New seasonal staff officially welcomed next week 

Survival guide highlights services and safety; Whistler Blackcomb emphasizes good choices

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As certain as the leaves changing and the first snow in the alpine at this time of year is the appearance of young people, loaded down with luggage and backpacks, looking for work, for places to live, for a community to belong to if only for a season.

Rather than let all those young people fend for themselves, Whistler has always made an effort to welcome everyone to the community. The longest running example is the Whistler Survival Guide, produced by Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) and updated every year.

Ten years ago, WCSS, working with the municipality and other community stakeholders, created Whistler Welcome Week, hosting a series of events to orient newcomers to the community. The main event is the annual Jill Ackhurst Community Welcome Dinner where long-time locals host tables of newcomers and share their knowledge of the resort.

As well, the resort's largest employer, Whistler Blackcomb provides orientation for hundreds of new employees every year, including information for everyone living in staff housing at Base II, Brio and Tamarisk.

The tragic deaths of three young people working in the resort over recent years underlines the central safety message this year. A new WalkSafe program was launched to teach newcomers road and highway safety after 24-year-old Eleanor Reinecke was killed in early 2011. Last winter Mike Grefner, 34, and David Christian, 27, likely died of exposure after walking alone at night while intoxicated.

Whistler Survival Guide

Jackie Dickinson, community outreach worker for WCSS, said there is a lot of new information in this year's Whistler Survival Guide, which was released to the community last week. This year they printed 7,000 copies, and the first 2,000 have already been distributed.

"This year... there are a lot of changes to services within the community," she said. "We've put those services into the guide so newcomers are aware of the resources available locally and in the province. One of the new things we've incorporated into the guide this year was the Howe Sound Women's Centre operating the Whistler Drop-in Centre for women from Monday to Thursday, 12 to 4 p.m. They provide quite a few services to women and families in the community."

Another big change is the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Service Centre in Spring Creek, which has housed WCSS, the women's drop-in centre, food bank and other programs since February.

"We made sure in the guide to let people know that this exists in Spring Creek," said Dickinson. "Not only can they access 31 services by WCSS, the food bank, the women's centre, we also offer services like programs for moms and tots through Sea to Sky Community Services."

The guide also makes people aware of the new WorkBC Employment Services Centre in Function Junction, and the opportunity to meet with a career strategist at the Food Bank every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon (Tuesdays when there's a holiday), or at the library. The new Re-Build-It Centre also gets a nod for selling furniture such as beds and dressers and other items.

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