Have you noticed more full-time residents filling up local roads and neighborhoods? COVID-19 certainly added to the push, but the trend has been noticeable for years. This month’s question addresses how to reach out to local newcomers and enfold them into the community fabric. A charity, foundation, and chamber share their perspectives from an organizational standpoint, and a fresh tenderfoot herself speaks to how she’s learning about her new home.
Tahoe Fund Pays It Forward
With most big events in life, there is often an unintended or unexpected consequence. As we have seen with COVID, the need to shelter in place has forced many to question the location of that place. With the requirement to be in an office suspended, a lot of folks have realized that sheltering in place among the beauty of Lake Tahoe is a far better choice than their prior setting. The consequence for Tahoe is a larger population of full-time residents who now have the opportunity to get involved in the civic issues of our community.
If we hope to engage these new residents, it is critical that we create a welcoming and inclusive environment. This begins with neighbors welcoming neighbors and extends out to every part of our community. We must also invite everyone into the broader conversations. Along the way, it is helpful to remember that most of us were also once new to Tahoe.
It is hard to live in the mountains. If you haven’t grown up navigating the snow, wind, pine needles and environmental sensitivities, it requires some help and advice. I experienced this firsthand when I moved here nearly 18 years ago from New York City. I was beyond excited to be living in such a beautiful community, but I was clueless about the skills needed to live here.
Thankfully, I met locals who took compassion on this city slicker. With their advice, I bought a 4-wheel drive car. I got snow tires for the winter season. I stopped buying plastic water bottles and drank straight from the tap. I picked up the dog poop, because no, it is not a natural thing for our wilderness just because the bears do it. Eventually I learned who built all of the amazing trails and found out how to volunteer. Eighteen years later, I am now the CEO of the Tahoe Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to helping solve Tahoe’s environmental challenges.
As we question how we can get our new neighbors engaged, I think it is also important to question our own civic engagement. Being a “local” does not give anyone a pass. My civic engagement did not happen overnight. I spent many years unaware of the amount of work required to take care of a place as special as Tahoe. But once I became informed, I wanted to do something to make Tahoe a better place.
As we welcome a new group of residents, I hope we will not only ask for their engagement but recommit to our own. And to all of our new neighbors, I say welcome. We look forward to your contributions to our community.
~ Amy Berry, Tahoe Fund CEO
The Chamber’s Initiative
Truckee Chamber community concierges talk to an average of five new residents each month in our California Welcome Center located in the train depot at the center of historic downtown Truckee. We not only provide them with information about basic resources, but also connect them with other community members, businesses, services, as well as help them engage by letting them know about programs and virtual events.
We are in the process of developing a Community Concierge Program to help new residents get the lay of the land and learn about Truckee’s unique mountain culture. The initiative will provide a welcoming environment and is being designed to help bring together “new residents” and “local connectors” — community members who can provide peer guidance, who are well-versed in the vibe of the community. It is directly in the Truckee Chamber’s wheelhouse to provide those kinds of resources.
It’s important to focus not only on newcomers, but long-time residents as well. There’s always something to learn and experience. We’ll be helping people discover the “roots” of their community … “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going” and plan on presenting information from some of our community’s “forefathers” or “tribal elders.” Truckee has come so far in the past 20 to 30 years and learning more about that really is fascinating and connects you to your community.
Starting soon, the chamber will host focus groups to determine the needs of new residents. We are also doing a redesign of truckee.com to bring community and business information to the forefront and improve navigation so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. The revamped site should launch May 1.
Until we get the full Community Concierge Program up and running, we encourage everyone to join us the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 a.m. for Good Morning Truckee. Whether you are new to the community or have lived here for years, hearing from our leaders is an enjoyable way to stay on top of important issues, connect, and engage. One of the great things about living in a small community like ours is that you can personally know your leaders and work with them to make a difference.
Go to truckee.com/goodmorningtruckee to find the Zoom link to participate.
~ Lynn Saunders, president and CEO, Truckee Chamber of Commerce
The Community Foundation’s Welcome Wagon
Moving to a new place is never easy, but moving during a pandemic has its own unique challenges. How do both you and your children make new friends when school programming is modified, gyms are closed, and events are canceled? Navigating change is difficult, even more so when relationship-building opportunities like sports, bingo nights, networking events, and crab feeds have been stripped away from our daily lives. This can leave us feeling isolated, out of place, or tense and suspicious of others.
To get through these changes, it is important to reinforce our community values and vision. Community building occurs in those day-to-day interactions, neighborly exchanges, and service opportunities. Without intentional and strategic community building, we risk so much of our social norms and agreements.
How can we help our new (and old) community members orient and engage in our neighborhoods? How do we intentionally build community? At the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF), we believe there is no better way to be involved than through civic engagement and volunteering! Each month, we host a virtual Welcome Wagon event to share insights, introduce community members to service organizations and volunteering opportunities, help them navigate the web of public agencies, and share some fun trivia from our local history. When we put in the effort, we all benefit, find new friends, volunteers, and champions of this special place! From our efforts, slowly but surely, we have successfully wrangled new folks into volunteer roles that are attuned to what drives them, connected them to leadership and service organizations, and helped them build their professional network.
Visit ttcf.net/welcomewagon for more about the Welcome Wagon events.
~ Stacy Caldwell, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
A Newcomer’s Notions
Standing at a ballet barre under towering pines in Tahoma in early September, I couldn’t believe the combination of good fortune and coincidence that had landed me there (in mask and down vest). Had a friend not mentioned the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective, I might never have enjoyed the free-flying feeling of taking ballet classes outdoors, nor have met the passionate and creative people of this performing arts community.
To me, as a newcomer, it feels like the many communities within Tahoe are strung together with few, if any, degrees of separation. Maybe it’s COVID or maybe it’s just Tahoe, but businesses and nonprofits seem to be working together and promoting each other. Just before Christmas, the dance company partnered with Wolfdale’s for a special takeout “dinner and a show” offer, featuring The Nutcracker performed by the collective in 2019. So many new residents hungry for information, entertainment, and community, not to mention good food, are paying close attention to emails and listening for good advice.
I have been gobbling up information about the lake’s geology, tectonics, and especially wave action. With a background in coastal science I am eager to get out in the field to measure, report, and volunteer however I can. There is no shortage of work addressing the challenges that climate change and increased building and tourism pose to the lake, and searches show many groups like the League to Save Lake Tahoe eager for helpers.
At a time when outdoors is the only place to socialize, organizing small groups to snowshoe, letting dogs play together, or walk along a shoreline trail seems to be the safest way to make introductions and disseminate information. Through an excursion arranged by Lake Tahoe School, I’ve met new hiking and skiing partners and learned about the Tahoe Fund. The fund’s weekly emails raise my awareness of what I can do to help maintain and improve the centerpiece of our community: the lake itself.
And don’t underestimate the value of a strong photo and flyer. That’s how I met JP Donovan and Belinda Quené, whose company Tahoe Multisport rents kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and backcountry ski equipment. They seem to have all the answers to what to do, how to do it, and even how many squirrel species live here.
~ Hillary Lane, who moved to Incline Village with her family in August 2020
Compiled by Mayumi Elegado