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Welcome Week embraces seasonal employees

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Up to 1,300 workers introduced to Whistler through variety of events

Seasonal workers got a welcome Whistler-style last week.

It included a snowboarding movie premier, a volunteer fair for social services, a beach extravaganza at the Meadow Park pool, a scavenger hunt stretching the length of the valley and a dinner for 400 people.

And hundreds of workers, fresh to Whistler, showed up in droves, selling out every single event.

"By the response something was missing (in Whistler)," said Tessa McLoughlin, one of Whistler’s two youth outreach workers with Whistler Community Services Society.

"And we found it!"

Up to 1,300 seasonal workers took part in the five events during Whistler Welcome Week, Nov. 10-15. Some even took part in every single event.

"People really got on board for the whole week’s events," said Greg McDonnell, the other youth outreach worker at WCSS.

The week was modelled after a healthier version of a university Frosh Week, offering all alcohol-free events. Leaving the alcohol behind wasn’t an issue at any of the events said McLoughlin. The only problem seemed to be scrambling to accommodate the overflow guests at each event.

A few Australians tried to get into the Welcome Dinner at the last minute and with no room left, McLoughlin said they could volunteer at the event if they liked.

She said they never stopped helping out once they got there.

"All the volunteers were amazing," she said.

WCSS Executive Director Janet McDonald said Whistler Welcome Week really achieved all the goals its organizers set out to accomplish. It made newcomers feel welcome, it brought locals and seasonal workers together, and it also exposed new faces to a wide range of community services and options in Whistler.

Not only do hundreds of seasonal workers now know where the Re-Use-It Centre is and the hours of the SAFE clinic, but they know about two very valuable community resources.

As community youth outreach workers, McLoughlin and McDonnell offer confidential support for young adults facing challenges with alcohol or drugs or with homesickness and mental and physical health, among many other things.

Now these young adults know where they can turn if they cannot cope with a problem alone.

Welcome Week was also a blast for longtime locals, some of whom don’t often get to meet or mix with seasonal workers.

"The concept of Welcome Week was an unbelievable success," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, who had dinner with his wife and eight Australians on Saturday night.

His dinner companions were well travelled, well read and had lots of different things to offer the community at large. At the same time the community can offer them things too.

Cathy Jewett who also hosted one of the tables at the dinner said it was the best meal some of the seasonal workers have had since they got to the resort.

"I’ve seen these people really suffer and I know when I came I did too," she said.

"To be welcomed with open arms like that is really nice."

Even after the dinner was done, most people stayed around for an hour afterwards still talking and learning about Whistler.

These conversations and connections are vital to make new people feel as though they belong to a community even if they are only here for a short time said McDonnell.

"We’re trying to make people care about Whistler," he said.

Elated from the success of the week, organizers are looking forward to the potential of Whistler Welcome Week in the years to come.

"It definitely surpassed our expectations but at the same time we’re all really aware of the room for growth," said McDonnell.

He added that Whistler Welcome Week would not have been a success without all the help from the community.

He said: "The community really pulled through with it."

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