In a new community it can be difficult to track down information on municipal services, social groups and even medical offices – enter Welcome Wagon.
Welcome Wagon is a Canadian greeting service that offers information for people who are experiencing a change in lifestyle. Those lifestyle changes can include moving to a new community, planning a wedding, welcoming a new child, being a new business owner or executive or being over 50-years-old.
People contact Welcome Wagon and arrange a meeting where they are greeted by representatives and are presented with an array of information and gifts to welcome them into their new community.
“When we visit someone, we bring along a lot of different things. We bring maps, information about bylaws, information on recycling and garbage and information on recreational activities – where they run, what they are and how to join them,” said Lacombe representative Pryna Koberstein.
“In Lacombe, the library gives them a library card and the pool provides with a swim pass. For new babies, adopted children and foster kids, we bring information about child safety and immunizations. We also bring along local information about groups that parents can join and activities that happen around the area.”
Koberstein said there are a number of groups and activities that are available to parents from the moment their child is born and not many people are aware of them. Each Welcome Wagon visit includes a basket with goods and gifts from local businesses as well as information on family welfare and entertainment. These visits are free and are way to greet people new to a particular community.
“This is all a free service – the person doesn’t have to spend any money, it’s just something nice for them. Most of the businesses will keep a gift waiting for these people when they come back. They’ll get an invitation or gift card or note or something they can take to the businesses and often they will get a second gift when they go into the business in person.”
Koberstein said that being involved with Welcome Wagon has been a great way to spend her time since her retirement. She said she enjoys being able to open people’s eyes about the options they have within Lacombe to engage in their community.
She has been a resident of Lacombe her whole life and said she has enjoyed sharing the growth with new residents.
Koberstein shares the Welcome Wagon visits with Donna Korpress, who also has been with Welcome Wagon since her retirement.
“It’s all about letting people know what all is available to them. Moving here, you don’t realize what all is available but when we pull out that map and show people how many lakes there are and things like that – they get excited. You can hike around all of the lakes and it’s beautiful,” said Korpress.
Korpress moved to Alberta, residing in Lacombe but commuting each day to Red Deer for work. She said this caused her to want to learn more about her residential town after she retired. Currently, Korpress said she enjoys her work with Welcome Wagon and enjoys sharing the secrets of Lacombe with new residents.
Koberstein said one of the biggest things she wants people to know is they have to contact Welcome Wagon or herself or Korpress directly. They do not have a way of knowing who has moved into the City unless the new residents notify them.
“The biggest thing that I would like to have come across is that we are here for people. We are here for new parents. We have done a lot of research and have a lot of information and can answer a lot of questions. We would love to be able to do that for people. However, people have to contact us,” she said.
“We don’t know who has just moved here, so people need to reach out to us. The City helps as much as they can, but there are privacy issues with giving out that kind of information.”
Welcome Wagon services are available in hundreds of districts across Canada, each with their own unique welcome baskets for residents. The services are completely free and can be accessed in Lacombe by visiting www.welcomewagon.ca, calling the toll-free number on the web site or by calling Pryna at 403-348-9567 or Donna at 403-782-0475.
There is no official office for Welcome Wagon so all interested parties must contact local representatives.
“I think if I were moving somewhere I would certainly look into the welcome wagon. I’ve been involved with this for about five years. I used to work for Lacombe when it was a town and the Welcome Wagon representative at that time used to come and get information and supplies from the municipality,” said Koberstein.
“I thought, boy, if I ever retire that would be something I’d like to do. I like meeting with people and talking to them. When I retired, I got into this and I’ve been at it ever since.”