Through their involvement at Park Street, Robin and Butch heard that the Park Street trustees wanted to sell the house on Marlborough Street to help generate funds for their building program. Robin and Butch quickly pulled several other Park Street attendees into the project and formed the International Fellowship House, Inc. Park Street agreed to lease the house (which the IFH later purchased) on a trial basis to the newly formed corporation, and within a short time $6,000 was raised to clean the house and prepare it for residents.
With volunteer work parties and many late nights by several individuals, the house was made ready for occupancy by late summer. Over fifty barrels of accumulated junk were removed. The basement, kitchen, and what is now the dining room were cleaned and painted, and several bedrooms were made livable. Sufficient dishes and cooking utensils were purchased at wholesale cost from a sympathetic vendor and enough used furniture was donated to equip the livable rooms with furniture. The first resident manager, Henry Baay, the first cook, and eight residents moved in by the end of August 1966.
During the first six months of operation, added donations were needed to help pay the rent and the cook and to continue the renovation of additional rooms. Gradually, new rooms with additional donated furniture became available. A young couple, John and Tara Young, were found to replace Henry. By early summer in 1967, there were fifteen residents and the house was approaching “break-even” operations.
In the summer of 1967, Dale and Arlene Schaeffer became the new resident managers. Their two-year residency brought great stability to the house and enabled the house to achieve full occupancy (eighteen students) by the fall of 1968. From that period on, the IFH has been self-sufficient financially and has made constant improvements to the condition of the house every year since. Since 1966, the IFH has housed well over a thousand long and short term international students and travelers from dozens of countries around the world.
The IFH has been from the beginning governed by a board of directors, consisting of concerned couples, individuals, and past managers (when possible) in the greater Boston area. Butch Dickerson, one of the original founders, remains active on the board of directors. The resident managers since the opening of the IFH have been:
Henry Baay (1966)
John and Tara Young (1967)
Dale and Arlene Schaeffer (1967-1969)
Don and Betsy Wells (1969-1971)
Chip and Cathy Grange (1971-1974)
John and Diane Larsen (1974-1975)
Beth and Jim Tebbee (1975-1977)
Wes and Anne Simons (1977-1980)
Jerry and MaraBeth Soneson (1980-1985)
Lowell and Janie Dunfee (1985-1987)
Tim and Maureen Laniak (1987-1992)
Eric and Melanie DeBaufre (1992-1996)
Spencer and Leslie Stith (1996-1998)
Michael and Michelle Dean (1998-2002)
Linford and Jo Fisher (2002-2008)
Chris and Amy Stroup (2008-2016)
Anna and Joe Kauslick (2016-present)
Founder, Butch Dickerson, pictured with his wife Clara May, August, 2012 at their cottage in Maine, where they regularaly invite residents to come and retreat.
History of the IFH
In March of 1966, a long-time member of Park Street Church performed her final act of charity in death by willing to Park Street Church her townhouse at 386 Marlborough St. in the Back Bay section of Boston. At the same time, Robin Marvin and Willard (Butch) Dickerson were jointly looking for a housing facility as a launching point for their vision to reach out to international students in Boston.
Available off-campus housing was scarce in Boston in the 1960s. Most internationals, as graduate students, did not qualify for dormitory space and were forced to find housing off-campus. Many students of African, Asian, and Middle Eastern origin were being discriminated against and/or exploited. Robin and Butch wanted to provide a “home-like” place for international students to live where they could experience both true hospitality at fair housing value and a warm Christian environment in which the honest exchange of ideas could take place.