As part of an effort to help people get acquainted with their new home, a group called the Western Welcome, Inc. hired hostesses to visit newcomers and provide a basket of gifts provided by local businesses.

The year was 1978.  The West side of the Lake of the Ozarks was just starting to grow.  Many of the small week-end cabins at family owned resorts were being turned into family homes.  Most of these cabins continued to serve as week-end or seasonal cabins, but here and there they were being turned into homes for “year-rounders.”  

Most of the roads were gravel, and only the main roads had names or numbers like 5-29.  Mailing addresses were boxes located on a rural route.

As part of an effort to help people get acquainted with their new home, a group called the Western Welcome, Inc. hired hostesses to visit newcomers and provide a basket of gifts provided by local businesses.  

As one of the early hostesses said, “It took a good sense of direction and a lot of luck to find a house that was on the third road past the dead tree.”

To overcome these challenges as well as to help women become better acquainted with their new neighbors, a group was formed called the Western Welcome Newcomers.  Starting with 25 members, the group at one time had over 250 women on its roster.  Although the current membership is closer to 100, the group continues to enjoy many of the same programs and service projects that began 40 years ago.

The objective of the group when it was formed was to offer ladies new to the area a group that involved both fun and service.  After several years, the name was changed to Westside Newcomers. ( However, members continue to be welcome no matter how long they have lived at the Lake, even though they are no longer newcomers. )The meetings have traditionally been held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month except January.  Meetings were originally held in members’ homes but moved to churches , club houses, and restaurants as the club grew. The club holds a luncheon followed by a program.  Also a long-held tradition, members often gather donations of school supplies, Halloween treats, or Christmas gifts and food to share with various charities.  

The club also has a tradition of raising funds throughout the year and then giving them away to benefit services in the Lake area.  This year the club was able to return almost $5,000 to help benefit a variety of groups.  This year’s list of charities includes:  CADV, Caring Hearts, Kats & K-9’s, Food for Morgan County, Ivy Bend Food Pantry, Share the Harvest Food Pantry, Lamb House, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Hurricane Deck Elementary, and Versailles Middle School.  Also receiving support is Prairie Hills Clinic, Medical Missions for Christ, Laurie Care Center, the Salvation Army, Lake Ozark Developmental Center, West Lake Aquatic Center, and Wonderland Camp.

Another part of the seasonal celebration, the club members donate food and gifts to the Camden County Child Advocacy Council and Morgan County Coalition Caring for Kids.  They also prepare baskets for the individuals that received home-delivered meals through the Westside Senior Center.

For many years, the club has enjoyed an annual concert, performed by the choir from Hurricane Deck School.  This year, to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary, the club has planned something special , As part of the birthday celebration, Linda Lagergren, vice-president, presented a brief history of the club, followed by a distribution of pins that designated the number of years of membership.  Following this presentation, Carroll Rinker, President of the club, shared a piece of birthday cake with each member attending the luncheon.

The year is now 2018.  Laurie and Sunrise Beach both have stoplights!  Most of our roads are paved, and the names have been changed from 5-31 to names.  With GPS and actual addresses, it is somewhat easier to find your way around.  However, even with all these changes to the Westside, the need to get acquainted with your neighbors, learn about various aspects of the community, and contribute to agencies that serve the Lake area remains unchanged.  As we celebrate 40 years of service, we look forward to many more years of being a part of the Lake community.