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Out & About in Cleveland

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European Festival and the Jamaican Cultural Association

On Saturday, September 6th, we tabled at the 5th annual European Festival at St. Mary Magdalene Byzantine Catholic Church on 220th Street in Fairview Park. According to the program notes this festival began in 2010 as a small event but soon expanded into the church's largest outreach and fundraiser. We got to visit with Deacon Daniel Surniak, Pastor Dennis M. Hrubiak, as well as Deacon Robert Hubiak who was visiting from the Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in North Royalton. Throughout the day there was excellent entertainment on the main stage including the Geauga Highlanders Pipes and Drums, the Cleveland Saxon Dance Group, the Living Traditions Folk Ensemble-Rusyn, and the Sezatoarea Romanian Dance Group (which has been around since 1959 and consists largely of the children and grandchildren of the original members). Outside on the grass, once the rain stopped, the Visinata Romanian Mix Band played for four hours.

In the course of the performance of the Cleveland Saxon Dance Group, Ms. Christine Roppelt gave a short but concise account of the history of Transylvania/Romania. We spoke to her later and learned that her mother and father both immigrated to the United States from Romania separately in the early 1950's and that she is a first generation American. Ms. Roppelt also wanted us to mention that Mr. Geoffrey Wittine, her nephew, is in the dance group also.

Last year we tabled at this festival so we were contacted by Mr. Michael Prochko, the festival coordinator to come back again this year and we were glad that we did and is was a successful festival, indeed. Just before we left, there was a long food line and it was estimated that maybe 2,000 dinners would be sold.

Throughout the day, people stopped at our table and several of them had prior dealings with either Ms. Wong or Margaret W. Wong and Associates. About four years ago, Siegfried and Hermine Henriss sought help from our office on an immigration matter involving a family member. Mr. Henriss told us that he used to be a teamster and was, at one time, the "maintenance guy" for the building at 3150 Chester Avenue where we now have our offices. Ms. Jackie Koubek used to work at the Great Lakes Science Center where she met Ms. Wong and once went to her house years ago when Ms. Wong hosted an event for the China Exhibit there. Ms. Koubek also knows George and Rose from Pearl of the Orient.

Mr. James Spinks once had dealings with our office and was thus familiar with Ms. Wong so he bought a copy of her book, "The Immigrant's Way." Ms. Spinks is an airline pilot who flies in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America.

The day was well worth our time because several people said they might contact our office regarding possible immigration cases. In fact, one person said that he might have been destined to come to this festival in order that he might find us there because he may need our services on a matter that has been on his mind a lot lately.

And then there was a woman who stopped by our table and said, "Thank God I came here 60 years ago and got this all worked out!"

On Sunday, September 7th, we made several stops starting at 9am in the morning and ending around 9pm at night.

Our first event was a potato crepe breakfast (it sounds unusual but it was delicious) at the Community Room in Mayfield Village on Wilson Mills road on behalf of the Association of Indian Physicians of Northern Ohio (AIPNO) which, through their Medical Yatra programs, provides service to aid underserved areas and disaster affected sites in such places as India. On this day, raffle tickets were being sold for $20 each which is enough to pay for an eye exam by Medical Yatra. We encountered several old friends there such as Ms. Mona Alag of FICA and Mr. Ramesh P. Shah who is one of the leaders of AIPNO-Medical Yatra.

We also shared a table with a fascinating person named Mark J. Charles of is the Executive Director of Across Borders, an organization whose main focus is micro enterprise and education which mostly works with grassroots organizations in different countries. Their small loan program, consisting of loans of $3,000 or less, has generated 25 new jobs in Dagupan City in the Philippines.

Mr. Charles has been involved in Across Borders for 15 years now and has traveled to about 35 countries in his lifetime. He was born in South Africa of Indian ancestory and immigrated to the United States in 1978 right after high school and became a U.S. citizen in 1990. He says the likes to use photography to draw attention to the conditions around the world. He says that he likes to work with organizations "whose voice is not heard."

Our next stop was not too far away in Mentor so we went there to attend a fundraiser for Forbes House, which is a shelter for domestic violence victims in Lake County, at Matchworks on Station Street. Actually, it was a combination fundraiser and get together to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers/Cleveland Browns game that started at 1pm.

On June 13th, we had attended a Forbes House event at the Croatian Lodge in Eastlake so we already knew Ms. Jeanne Myers, the Executive Director of Forbes House and Ms. Laurie Solomon, a very active board member primarily responsible for the event on this day, who remembered us and were glad that we took the time to come here.

One person there who knew of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and her work was Mr. Michael A. Patriarca who is the Fiscal Officer for Painesville Township. Mr. Patriarca told us that he once worked with our office in order to assist some architects who immigrated to the United States from Brazil about 10 years ago. Another person who knew Ms. Wong was Ms. Susie Zec who had met her through our good friend Mr. Alex Machaskee and was a good friend of Mr. Machaskee's daughter Shana.

We particularly liked visiting with Ms. Mary Jean Donovan who used to teach school and work at the Board of Elections of Lake County. She was the sister of the Assistant Fire Chief of Cleveland in the late 1970's; the wife of the late Jack Donovan, the former mayor of Garfield Heights; the mother-in-law of Mr. Vic Collova, the current mayor of Garfield Heights; and the mother of Councilman Matt Donovan. Needless to say, she had a lot of good stories to tell.

When we left early on, many people were starting to arrive and it was predicted that there would be 80 to 100 people there. We certainly hope so although we learned later that the Browns lost to the Steelers 30-27 but at least it was an exciting game.

Next we drove to the 6th Annual Fundraising Picnic of the Jamaican Cultural Association which was located in the Quarry Picnic Area in Euclid Creek Metroparks where we were greeted by Mr. Delroy Bryan and his wife, Ina. They both told us that everyone really liked it when Mr. Gordon Landefield of Margaret W. Wong and Associates attended one of their recent meetings.

We talked for a long time to Mr. Leonard Lee who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in 1949 and got a job with a firm in Madison, Wisconin. He later moved to Cleveland in 1952 where he found work as a busboy at a restaurant in Terminal Towers. He became a citizen in 1954 or 1955. He remembers getting his driver's license on 36th Street in Cleveland.

A good friend of Mr. Lee's is Ms. Kameika Bruce who also immigrated to the United States from Jamaica only she did it in January, 1997 when she was almost 15 years old. She became a citizen in 2007 and has been a member of the Jamaican Cultural Association since 2010 because she wanted to "meet a lot of people from Jamaica and give back to her community." Ms. Bruce is very excited about the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations holding its convention here in Cleveland next year. She has done quite well since she came to the United States and now works in the accounting department at Enterprise.

Ms. Lee and Ms. Bruce enjoyed speaking with us and even posed for a couple of photos together.

Unfortunately we couldn't make it to the first part of the Stonewall Democrats Freedom Fund Reception that was held that evening at Hodges on Euclid Avenue but we did make it there towards the last, however, and still got to see many of our friends.

Stonewall Democratic Club President Robert Rivera and PAC Treasurer John Farina told us that it was it was a fine turnout and many political candidates like Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, who is running for Secretary of State, came to speak for a moment or two.

We ate a quick snack at the table of VP for Political Strategy Kate Kennedy who told us to be sure and thank Ms. Wong for her kind support.

As we were leaving, we got to quickly chat with newly elected Lakewood City Councilperson Cindy Marx who told us how much she likes being on the city council because it offers her splendid opportunities to assist people. Hearing something like this was an excellent way to end a long day.

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