The welcome wagon has rolled back into town. After nearly eight years on hiatus, the Welcome Wagon program was re-started last month in Gravenhurst.
“The reaction has been overwhelming so far,” says Lindsay Fetterley-Coles, who is heading up the latest incarnation of the Welcome Wagon. “I was honestly a little bit nervous at first about approaching people but it’s been amazing. People have been so thankful to see us.”
The Welcome Wagon program has been running in Canada since 1930, and its primary function is to help people going through a major life change.
In Muskoka that takes on two forms – those who have recently moved into the area, and those who have recently had children.
“It can feel really overwhelming when you go through one of these changes and our role is to help provide people with resources and information,” says Lindsay Fetterley-Coles. “This is a free service we offer to make people aware of what’s available and to make them feel welcome.”
The Welcome Wagon typically partners with real estate companies to get leads on who’s new in town. New residents can also sign up for a Welcome Wagon visit themselves at their website – welcomewagon.ca.
Fetterley-Coles says they typically try to call the new residents and set up a time to meet. If they can’t get in touch that way, she might drop in to see if they’re interested or need any assistance.
“We bring along a welcome package which has items donated by local businesses, coupons and local information. Things like garbage pickup information and the Town recreation guide,” says Fetterley-Coles. “We find out a bit about who they are and where they’ve come from.”
They typically discuss topics ike garbage pick-up, which recreation programs are available and how to access transportation, says Fetterley-Coles.
“Health care is always a hot topic,” she says.
Many of the people Fetterley-Coles has visited so far are retirees who have recently relocated to the Muskoka area, she says.
“They want to get out there into the community and they want to know what there is to do,” she says.
In a world that seems increasingly disconnected by the proliferation of technology, Fetterley-Coles says there are many people out there who are simply looking for face-to-face interactions.
When it comes to new parents, Fetterly-Coles says they typically don’t visit them in the hospital, as they want to give the new family time to adjust and get comfortable. Those visits usually take place when the family is more settled in their own home.
The Welcome Wagon is currently looking for sponsors, so they’ll have more to stock their gift baskets with. Sponsors provide an item for the basket and then some coupons or flyers to let people know what’s available in the community.
If you’re interested in sponsorship, contact Lindsay Fetterley-Coles at firstname.lastname@example.org.