A warm welcome
Sokop's sunny demeanor welcomes newcomers to Lake Country

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff

June 5, 2014

Mary Jane Sokop of Lake Country Greetings welcomes Cathy Kane of Vintique Rental in the Town of Oconomowoc to the Lake Country area. Sokop greets new residents and business owners alike.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

TOWN OF OCONOMOWOC - It is Mary Kay Sokop's mission to make sure no new resident or business owner in the western Lake Country area  goes without a welcome to the community.

For more than a decade, she has made it her business to be one of the first friendly faces at the door.

As the one-woman welcoming crew for Lake Country Greetings, she travels to the city and town of Oconomowoc, Okauchee, Ixonia, Dousman, Summit and Nashotah while carrying a red bag full of pertinent information.

There are lists of the area's doctors, lawyers, dentists, plumbers, electricians, churches, schools and any other services that newcomers to the area may need.

"I've taken the old-fashioned way of welcoming new people with a plate of cookies just one step further," she said.

After being caught in the act of welcoming business owner Cathy Kane of Vintique Rental to the community, Sokop sat down with the enterprise to discuss the hospitality she provides. 

 

ENTERPRISE: How do you know when someone new moves to the area?

SOKOP: The realtors let me know. Or by word of mouth from people I've welcomed before. They let me know that they have a new neighbor.

I end up welcoming between 25 to 30 new residents per month.

 

ENTERPRISE: Why is it important that new residents and business owners receive your greeting?

SOKOP: I moved 14 times with my husband and children before settling in Oconomowoc, so I know that moving is really difficult for people. I had a welcoming visit in several of those locations, so I'm familiar with the concept and how that felt.

 

ENTERPRISE: Why did you move around so much? And what are the reasons that other people are sharing for their moves?

SOKOP: Our moves were due to my husband's time with the service and phone company. We lived in Manhattan, New Jersey, Green Bay, Appleton and Whitefish Bay.

Our most difficult move was moving back to Milwaukee from the East Coast. This was because it was the only move that wasn't our choice; my husband's job had a location change.

Many move because their partner has moved. Or they move because of a new marriage or divorce, new job, death in the family or moving out of the house at 18 years old.

 

ENTERPRISE: How has your job changed in the past 18 years?

SOKOP: It's more difficult now that people don't have landlines so I can call ahead. I have to stop by unannounced. I really considered not doing it anymore, because I didn't want to barge in on people's personal time, but I realized that's my issue. If it's not a good time, people are happy to schedule a time that works.

People continue to answer their doors. I'm not too threatening; I'm a little old lady with a bag of useful information.

 

ENTERPRISE: What does a typical visit entail? What are some of the more memorable moments?

SOKOP: I provide all of the information on what the community has to offer. I ask that they only take what they'll use. The typical meeting takes 45 minutes, but some have taken four hours.

People have invited me in for coffee or water. More visits than not end up in a hug.

Sometimes I end up sitting on boxes because the furniture hasn't arrived. One time I was standing in a garage with a bird on my head, because the family let the bird roam free and only caged it at night.

 

ENTERPRISE: Is this service free of charge? And how can new residents or those aware of new residents set up an appointment?

SOKOP: It is free of charge. My sponsors pay for materials. I can be called at 490-3527 or emailed at johnmaryk@sbcglobal.net.

I really do this to make the world a better place and to share how unique Oconomowoc is. I was the first to call it "The Heart of Lake Country."

Email: Jperttunen@conleynet.com