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New Members' Reception and After-Hours Networking; 42nd Annual Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Greater Cleveland luncheon; Symbols of Passage, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

On Thursday evening, March 30th, we went to "Rider's Inn" in Painesville for a New Members' Reception and After-Hours Networking event at the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce.

We pleasantly welcomed new members into the chamber including Mr. Michael Rovansek who was representing "Glenn's Golf Car Central" which refurbishes golf carts and supplies them to places like University Hospitals where they are used for maintenance activities.

We talked to Ms. Cathy Bieterman, Economic Development Director for the City of Painesville, who told us about some promising community events being planned for 2017. Unfortunately, there will no longer be the bathtub races that we took part in last year (we had planned to soon start reveling up our bathtub car which now sits under a tarp on our patio) but there will be a "Party on Main" coming up in mid-May where "Disco Inferno" will perform.

We liked it that this evening gathering took place at "Rider's Inn" which is a rustic, cozy type of establishment that has been part of the Painesville community since 1812. We learned that the recipe for the delicious stuffed mushrooms and spinach cheeses were have been part of its venue for many, many years. We were also pleased, if not taken back, to discover that its owner, Ms. Elaine Crane is a former Municipal Court Judge in Willoughby, Ohio who once referred quite a few cases to Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

Our first event for Friday was the 42nd Annual Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Greater Cleveland luncheon that was held, once again, at the Bohemian National Hall on Broadway Avenue in Cleveland where we shared a table with Mr. Ralph Dise, Founder and President of "Dise & Company"; Ms. Leslie A. Conwell, Assistant Director of "Mt. Pleasant NOW Development Corporation"; Mr. Chris Slomka, National Account Executive of "Workplace Impact"; and Oakwood Village Councilpersons Ms. Eloise Gaither and Ms. Louise Hardin with whom we enjoyed discussing such topics as the future of the electoral college. 

Of course, a good portion of the program on this day was devoted to honoring Mr. Lou Tisler who just recently stepped down as NHS's Executive Director after 12 years of service to assume the position of Director of the Housing Counseling Section of the "National Community Reinvestment Coalition" based in Washington, D.C. At this time Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and City Council members Tony Brancatelli and Martin Keane stepped forward to pay tribute Mr. Tisler for his years of devotion to NHS, to Cleveland, and to its neighborhoods. And Mr. Michael Valerino, President of the Board of Directors of NHS, said that Mr. Tisler "put us on the map and increased our effectiveness."  

Previously, we had talked to Mr. Michael Pires, NHS's Interim Executive Director, about a successful project at 45th Street and Franklin Avenue where several refugee families are housed. Mr. Pires said that they live there on a month-to-month basis so that they can move forward after achieving the necessary financial stability in order to do so while becoming more familiar with their new surroundings.

The keynote speaker was Mr. Milt Sharp, Jr. (an old friend of Mr. Tisler's) who serves as President of "eHome America" that was described in the program notes as "a national on-line homebuyer pre-purchase education program" that was established in 2009 and has assisted at least 250,000 families in 50 states as well as Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Mr. Sharp made it quite clear in his speech, however, that the goal of his business was not to make his clients homeowners but to enhance their "financial well-being." He contended that homeownership is only a "symptom" of that. Even though we do not plan on purchasing a new home soon (we are too busy being out and about to properly maintain anything) it certainly wouldn't hurt us to take the courses that "ehome America" has to offer for our future prospects.

In the course of his presentation, Mr. Sharp mentioned that the programs offered were bilingual (Spanish) so during the Q and A we asked him about the possibilities for expanding the language base to make it more accessible for foreign-born people. Mr. Sharp replied that this is indeed being considered since he gets a lot of requests for Chinese, Cantonese and even Mung in addition to the various dialects of the Spanish language. Accordingly, he is investigating the available translation services to see what is feasible.

Our second gathering for Friday was a "Cleveland Humanities Festival" program titled "Symbols of Passage, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island" which took place at the Western Reserve Historical Society and was conducted by Professor John Grabowski who its Senior Vice President of Research and Publications who also conducted the program that we attended on Wednesday on the history of U.S. immigration policy.

At this time, Professor Grabowski reviewed the history of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and, even though we had studied this before at different stages of our educational process, it was good having our knowledge once again refreshed and, to be sure, we learned some things that we didn't know before like the Statue being ideally located so that it was looking towards lands across the seas "projecting liberty and enlightening the world." 

As far as the creation of the Statue, Professor Grabowski talked about how it was designed by the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi who was inspired by the words and writings of French Law Professor Edouard Rene de Laboulaye in order to enhance the relationship between the U.S. and France following our Civil War in the 1860's; the agreement that was made which called for the French to finance the creation of the Statue while the U.S. had to provide the land on which it would be located as well as the base on which the Statue would rest; and how Mr. Joseph Pulitzer, Publisher of the "New York World" and, himself, an immigrant from Hungary, took part in the successful drive to make this possible of which there were 120,000 contributions most of them under $1.00.

As we know, Ellis Island was the largest immigration inspection station in the United States and in its approximately 60 years of existence it screened 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954. Moreover, 100 million U.S. citizens or 1/3 to 40% of our population can trace their origins to immigrants who passed through Ellis Island which became a museum in 1990.

One common belief that Professor Grabowski convincingly challenged is that the names of immigrants were changed at Ellis Island; Professor Grabowski contended that the officials at Ellis Island copied the names verbatim from the manifests of the ships on which the immigrants arrived.

Just as he did on Wednesday, Professor Grabowski talked about how he once crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary in order to replicate the journey that many immigrants had taken before him. Even though he had lived in the United States his entire life, Professor Grabowski recalled that when they neared the New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty came into view it was a very emotionally stirring experience.       


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

Kwasi Bediako