For many newcomers to the Semiahmoo Peninsula over the past 25 years, Dawn Corcoran was one of the first names they would know.
Since 1986, the Welcome Wagon member has made it her business to make new arrivals feel at home in her community, but after a quarter of a century, Corcoran will be retiring on Dec. 15.
The decision to help ease the stress for newcomers came after experiencing first-hand the difficulties that can occur when moving to a new place.
“We moved four times in five years because of my husband’s banking job,” Corcoran said. “I always remember what it was like when I moved, I was like, ‘Oh jeez, I have to know where all this is.'”
For Corcoran, having everything she needed to know about a community delivered to her in one bundle was such a help that when she moved back to South Surrey in the 1980s she got a job with the company.
What started out as a temporary job while her children were young turned into something much more, she said.
“It became an addiction. I just enjoyed it so much,” Corcoran said. “It’s nice to help people and it’s nice to tell people about a community you love. I love White Rock and South Surrey, it has a lot to offer.”
Since joining, Corcoran has brought her basket full of information and goodies from local businesses to more than 7,000 homes and has organized countless bridal shows for the company. Despite the number of people she has met, Corcoran admits there are a few visits that stick out for her.
Smiling, she recalls one visit that took place during the holidays more than 20 years ago at a home that had two beautiful golden retrievers.
The self-proclaimed “dogaholic” took her shoes off on the main floor and went upstairs to the living room for her visit. Half-way through, she heard a noise that would cause most women to flinch.
“One of the dogs was with me and I was petting it while I was talking to her, and then I hear something and I ask, ‘do you think your dog is chewing on my shoes downstairs?’ and she reassures me her dog doesn’t chew shoes,” Corcoran said.
“When we finally go downstairs, we look and see that one shoe is completely chewed. What’s worse, my son has my house key and I have to take my daughter to her orthodontist appointment in Vancouver.”
After collecting the remains of her ravaged shoe, Corcoran said she limped to Elegante Shoes to get a new pair – which she was fortunate enough to get on sale, thanks to then-owner Doug Robb, who took pity on her predicament.
“He looks at my shoe and asks, “Did a dog chew that on a visit?” she said. “We laughed and laughed, it’s a good thing I have a good sense of humour. I asked him if he could give me the shoe on sale, since it would be on sale after the holidays and he graciously agreed. And the woman did end up paying for my shoe.”
With the exception of a few slammed doors, Corcoran said the more than two decades at Welcome Wagon have been full of good – and funny – experiences.
“There has been the occasional person who didn’t want our services, but on the whole, people are so happy to have the information and the gifts,” Corcoran said. “And we’re happy to give them. It’s easy when you like the community you’re sharing.”
As her time in this community comes to a close, Corcoran said she looks forward to the next stage in her and her husband’s life in Qualicum Beach, which reminds her of the tiny little village White Rock was when she first moved there in 1967.
For all her experience, she does express some concern about her turn being the newcomer.
“I just really hope they have a Welcome Wagon there,” she laughs.