Have you ever been the new kid on the block? I have.
My family moved to Bridgewater from Canning when I was in Grade 2, and I was at the new kids table. My sister, the only other person I knew, was in Grade 5 and in an entirely different part of the school. Our lunch hours were at different times, so were our recess breaks. Even where we entered and exited were in entirely different areas of the building. It was a huge building and I was used to a tiny schoolhouse.
I know I sound like I grew up in a different era, but it’s true. I was a country mouse in the city. I had no idea where anything was. I was lost and scared. Eventually, I found my way, but it took awhile. All this anxiety meant I hated Bridgewater Elementary School for the first month or two.
Eventually, I made friends and with their help, I grew to love this place. So much so, that I’ve made it my job to promote living here. That change was made possible by the advice and support of people like me. Without them, I’d have left at the first opportunity.
My classmates and teammates quickly became a big part of my life. They showed me around the block. Told me where all the good penny candy was. Dakin’s Convenience Store was our favourite hang out. They took me to the Teen Club and even to their church. We went to Roller Wheels and the bowling alley. Without their help, I would have missed experiencing the best the county has to offer and I probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with this place as I have.
That is basically what I do with NOW Lunenburg County — with the exception of telling people where to find the best penny candy, I help them make connections and find their place.
At NOW Lunenburg County, we quickly learned that when people move to a new community, it takes them some time to adjust. Just like me, people require some help finding their way — I try to help people land softly and find their place. They’d find it without me no doubt, I just speed up the process and connect them to everything we have to offer. I don’t find them apartments, jobs, friends or hobbies, I make it easier for them to know where to look and find them for themselves. I’m someone who will show new people where to find the farmers markets, the legion or fire department breakfasts. Someone who will ask them what they’re looking for and point them in the right direction. People have told me I’m their first friend in Lunenburg County. “You and my real estate agent ... aside from you both, we are all alone here,” I’ve heard people say.
A fantastic new couple I met moved here from another part of Nova Scotia. The husband got a great job here and the wife wanted some time to figure out what she wanted to do. They found me on social media and needed a rental to stay in temporarily before they knew exactly where they wanted to buy a home. They looked on Kijiji and in the local paper, but as we’ve discovered, most people find rentals by asking around or looking on community bulletin boards, which was no help to them. We exchanged messages and agreed to meet for coffee at Sweet Indulgence in Lunenburg, a community where they really felt connected. During our coffee, I told them about the Farmers Market on Thursdays in Lunenburg and the one in Bridgewater on Saturdays that will start up as soon as the weather warms. I told them where to find all the community breakfasts and the great coffee shops in every community. I shared with them that the best thing to do when moving to a new community is to lend their skills to a community group and volunteer. “There, you’ll find an abundance of people like you,” I suggested.
I found a few places that were available for rent, and they spent that weekend looking at them. Ultimately they found one for themselves. I’ve run into them several times since. They love their home. They love this community and they're fitting in quite nicely.
I’m not just assisting people who are here, but folks who aren’t here yet. One woman who is in B.C. and is on her way here to start a small business has connected with me asking a number of questions that she needed answers to. Simple things really but not simple for her to find answers from B.C. Like all the folks I’m connected with, I tell her to consider me her first friend, a concierge if you will. She prefers to call me her “boots on the ground,” and I answer to that, too.
You see, there really isn't an exact name for what we do at NOW Lunenburg County, but there is a need for it. We know because people say we’ve helped them land here softy. I remember the most amazing email I received from a new couple who moved here. It said: “You have no idea how you’ve helped us. I wasn’t all that excited about moving here until we met you.” It reminded me of being at that new kids table in Grade 2. Before meeting those girls who showed me the ropes, I wasn’t all that keen on living in Lunenburg County. In fact, I cried every day for my parents to move back to Canning. It didn’t take much for that to change and for me to fall in love with Lunenburg County. It took a couple of friends, a few invitations, people showing me their favourite beaches and lakes and I was hooked!
Nearly every single one of you does exactly what those girls did for me for other new people. I know because new people tell me all the time that the community has welcomed them and invited them to gatherings and churches and breakfasts, and that is precisely what we all need to be doing. Thank you! Keep doing that! Together we will help new people find their way and love it here.
If you know someone who might need “a first friend” or some help finding their way, please call me at 902-523-5725 or email me at email@example.com.