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2017 annual Putt Putt Minature Golf Tournament; Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce Morning Buzz; Annual New Teachers' Luncheon; Annual Summer Solidarity Coffeehouse

Our other event for Thursday, August 11th, was the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce's 2017 annual Putt Putt Minature Golf Tournament which took place at the "Red Mill Putt Putt & Practice Center" in Perry, Ohio. Over 80 people signed up to play and all of the proceeds went to the Eastern Lake County Chamber Scholarship Fund.

Before golf, we enjoyed a dinner provided by "Mama Roberto's" in Mentor during which we shared a table with Mr. David Munson, Executive Director of the "Lake/Geauga Educational Assistance Foundation" who used to work with "College Now Greater Cleveland" so he recalled the scholarship that Ms. Margaret W. Wong established for needy students and how much it was appreciated.

Even though we honestly believe that our score was the highest (not a good thing in any type of golf game) we still had a great time being part of a four person team wherein the other players were Ms. Tracey Schveder, Health Insurance Specialist; Mr. Ernie Brass, "Money Concepts"; and Gregg Siegenthaler, "Town Planner".

During our game we discussed a variety of subjects including efficiency of the U.S. Congress (not good), the relationship between China and the U.S., the underground railroad, the "Sons of the American Revolution", the countries from which our families immigrated, and, of course, immigration itself.

To be sure, our spirits were buoyed when a person who is otherwise quite conservative in his/her political outlook said that the current administration "has it backwards" on immigration matters because immigrants greatly enhance the United States.


The next day was Friday, August 11th, and we started the day at the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce's "Morning Buzz" networking session.


As usual, there was a speaker too and on this day it was Mr. Doug Piekarz, President and CEO of "The Akron Zoo" who spoke about the need, value, and responsibility for businesses and organizations to develop sustainability programs and shared with us some of the fascinating things that the Zoo was doing along these lines like initiatives to cut gasoline usage and to recycle almost all of their waste. 

Upon our arrival, we were very pleased and surprised to encounter our old friends Ms. Nada Martinovic and Mr. Murat Gurer who have either just joined or considering joining the chamber.

In terms of networking, we chattedwith Mr. Dennis Loughry from "PrimeLending" who often works with Akron's Bhutanese population and Mr. Bob Dianetti, a registered corporate coach specializing in teamwork who talked with us about how what is considered good teamwork in one culture might not be the same in other cultures.


From Akron, we traveled to Lorain County where we took part in the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce's annual "New Teachers' Luncheon" which took place at the Spitzer Conference Center at Lorain Community College. There were approximately 110 newly hired teachers in attendance who will soon be working in the Lorain County Schools at all levels and they were officially welcomed by Mr. Tony Gallo, President of the Chamber who spoke of the need to continue the partnership between the schools and the business community because good public schools are indicative of a "strong, well-educated workforce" while the next several speakers spoke of the resources that their organizations had made available to the schools.

First, Ms. Danielle Locke of "The Community Foundation of Lorain County" spoke of they many grants that that the teachers could make use of and then Mr. Chris Olson of "PNC Bank" shared information about a program that has been initiated entitled "Raising Smart Money Kids" that instructs young people as to how to spend money wisely, opening banking and savings accounts, proper budgeting of monies, and financial planning and other such matters.


The keynote speakers were Mr. Marco Barbee and Ms. Lisa Goodwin from "The Lcada Way" which, as is written on its website, delivers "innovative, outcome-driven programs with an individualized approach to addiction and mental health treatment, education, prevention, and recovery."

At this luncheon their topic was "Adolescent Substance Use 101" so Mr. Barbee and Ms. Goodwin discussed the vulnerability of young people to substance abuse and the need for early intervention.

After their presentation had been completed, Mr. Gallo complimented the speakers as well as "The Lcada Way" on their good works by saying that "if you can set one kid straight you have done a service for the kid, Lorain County, and the community."

That Friday night we had looked forward to attending the annual "Summer Solidarity Coffeehouse" organized by the "Interreligious Task Force on Central America" (IRTF) and taking place at "St. Paul's Community Church" on Franklin Avenue.

First of all, enjoyed some of Dr. Julio Aponte's excellent "gazpacho" which is a cold soup consisting of garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and vinegar. We also experimented with a dessert called "natilla" which is a vegan cube composed of coconut, corn starch, sugar, and almond milk. Thankfully, Ms. Paige Bokman, an IRTF intern, was on hand to explain the ingredients.

We then settled in to watch the program which consisted of songs, poems, and presentations about current happenings in Columbia and El Salvador. The presentation about Columbia was based on what Ms. Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, Mr. Wilbur Argueta, Mr. Jack Veatch, and Mr. Marc Alvardo had observed on a recent trip as part of a Christian Peacemaker Teams Delegation.

At another point in the evening, Mr. Alvarado (whose grandparents were from Mexico and his mother from Vietnam) offered some excellent insights as to how our society can sometimes be non-supportive of immigrants who want to preserve their customs and heritage and how easy it is to cast the foreign-born (particularly those who are not white) as "the other" before he read a poem entitled "Denial" by Matt Sedillo about a person trying to re-connect with her/his dying grandfather who immigrated here from another country.

One reason that we like to take part in IRTF activities is that its membership is very concerned about the very negative trends concerning U.S. immigration policy. Ms. Stonebraker-Martinez told us that the IRTF had conducted outdoor vigils in which they had sung and/or prayed at nine detention centers including Eloy, Etowah, Irwin, Stewart, the Atlanta City Jail, the Boone County Jail, the Northeast Ohio Correctional Institute, the Seneca Jail in Tiffin, the one in Geauga County, as well as a couple of ICE offices.

It was only fitting, however, that the evening's program end with a talk by Ms. Leslie Schuld who has been living in El Salvador for the past 24 years and is very active with the "Center for Exchange and Solidarity." We were pleased that Ms. Schuld devoted a large part of her lecture to how the recent deportations (up 40% during the Trump administration) which have been "worse than awful" and have contributed a lot to the destruction of families and violence.

Ms. Schuld cited specific examples of history which demonstrated as to why a wall will not work and that immigration from El Salvador to the United States has been driven by bad foreign policy decisions by the U.S. that have affected Central America, a very faulty economy largely brought about by the trade agreements, and fear of gangs which are very prevalent and a true threat.

All told it was a very worthwhile evening and we wish to thank all of the IRTF staffers, interns, volunteers, as well as performers who made it possible in addition to those we have already mentioned like Mr. Brian Stefan-Szittai, Ms. Yeamelake Aklilu, Ms. Erica Ewing, Ms. Claire Forrester, Ms. Ellen Huffman, Ms. Mariatu Baker, and Ms. Rachel Napolitano.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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