Marla Marnoch was new to London in 2011, coming to the city when her husband got a job at Western University, but that didn’t stop her from finding her place in the community.

Marla had “virtually never been to London,” prior to her move from Milton, other than that time she and her husband had attended his cousin’s wedding.

But even so, she admits to having heard from others that the Forest City was, “a tough nut to crack.”

“I don’t want to put words in people’s mouths, but they said there were groups of people that had been established for a long time and it might be tough to break into those networks,” she explains. “But I was ready to take on that challenge. I was excited. I had an impression it was a beautiful place to live, that it was a very family friendly place to live.”

Marla had been working for an online learning company in Milton, doing some community development work, which is where her background is, before she started looking at changing her career direction.

She decided to capitalize on her interest in real estate and began working towards getting her sales license before moving to London.

At the same time, she faced some obstacles in cracking that tough nut she’d been told about.

As a real estate agent, she wasn’t in an office environment and didn’t have the opportunity to really engage with new work colleagues. She also had to adjust to the fact that her children were now of an age that they didn’t need to bring their parents along when they wanted to play with her kids.

Undeterred, she started to research what was happening. She first discovered the London Strengthening Neighbourhoods Strategy and “all the amazing supports and services and programs for building neighbourhoods.”

She phoned up the division manager and essentially said, “I’m new to London; I’ve discovered this initiative and would love to hear more about it.”

They arranged to meet for a coffee, which would eventually lead to a role as panelist for the SPARKS community funding review committee, her first real role in becoming involved in the community.

Marla Marnoch - photo credit Sean Meyer.

Marla Marnoch - photo credit Sean Meyer.

Marla kept up her coffee meetings strategy, reaching out to people she was interested in sitting down with.

Having a degree in urban planning meant she felt comfortable enough to call up John Fleming, the city’s managing director of planning and city planner to find out not only where London was headed, but how she could help it get there.

At the same time, the London Plan was just rolling out, Peter Mansbridge came to the Forest City as part of that process and Marla marvelled at how 1,500 people had come together to talk about an Official Plan.

She would soon realize the community vision presented by London Plan was something she was really excited about and aligned with all the things that mattered to her — a walkable community, a vibrant downtown, an engaging riverfront, and embraced local heritage.

Seven years later, Marla said she does feel like a Londoner and credits the past municipal election for helping her get more involved.

“When the election came, and it was sort of a referendum on the London Plan, at that point I was so invested, I could see the vision, I knew other people were invested in it too,” she said. “So, I felt connected to all those folks. I was actually out knocking on doors, putting myself out there, to make this happen, and that’s when it hit me I really am invested in this community. London is home for me now.”