BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - "It's wonderful because you see them all intermingling and they met tonight for the first time!"
Rose Mary Poirrier is bustling around the LSU International Cultural Center. She is the party planner. She points toward the next room and exclaims, "and they're dancing in the next room!"
Poirrier has been the organizer of welcome parties for LSU's newest international students each semester. She has volunteered for the International Hospitality Foundation (IHF) for half a century. The charity pairs foreign students with friends in the Baton Rouge community. Rose Mary not only throws the parties, but has adopted many over time. "We have local people in Baton Rouge who help host the students," said Poirrier. "And you know, become friendly with them and let them know something about our culture. They learn about theirs too, you know, and I've been doing this, I'm 90, so I've been doing this about half my life at least."
For one party, students have been plopped in America and in Baton Rouge at the start of Carnival season. Students at the party are wearing a rich assortment of colorful beads with different krewe insignia. That's because Poirrier raided her own stash. "They'll learn a little about Mardi Gras tonight," she giggles, and it looks like she has got another winner. She's been doing this for decades. She lined up the Les Danseurs de la Capitale de Baton Rouge to get everyone dancing. She got the Knights of Columbus to provide the jambalaya. "I usually make the vegetarian jambalaya," Poirrier adds.
Students who are not catching on quickly to the Cajun two-step Les Danseurs are teaching happily latch onto a snaking conga line that gently introduces two-step as they go along. There are big smiles on the students' faces. They are really enjoying this.
Amrita Pal is now an American living in Baton Rouge, and is treasurer for IHF. She's at this party to share what Poirrier did for her when Pal was a new student at LSU. "Fortunately, and very, very luckily, I met her in my very first semester," said Pal. "So she helped me to get to know the place and to get to know the city. She told me stories about the university, told me stories about where to get the best crawfish, and where to go for things that I needed." After graduation and into adulthood, the friendship has endured. Pal's family treats her like one of them.
Poirrier says you can enjoy getting to know a student. Face it, tourist Louisiana isn't the only site worth seeing. IHF and Rose Mary Poirrier show the world our warmth and sense of fun.
Power of 9 in sponsored by Louisiana Honda Dealers, Capital Area United Way Volunteer Center, and WAFB so that the public will meet Mary Jane Poirrier who are giving something back to their community.