with a woman and they ended up getting married. They met the first night they went there," Rebello said.
Besides their common interest in dancing, the couple loves to hike. They organized the South Bay Ramblers three years ago and do two hikes per month locally in the South Bay (see www.southbayramblers.com).
Hiking is another common interest that appears to draw like-minded souls.
Peter Andree, 54, met his partner Vicky Graham through Sierra Singles, a sub-group of the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club, a little more than two years ago.
For a Halloween dance, Andree dressed up in his best suit, added ribbons and bows and a gift tag that read "From God to Women."
"I guess she saw it and believed it. It pays to advertise," he said, tongue-in-cheek.
Andree, a chiropractor from Redwood City, was involved in Sierra Singles about a year before meeting Graham, a high-tech marketer from Brisbane.
"When you start with an affinity group, you start knowing you have at least one thing in common. You're not going to hook up with a couch potato in Sierra Club," he said.
While the hikes he leads tend to be short because of his arthritis, he said "You tend to meet people who are at your level. Beyond that, it's just the usual things that make people connect. You'll feel it with some people and not others. It's a friendly atmosphere, you see if you can make a connection, with no pressure."
Today both Andree and Graham are hike leaders, and have remained in the singles group even though they're in a relationship.
"We thought it would be hard if two leaders dropped out. We both enjoy the social aspect," Andree said. Once he was a member of another group called Meeting for Good, but that group went under after a number of couples met there and dropped out. "They were killed by their own success. They didn't have active people coming in to take their place," he said.
Andree contrasts the Sierra Singles events with a 10-minute dating event: "If I didn't meet anybody, I viewed it as an evening wasted." At Sierra Singles, "if you don't meet anybody, you generally have a good time."
Loma Prieta Sierra Singles has more than 800 single men and women members, and plans events in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Benito counties. Singles who are 40+ can hike with Singleaires.
Another place to meet like-minded people is by volunteering in the community. Hands On Bay Area (HOBA) brings together volunteers for projects in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, as well as San Francisco and the East Bay.
Last year HOBA began a Valentine's Day project especially designed for singles, according to Ambrosia Studley, South Bay community programs manager. The project was so successful that it was followed this year with a Bring Me a Book Foundation event Feb. 12. Volunteers got together to cover hard-cover books with clear plastic at a Mountain View warehouse; the books will be distributed to preschools and health-care clinics in low-income areas.
Other projects included sorting items to make education kits for Resources for Teachers (RAFT), which are sold for a nominal fee to teachers, and sorting canned goods for Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose.
"We recently did a survey of volunteers who participated in our Hands On Bay Area Day. One of the top reasons people gave for why they volunteered was to meet people," Sabrina Qutb, development director, wrote in an e-mail.
"We even have a couple getting married this spring! ... We have many stories of love connections," she added.