Welcome Wagon has been welcoming Canadians to communities for 88 years – and on the Sunshine Coast it’s been active for 30 years – but many people are still not aware of the program, says team leader Laurie Faulkner.
Faulkner is a recently “relocated Coaster” who moved from Garden Bay to Davis Bay a year and a half ago. It may not seem very far, but she still had to settle into a new home, meet people and find services. On Craigslist she saw an ad for Welcome Wagon representatives and decided she was the perfect fit. An outgoing person, she also has experience working at the visitor centre, so she has a wealth of knowledge to share.
“It’s a wonderful experience to sit in someone’s living room, give them information, give them bonuses and coupons,” said Faulkner.
New residents and expectant parents are referred to the program. A representative schedules a visit, usually at the family home, and delivers a basket of information, gifts and coupons.
Welcome Wagon is a national organization based in Ontario, which is funded by for-profit sponsors who pay a small fee to have their promotional material delivered. WW also distributes a wide range of government, social services and non-profit information at no charge. Representatives are paid a small stipend per visit.
The community package includes informational materials from local government, the RCMP, and services like libraries and museums, and includes the New Coasters magazine, Visitor’s Choice map book, the Arts Crawl brochure, and the arts and culture calendar. Faulkner tells new residents how to find a family doctor, join a club, or locate reputable service providers. There’s also a special package for new babies.
The Sunshine Coast basket also includes material from almost 30 business sponsors, including coupons, discounts and small gifts. Faulkner is accustomed to people saying, “It’s just like Christmas.” There is no cost for the visit, and no sales pitches are delivered.
Faulkner estimates that the Coast’s four Welcome Wagon representatives make about 20 calls per month. A lot of the people they visit are seniors; she said younger families often have never heard of Welcome Wagon and are wary because they don’t know what to expect.
She noted that people moving here from cities can have difficulty finding services because so much local information is distributed by word of mouth. “The Coast is a really hard nut to crack,” she said. More than anything Faulkner enjoys being able to help people make the connections they need to establish their homes and make friends in the community. People sometimes call her back later with more questions, and she is more than happy to help.
Welcome Wagon has four representatives serving the Coast. They advertise through newspaper ads, posters and referrals from realtors, but are always looking to expand their reach. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or the phone numbers below.
Team Leader and Sechelt:
Laurie (604) 741-1557
Stephi (604) 992-6261
West Sechelt to Pender
Sharon (778) 458-2150
Charon (604) 885-3030