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Out & About in Cleveland

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Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce Morning Buzz

On Friday, September 8th, we went to the monthly "Morning Buzz" of the the "Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce" which took place, as always, at the Hilton Garden Inn on East Market Street in Akron.

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During networking time we talked to a person who might be calling us because she has friends who immigrated to the United States from the Middle East and wants to help other family members do likewise.

On this day, the speaker was Mr. Scott Swaldo, the General Manager of "Gervasi Vineyard" in Canton and "The Twisted Olive" in Green both of which are very successful businesses owned by his family. "Gervasi Vineyard" opened in 2010 as a bistro, winery, vineyard and marketplace and over the years has added (among other things) an event center, a boutique inn, a conservatory, and culinary and wine education. "The Twisted Olive" is a restaurant opened in 2014.

Mr. Swaldo talked about the origins of both businesses and offered reasons for their success which included, above all, listening to customers and focusing on giving them a good experience in addition to constantly evolving because staying the same is like falling behind; and never settling for "first class" but instead being "world class" in terms of quality of service. These reasons are undoubtedly the driving force behind the success of many prominent businesses including "Margaret W. Wong & Associates".

During the presentation, we sat with Mr. David McKeen, the owner of "Western Reserve Window Cleaning" which has been in existence for 18 years now. Like Mr. Swaldo, Mr. McKeen also strives for excellence and imparts to his employees that "we can make the world a better place one interaction at a time." He thus likes all interactions with customers to be positive ones because it makes them feel better about themselves; for instance, through our own experience, we know that we function better in rooms with clean windows. Mr. McKeen, himself, sees window cleaning as a type of art and told us that his wife says that when she observes him cleaning windows with a squeegee it is like watching him dance.

Due to the fact that on Thursday night we were at the candlelight vigil for DACA in Market Square, we missed the 2017 Anisfeld-Wolf Book Awards, which recognize books and authors that "have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity", where Ms. Isabel Allende, the famed international author, was honored with honored with its annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

We believe, however, that Ms. Allende would have highly approved of what we were doing because when she spoke at the City Club of Cleveland on Friday afternoon she referred to her own experience because she was forced to flee Chile in 1973 and seek asylum in Venezuela after her relative President Salvador Allende was removed from office as the result of a military coup. Ms. Allende said that it was a misperception that people seek to live in the United States because they want to go on the dole; they come because they fear for their lives as is currently the case with many people who have journeyed here from places like Central America. Ms. Allende said that she does not these people as numbers; instead she sees them as individuals who have often been brought to the United States at an early age (i.e. a dreamer) and this is the only country that they know. She also believes that this country is quite "huge" and that there is space for a lot more people. Moreover, according to her perception, "the more we close ourselves, the less we are."

It was the more socially relevant points of Ms. Allende's address that interested us the most although she did devote a lot of time talking about her her writing and how, as opposed to other authors who carefully outline their works before they write them, she starts with the characters and goes from there and, by most accounts, the results have been fabulous-in fact, she is the most widely read author writing in Spanish.

But what we liked hearing the most was how she launched the "Isabelle Allende Foundation" in honor of her daughter, Paula, who died untimely in 1992. It is the mission of the Foundation to "invest in the power of women and girls to secure reproductive rights, economic independence and freedom from violence." Ms. Allende mentioned that there is a follow-up process for all grant recipients and that her foundation's officials get to know them personally. As a result, in only a few instances have the grants had to be terminated over the years because the recipients were not appropriately making use of the funding.

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This theme of empowerment of women is very apparent in her writing as is how the rendering of true justice can have a cleansing, restorative effect. Ms. Allende went on to explain why she truly fears unchecked, abuse of power which occurs when a government convinces its citizenry that they have to surrender some or all of their rights in order to be protected.

At the beginning and at the end of her presentation, Ms. Allende received a standing ovation from all 250 people present on that day at the City Club. In fact, Mr. Dan Moulthrop, its President and CEO, stopped by our table and exclaimed, "how awesome is this?..."

Sitting with us was Ms. Charlotte Collins who recognized us and said that "we have broken bread here together before." Ms. Collins was at the Anisfeld-Wolf Book Awards and said that she considered Ms. Allende's writing to be "gentle, magical and lovely."

 

Also sitting at our table was Ms. Julia Moreno, a recently retired social worker from Lorain who still often acts as a translator in the area of vocational services. Ms. Moreno told us that she started reading Ms. Allende's works when she was only seventeen so being at the City Club listening to Ms. Isabel Allende was a "a dream come true for me particularly in light of what is happening now."

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

Kwasi Bediako