From the President

This has been a great year as you will note when you read the following annual reports. We are in good shape financially –  all of our board positions are filled for next year, all of our groups have leaders and we have a new website. 

Despite a rather large learning curve I have enjoyed this experience very much. But, I have to say that it would not have been possible for me to lead had it not been for our board and group leaders. 

IN is an all volunteer organization that has served the Ann Arbor area for 61 years… think about that for a second… for all of those years women have volunteered to help one another feel welcome, navigate their new community, and develop new friendships. Together we have laughed, cooked, sung,danced, watched movies, read books, and so much more.

This Is not small. It has been a lifeline to both our Neighbors and the Newcomers, it has changed lives and broadened minds. To be part of International Neighbors is to be part of something much bigger than ourselves. I am honored to be part of it. I look forward to more fun, more interesting friendships and adventures and to working with the best women anywhere!

Andra Bostian Ferguson


Vice President’s Annual Report

This past year has been a somewhat typical year for me as Vice President.  I had planned to step down for this year but no replacement was found so I continued on in the role of Vice President.  As usual most of my work was done over the summer and in September. This year I chose not to chair a special committee (so I had fewer responsibilities than I might typically have), for two reasons.  Firstly, we were actively seeking my replacement and I didn’t want a new person to have to take extra work on.  Secondly, the work that needed to be done revolved around technical computer issues of which I have no knowledge or understanding. 

The organization for the September Open House went smoothly as usual.  Gretchen Farah and Vesna Ognenovski were instrumental in providing the Volunteers and Ambassadors to help the event run without any problems.  Other members of the Board assisted with proofreading and updating materials needed for the information we were handing out.  The event went very smoothly with approximately 140 attendees almost half of which were newcomers.

Throughout the year, when able, I served as the liaison to the International Day Team committee.  Under Dilek Kirca’s leadership everything went very well this year.  The committee hopes to continue to add some younger members over the next year.  I kept track of attendance at IN Days last year and did so again this year (with the addition of weather information).  The charts from last year and this year are both attached.  I plan to continue this practice next year to see if it provides us with any useful data.   While the numbers fluctuated over the course of the year it was clear to the casual observer that those in attendance were really enjoying themselves and the programs that we offered. 

This will be my last year as Vice President.  I have truly enjoyed working with a wonderful group of welcoming, supportive women.  Having never taken on a role such as this in the past, I was extremely worried that I would not be able to live up to your expectations.  My thanks to you all!  I am looking forward to co-chairing the IN Day Team and therefore remain a member of the Board.

Christina Tefft
Vice President


IN Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2018 – 2019 (less month of May)

International Neighbors is in good financial standing, with a balance of $21,949 as of the end of April. The balance includes a carry forward from 2017-2018 of $19,676,

As of the end of April, the net of $8892 income and $6619 expense indicates a potential gain this year of $2273. However, with estimates for no income in May and for a May expense of $1300, our expected gain is $973.  This compares favorably with our annual total budget of $8350 for income and $9065 for expenses, which was an expected shortfall of $715. 


Total Income is $8,892.

The major income is from 100 member donations. Donations are encouraged in an annual fall mailing to neighbors. This compares with last year’s donations from 103 members.

  • $6,065 total member donations
  • The average and median donations are $60 and $35-$40..
  • The minimum and maximum donations are $10 and $600.

 Income from the Japanese Business Society (JBSD) and Kiwanis grants is

  • $1,440 from JBSD to support childcare and rent for Conversation Groups (current expenses are  $1,880)
  • $430 from JBSD and $1,000 from Kiwanis to support the Cultural Encounters Jr program (current expenses are $483)

The end-of-April total expense is $6619.  The official financial year is June 1 – May 31. Additional expenses for May would include those for INDay, Cultural Encounters, Conversation Groups, and Member Communication (for Website), estimated to be $1300. A complete statement of annual expenses will be done after May 31.

Total expense of $6619 by Program 

Total expense of $6619 by category 

Tasks of the Treasurer

The work of the treasurer during the fiscal year included

  • Participating in an annual audit of treasurer procedures
  • Maintaining International Neighbors as a non-profit organization by filing with the Federal government and with the State of Michigan
  • Managing donations received from the Neighbor Coordinator, making 14 deposits of 100 checks, sending thank you letters to each donor, and maintaining data about donations by donor
  • Reimbursing members of budgeted expenses or paying expenses directly, writing 57 checks and maintaining data about expenses
  • Handling of the International Neighbors general liability insurance policy

Sylvia Barg


Tea Groups Annual Report 2018-19

Regular Tea Groups

Which was the first Tea Group? All agree that International Neighbors started in a Tea Group when an American lady invited international women to her house for tea and friendship in the fall of 1958. Was it the venerable Angell Tea Group or the equally august Burns Park Tea Group? Collective memories have faded, but the warmth and hospitality provided by these thriving groups to countless women have not.

Sadly Shirley, Founding Mother and a senior member of the Ann Arbor Hills Tea Group, passed away last summer. Her welcoming smile, generosity, and grace are so missed. Homa, longtime leader of the Ann Arbor Woods Tea Group, moved in August to be closer to her children. Her kindness and neighborliness were legendary and her magnificent  Persian Tea table was the highlight of the International Neighbors Tea Party four years in a row.

The Tea Groups produced wonderful programs each month at different hostesses houses despite some changing leadership. Thank you to everyone who stepped in to help, experienced hostesses and brand new guests alike. Most challenging was the worst winter weather that hit just before the 5th Annual Tea Party. The Tea Groups proved themselves more than equal to the task treating a record, overflowing crowd to fine china and delicious treats from Turkey, Somalia, England, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Japan, Eastern Europe, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and of course, our VIP table for our Founding Mothers who were brought the finest food from every table.

Baby Tea Groups

Few things are more challenging to a young mother than to have a small baby in a land far from home. The Baby Tea Groups have been a great way for these young mothers to get together every two weeks to socialize and share their experiences. Perhaps unique in International Neighbors is how the Baby Tea Groups are organized by Newcomers rather than Neighbors, which makes the membership constantly changing. Members have proved resourceful, meeting at the Ann Arbor Symphony instrument “petting zoo” at the library, the 242 indoor playgrounds during the winter months, and other fun Ann Arbor spots. Despite living in small spaces they have had a series of wonderful goodbye parties for members returning to their home countries. Sad to say goodbye, but all sorts of ways to keep in touch via social media. The hope is that all the babies will grow up to be international pen pals some day. 

Robyn Frey
Tea Group Coordinator


IN Cultural Encounters Group Annual Report

This is my second year of coordinating the Cultural Encounters group and I am happy to say the group has doubled in size since last year. This year we have 45 members from 21 countries. We meet once a month on Fridays and share traditions, customs, and cuisine of our homelands.

Members who wish to host a cultural encounter usually make a presentation about their country, tell interesting stories, show videos, pictures or present typical clothes or items to make us better understand the differences in customs and traditions between our countries. Each encounter is always concluded with a delicious sampling of typical dishes of the country being presented.

This year we explored Croatia, Germany, France, Ukraine, Brazil, Somalia, Mexico, and Serbia.

Special Interests Group Annual Report

It has been another great year of making friends.  We had 6 Food Groups, 6 Arts and Craft Groups, 3 Exercise and Fitness Groups and 4 Excursion Groups.

Many of the food groups have had wait lists all year.  We hope to add more options next year.

The Amazing Twos visited the Chelsea Tree House and the Hands-On Museum, etc. The leader, Karin, will be moving to California soon so this group will not continue next year.  The Knitting Group attended the Fiber Feast, the annual Fiber Guild fashion show, in April.

Our only expense is for rental of the Church of the Good Shepherd twice a month for the “Let’s Make Music Group.

Melissa Thun
Special Interests Coordinator


Ambassadors Annual Report

One more year at International Neighbors is approaching the time of graduation. Many of our Newcomers will become neighbors, and many neighbors would have gained one more year of valuable experience while sharing their friendship and knowledge with so many incredible women from all over the world. The Summer of 2018 was a very slow period for Newcomers. By the end of August, we had very few sign-ups and as a Coordinator of Ambassadors, I was very worried about this low number.

However, The Open House in September proved to be another success. We had 140 members that attended the Open House, and more than half were Newcomers. The most numerous were The Newcomers from Japan, followed by Korea, China, India, and Brazil. We have members from Canada,The Russian Federation, Ukraine, Poland, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Greece, Albania, Germany, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Wales, Finland, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iran, Iraq,Syria, Israel, Palestine, and I hope I have not missed representatives from some other countries. According to the information that I receive from The Member-data, The International Neighbors have about 170, plus/minus, Newcomers as of April,30th. The Ambassadors had a busy year and were able to support their newcomers by welcoming them and helping with the various activities that we offer at IN. The Newcomers were pretty happy with their choices, but some expressed opinions that they would like to be able to attend more than one baking or cooking groups. 

The last few months at The Board level we have been discussing the expansion of The Ambassadors Program to three years. It means that The Newcomers will be followed by ambassadors until they become neighbors. There was a suggestion that the first year Newcomers will continue with the same ambassadors through their second and third year, which will provide a better understanding of the needs of The Newcomers. This is still a work in progress, so creative suggestions are welcomed. 

Thank you very much for reading this report, and as always it has been my pleasure to work with all of you wonderful ladies and, moreover learn from your experience and wisdom, and become a better person through this process. Please, let me know if you have any questions.

Vesna Ognenovski
Ambassadors Coordinator


Volunteer Coordinator Report

This has been a very positive year for volunteers. My primary goal is to respond quickly to all requests from members regarding volunteering. In addition, I email all new Neighbors within a week of their joining IN, welcoming them and inviting them to the next IN Day. I also encourage them to join our Facebook page. 

I hosted a new member get-together in the fall and had a very good turnout. Including Tina Tefft and myself, there were nine women in attendance. The group had a great rapport and actually became the impetus for a new discussion group: Fun and Games. This group is designed for women who work during the day. 

Evening groups tend to have a higher attendance rate than afternoon groups

As Volunteer Coordinator, I assisted with the fall Open House as well as recruiting volunteers for the nursery. Nursery volunteers continue to be a challenge and steps have been taken to seek a paid nursery assistant

Gretchen Farah


Discussion Groups Annual Report

Discussion Group Leaders have done a wonderful job, and I’m grateful for all their hard work in leading their discussion groups this year! 

After the Fall open house last September, many groups filled up within a few weeks, and additional requests were added to waitlists and later joined the group when vacancies became available. Interest in joining the groups has continued throughout the year. 

In 2018-2019, members from 22 countries joined new Discussion Groups, including Brazil, Ireland, Taiwan, Germany, Iran, China, Australia, Kazakhstan, India, England, Peru, Israel, Japan, Russia, Turkey, Korea, Sri Lanka, Republic Moldova, Ukraine, Argentina, Mexico, and the USA. There have been 62 new requests to join Discussion Groups. Of these, 36 of these women joined groups in 2018, and the remaining 26 joined in 2019, with new requests coming in even in April. 

The year began with 4 language groups, 3 film groups, and 3 topic groups. Since then, it’s been confirmed that Spanish II does meet twice a month on Tuesday evenings for an informal gathering, led by Graciela Mentz. Also, a new group has been added to Topic groups. 

The new group, called “Fun & Games”, began this spring in order to meet the interest in evening groups, particularly from women who can’t attend daytime groups due to work or other commitments. This evening group has been met with a lot of enthusiasm. The first meeting was held in March with nearly 12 women signing up in the first two weeks, and now at the end of April, the group is nearly full. If interest continues at the same rate, I believe we’re going to need to form a second group. If it seems needed, I’m planning to ask around to see if there’s interest in starting or leading, a second group in the Fall. 

Lianne Hilbert
Discussion Groups Coordinator


English Conversation Group Coordinator Annual Report

Conversation Groups meet weekly, the only International Neighbors group which does.  Weekly practice enables Newcomers to practice speaking English. They also learn about Ann Arbor culture through discussions, trips and demonstrations.  The weekly meetings also enable women to make new friends and learn about other cultures.  The regular groups meet from October through May, and in the summer there are “drop in”  Conversation Groups for 5 weeks.


  • Five Conversation Groups met weekly, including one with children.
  • The leaders are terrific:  Mary Margaret Hatt, Marcy Toon, Carole Wolkan, Lonnie Vitale,  Vesna Ognenovski, Pat Manley, Kari  Michalowski,  and me. Martha Frank assists when she is in town. Thank you!   Leaders had 2 organizational meetings and met for lunch a few times.
  • Trips included Trader Joe’s,  the Apple Orchard, the library, the Humane Society, Kempf House, Domino’s Farm,  2/42, cafes, Botanical Gardens, UM Stadium Tour, the ICE CUBE and potlucks 

Groups met in the community rooms at Bank of Ann Arbor and at a condo, as well as at a church meeting room this year. 

Dale Magee


Reading Groups Coordinator Annual Report

The year started out offering seven groups in the fall, having added two new groups. Continuing groups were:  two low-intermediate, one high-intermediate and two advanced.  The two new groups were an advanced called “Women and Food,” offered by Vesna Ognenovski and Karen O’Brien, and a high-intermediate called “Mystery Books,” offered by Shirley Moraes and Vesna.  There was a total of twelve leaders and co-leaders, including Zoe Bookh, Ema Stefanova, Vesna, Karen O’Brien, Karen Thomas, Virginia Koster, Shirley, Marian Cohen, Adrienne Syme, Veronica Hannah, Melissa Thun and myself.

By October, 44 new ladies signed up for the 7 groups, bringing the total people signed up to 69, which included both new and continuing members with some duplicates (a few were signed up for two groups).

Unfortunately, there was not enough interest in the Women and Food group, so in early 2019, Karen and Vesna decided to cancel the group.

During the year, there were some new members added to most of the groups.  The Wednesday Advanced group filled up quickly, so it was closed in late fall.

The groups read a variety of fiction and non-fiction works including: Mary Poppins by P.S. Travers, Sula by Toni Morrison, The Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James, 7 Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Moon Palace by Paul Aster, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippmann, The National Geographic Traveler Magazine, Runaway by Alice Munro and many others.

The leaders met twice for lunch to get to know each other better and to share experiences and problems/challenges.  We will meet one more time the end of May or beginning of June to discuss summer plans and plans for the fall.

Lana Valentine had expressed interest in starting an evening group, so an announcement was placed on the website and in our Newsletters.  However, there were only a few ladies who expressed interest, so we have given up that group for now.  Also, a new IN member expressed interest in starting a new advanced group to meet once a month, starting in the fall.  An announcement will be put on the website and on Facebook as soon as the leader approves the description.

The challenge for next year (and those to come) is finding more leaders to start more groups.  In particular we need leaders for a beginning and intermediate group.  Announcements will continue to be posted on our website, in the Newsletter and on our Facebook page.

Many, many thanks to the leaders and co-leaders for their enthusiasm and commitment to their groups!  It’s encouraging to see this part of IN increasing in member participation!  It’s very gratifying to see the joy of reading spread through our organization!

Respectfully submitted,
Carole Wolkan

Mailing/US & Canada Ambassador and Neighbors Annual Report

Mailing Report

750 letters were mailed out early September to our Neighbor members
Of those, 122 were returned as undeliverable or address change.
Carole continues to work on these, making changes and updating our database to best determine who should continue to receive our mailing for Fall 2019.

We continued with an approximate 20% return rate of completed pink sheets, most with donations. As this is our only paper mailing of the year and remains our best source of donations, I still feel this mailing is worthwhile.

All updates were submitted to member data.
All donations were recorded and passed onto our treasurer.

Postage stamps for Fall 2019 mailing were purchased in January before the postage rate increase.
For our 2019 Fall Mailing, I would like to have the President’s Letter along with updated Green Refrigerator List (updated contacts, emails, and calendar for 2019-2020) by mid-July.  Last year, there were some errors on this green list so will be sure to edit carefully.

US & Canada Ambassador/Neighbors Report – Annual Report

In conjunction with Gretchen as Volunteer Coordinator, 2 New Member Orientation sessions were held-Fall 2018 and Spring 2019.  Both were well attended.

New members asked questions, informed of volunteer opportunities and learned about the history of IN.  

Janine Chey


Neighbors Follow-Up Coordinator Annual Report

This year this fairly new position has slowly been finalized with the various parts coming together.  There are still some aspects in transition, however.  The tasks are often overwhelming as the membership numbers are quite large. Perhaps a co-coordinator needs to be added to this part of the Neighbor Team, which includes the Mailing Coordinator/US Ambassador, and Volunteer Coordinator.

The following are issues dealt with this past year:

  1. Membership

As of March, there were 668 Neighbors and 817 Newcomers.  The group leaders were asked to submit their lists in December/January (as usual) to give us an approximate idea of how many members had signed up for our groups. According to that information, 227 Neighbors are active or signed up for groups/activities including International Day, so approximately 30%, and 242 Newcomers are involved in groups, including International Day, so approximately 31%. A total of 82 people who signed up for groups or at International Days (including our 60thanniversary celebration) were NOT registered according to our December membership lists.

It has been a continual challenge to follow the membership. The pink sheet mailing in late August resulted in many envelopes returned with incorrect addresses (122). An e-mail was sent out to those members for corrections but only a few responded.  17 were resent so over 100 were deleted from the database.

  1. All-Member Survey

An all-member survey was sent in May 2018, which resulted in 208 responses by September. Another survey was sent out in March 2019 (and again, as a reminder, in April).  There have been 133 responses so far.  It is our hope that the results will help identify those members who had moved or were no longer interested in IN.

  1. Graduates

Graduates are the Newcomers who have been in the organization for three years and then are “graduated” to become Neighbors.  An e-mail was sent in July to 183 members.  The board decided we would acknowledge them at the November International Day – saying that we are thankful for their 3-year membership and participation.  The graduates present were called up to the microphone and presented with flowers.

A new list was generated for May 2019.  There are 202 ladies on the list. They will be contacted soon and we will again acknowledge them in November.

  1. Next year’s goals:  It is hoped that there will be more contact with the Neighbors who have been here more than 6 months (following up on their progress) as well as again sending out a survey to continue to update our database.

Furthermore, it is hoped that we will be able to continue to update information about the Newcomers with a revised/augmented Ambassadors team.

Respectfully submitted,
Carole Wolkan


IN Days Annual Report

IN Day Planning Committee planned for and organized 4 IN Days (October, November, December, and January), and provided full support for the 3 other IN Days organized by Robyn (February), Neena (March) and Vesna (April). The teamwork synergy resulted in IN Days where members from various groups gathered to socialize and explore a variety of programs.

September IN Day was a Halloween Dance Party led by our very own dance instructor PenPen who also ran two games with prizes. Halloween scarves and flashlights were awarded to the winners. Members were encouraged to wear costumes, hats, and masks, and children invited to trick-or-treating with our friendly witches Barbara and DeGloria.

November IN Day was a Thanksgiving potluck celebration accompanied by a viola by the Jackson Symphony Orchestra violist Dilek Engin. Members also enjoyed a mini concert from our Singing Group led by Andra. The program ended with the Newcomers Coordinator Carole’s speech in recognition of the Newcomers who have been with International Neighbors for 3 years and became Neighbors. We also held our annual food drive for Food Gatherers on November IN Day for which a thank you letter has been received just recently.

December IN Day was a Cookie and All Homemade Goods Exchange. Members sampled a variety of treats, and each took home a plate filled with treats from around the world. They sang along to the songs led by the Singing Group, “My Country Home” in Japanese, “Guantanamera” in Spanish, and “Jingle Bells” in English by following the lyrics on the big screen.

January IN Day was a poetry reading with local poet Zilka Joseph who took IN members on a poetic journey to all the lands she lived in by reading a special selection from her chapbooks “Lands I Live In”, “Sharp Blue Search of Flame”, and one of her poems recently published in the Poetry Magazine. The words were projected on the big screen for ease of following. The “Members Favorites” table featured a large selection of poetry from the greatest poets of all time, including Rumi, Coleridge, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, and poems authored by our own talented members.

February IN Day was a fabulous Tea Party organized by the Tea Groups Coordinator Robyn. Many of the IN Day committee members are also Tea Group members and some of us who are not, lent support to Tea Group members as needed, and worked with Robyn who did an excellent job of coordinating this very popular and highly attended IN Day.

March IN Day was planned by one of our Tea Groups’ member, Neena, who resourcefully brought together a team of cooks, dancers, cultural exhibits, and even a Henna artist.

April IN Day A“celebration of movement” with a novel workout NIA. Vesna was the organizer and followed up all communication with the instructor (which was challenging at times). Megan Sims named the session “Together We Shine: Honoring Diversity to Dispel Adversity” Members of all ages seemed to very much enjoy NIA. Members also enjoyed a mini-concert from the Singing Group.

Thank you to all who helped IN Days a place for everyone to feel welcome

Pictures of the IN Days can be accessed at IN website archives.

Dilek Kirca
IN Day Coordinator 


Report from Webteam

IN Schedule

We started a project to be more organized about deadlines and responsibilities, and create an IN Board Schedule at begining of the year.

The schedule includes all information with deadlines like IN Days, the Newsletter deadlines, board meeting dates, deadlines for job descriptions, budget requests, annual reports. I sent it at the begining of the year and re-sent if there was any change on it.

I hope you all liked it and worked for you. We can work on it to improve, If you have any recommendations, please feel free to to contact me.


We began working with new volunteers this year, Thara and Ann-Sofie. They got used to website quickly and did great job by the year. I’d like to thank them for their effort and knowledge. While our website was under construction, they guided Declan, the website professional, very well.

Member Data

I also want to thank to Priya for all information that she sent me. You could find the annual member data by numbers below.

We have 836 newcomers and 668 neighbors (this number might be off by 5-10 depending on the deletions in the past 2-4 weeks).
Total number of new members for this year is 89.  Brazil (6), China (13), Equador (1), El Salvador (1), India (1), Iran(1), Ireland(1), Italy(1), Japan (20), Korea (10), Nepal (1), Russia (2), Slovenia (1), Spain (1), Taiwan (3), Turkey (2), Ukraine (2), UK (1), US (19), Venezuela (1), Yemen(1)

Tuba Cetin
Communications Coordinator