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Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening Celebration of The Villas of Madison; Chagrin Documentary Film Festival

img_5072On Wednesday, October 5th, we first attended the ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration of the Villas of Madison, a 90 unit luxury rental community in Madison, Ohio. This event was organized by the Eastern Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.

As we were getting ready to leave, we looked over our notes and discovered that we had forgotten to RSVP for this event so we called Ms. Kathy L. Banker (who is helping to rent these units) and was told us not to worry and to come right over.

When we arrived we were given a press release that read, in part, that "Harsax Management Company developed this community to answer the residential demand for upscale rental suites in Lake County." It went on to quote Mr. Randy Sacks, Director of Operations at Harsax, who said, "the design and location of the Villas of Madison serves the needs and desires of empty nesters, families and singles alike. It is the perfect solution for commuters who want the quiet and peacefulness of a small town without compromising quality and convenience."

During the ceremonies, Mr. Sacks talked about Harsax Management Company which is a small, family owned real estate management and development company. It has been in existence for over 50 years now; beginning when Mr. Sacks' grandfather started building little houses in Cleveland back in the 1950's. Even though its customer base has expanded over the years, the company has remained family operated along with the help of a small but terrific team who Mr. Sacks thanked individually by name including Ms. Banker.

Mr. Sacks paid a special tribute to his father, Mr. Ken Sacks, by thanking him for always pushing to make their product a little nicer and a little better because "we cannot afford not to make the nicest community that we can."

We talked to Mr. Ken Sacks for a moment after the ceremony and he told us that he loves to eat at Pearl of the Orient and was well-aware of the fine work that Margaret W. Wong and Associates does.

It was interesting that we would attend this event in Italian American Heritage Month because, even though we do not know the ethnicity of the Sacks family, it seems that they possess the same family/community-oriented characteristics that endear us so strongly to Italian Americans. In fact, they would have fit snuggly into the group of people who were honored at Cleveland City Hall on Monday night.

Just before the actual ribbon cutting, Ohio State Senator John Eklund (Republican-District 18) presented the Sacks family and Harsax Management Co. with a special citation and said that what makes them so special is the extent to which they have become part of the community and that this is because they really put their heart into what they do.

Ohio State Senator Eklund concluded his remarks by saying that he wished more businesses and the people running them existed his district, the State of Ohio, and, for that matter, in the entire United States.

Despite the fact that we have lived in Ohio for a number of years now, we had never been to the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival that is now in its 7th year in Chagrin Falls. But this year we had the good fortune to encounter Ms. Jennifer Feierabend, a dedicated festival volunteer, at several chamber of commerce gatherings who sent us an invite. Her correspondence read in part that "for the past four consecutive years we have been listed as a 'MovieMaker Top 50' and are proud to spotlight compelling documentaries and honor filmmakers from all over the world."

We found out that the 2016 festival would take place on October 5th through October 9th and the line-up would feature 76 documentary films from 24 different countries so we decided to attend the opening night festivities at the img_5076 Chagrin Valley Little Theatre. Our directions told us that the festivities would start at 6pm and the premiere documentary film "Chasing the Wind" (which turned out to be a fine film about horse racing) would screen at 7pm but we got their at 5pm to watch a short documentary about Mr. Austin Pendleton, the noted character actor who charmed us in a good number of movies including "Catch 22", "My Cousin Vinny", and, especially, the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau version of "The Front Page" back in 1974.

We found out that Mr. Pendleton was born and raised in Warren, Ohio and prior to his arrival, we spoke with Ms. Liz McMahon, the Marketing Chair of the Festival who turned out to be an old friend of his. When he first arrived, Mr. Pendleton was greeted by quite a few fans but Ms. McMahon pulled him over and introduced him to us. To be sure, he proved to be a delightful man and from our standpoint, a multi-talented artist.

After the Austin Pendleton documentary, we had enough time to walk over to Cosmic Subs for a veggie sandwich where we stopped and talked to Mr. Charles Burkett, an officer with Huntington Bank in Pepper Pike and longtime img_5078 festival supporter. He told us that he really liked the festival because it "showcases" the city and shows good movies. We told him about going to the Happy Dog the previous evening to hear a discussion about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and Mr. Burkett was curious as to learn hear what the speakers had to say about it.

On our way back to the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, we stopped to talk to a local couple wearing festival badges who were taking a break and relaxing on a bench. From them we learned that there is a program that involves local residents sharing the homes with the documentarians who come from all over to screen their films here. They told us that in the past few years they have opened their doors to filmmakers from Denmark and Thailand and it was a great time for all concerned.

As we stood outside the theatre waiting to go inside we, ourselves, met Mr. Terence Donnellan, a filmmaker whose documentary "Shelter in the City" about homelessness was a festival entry. He told us that his next project would concern refugees so we suggested to him that he contact Ms. Danielle Drake from US Together if he wanted a resource.

Speaking of refugees, we next spoke with Mr. Brandon Jackson and Mr. Taylor A. Purdee who made a documentary that dealt with refugees titled "This is Honduras." We stood in the street together and discussed the immigration/refugee situation with them before it was time to go inside.

In a short time the program began with Mr. Ivan Schwarz, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, sharing some facts about the festival such as in its first year only 1,800 people attended but in 2015 there were 8,200 attendees. He went on to say that over the years two documentaries that screened there went on to be nominated for academy awards and one of them won. Off the top of his head Mr. Schwarz couldn't recall the winner but the crowd called out that it was a film titled "The Lady in Number Six."

Ms. Mary Ann Quinn Ponce, the Founder and Director of the Festival, spoke for a moment and said that she was very happy about the Festival's success because, as the program notes stated, it is a celebration of "the unique spirit of the talented filmmakers who share their stories with us." Ms. Ponce then thanked all of those who volunteered to help maintain the activities because without them none of this would be possible.

Before the film for the evening started (and once again it was a very good one about horse racing titled "Chasing the Wind") Mr. Pendleton was introduced once again and he got to make some remarks. He said that he wanted to congratulate everyone there and that he was heartened by the participation of documentarians from 24 different countries because this enables us to learn about other people and other cultures. He then grinned broadly and said with genuine warmth and feeling that "what the world needs now is love sweet love!"


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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