International House (as it would later be known) was founded by the Charlotte Area Clergy Association as a unique ecumenical ministry dedicated to meeting the needs of the international community in Charlotte. The nonprofit organization was incorporated in May 1981 as the Community College and International Ministry of Charlotte, Inc. (CCIM) and started implementing programs and activities promoting intercultural interaction and cultural awareness. CCIM created a central location that would serve as a clearinghouse for international information and resources as well as a meeting place for intercultural activities. In 1983, the congregation at St. John's Baptist Church donated the property next door as the site for this international center, and on November 23, 1985, the non-profit opened its doors for the first time at 322 Hawthorne Lane, in a neoclassical mansion (you can find out more about the mansion below).
In 1989, the organization changed its name to International House.
Among the earliest programs of International House was the "Friendship Connection,” a program to help internationals make new friends and develop English language skills in an informal setting. This was but one of many programs geared toward helping internationals better understand and adapt to US culture. Others included "Living in America: A Program for International Women," which provided practical information on living in Charlotte and the US, as well as an opportunity to discover new friendships and share cultural awareness.
International House also focused on raising interest and awareness among the local population about international issues and culture. Americans were invited to weekly "Foreign Language Lunches," to break bread and practice various foreign languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian. The monthly "International Dialogues" focused on a different country each month.
International House expanded its offerings in both of these areas, introducing new arrivals to life in the US while at the same time expanding the worldview of the local community through informative lectures and presentations. The "Cultural Awareness Series" introduced such topics as Chinese New Year, Indian folktales, African culture, and Japanese tea ceremonies to participants. "Doorway to the US" brought together American and international women for social and cultural exchange.
In addition to introducing Charlotte to the world, International House has introduced overseas visitors to local businesses and community organizations. In 1986, the organization became home to the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), a member of the National Council for International Visitors, a network of more than 91 programming organizations across the U.S. under the auspices of the United States Department of State. IVLP hosts business, governmental and academic future leaders from around the world and arranges meetings and interviews with local professionals tailored to their areas of study.
Today, International House continues our mission in a variety of ways. We offer language conversation hours, English classes, Doorways – our international women’s group, an international book club, cultural events and more. We’re also home to the only attorney-staffed immigration law clinic to help low-income immigrants with naturalization and family reunification cases. It’s part of our Immigrant Advocacy Programs that also include English tutoring, English classes and citizenship workshops.
At the end of 2012, we at International House said good-bye to our home of almost 30 years on Hawthorne Lane. But as one chapter ends, another exciting story is currently unfolding. International House is NOW the master tenant at the former Midwood High School, 1817 Central Avenue under a long term lease.