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NOW Lunenburg County: Sharing our local story in a neat, little package

- Contributed

It became apparent very quickly on our Cross Canada tour, where we talked to thousands of Canadians about Lunenburg County, that we were missing something.

It took months of planning and weeks of packing our 1976 Boler camper with carefully curated information we fully believed people would need and want — recreation and real estate guides, pamphlets on the services offered here, business cards, maps and information on our towns and communities. We even took along beer from Saltbox Brewing Company and wine from Petite Riviere Vineyards, which proved to be invaluable. We gave them as hostess gifts when we were invited into people’s homes to talk in more detail about their possible futures in Lunenburg County.

I still remember the looks of disbelief our camper provoked when we arrived at a food and music festival in Burls Creek, Ontario. A group of kids wandered over to our camper, intrigued by the colours and vibrant pictures on the Boler. When their dad came looking for them, he and I soon started a conversation about their lives in Ottawa. Coincidentally, they had just put their house on the market and were planning a move from the city into the suburbs of Ontario in search of a simpler, slower-paced life. We chatted about what that simpler life might look like and I suggested they look a little further and consider a move to Nova Scotia. It sounded like they were in search of the lifestyle we offer in Lunenburg County. I loaded him up with information, and included in the goodie bag a bottle of wine and a can of beer, and encouraged him to browse through it all with these complimentary drinks produced in Lunenburg County.

“Oh my God,” he said incredulously. “Am I being punked right now? My wife and I have been camping all week with all these kids. She is not going to believe this,” he said as he headed back to his camper. He and his family aren’t here yet. They may never come. But they are both teachers and every Tuesday I send them the job listings for teachers as they get posted on the South Shore Centre for Regional Education website. I know that we’ve made an impression.

It was watching people as they left our camper carrying all this information when I wondered if they’d ever actually open it up and read through it. Will they look through the real estate guide and compare our housing costs? Will they take the time to see all that we offer? It all felt a little clunky and uninspiring.

So, it was then that I said to myself, I wish we had a magazine; a nice, neat little package with everything inside it. Not a brochure for each of our five municipal units. Not a litany of business cards of services offered here, but a high-quality magazine filled with valuable information from our businesses in the advertisements that anchor engaging stories from people who are living in Lunenburg County; stories not told by me, but by them.

During our first NOW Lunenburg County team meeting post-tour, I shared my learnings and topping the long list titled, “if we were to do it again,” was to create a magazine of Lunenburg County.

We got to work on it that winter.

Now, creating it was a whole lot more challenging than I had envisioned. I recall making the list of stories and realizing it could end up being the size of a phone book. We wanted to share stories from all over the county — we tried to be careful not to leave out any community. We wanted to share a breadth of stories from people working for our manufacturers as well as those who’ve created their own businesses. We wanted to share stories of people who’ve moved here and those who’ve lived here their entire lives.

NOW Lunenburg County’s Create a Life You Love magazine is the result of months of storytelling and collaboration with our freelance writers and our designers at Skysail Brand. It’s been a labour of love for us and has been supported by folks such as our copy editor, John Merchant, as well as Shawn Patterson and his team at Bounty Print and The Chronicle Herald. The result is even better than we had hoped for. Our magazine has been shared widely. People have left it in the pockets of airplanes, in dentists and real estate offices. It’s been distributed at doctor recruitment conferences and recruitment fairs in France and Belgium. It’s been sent to nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, and grandchildren with a simple invitation — read it, be inspired by the stories of the people who’ve created a life they love in Lunenburg County.

We printed 5,000 copies, but it’s the online version that’s been read the most, more than 7,000 times. The challenge has been making sure that everyone who wants a copy gets one. If you wanted a copy and didn’t get your copy at one of our events or if they ran out at the many cafes, libraries, or places we dropped them off, I will try my best to make sure you get one. They don’t last long, which is precisely what we hoped for.

The truth is, embarking on this project created a lot of anxiety for me. As a past newspaper person, I still remember that no matter hard we worked on something — no matter how carefully we prepared, there would always be something our audience didn't like and we would hear about it. After 15 years in publishing, I’ve never experienced a product like this magazine — people have embraced the idea, they love the content and they have helped us promote it far and wide.

And so, we’re doing it again — creating our second NOW Lunenburg County magazine. Just as I did after returning home from the cross-Canada tour, I held that magazine in my hand and said: “If we were to do it again, what would we do differently?” For this second magazine, we hope to do an even better job of sharing unique stories going to communities we might have missed the first time around; sharing some of the stories that we didn’t have room for.

For your part, we hope you’ll be just as supportive as you were the first time. You did what we asked of you: you read it, shared it, and invited people you love to move to Lunenburg County. If you wish to be involved, please go to NOWlunenburgcounty.com to learn more.

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