New Welcome Wagon Representative for Gabriola 

Krysta Reed

Sounder News

Wednesday, July 17 2019

Laura O’Brien (gabriolalaura@gmail.com) is the new Welcome Wagon representative on Gabriola. She has taken over for Elly Hallam, who served as the island representative since 2010. Founded in 1930, the Welcome Wagon (https://www.welcomewagon.ca/) is a Canadian owned, greeting service for newcomers and new parents in the community.

O’Brien came to Gabriola in the spring of 2015 as a WWOOFer, volunteering in the garden at Hummingbird Lodge. She wanted to learn about growing food and fell in love with the island, moving from Calgary that same year.

O’Brien is passionate about bringing people together and building community; devotes her time to many local events that do just that. Her Welcome Wagon service includes home visits, community meetups and a basket of gifts, from @ 25 local businesses and sponsors.

The basket that O’Brien brings on her home visits, includes small gifts, relevant information about the businesses and return gifts, encouraging newcomers to visit each business. Some of the gifts include a tennis ball from Flying Fur Dog Grooming, pet treats from Raven Feed; a cookie and $10 gift certificate off their next meal, from Robert’s Place.

There are @ 10 to 15 newcomers to the island each month. O’Brien explains, “There is definitely an influx of young families but a wide range [of ages] too.”

When asked what inspired her to pursue the position, O’Brien said, “I’m a stay home mom with two little babies. I love community service orientated things and getting involved with the community.”

O’Brien is dedicated to making sure that all non-for-profits are included in the Welcome Wagon program and that the culture of Gabriola is well-represented.

As part of her new position, O’Brien hosts monthly “Community Welcome” events to connect people who are new to Gabriola. Business owners and sponsors can sponsor such an event and attend, to share a bit about what they do in the community.  

O’Brien said, “These events provide a familiar face that helps in a new place and rural community. It’s wonderful to have the support of the sponsors to make the events happen.”