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Out & About in Cleveland

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Gay Games 9 and the Annual Latino Multicultural Business and Professional Networking Event

After months of waiting, we started volunteering with Gay Games 9 on Thursday. Our shift started at 1pm so we put on our green Gay Games 9 volunteer t-shirt, with our Margaret W. Wong and Associates name badge clipped to the t-shirt, and headed over to the Cleveland Convention Center to get to work. The main focus of today was getting the various participants/athletes checked in and making sure that they had information about such things as where their events were located, what to do in Cleveland while they were here, and transportation. After the participants/athletes were formally checked in by Gay Games 9 staffers, they could journey over to one of many tables to obtain information about what was going on regarding their particular sport. Accordingly, we sat at the information table for Volleyball and Beach Volleyball and saw our friend Cleveland City Councilman Martin Keane sitting across the way at the Flag Football table.

There were also information tables set up by such prominent organizations as the Human Rights Campaign, Cleveland Museum of Art, and NASA.

Actually, things were sort of slow today and not too many people stopped off at our Volleyball/Beach Volleyball table but tomorrow is expected to be the big day for registration. Our volunteer coordinator Ms. Chelsea Kertis had no problem with letting us go a little early so we could attend another event.

And that event was the Annual Latino Multicultural Business and Professional Networking Event which took place at Vosh Lakewood. It started at 5:30pm and we didn't arrive until 6:15pm but there must have been at least 100 people there and the speeches were underway. Among those who spoke were Mr. Richard Herman, Business and Family Immigration Attorney; Mr. Oscar Israel Gonzalez-Pena, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate at CWRU and Student from Mexico; and Mr. Bernie Morgan, President of the Collection Auto Group.

We really liked what Mr. Morgan had to say about immigrating to the United States from Columbia with his family in 1971 when he spoke no English and working his way up the ladder to become a very successful entrepreneur. His story was a genuine American success story. Mr. Morgan went on to speak about the potential for Hispanics to succeed in business and urged everyone to put aside their petty differences and work together. He concluded by encouraging everyone here tonight to network and get to know each other and make contacts.

We took Mr. Morgan's advice and made about 30 new contacts in the time we had left. Several of the people we met knew Margaret W. Wong and wanted us to extend to her their best wishes including:

***Mr. Juan Gonzales, the chef/owner of Wholly Frijoles, who we recently assisted with an immigration issue.

***Mr. Carlos Barranca, Tax Specialist, who used our services back in 1996.

***Mr. Dennis M. Lafferty, VP of Strategic Operations and Community Relations for the Collection Auto Group who has known Ms. Wong for many years.

***Ms. Isabel Galvez, Owner of IG Global Solutions which is a translating service. Her sister Laura Molnar worked for Ms. Wong many years ago.

***Mr. Al Sanchez, formerly from Turner Construction Company and his friend, Mr. Adrian Maldonado who owns a construction firm. Both of them said that they have known Ms. Wong for a long time too.

To be sure we saw a lot of people that we knew at this well-attended event including Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio, Luis Gomez who used to work for U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins, Luis Cartagena of GC Partnership, and Teri Wang of the Cleveland One World Festival.

We were certainly grateful that Greater Vocero Latino, Verizon, and Latino Cleveland worked together to put on this event tonight because, as the program notes stated, "Latino-owned businesses in Cleveland and surrounding areas are growing at a blistering pace, in fact more than twice the national average. This trend has been sustained for at least the last decade and manifests itself both in the growing number and size of Latino-owned businesses."

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