Since 1964, University Baptist Church has offered the INternational Neighborhood Coffee Hour (InCH),
a weekly opportunity for women from all over the world to gather to socialize, make friends, and improve their English language skills. The program is free, as it has been since its founding, and no pre-registration is required.
Trained and seasoned volunteers lead small groups of women of different levels of proficiency to improve their conversational English skills. For more advanced speakers, ESL and ESOL groups are available. Other volunteers from the church and community provide refreshments and child care for preschool-age children.
The program follows the Ohio State University calendar; INCH meets every Wednesday that the university is in session, from 9:30 to 11:30am.
The late Mary Riley, longtime UBC member, founded INCH in the fall of 1963 with the purpose of providing a regular time of fellowship for international women who felt isolated in their new city because of a lack of language skills or because they had young children at home. The original group gathered for conversation, handiwork (e.g., knitting and quilting), and coffee.
Over the years, more than 1,500 women have attended INCH, representing over eighty different countries. Many of them have been the wives of Ohio State students and visiting scholars; others have been immigrants, refugees, the wives of foreign executives, and new citizens of the United States. Currently, around 85 women regularly participate in INCH, and are accompanied by fifteen to twenty infants and toddlers. About twenty volunteers serve them. Wednesday mornings at UBC are lively, to say the least!
Amanda McClafferty has been the director of INCH since 2012. A lifelong member of University Baptist Church, she came to INCH as a young child, accompanying her grandmother, who volunteered with the program for several decades. In her high school and college years, Amanda volunteered as a child care worker, tutor, and kitchen helper.
A 2003 graduate of Ohio State, Amanda works as a teacher in the Columbus Public Schools. She and her husband Kyle are the parents of Stella, 10, and Molly, 6.
Amanda says, “My experiences with INCH have truly enriched my life. I have early memories of seeing women from all over the world laughing, talking, and enjoying friendship with one another. As I grew, I took with me the knowledge that the world may appear to be large and full of challenges, but for two hours a week, the world was very small, and only as complicated as whether one enjoys coffee or tea with a cookie!