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After 28 years, Francis Welwood retires from Welcome Wagon

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
April 13th, 2014

By Randi Jensen, The Nelson Daily

For almost than three decades Francis Welwood has tossed out the red carpet to welcome to new families to the Heritage City.

But after 28 years on the job, Welwood, now in her early 70’s, has decided to hang her Welcome Wagon hat and retire from her position as hostess in the Nelson and West Arm area.

“Helping people integrate into the community is rewarding in itself and can give great satisfaction,” Welwood explains after recently announcing her retirement.

“In fact some great friendships have been spawned over the years and to this day Francis skis with a number of women whom she met in her role as a WW hostess.”

Welwood was part of a well-known Nelson Welcome Wagon trio of Edna Whitely and Lois Arnesen.

Whitely, now in her 90’s, was involved with Welcome Wagon for 44 years along with Arnesen, worked the Baby Welcome program.

Welwood has many memories like the beautiful thank you letter she received from a Japanese man she visited and humorous stuff too.

“One time I found myself recommending the Kootenay Mountain Climbing Club to Tim Rippel and advising him not to venture out onto Kokanee Glacier by himself after he told me he enjoyed the outdoors,” Welwood said.

“I then find out later that Tim was famous in his own right as a mountaineer and climber who frequents the Himalayas and had climbed Mt. Everest.”

Welcome Wagon is a Canadian business organization established in 1930.

Each Hostess or Area Representative is responsible for signing on businesses and organizations in their area and sourcing out people and families who have recently moved into the area.

The business is required to supply a welcoming gift and pays a nominal fee for each visit the hostess makes.

 It is quite clever actually, because the business gets a direct, one-on-one introduction and a head start on establishing buying habits with people who have just moved into the area. The cost, in comparison to popular media, for this select advertising service is relatively low. An added bonus is that it is a niche that encourages shopping local.

Newcomers to the area love it too. Welcome gifts include gift certificates such as a free oil change from a long-time automotive business in Nelson to free pizza and video rentals. Also things like pens and notepaper, product samples – preferably non-perishables.

At one point Welwood was giving out samples of Antoinette’s Dip and little house plants but storage and logistics made it difficult.

“By retiring I’m gaining a whole new room in my basement,” Welwood laughs. 

“Unlike what most people think, this is not a voluntary position but one really must be friendly and have a solid interest in their community,” says Francis.

The Hostess is paid for each visit and the remuneration is prorated to how many businesses are involved.

From an entrepreneurial point of view each Welcome Wagon hostess is their own franchise and the more that is put into the business the more successful it is.

 It’s a classic micro business model.

“Changes in the business the last decade have been enormous, due to privacy legislation and technology,” explains Francis.

 In the past the Welcome Wagon organization was able to obtain the names of new residents through utility hook-ups but due to the infringement of privacy legislation over the past few years that has come to a stop and short of a mass marketing campaign its difficult to get the word out.

Currently, one of their best resources has been the City of Nelson, which will ask new hydro hook-ups if they would like a visit from Welcome Wagon. In return Welwood would give out and explain garbage collection routes and schedules while advocating recycling procedures in the area for them.

For the last 15 years Welwood and her colleagues have assisted Community Futures by distributing a questionnaire they use to assess demographics of new people coming into the area.

Taking over the helm at Welcome Wagon are Emily Tucker, 250-551-7971 and Megan Moore. Should any businesses wish to sign up or if you are new in town or have a neighbor who is contact Emily at the number above or by email:

Tucker coordinates the areas of Trail, Castlegar, Nelson and the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. Programs operating in some or all of these areas are Community, Bridal and Baby Welcome.

Categories: General

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