The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Warm Welcomes makes newcomers feel at home

Heidi Knobloch gives gift bags to new residents in town.
Heidi Knobloch gives gift bags to new residents in town.
Heidi Knobloch gives gift bags to new residents in town. Photo by Sarah Ruiz

Sam Curry

Warm Welcomes, a small local business that offers gift bags to residents moving to towns in central Iowa, has recently expanded its operations to Grinnell. The company has offered gifts bags for newcomers to Grinnell full of gift certificates for free and reduced services from local businesses since January 2016, and, so far, about 20 businesses have signed on. These include Prairie Canary, Bikes to You, Pizza Ranch and Grinnell College itself, among others.

The Grinnell division of Warm Welcomes is helmed by Heidi Knobloch, who also works in the Off-Campus Study department at the College. She meets residents who are new to town, points them towards the helpful services of local businesses and answers questions they have about the community.

Although Warm Welcomes now operates in Grinnell, it originally began in the nearby town of Pella about 17 years ago. Lori Morgan, the current owner, started the company there in 1999 after a previous company, the Welcome Wagon, dissolved. Morgan was motivated by a desire to make new people feel welcome in small towns, as it can sometimes to be difficult to integrate into smaller communities.

“[Morgan] wanted to make sure that residents in small communities felt welcomed and had a way to make connections with locals,” wrote Knoblach in an email to the S&B.

According to Knobloch, the work that Warm Welcomes does is quite rewarding, as it help connects members of the community together in ways that are beneficial to both individuals and businesses. Knobloch also personally benefits from the experience of meeting new people through her work, many of whom she has connections with in other towns in central Iowa.

“My favorite part is getting to meet new people, and helping them get connected with businesses, organizations and other community members. It’s pretty amazing some of the connections I’ve made with newcomers, from mutual people we know or previous communities in which we’ve both had experiences. It’s also great to see how excited new residents get when they see all of the great discounted and free services they receive through Warm Welcomes,” wrote Knobloch.

The company also plays a role in supporting the buy local movement, as most of the gift cards are for local companies and organizations, such as the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, Grinnell Investment Center and Acupuncture Grinnell. These discounts encourage new residents to keep their dollars within the town, and develop and preserve the community of which they have recently become a part.

“Warm Welcomes provides [new residents] with opportunities to keep their business local and to make new connections with not only business owners and employees but also community members,” wrote Knobloch.

Warm Welcomes is always looking to expand its friendly reach to new customers, towns and businesses. In previous stops, such as in Newton, the company has offered internships to local students, and the same option may be available in the future in Grinnell.

“Previously [Morgan] has hired college interns at the Pella location … [and] interns have designed Spiritual Resource Directories and Community Organizational Directories … this has the potential to give students confidence to work with business owners, and it exposes them to other business contacts, which can open doors to future job opportunities. … This internship opportunity could be something that I look into for Grinnell in the near future,” wrote Knobloch.

The Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed Warm Welcomes to town with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Louis Sullivan Jewel Box Bank. Warm Welcomes hopes to continue have a positive impact on the Grinnell community.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *