Petersen Family – Full of Giving

Full of Giving and Creativity,

The Petersen Family is Full of Life!

By Annamaria Morrill

Before meeting with Teresa Petersen, I wondered which aspect of her life I would write about.  Would I focus on her art and craft skills, her free-spirited family, her baking skills, or her international travels?  All of those would make an interesting story.  However, Teresa is all about that and much more.  The more is what I decided to write about.

Teresa is known for her hospitality and her open heart.  This includes hosting many foreign exchange students.  Teresa and her husband, Steve, have been doing this for over 23 years.  Teresa is the local coordinator with CCI Greenheart, a non-profit program which supports the exchange students and families in Clatsop County.

Hosting foreign exchange students has brought varying cultures into the Petersen’s home.  They have hosted 15 students, who have come from Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Brazil.  This fall, the family is welcoming a student from Poland.

Submitted Photo

Local exchange students and Teresa Petersen on CCI Greenheart trip to Seattle. Students are from Vietnam, Thailand, China, Germany, Spain, and Brazil.

“Before hosting a new student, we vote as a family what country, and what kind of person we would all like to host.  That way everyone will be involved,” Teresa explains.  “It has been a wonderful experience for our family.  Our children have learned to be more thoughtful, and share from their own, when taking in new people from other countries.”

Teresa and Steve have six of their own children, and the three youngest are still at home.  All the foreign exchange students have always been welcomed as equal members to their active family.  Together they have learned new things and built memories such as taking road trips around the country.

The Petersens have remained friends with many of their exchange students, even years later.  Last year, Teresa traveled to South Korea to attend a wedding of one of their former students, Patrick Hwaseok Kim.  Last month, she made a quick trip to visit him in Israel while she was attending a CCI Greenheart conference in Greece.  A former Brazilian exchange student visited the Petersen’s last October.  He especially came to see Uncle Ronnie for whom he had fond, special memories.

Home Built to be a Welcoming Place

Uncle Ronnie has always been a big part of the Petersen’s family and has been living with them permanently for the past few years.  Ronnie, who has Down Syndrome, has been diagnosed with dementia.

“Our children, many of their friends, and our exchange students have learned to adapt to those with special needs, and be more caring.  Everyone loves Uncle Ronnie, and he has always brought such a joy to us and all he meets,” Teresa shares.

As Uncle Ronnie’s need for total care has increased, Teresa and Steve have decided to take a short leave from their Etsy business, “Recycled Savvy by Petersens.”  The business got started because of Teresa’s passion for making something new from broken and abandoned items.

“I have always created something from repurposed materials,” Teresa shares.

She and her husband regularly visit garage sales together and find purposeful items for their own creations.  Steve, who is an electrician, is also building custom-made industrial lights to sell on Etsy.

One of the biggest challenges for Teresa was to design their new home, in which they would largely use recycled materials.  The building materials are salvaged from old houses, cabins, and other places.  The interior has been tastefully decorated with many items found at garage sales.  A most important gathering place for the family, the wooden kitchen island, was salvaged from a burnt house.

The Petersens have built their home to be a place where family and friends enjoy spending time together.  Teresa learned this from her parents and grandparents, who all lived near each other in the Fort Stevens area, where she grew up.  Her family spent lots of time together, and the older generation taught important life skills to the younger ones.  Teresa learned many homemaking, and even building skills, from her mother and was taught to be frugal from a young age.  Teresa especially wants to continue with the same hospitality that she learned from her parents.  The doors to the Petersen home are always open to everyone from near and far.

“Our home is always bustling with activities, and there is very rarely a dull moment at our place,” Teresa says.

She wants to encourage other families to welcome foreign exchange students to their homes.

“It is a very rewarding experience for the host family, and the student, to learn from each other and both of their cultures.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the local exchange student program, please call 503-440-1680, fill out an inquiry form at, or visit #exchangestudentnorthwest on Facebook.

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