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Coffee Contacts East; Annual New Year's Reception; International Lakewood: The World in Your Backyard

On Wednesday, January 24th, we got up early and drove to Geneva to attend a "Coffee Contacts East" put on by the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce and taking place at the Northwest Ambulance District on South Broadway.

The last one of these events in the eastern part of Lake County that we attended was on December 13th at the "Spring Hill Winery" but we had to leave  after only a few minutes because it was starting to snow and we wanted to get back to Cleveland before the roads became slippery due to accumulation.  On this day, however, we resolved to tough it out in spite of the fact that the roads were a bit icy due to a combination of rain and cold weather the night before.

Upon arrival at our destination, we visited with Ms. Beth Debevec of "Debonne Vineyards" who really likes winter just as we do for the most part in spite of the roads. Ms. Debevec told us that if the weather remained in the 20's until March, 2018 it would be great for the grapes; it's when temperatures get in the negative double digits that there are problems.

We also talked to Mr. Rich Phinney of "Rosemary's Pizza" about his business and resolved to take a dinner trip back there sometime soon because we like pizza that comes from an individually owned establishment instead of a chain or franchise. Along the way, it was mentioned to us by another member that he once had an employee who immigrated to the United States from Central America who experienced entanglements with the green card process but things were eventually resolved and his employee is now a U.S. citizen.

On this day, besides networking, we were addressed by Ms. Jamie Burgett, Paramedic and District Clerk, about the history of the ambulance district and the resources that it has to offer the public. Ms. Burgett was an impressive speaker and we learned that she has been a paramedic for some 15 years now since taking an interest in high school. Mr. Richard Trice, Jr., the Director of Operations at University Hospital's Geneva Medical Centers, testified as to how fortunate the localities were to have the Northwest Ambulance District and its staff working on their behalf.

Appropriately, the morning ended with an announcement concerning upcoming CPR classes and it was stressed how vital it is for people to know how to react when someone in the near physical vicinity might be experiencing a medical emergency. It was suggested that every restaurant employee should know how to respond which makes sense to us.

And thus we started back to Cleveland as it snowed lightly. We were mindful of our handling of our car as well as what other drivers were doing and we were fine.

In fact later in the day we decided to once again brave the flurries and head over to the Embassy Suites on Rockside Woods Road in Independence to network for a little while at the "Annual New Year's Reception" of the International Business Network (IBN).

We were among the first to arrive so we talked with Mr. Don Esarove, IBN's President/Chairman, and Dr. Raj Aggarwal about recent trends in immigration procedures which was a subject that we all felt strongly about and, for the most part, agreed on.

Of course, we were delighted to encounter our good friend Professor Carlos F. Villa Gomez who we once interviewed for "I, Foreign Born". Professor Villa Gomez is an internationally recognized authority in the area of marketing who immigrated to the United States from Columbia.

Among the people that we talked to were Mr. Dirk Van Boxel who immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands in the early 2000's and became a citizen at the end of 2016. We also talked to a young man from New Zealand who just obtained his green card and was very excited about it. Finally, there was a person whose son married a woman from Poland who just might be needing the services of "Margaret W. Wong & Associates".

Before we left, we met someone who told us that he had seen Ms. Margaret W. Wong speak at the Ariel Center last year and believed that she had her own style which was both "funny" and "effective" and as a result she was able to say things that only she could say.

We left Independence early so could get to the Lakewood Library in time to hear our friend, Mr. Ken Kovach, President of the Board of Directors of ICC-WIN, present Part II of "International Lakewood: The World in Your Backyard."

Actually the foreign-born and ethnic breakdown of Lakewood was talked about more in Part I which took place the previous week. Instead the evening was devoted to discussing recent trends in immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States as a whole.

Once again Mr. Kovach made use of a slide show created by Dr. John Grabowski of the Western Reserve Historical Society and several Lakewood citizens along with Mr. Angel Galvan who were there the previous week and returned to learn more.

Among the topics pertaining to immigration that Mr. Kovach covered in only an hour were recent ethnic trends and what is projected for the future and how the world is responding to the ongoing refugee crisis.

One of the slides contained the statement that "future immigration will change the face of America by 2065" and went on to make a projection which was "a snapshot of the United States in 2065 would show a nation that has 117 million more people than today, with no racial or ethnic majority group taking the place of today's white majority. About one-in-three Americans would be an immigrant or have immigrant parents compared to with only one-in-four today."

This was supplemented by another slide which read, "Asian and Hispanic immigrants are projected to continue to be the main source of U.S. immigration population growth."

Mr. Kovach concluded the evening by leading a discussion in which everyone got to contribute. A foreign-person who left Czechoslovakia as a refugee with her family when she was quite young said that she was very upset about the policies of the current administration in Washington, D.C. which seek to limit people from coming here who in the past would have been welcomed and she wanted to work to stop people from being cut off from opportunity.

Everyone present seemed to feel the same way although it was pointed out that President Obama, the predecessor to President Trump, was very deserving of the nickname "Deporter-in-Chief".

Most of all we liked the good-natured, easy style that Mr. Kovach brought to the program. At one point he said he was never quite comfortable with the term "melting pot" being used to describe the United States because it implies a loss of identity. Instead, he preferred to think of us as a great international "smorgasborg" or "buffet table" because they involve different foods coming together to form a unique meal.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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