June 15, 2020

Joan Pellegrin Joins CIPUSA Board of Directors


In 1961, first grader Joan, her five older brothers and sisters, and her parents piled into the family station wagon and headed to Hiram House Camp.  Gathered at the camp was Cleveland International Program’s newest group of social workers from all over the world.  After a month of orientation at Hiram House Camp they were ready to go “home”.  Home, in this case, was that of Joan’s and many other local host families’ who opened their doors to welcome these new sons and daughters, sisters and brothers for four, six, or twelve months as they explored the field of social work in Cleveland and other cities with affiliate programs.  Joan recalls, “After a while we were on our way home with one more person in the station wagon.   It was very exciting.”   Little did Joan know that this would be the first of fifteen international guests she would host as a child growing up. “We’d giggle about their different habits…we had a gentleman from India once who was a lot of fun, and at night he’d take the phone book upstairs with him.  We finally asked…he said he liked to see the names.  A few years later we had another gentleman from India…he did the same thing.  We were incredulous!”

This formative experience had a lasting impact on Joan.  Taking a break from hosting to attend college, law school, and begin her legal career, Joan soon found her way back.  “My husband, Joe, always liked my stories about all the international guests my family had over the years, and almost 20 years ago we decided to jump into the Program.”  Joan ran a law practice alongside husband Cleveland Municipal Judge Joe Zone from 1981 until 2000 before beginning her career as a Magistrate with the Domestic Relations Division Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.  During this time, the couple also managed to find time to host international guests at home.  “A little searching led me to CIP and our first guest was Niels, a kid from the Netherlands just out of college.  He was here on some sort of work program and he was with us for quite awhile…a few months.  We grew to love him and he is still a huge part of our lives.  He’s been here to visit a few times, and we have visited him and his family (our Dutch grandchildren are 5 and 3) a number of times.  We Skype weekly with him too.”  Joan and Joe have hosted 10 international guests together since hosting Niels.

Joan retired as Magistrate in February of this year and looks forward to hosting more guests alongside her new position on CIPUSA’s board of directors.  President & CEO Lisa Purdy is equally as pleased to welcome her aboard.  “Joan seemed a natural fit for our board after so many years of personal dedication to our mission of bridging cultures and opening our hearts and minds to the world.  We were delighted when she agreed to join us not only as a board member, but as the head of the Host Family Committee to help inspire others to welcome new friends from all over as she has so selflessly done over her lifetime.”  Janis Faehnrich, Board Chair agrees: “The tremendous role our host families play in the success of our programs cannot be overstated. Without them, the crucial homestay component that allows us to truly immerse our delegates and guests in daily American life would not be possible. Joan has shown that you can be a busy professional and still experience the unique joy that only cross cultural homestay hosting can bring. We have been so lucky to have Joan as a host for so many years, and now to have her as an advocate and representative of our program as a member of our board of directors is a meaningful step forward for the organization.” 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has lead to the cancellation of the rest of the year’s in-person group exchanges and host families will not be called upon to host in the near future, Joan still has her mind on the mission ahead.  “I am anxious to recruit.  These types of experiences should be had by everyone, especially children.  The world looks much different when you know people from all over it, and the exposure is invaluable.”

Posted by Lindsey Walsh on June 15, 2020 at 9:21 AM in CIPUSA Permalink
Melissa Zwick says:
June 15, 2020 4:18 PM

Congratulations, Joan! We are so happy to have you aboard!
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