607 S. Spring St. | Geneseo, IL 61254


Find out more information about hosting families.


We are in need of a few things throughout the year.

We hold many different special events every year. Stay tuned to our upcoming events.


Take a look at our other organizations and links to other websites for more information.


GITFP began when the International Thanksgiving Fellowship Program that started in 1956 expanded to the Geneseo, Illinois area in 1960. The Thanksgiving Program has continued since that time and we are now celebrating our 55th year of hosting international students from the Chicago area colleges! Sharing a uniquely American Holiday with a Midwest American family is a highlight for the visitors.

The interest in sharing our assets: our people, community, business and civic endeavors throughout the year, led to joining the former National Council for International Visitors in 1984. We continue that relationship with the same organization, now called Global Ties U. S.

Impacts our host families and local communities have made on visitors are immense. Through the early fall of 2014, 698 different host families from 49 area communities have welcomed 3635 guests from 167 countries. That doesn’t count the number of contacts that visitors had while staying in our area or the impacts on our families and communities.


International Thanksgiving Fellowship Program – “One of a Kind!”

    Mrs. Tom (Trudy) Trogdon, (1912-2005), of Paris, Illinois, began the program in 1956. (Grateful to God after recovering from a serious illness)

    She desired to meet people from other countries, show them by example the meaning of Christianity, explain the American way of life, family structure, and the unique American holiday, give them a sense of security away from home, and show them part of America outside Chicago and the media.

     She started with hometown and county ministers, service clubs, and citizens, and then enlisted help from International House of Chicago, Chicago colleges, and the United Nations. Mrs. Trogdon received many awards for this Program, now recognized around the world.

1959: Began in Geneseo when Reverend Donald Bartholomew noticed foreign guests in the congregation while guest-preaching in a Princeton, Illinois church.

1960: Rev. Bartholomew arranged for the first ten international guests to visit Geneseo homes over Thanksgiving weekend.

Program is intended for new people to U.S. who plan to go back home and help their countries. It improves understanding for both hosts and guests.

Participating Areas with their surrounding communities include: Geneseo, Morrison, Paris, Prophetstown, Rock River Valley (Sterling-Rock Falls).

Since 1960 over 533 different host families and over 2430 foreign guests from 124 countries have participated in this Thanksgiving Weekend Program in the Geneseo Area (44 communities).

September 2, 1983 - Became incorporated as a Not-for-Profit organization.

February 1984 - Began participation in former National Council for International Visitors (NCIV)

Program, now called Global Ties U. S.; Receiving 1205 International Visitors through this and other programs to date (9/9/14).
This involves 43 additional countries and 165 more hosts from 6 more communities.

March 1989 - Accepted as a full member in NCIV, now Global Ties U. S.

Global Ties U. S. is comprised of 100 member nonprofit community organizations, national program agencies and other associates and individuals across 45 states and 13 countries. They create professional, cultural, and hospitality opportunities for short-term visits of international guests and students, many of whom are dignitaries selected to come to the U. S. usually through the Department of State, Washington DC, throughout the year. Its mission: to improve international relations and understanding enabling positive changes through person to person exchanges, “one handshake at a time.”

A 1991 guest said, “This is one of the best trips I have made in U.S.A. It is a great opportunity for me to know American everyday life, and to make friendships with Americans. I will send photos to my parents in China, so they will share this trip.”

March 2001 - NCIV community citizen diplomat network was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.

April 2010 - Geneseo International Thanksgiving Fellowship Program celebrated its 50th

Anniversary. February 2011 – NCIV celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

Each year we have background information, publicity aids, application forms, fund-raising aids, etc., available. Anyone interested in a speaker and display about the Program may call (309) 944-4486.

2013 - 109 foreign students/participants (including some family members) from 16 countries and 7 Chicago colleges sent guests to 5 Areas in Illinois.

2013 - 46 Guests from 11 countries visited in 34 host families in the Geneseo Area (also including Aledo, Atkinson, Bettendorf, Cambridge, Cleveland, Coal Valley, Colona, East Moline, LeClaire, Milan, Moline, Orion, Rock Island, Seaton, Taylor Ridge).

Program costs, approximately $59 per guest, are raised through donations and grants.

Cover: Transportation, insurance, fees, publicity, supplies, telephone, internet, etc.
Paid by contributions from: churches, church organizations, civic and other groups, individuals, businesses, (and host families only when contributions do not cover expenses—they usually do.)


Here are some PDF's for hosting families.



November 12, 2014 - Host family applications completed.

November 17, 2014 @ 7p.m. - Host Family Information Meeting @ First Presbyterian Church, Geneseo

November 26, 2014 approximately 5 p.m. - Guests arrive via charter bus from Chicago area at First Congregational Church, Geneseo

November 30, 2014 @ 2 p.m. - Guests depart from First Congregational Church, Geneseo.

TBA - Visitors participating in other programs (U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Congress - Korean National Assembly Exchange Program, U.S. Congress - German Bundestag Youth exchange for Young Professionals CBYX) arrive for homestays and attend professional appointments. Host Families needed, drivers needed, contacts needed.

TBA Summer 2014 - Ice Cream Social at the City Park - Our biggest fundraiser of the year. Volunteers needed to donate baked goods and serve at the event.


OFFICERS & BOARD MEMBERS - Arlyn & Marcia Helke, program coordinators

Marcia Helke
Coordinator President Programmer
Ph.(309) 944-4486
Cell. (309) 714-1630
607 South Spring Street
Geneseo, Illinois 61254

Jacki Catour
Board Member Secretary
Ph. (309) 912-9495
Cell. (309) 737-6752
304 4th Avenue
Colona, Illinois 61241

Jan Corsaro
Board Member Treasurer
Ph. (309) 944-6618
Cell. (309) 944-7238
217 South Vail Street
Geneseo, Illinois 61254

Sue Fonteyne
Board Member Vice President
Ph. (309) 944-5505
Cell. (309) 945-2799
233 North Center Street
Geneseo, Illinois 61254

Arlyn Helke
Board Member Coordinator
Ph. (309) 944-4486
Cell. (309) 945-8575
607 South Spring Street
Geneseo, Illinois 61254

Cindra German
Board Member
Ph. (309) 937-2481
Cell. (309) 236-9119
109 North Third Street
Cambridge, Illinois 61238

Karen Lyman
Board Member
Ph. (309) 944-0705
Cell. (309) 945-3180
11987 N 1500 Avenue
Cambridge, Illinois 61238

Margaret McDowell
Board Member Programmer
Ph. (309) 944-5229
Cell. (563) 650-6869
13334 N 2550 Avenue
Geneseo, Illinois 61254

Jackie Mickley
Board Member
Ph. (309) 944-3948
Cell. (309) 502-9228
13359 N 2250 Avenue
Geneseo, Illinois 61254

Vicki Rowlands
Board Member
Ph. (309) 441-6610
Cell. (309) 945-5576
226 Hart Drive
Geneseo, Illinois 61254