By Jennie

Do you want to know a little bit more about the board member who was kissed by President Obama? Gretchen well deserved that kiss and is a long time member and volunteer with International Neighbors. She’s currently our Volunteer Coordinator.

Transferring to U of M in 1969 from a 4 year Catholic college in Grand Rapids, Gretchen followed her mother’s example, eventually obtaining a Masters in Social Work. She is now one of those people who have definitely earned the title of Ann Arborite, loving the community and eager to share it with visitors and residents alike.

Gretchen started her career as a case worker for special needs children and adoptions with the State of Michigan, then went on to become the owner for number of years of Ann Arbor’s Newcomers Welcome Service. She also volunteered with Washtenaw Literacy as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor, then moved on to tutor private students.

If you could harness Gretchen’s energy, you’d be able to heat your house maybe, because at the same time Gretchen worked as a tour guide in Ann Arbor and sold ads for the Ann Arbor Observer. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, she also joined IN. She’s a member of the Thursday evening IN film group, volunteers at the Welcome Corner on IN Days, works with Carole as the co-chair of the Nominating Committee, and loves her volunteer job as our Volunteer Coordinator. Gretchen says she was nervous about joining the board to begin with, but just said to herself, “Well, Gretchen, you can do that.” Like other board members, she enjoys being a part of the group running the organization and enjoys the camaraderie within the group. Gretchen above all, loves being part of IN, enjoying the activities and meeting new friends.

Oh, and that bit about President Obama’s kiss; I nearly forgot to tell you! Gretchen has two sons who live in California, one of whom runs a website that helped promote the Affordable Care Act via the spoof talk show hosted by Zach Galifianakis. President Obama appeared on the show to encourage sign up of Generation Xers. The number of signups rocketed following the show. Gretchen’s son visited the White House a number of times. He took his mum, Gretchen, with him on one occasion where they had a private interview with President and Mrs. Obama. That’s where Gretchen got a hug and a kiss. She says “I felt so small though in comparison to all those tall people. Mrs. Obama and the President towered above me.” What a wonderful experience though!

Gretchen would love to hear from you if you want to volunteer in any way with International Neighbors. Just contact her at or look on the volunteer page of our website.