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
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
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
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.
Andrea D'Ambra, our representative in Italy,
originally joined the IPF team as a teenager and his continued enthusiasm over the years has helped
IPF to gain many more members from all corners of the globe. Andrea has consistently been one of IPF's top agents over the years.
Virpi Taivassalo from Finland first joined IPF as a member in 1996, in 2007 she became our representative in Finland and has worked tirelessly ever since. Virpi became IPF's top agent in 2020 with people joining through her website from many countries around the world.
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
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
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
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
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
IPF's Head Office contact
International Pen Friends (IPF)
PO Box 430
Paynesville VIC 3880
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.