Peoria Becomes Sister City with Aitou, Lebanon

Published 07/06 2014 06:17PM

Updated 07/06 2014 06:20PM

PEORIA - The City of Peoria is forming a partnership with one of it’s oldest immigrant communities.

People from the Village of Aitou, Labanon have been finding a new home in the River City for more than one-hundred years.

Peoria schools even send high school students to Aitou to study.

Peoria is home to many international communities , but immigrants from Aitou, Lebanon might be some of the most impactful.

“In my village there's about 500 people. From my ancestry here there is about 6,000 people in Peoria,” said Faddoul Khoury, an Aitou native.

Mayor Jim Ardis joined Aitou Mayor Raymon Alwin to make his community Peoria’s fourth sister city.

“Because of the heritage of the Lebanese people and how strong of association they have in this area; all they've contributed to the community, I think it's a no brainer,” said Ardis.

Aitou’s Mayor, Raymon Alwin, expressed his appreciation through a translator.

“It's a great honor to have Peoria sister of Aitou.”

Ardis credited the Lebanese community as being major contributors to the development of Peoria businesses and charitable organizations.  

“It's recognizing how diverse our community is becoming.”

Lebanese from Aitou have called Peoria home for over 100 years. They began coming over during the second wave of Lebanese Americans to the United States. That’s when they found home.

Which is why making Aitou a sister city might be a little overdue.

“In my mind this came late. We've got a sister ship going on since a long time ago,” said Khoury.

But it still feels good to make it official.

“It means a lot to me. It's home to all the people who came here before us.

After the partnership ceremony, the ITOO Society celebrated its 100 year anniversary.

The ITOO Society has been around Peoria since 1914.

It was founded by immigrants from Aitou, Lebanon.

They started coming to Peoria in the late 1800s, but the society doesn't just serve Peoria's Lebanese population.

It raises money for a variety of charities, both locally and nationally.

It's also well-known for hosting free lunches for the needy throughout the year.

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