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Welcome week for new workers rebranded as Connect Whistler

Focus on area services as feedback showed welcome dinner didn't reach everyone

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A popular event that welcomed hundreds of seasonal workers to the resort community each fall has been changed in an attempt to reach more people.

Jackie Dickinson, Program Director of Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) said the annual Jill Ackhurst Community Welcome Dinner was a great success and never failed to attract locals to host tables full of new workers — but the event may have run its course.

"The feedback we were getting specifically was we were putting 850 people in a ballroom and then trying to have a police officer or a community person speak — and not everyone was getting that information," said Dickinson.

"We've been getting feedback for years. People especially at the back (of the ballroom) were not hearing the speaker... and we were starting to see lower numbers."

Dickinson also said numerous welcome-type dinners and events by other organizations were competing with the Whistler welcome dinner. The WCSS winter welcome week has been rebranded as Connect Whistler.

So newcomers this year can participate in a scavenger hunt that lasts for seven days and takes them through services and businesses from Alpine to Cheakamus. It's an important exercise, Dickinson said, because newcomers can fall into the trap of only going to work, to their home and the village. In the scavenger hunt, each time someone gets a passport stamped, they have to meet someone from that organization.

"It's up to the scavenger-hunt host to deliver as much information, but they will have to connect with that person," she said.

The week of activities and events — from Nov. 7 to 13 — is designed to introduce newcomers to a full range of services. For example, the first event — the Pancake Breakfast — is held at the Whistler Fire Hall, which allows workers to familiarize themselves with the location and staff.

"They meet emergency services in a quick way — in a good way," said Dickinson.

"We want to see this more as a community collaboration and part of the reason for that is our outreach services have grown busier and it's become harder for our outreach team to be solely putting on events," she said of the dinner in years past.

The week of welcome activities wraps up with an event at the Longhorn Saloon, and while Dickinson said WCCS has always created programs with a harm-reduction approach, this event is another attempt to reach more workers.

"What we discovered from the most recent Communities That Care survey in the summer was that 47 per cent of residents ages 18 to 35 did not know about public health or community services, and our goal going into that week is to change that — and really focus on reaching a demographic of people who may not come through our doors."

For information and events, go to mywcss.org/connectwhistler.

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