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IPF's Journey Continues ...

Inspiration

International Pen Friends (IPF) was founded by Neil O'Donnell from Dublin, Ireland on 7 April, 1967. Neil's motivation was strong. Inspired by his experiences as a young child growing up during World War II, his vision was to give people in all age groups, from every country, the opportunity to gain pen friends and promote world peace and understanding through sincere correspondence.

From its humble beginnings in a shoe box, IPF has grown to be regarded as the world's greatest pen friend club, providing more than 1.5 million people aged from 8 to 80+ years with pen friends and offering services in six different languages.

Given IPF's success was achieved long before the Internet became popular, and has continued in a technologically advanced society, is a reflection of the never-ending motivation and determination behind IPF, and high quality of the service it provides.

Julie Delbridge presents Neil O'Donnell with flowers during his promotional trip to Sydney, Australia 1995

Challenges

Some of the issues Neil faced during IPF's early days are now hard to imagine. For example, during a postal and telecommunications strike in Southern Ireland during the 1980s that lasted five months (that is, five months with no telephone, fax or postal service), Neil gained the assistance of an IPF representative in Northern Ireland and drove each week from Dublin to Belfast to post and collect the mail. His determination was intense, given the danger of such a journey due to the unrest in Northern Ireland at the time.

IPF has also had to overcome many political and economic challenges to gain members in certain countries. During the 1980s and early 1990s, IPF provided a free penfriend service to over 40,000 people in Eastern Europe, giving those people the opportunity to experience the benefits of global friendship, an opportunity they otherwise would not have been able to enjoy.

To this day, IPF continues to provide many free and heavily subsidised memberships to people in countries facing severe economic hardship.

Mattel's Special Edition International Pen Friend Barbie doll 1995, promoting the services provided by IPF.

Growth and Success

The enthusiasm and commitment of IPF representatives has also ensured IPF's continued growth and success. For example, over the years Petur Thorleifsson from Iceland recruited over 30,000 members. Considering that the total population of Iceland is around 280,000, Petur did remarkably well.

In 1995, IPF's representative Lesley Fox in New York, USA worked with the toy manufacturer Mattel to create the Special Edition International Pen Friends Barbie doll, with the packaging promoting IPF's services. A new generation were soon enjoying the fun of the pen friend experience.


The Head Office team in Ireland a few days before IPF relocated to Australia. From left: Heather, Pat, Neil, Julie and Elsie.

Most of IPF's representatives initially joined IPF as members and have been inspired by their own experiences of writing to pen friends, thus wishing to assist IPF in its goals. To name a few: Ming-Jiing from Taiwan joined IPF 30 years ago and recruited over 25,000 members. Pamela Walker, UK; Nikola Hahn, Germany; Martine Darroux, France; Lorrin Lee, Hawaii, USA; Petr Ondrousek, Czech Republic; Joina Moura de Almeida, Brazil and Lionel Mutua, Kenya are other representatives who have had outstanding achievements.

Representatives in their early 20's such as Andrea D'Ambra, Italy, have now joined the IPF team and their enthusiasm is helping IPF to gain many more members from all corners of the globe.

The work of all IPF's representatives helps ensure that the widest possible country choice for pen friends is available to everyone who joins IPF.

 


IPF representative Martine Darroux and Julie,
Paris, France, 2002


From Ireland to Australia

Neil continued his great and tireless work for IPF until 31 January, 2001, when, at the age of 68, he retired. However, his deepest wish was for IPF to continue and on 1 February 2001 Julie Delbridge took over the role of President and relocated IPF's Head Office to her hometown of Melbourne (East Camberwell), Australia.

Julie has a Bachelor of Business Administration (RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) and her passion for IPF and the pen friend experience is extremely strong. Julie first joined IPF as a member when she was a teenager in 1979, later becoming a representative in 1982 and was appointed the Australian Coordinator in 1990, working in that role until January 2001.

IPF representative, Pamela Walker and Julie,
Edinburgh, Scotland, 2002

In the above roles, Julie widely promoted IPF both in Australia and overseas, and was consistently among IPF's Top Five recruiting representatives. Julie is also still writing to three of the people who were on the first list of pen friends IPF sent her in 1979, and over the years has been able to form many special friendships and meet many remarkable people who have greatly enriched her life. Her experience is not unique - everyone who joins IPF is given the opportunity to enjoy the many personal rewards associated with global friendship.

IPF representative, Nikola Hahn, Germany

New Initiatives

Since moving to Australia, Julie and the IPF Head Office team and worldwide representatives have worked on various initiatives to continue IPF's growth and success. These have included the re-launch of IPF's magazine People & Places into a dynamic full-colour publication, the publication of a booklet on letter writing and pen friend hints and the development of a new state of the art computer database. The new database provides many enhanced features for all members, and has given IPF the opportunity to greatly expand its school class service.

IPF representative, Lorrin Lee and Julie, Hawaii, USA, 2002

Now and Beyond

Another step in IPF's Head Office journey has been its move with Julie and her husband Peter in October 2008 to Paynesville, located on the beautiful Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, Australia.

It is a truly unique landscape to work from in continuing IPF's vision of giving people in all age groups, from every country, the opportunity to gain pen friends and promote world peace and understanding through sincere correspondence.

IPF looks forward to providing an ever-increasing number of people worldwide with the opportunity to enhance their life through the countless dimensions of the pen friend experience.

IPF's Head Office contact details are:

Julie Delbridge
President
International Pen Friends
PO Box 430
Paynesville VIC 3880
Australia

Tel: + 61 3 5156 1144
Fax:+ 61 3 5156 1143


Please Note:

We have a well-documented, meaningful and genuine history. We have a large number of representatives worldwide, and many of our representatives have web pages and promote IPF's services locally in their country.

We have never pretended to be associated with the pen friend service that Parker Pen established specifically for two world 's trade fairs. The current office of Parker Pen has confirmed the following, "Parker only offered the pen pal service twice. Once was at the World's Fair in New York in 1965 and the other was at the Chicago World's Fair. After the world's fairs were over the service ceased." Parker Pen also confirmed this in a written document from their archives.

Any claims that Parker Pen's pen friend service continued, was taken over, sold, or operated in conjunction with any other pen friend organisations, are false.

There are some organisations that have taken extraordinary steps in establishing services that appear to be very similar to our service and name, including an organisation that claims the right to being the 'original' provider of a pen friend service. We strongly dispute that claim.

In 1996/1997 a name was trademarked in USA (the trademark is now dead) and the organisation responsible continues to falsly align the trademark with respected pen friend services and brand names that have operated over the history of time.

The Head Office of International Pen Friends (IPF) is located in Australia. It is a registered business and was legally purchased by Julie Delbridge from Neil O'Donnell who founded IPF on 7 April1967, and was President until he retired on 31 January, 2001.

All claims regarding this matter have documented evidence and can be legally proved.