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Mentor and Eastern Lake County Chambers of Commerce Host Coffee Contacts; 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month Opening Ceremony; Annual Collaborative to End Human Trafficking luncheon; Part at Market Garden Brewery; Fundraiser at the Burntwood Tavern

On Thursday, September 15th, we started our day at another "coffee contacts" hosted by the Mentor and Eastern Lake County Chambers of Commerce this time at Western and Southern Life on Ridge Road in Willoughby.

We introduced ourselves to a couple of new members who were Mr. Kenneth Campbell of All Tune and Lube in Mentor and Ms. Lee Nesler, Executive Director of the Lake Humane Society.

We enjoyed talking to Mr. James Schliecher of Western and Southern Life who was glad to learn that Margaret W. Wong and Associates is connected with Notre Dame College because Mr. Schliecher attended college there and was very impressed by its diversity.

Our main event for the day was the opening ceremony for the 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month hosted by the City ofIMG_4514Cleveland and the Community Relations Board which took place in the Rotunda at Cleveland City Hall at 11am.

It was quite crowded and Mayor Frank Jackson welcomed us all as he said that Cleveland's Hispanic community was essential to it being the tremendously diverse area that it is.

Ms. Lucy Torres, Hispanic Liaison to the Community Relations Board, was, as always, the key mover regarding the organization of this event. Ms. Torres, of course, thanked the other people who worked on it such as Ms. Lisa Roman who Ms. Torres affectionately described as her "co-worker, friend and counselor" as well as the sponsors including Margaret W. Wong and Associates. Ms. Torres figured prominently throughout the program because she always had memories to share about the speakers and the honorees and this made the gathering extra special.IMG_4508

One of the first to speak was Mr. Juan Molina Crespo, Executive Director of the Hispanic Alliance who urged everyone present to register to vote because "what we do in 2016 affects what happens in 2017" and beyond. He went on to say that the CAVS parade and the RNC were very successful because of the "non-incidents" that could have occurred but didn't thanks to the combined constructive efforts of the police and fire departments. Accordingly, he then introduced the person to receive recognition on this day who was Chief Angelo Calvillo, the first Hispanic Chief of the Cleveland Fire Department who accepted his award with great humility.

Unfortunately, Mr. Blaine Griffin, Executive Director of the Community Relations Board, could not be with us so Ms. Theasha Daniely, Community Representative, spoke in his place. Ms. Daniely said that we must never forget the contributions that Hispanics have made in the Cleveland community. She encouraged those present to work to preserve IMG_4499their heritage because if we lose our roots we lose our unique flavor which an important tenet of our democracy.

The keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Carlos Romero-Marrero, a Gastroenterologist and Transplant Hepatologist in the Digestive Disease and Surgical Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. He is also Co-Chair of SALUD Cleveland Clinic's Hispanic/Latino Employee Resource Group and is a physician within the Hispanic Services Clinic at Cleveland Metropolitan Hospital. Dr. Romero-Marrero gave a very sobering but dynamic speech regarding inequality and the lack of proper resources pertaining to health care in the Hispanic Community in this country. He said that even though the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, many Hispanics suffered for lack of proper insurance coverage. Not only that, but culturally sensitive services were needed and thus he was very proud to be a part of the Hispanic Services Clinic.

Dr. Romero-Marrero then addressed the many problems with health care in Puerto Rico which are worsening all of time due to poor economic conditions. He said that it was a shame that these people cannot have limited voting powers so we must represent them when we vote. What's more we all must work to be better human beings and work for a better life for all, not just for a few.

Then awards were given to two very deserving people who were Judge Jose A. Villanueva of the General Division of the Court of Common Pleas who was the first Hispanic to achieve elective office in Cuyahoga County back in 1988. Judge Villanueva recalled his own roots; how his family immigrated to Youngstown from Puerto Rico in 1956 and IMG_4507moved to Cleveland in 1962. He told us that when they first arrived in Cleveland they lived in an area consisting of Europeans and Irish people but he really benefited from the "cultural exchange." He was very wary of today's political climate and urged us all to "reject toxins of intolerance."

When it was time for Mr. Feliciano to receive his award, he referred to Judge Villanueva as "a real man of history" due to his achievements. Mr. Feliciano has quite a few achievements of his own because, among many other things, as a partner at the law firm of Baker and Hostetler, LLP since 1987 he was the first Hispanic partner of a major law firm in Cleveland. He was also the first Hispanic to serve as Cleveland chief prosecuting attorney. Today he talked about his expectations for the Hispanic Convention that will take place in Cleveland on October 8th hoping that it will create "a platform to transform our community." It angered him that there were too many bystanders who complain and but do nothing. Instead, he believed that we should all adopt the Hispanic Roundtable motto, "if not you who?" and "if not now when?"

Mr. Feliciano remembered that after a recent election, one journalist wrote that the Hispanic community was "awake, cranky, and is taking names" and he wanted to see this energy made use of in actions capable of transforming the community.

Additional  people who received recognition at this celebration were Mr. Irwin F. Caraballo, CEO of the National Credit Union Administration and Ms. Gabriela Irizarry, a junior at Lincoln-West High School who had some beautiful art work on display in the Rotunda.

Other people who took part in the proceedings were emcees Mr. Enrique Correa from TV 20 and Ms. Yasin Cuevas from Esperanza, Inc.; Reverend George Guzman who gave the invocation; Sergeant Juan Cancel, EMS who gave the benediction; Ms. Diana Gueits from the Cleveland Clinic who introduced Dr. Romero-Marrero; and Cleveland City Councilpersons Kevin Kelley and Brian Cummins.

We were very pleased that so many of those taking part made an effort to say what they had to say in both Spanish and English for the benefit of all.

Afterwards, we hurried to Windows on the River to catch the last part of the annual Collaborative to End Human Trafficking luncheon. It was almost over when we arrived but our colleague, Mr. George Koussa was there for the entire event.

IMG_4530We listened as Major Lurlene-Kay M. Johnson, Divisional Secretary of the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland talked about the new shelter being built near East 18th Street and Prospect Avenue that will have a suite for human trafficking victims who need special care.

We got to hear the entire speech of Mr. Joseph Savarise, Executive Director of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association. Mr. Savarise realizes that a lot of illicit acts connected with human trafficking take place in hotels/motels and thus contended that "we are on the front lines" and his industry must do whatever they can to stop this evil practice. Since 35,000 people work for hotels/motels in some capacity, Mr. Savarise believed that the potential certainly exists to make an impact. What's more, in the long run it make good economic sense for his industry to take up the mantle because human trafficking is very bad for business. He committed himself to working with all partners in the collaborative along with law enforcement and social services.

Closing remarks were delivered by Ms. Karen Walsh, President/CEO of the Collaborative who said that Cleveland has more than one winning team and they are here referring to the some 300 people who turned out for this event.

As we were leaving we stopped to talk to both Major Johnson and Mr. Savarise about the "T Visa" that, as stated on the Dept. of Homeland Security website, "is set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking, IMG_4533protects victims of human trafficking and allows victims to remain the United States to assist in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking." We told them to contact Margaret W. Wong and Associates if help is needed along these lines.

As we were going out we were offered cookies with National Human Trafficking Hotline phone number written upon them in frosting. These cookies were baked at Abolition Bakery which was founded by a person who possessed a talent for baking and wanted to assist in the fight against human trafficking. Appropriately, all of the proceeds from this venture are donated to projects connected with the Collaborative.

Later on Thursday we stopped off at Market Garden Brewery on West 25th Street for a party that Global Cleveland and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) were giving in honor of passport awareness month in which people are encouraged to check their passports and make sure that they are up to date and obtain new photos for them if necessary.

We got there early so we visited with Ms. Jenni Carney and Mr. Charles Polinko from CCWA and Ms. Jessica Whale from Global Cleveland. Soon we were joined by Ms. Courtney L. Ottrix and Ms. Wenzhu Sun from Global Cleveland who were also present at the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

More people soon arrived and we dialogued with two people from the accounting and nursing professions who told us how situations pertaining to immigrants and immigration are becoming more frequent. Both of them said that the entire process seems very complicated if not just plain confusing and they were glad that they have access to people who know how to handle it.

On all of the tables were applications for passports so attendees who didn't have one could start the process towards obtaining it. A family who was there did just that because they may want to visit their daughter/sister next year who is working in Europe.

Our last event for the day was a fundraiser at the Burntwood Tavern on Detroit Avenue in Rocky River for Mr. Tommy Greene who is the democratic candidate for Ohio State Representative in District 16 that takes in Bay Village, IMG_4537Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River, and Westlake.

One of the first people we spoke with after we arrived was a retired attorney named Lesley who attended Cleveland-Marshall College of Law about the same time Ms. Margaret W. Wong did.

Another person that we hadn't seen for a while named Barbara said that Ms. Wong was a "dynamo" in a very positive sense.

We also chatted with someone who might know an employer in need of an H1B visa for an international student intern who is doing a fine job at work.

Ms. Ashley Kilbane was at the CAMEO endorsement meeting the previous evening just like we were so we discussed it.

We like Mr. Greene because he is committed to the type of diversity and equality that was talked about earlier in the day at the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and we extend to him our best wishes in his venture.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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