Friendship Force Florence hosts visitors
Eleven British senior citizens spent last week in Florence, residing with local families, all members of Friendship Force. Friendship Force is an organization established in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter and the mayor of Newcastle, England. The purpose was to foster personal encounters with people from different parts of the world with the idea that they will become friends and that could lead to world peace.
It is similar to an exchange program for adults, explained Debra White, a member of the Friendship Force of Florence. This local group meets monthly in member homes where they discuss upcoming travel plans or hosting visiting clubs. The members pay yearly dues to the Friendship Force headquarters in Atlanta which helps coordinate member visits here and abroad.
The English visitors represented the Durham and Cleveland Friendship Club of Northeast England. First, they visited the Central North Carolina Friendship Force, housed in homes in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C., before coming to Florence. While here they toured a local farm and other areas, and also took day trips to Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Most were headed back to England on Thursday, but four ladies traveled to Nashville, TN, for a visit before going home.
Ann Shealy has been a member of Friendship Force for 20 years, even before the Florence group was started. She said the organization has been a wonderful way to meet and make friends all over the world. Although she doesn’t travel much these days, she helped host the recent visitors and entertained with a farewell party at her home last Wednesday evening.
Larry Cantrell, president of the Friendship Force of Florence, said the program brings diverse people together into one another’s cultures and homes to share one-of-a-kind experiences not available to regular tourists. He has visited many countries, including England, Germany, Italy and New Zealand with Friendship Force. He said the group is looking at a trip to Penticton, Canada, next year.