The Friendship Force members from Livingston Parish pictured here at 40th Anniversary Celebration of Friendship Force International were forced to cancel their travel plans to Australia in August of 2016 due to historic flooding, which destroyed their homes and belongings, but they found moral support in their friends from Friendship Force of Baton Rouge. Pictured (from left) are Kathy Brumfield, Kenny Varnado, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Glenda and Keith O’Banion, Janet Varnado, Keith Corkern, and Jamie Tindle.


Members and guests of Friendship Force Baton Rouge (FFBR) gathered at the East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library on Goodwood Blvd. on March 8 to celebrate the founding of Friendship Force International.

The Piano Man, Clay, Boudreaux, entertained over 135 guests with music and song, while guests tasted wines and international cuisine provided by many local businesses and restaurants.

A continuously-running slideshow displaying over 500 photos compiled by FFBR photographer, Thornton Cofield, showed members participating in domestic and international exchanges.

Members and guests traded hats and costumes from different countries inside an automated photo booth, manned by club vice-president, Trudy Ivy.

A table covered with historical travel memorabilia was manned by founding members, Darwin and Linda Knochenmus.

Baton Rouge’s award-winning volunteer, Frances Bennett, ensured that members and guests were properly introduced and photographed.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome was given a warm introduction and welcome by committee chairman, Mary Doerner.

The Mayor-President presented FFBR members with a framed certificate proclaiming March 8th as officially, “Friendship Force International Day.”

In turn, FFBR president, Karen Vingiello, greeted the Mayor-President, and gave her the pin of membership.

The Mayor commended Friendship Force of Baton Rouge members for their service as ambassadors within the United States and abroad.

She asked members to assist her in building a bridge between people in our community and state.

FFI board president, Bob Duncan, described the goals of the organization, then showed a film depicting ambassadors on journeys around the world.

Several current members were asked to tell personal stories of what Friendship Force International has meant to them, including longtime member, Vicki Vance; recent member, LaDeta Crawley; and founding member, Dotty’s Stubbs.

A husband and wife team from the Ukraine serenaded the group with their violins, while guests originally from India, the Middle East, and Croatia mingled in the crowd.

The evening was brought to a close by the traditional formation in a circle to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” led by past-president, Sheila Melancon.

Several Chinese lanterns were released outdoors, symbolizing wishes of peace to friends far and dear.

Friendship Force International was established 40 years ago, during Jimmy Carter’s administration, with the goal of spreading peace around the world, “one friend at a time.”

The Baton Rouge group, which is currently 75 members strong, meets monthly to plan, coordinate and communicate with other groups to organize one domestic journey and one international journey each year.

Members stay with other ambassadors in their homes. Sight-seeing tours, transportation and meals are arranged by volunteer “journey coordinators” from each club.

Long-lasting friendships have been established in the U.S., Canada, Norway, Japan, and many other countries through the years.

-Mary Doerner

Publicity chairman for FFBR

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