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Newcomers Club: the Ultimate Welcome Wagon

Posted Aug 08 2012 9:46pm
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” Leo Buscaglia

Welcome Wagon is the world’s largest welcoming service to the new homeowner, providing a plethora of products designed to help customers build their businesses. Each year, they reach out to millions of new homeowners with the Welcome Wagon Gift Book.

According to their website, Thomas Briggs, a marketing wizard in Memphis, Tennessee, founded Welcome Wagon in 1928. His inspiration?  Stories of early Conestoga “welcome wagons” that would meet and img1 greet westward travelers, providing fresh food and water for the journey. Envisioning Welcome Wagon as a modern version of this quaint hospitality, he hired friendly and neighborhood-savvy “hostesses” to deliver baskets of gifts supplied by local businesses to new homeowners. Over a cup of coffee, these women would inform new home buyers of local activities in the community while handing out gifts and coupons from local commercial entities.

The idea caught on across the U.S., making new homeowners happy to receive discounts and discover businesses in their local communities.

Enter the Newcomers Club for women. I joined one last November after moving to my new “rural city” in California. For only $20 per year I enjoy monthly “coffees” at members’ houses, monthly lunches for a nominal fee, and monthly activities based on interest. For example, the club features groups involving game-playing, book-reading, gardening, movie-watching, local exploration, crafts, genealogy, and epicurious tastes. Something for everybody. And if a woman wants to start another group, such as golf or ukulele practice, she need simply suggest it to the Board while finding sufficient people to populate it. The sky’s the limit.

But there is a hitch. The meetings are generally held on weekdays, at times when most full-time working women cannot attend. All the women in our particular club are retired or have part-time jobs that don’t interfere with their favorite activities. The demographics of our group make babysitting services unnecessary.

A few months ago I blogged about three local explorations sponsored by the club: a local trip to Table Mountain to see the wildflowers and a local trip to a cemetery and winery/monastery . All these excursions, as well as a local bike path tour, invigorated me.

Today a new adventure awaited–an ice cream social at a spectacular residence sporting a lovely flower garden, pool, orchard, and vegetable garden. This morning, after we had said our “hellos”, we headed out to pluck ripe fruits and vegetables straight from the trees, bushes and vines of her lush gardens. I ended up with a large boxful of green and red peppers, tomatoes, plums, peaches, nectarines, zucchini,  string beans, strawberries, and grapes. The woman of the house would have let us pick the honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon if they had been ripe.

When I brought the box inside the house, an acquaintance asked, “What are you going to do with all that produce? You live alone.”

“That’s a good problem to have,” I responded, as I loaded the box into my car. No guilt washed over me. The hostess told us that nothing in her garden was off-limits. Everyone who wanted produce received more than her share of it.

After we returned from our forage into her bountiful backyard farm,  we chatted up a storm until the announcement of ice cream reached our ears. The line for sundaes, heavenly concoctions of whatever we wanted, snaked all around her kitchen island, almost into her great room.

Since our hostess is the club photographer, we sat in front of her T.V. set with our sundae bowls to enjoy some photo montages she created and put to music.

There’s nothing like a Newcomers Club to make you feel welcome and loved in your new community. You can see if there is one in your community by consulting the Newcomers Club worldwide directory . If a club doesn’t exist in your area, you can contact the local Chamber of Commerce to see what can be done to remedy the situation.

While the Welcome Wagon serves its business purpose, the Newcomers Club fulfills the need for social interaction. At the club we don’t deliberately promote businesses, but we do share what we know about local activities, shops, cultural events, restaurants, etc. These tips have proven invaluable, especially to people who don’t know the area very well.

The beauty of these clubs is that once we qualify as members (living in the community for less than four years), we can stay in the club for life. Some of our “newcomers” have been club members for over twenty years. And for me, it’s nice to join a club where the defining interest is not a health-related issue such as breast cancer. While several of the women members do have a history of breast cancer, that fact is not foremost in their minds, and not a reason to join the club. It’s incidental. We make friends because we are neighbors, a village of people who want to meet others, make new friends, and support and encourage each other the best that we can.

Nothing wrong with that.

Now I just need to find freezer space for all my produce goodies. I’ll make way. That’s what casseroles, soups and smoothies are for: medleys of yummyness.

And tomorrow I head over to a club member’s house for our friendly monthly Scrabble challenges. Let the games begin.

Have you had a visit from the Welcome Wagon? How do you meet your neighbors, friends, and locals with common interests when you move into a new community?
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