New to Victoria? Chamber event tries to make you feel at home


May 5, 2013 at 12:05 a.m.
Updated May 6, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

Life for Patrick Bower is much different today than it was just a few weeks back.

The Mississippi native moved to Victoria about a month ago for a management role with Office Depot. And while he's tackling new responsibilities at work, he's also juggling the challenges that come with moving somewhere new.

Meeting new people, he said, is especially tricky.

"I work long hours, and I'm single - widowed," he explained. "It's very difficult."

But efforts are underway to ease that transition.

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce on Thursday will host its first Newcomers Social, said Amy Mundy, chairwoman of the chamber's Newcomers Committee. The goal is to welcome first-time Victorians to the community and help them get acquainted.

"It's always hard moving to a new town and not knowing anybody," she explained. "If you get a call from a friendly person saying, 'We want to welcome you, and here's a little information about Victoria,' I think that just gives them a good feeling about our community."

The endeavor got its start with a focus group, said Randy Vivian, the Victoria chamber's president and CEO. Chamber representatives met with new Victoria school district teachers to get their perspective on area restaurants, businesses and the hospitality industry.

"What we found was that we, as people who have lived here a significant amount of time, know everything about the community. But amazingly, our newcomers don't," Vivian said. "This gives us an opportunity to introduce them to the community and answer questions they might have."

Thursday's event includes free hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and the chance to mix and mingle with community members.

Mundy said organizers hope it's the first of many. The plan is to host such events every three months.

As for Bower, who had already searched in vain for a Victoria singles group, he said he thought the events were a good idea.

They're a strong public relations tool, he said, and that information exchange is useful. Finding housing, for instance, has been particularly difficult.

He's been invited to Thursday's event but said he'll play it by ear. Still, growing pains or not, Bower said he's settling in to his new home.

"It's a nice town, and I've met some really nice, friendly people," he said. "I've felt very comfortable, but I've just got to get established. And that takes some time."



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