The Sister Cities of Porta Loo, Waterloo, Illinois, and Partnerschaftsverein of Porta Westfalica, Germany, began their relationship on Oct. 2, 1980, when the mayor of the City of Waterloo announced the city would form a partnership with Porta Westfalica, West Germany. The announcement was the culmination of months of active promotion and planning by Waterloo’s Vera Kohlmeier and Porta Westfalica’s Helmut Macke.
From the very beginning, officials and citizens of both cities have visited their counterparts abroad, enjoying home visits. Every two years, an official visit takes place between the two cities. Since 1984, alternating large group visits between Waterloo and Porta Westfalica have occurred every two years with many other small group, friend and family visits in between.
The current membership of The Sister Cities of Porta Loo is 112 members, as of February 2017. The organization is governed by an elected nine-member board of directors, with one non-voting representative from the City of Waterloo’s city council, and one non-voting representative from Waterloo High School’s German club. Board meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at Waterloo City Hall. Semi-annual general membership meetings are held on the second Tuesday of April and October.
The main emphasis of our friendship is the summer youth exchange. Each summer since 1984, students from Porta Westfalica and Waterloo have spent four to six weeks in each other’s city, hosted in the homes of local families, as part of an ongoing student exchange program. This program has resulted in countless friendships, frequent return visits on both sides, many siblings of both Waterloo and Porta families applying for the exchange visits and career and life decisions made by these students due to the travel opportunities afforded to them by the exchange
The main funding of The Sister Cities of Porta Loo for 2016-2017 came from the organization’s potato pancake stand at community area festivals. German potato pancakes are made from a recipe received from Porta Westfalica, using 10 pounds of potatoes for each batch. Three times a year, The Sister Cities of Porta Loo members man their stand at the Maeystown, Illinois, “Fruehlingsfest” the first Sunday in May, at the Waterloo “Portafest” on the third Tuesday in June and at the Maeystown, Illinois, “Oktoberfest” on the second Sunday in October. They also host a Trivia Night in September.
The Sister City partnership between Waterloo’s The Sister Cities of Porta Loo and Porta Westfalica’s Partnerschaftsverein has existed since 1980, growing and improving every year, but always keeping the intention of Vera Kohlmeier, Helmut Macke, and the Sister Cities idea in mind – “understanding through people-to-people contacts” and friendship among nations.
– Written by Debbie Cummins, Sister Cities member