Volunteer Steve Betzner, left, and Ramakant Kharel, owner of Mt. Everest Restaurant, are reunited by surprise. Photo by Thomas Jackson

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On Thursday evening, Sept. 22, 30 former Peace Corps Volunteers gathered at Mt. Everest Restaurant in Evanston to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps.

There has been a yearlong commemoration of the legacy of service founded by President John F. Kennedy. March 1, 1961, is the date of President Kennedy’s executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Since then over 200,000 Americans have served as volunteers in 139 countries. The Peace Corps currently has volunteers in 76 countries.

Although times have changed, the Peace Corps remains true to its mission of promoting world peace and friendship through three goals:

• To help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women

• To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served

• To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

The gathering had former volunteers from 13 countries in Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Pacific Islands. The group was represented by a gamet of volunteers who began two years of service beginning in 1964 and a volunteer who completed service as recently as May of this year.

In a “small world” moment during the dinner, former Peace Corps volunteer Steve Betzner, who served in Nepal from 1988 to 1990, met Ramakant Kharel, the owner of Mt. Everest Restaurant, whom he knew from Nepal. They had met a few years ago here in Evanston when Steve returned from his assignment, but neither Steve nor Ramakant were aware that they were both in the restaurant for the event.

The event was hosted by third-generation Evanston resident Trina Janes, a former volunteer in Morocco. Ms. Janes is also a second-generation Peace Corps Volunteer; her mother served in Pakistan in the 1960s.