The Welcome Wagon
By: Susan Flood
As I write this column, the BAPA staff is busy getting ready to welcome new neighbors to Beverly Hills/Morgan Park at our first New Neighbor Meet and Greet. The concept of the “Welcome Wagon” is not new. It was founded in 1928 in Tennessee by a man named Thomas Briggs who saw the power of marketing to people who recently moved into an area and how it connected newcomers to a community where they could build meaningful relationships.
Our neighborhood was well underway to becoming the tight knit community it is today well before the 1920s, and our beautiful historic homes tell that story.
When I joined BAPA’s hard working team I started probing our residents about how they feel about living here. It’s no surprise that almost all who I encounter are in love with our neighborhood. Still I saw an opportunity to extend that warm welcome feeling to newcomers, whether they grew up here and just bought their first home for their own family, or whether they landed here as new homeowners.
BAPA staff members put our heads together with local leaders and residents of all ages and backgrounds, and came to the conclusion that the welcome efforts need to be personal. That just a gift bag or a letter, no matter how useful, well written, or jam packed with resources is not the key to feeling a part of our special close–knit village in the city. Connection is being called by your name, being recognized by neighbors at the coffee shop; it’s a smile because you met over a beer on Saturday or are church on Sunday.
I’m a transplant myself, and if not for my neighbors’ efforts to be personal, I don’t know how my journey would have turned out. Introductions, advice on where to find schools, stay healthy, find organized activities and fun for my family. It’s simple when you think about it. It’s what we learned in kindergarten: The power of a smile, sharing and caring about the people around us. People who visit feel it when they’re here, and that’s what makes them want to stay.