Lynden tradition: A personal welcome to all newcomers

LYNDEN, Wash. -- They arrive in plenty of new neighborhoods in Lynden, but their dress? Old country Dutch, right down to the traditional wooden shoes.

"Lynden is really Holland without a passport,” said Ada Voskuilen, who, along with Vigi Diephuis, have been greeting new residents to Lynden for 25 years.

They are tipped off by realtors or neighbors, and soon the duo comes knocking on the doors of newcomers with baskets of goodies.

“It’s over-the-top, kind, and generous,” said new resident Maureen Balvanz. “I was totally surprised.”

Ada and Vigi make their visits on behalf of the chamber of commerce.

“We get people from all over the world, and to be welcomed into a community is so important,” said Gary Vis, executive director of the chamber. “We’ve heard before that Lynden may be a closed community, but we’re really not. We’re a close community, and so part of that falls on us to reach out to people who come into the community.”

“People really like it, and we love doing it too,” said Ada.

“It’s fun to meet new people,” added Vigi.

The two have never been busier. Since they started the Welkom Basket, Lynden has grown from a population of 5,000 to 15,000.

“I have some people tell me it’s time to hang up the outfit in the closet,” said Ada laughing. “Because we’ve got enough people here, and we don’t need you to do any more encouraging.”

But the duo is not planning to hang up their Dutch dresses any time soon. They are having too much fun, and after more than 2,400 visits, they are Lynden celebrities.

“You can’t go in a grocery store or drug store or hardware store without them bumping into someone they’ve met,” said Gary. “They’re truly celebrities. It’s just the craziest thing.”