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An Evening with Carmelina at the LaVera Party Center; Accomplishments of St. Herman of Alaska; Project Hope Open House

On Saturday night, November 12th, we had a wonderful time at "An Evening with Carmelina" at the LaVera Party img_5964 Center on Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills which was a fundraiser put on by Ms. Carmelina Antonelli for her "A Touch of Italy" radio program that can be heard each Sunday from 12pm to 1pm on 1330 AM on WELW.

Ms. Antonelli was delighted that the turnout was so great and served us some delicious sausage bread that she made herself as an appetizer while we listened to music, danced, played the sideboards, drank wine, and visited with each other all BEFORE dinner which started off with salad and a pasta dish and concluded with an excellent chicken img_5970 dinner cooked Italian style although for us (as vegetarians) eggplant cooked Italian style was provided.

Ms. Antonelli, herself, sang some lovely songs and told us how glad she was to see friends there that she seldom gets to see throughout the year. She announced that her program will soon be heard at the same time on 101.5 FM as well.

Two people who really love Ms. Antonelli are Mr. Andrea Polsinelli and his mother, Mary who just turned 98 and wouldn't miss this annual party for anything. Mr. Polsinelli said of Ms. Antonelli, "she keeps our culture alive and that's important to me."

We then spoke with Mr. Ralph Spidalieri, a Geauga County Commissioner and a former police officer for 17 years who is a relative of Ms. Antonelli. He told us img_5966that he believed that Ms. Margaret W. Wong was an "outstanding example" of someone who came to this country with relatively nothing and went on to make a success of herself.

Another "outstanding example" of this was Mr. Antonio Guerriri, who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1966 and went on to found "Alesci Imported Food" which is now a successful franchise. He was accompanied by his lovely wife, Eleanora, who he met when he served in the Italian Navy and joined him in the U.S. in 1968. When we mentioned that we know of many immigrants who have prospered here in the United States and have been an excellent asset to their communities, Mr. Guerriri modestily smiled and admitted, "that's the way it goes sometimes."

Then on Sunday, November 13th, we went to a program on behalf of St. Herman House-Focus Cleveland that was held at St. Paul Hellenic Banquet Center on Wallings Road in North Royalton wherein the featured speaker was the Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield who is CEO of St. Vladimir's Seminary who used to be the Dean of St. Herman Seminary in Alaska.


Appropriately, the topic of his speech was the accomplishments of St. Herman of Alaska who first settled in the Kodiak area in 1794, when Alaska was part of Russian America, as missionary who devoted himself to the service of the native Alaskans, particularly the creole children fathered by Russian colonists. In the early 1800's he moved to Spruce Island where he established an orphanage which he kept together despite many hardships. As Father Chad told us, what enabled Herman to overcome these challenges was that he had a prayer life that kept him anchored and provided him with strength. He imparted his values to the children he was raising and as a result many of them went on to become leaders in their communities.


As for the present, we in Cleveland are blessed to have such a place as St. Herman House because, as its website states, "at a time when few to no services were available in the Cleveland area, St. Herman House was founded to meet the pressing needs of the underserved in our community. To this day, the St. Herman House continues to provide essential services, transforming the lives of many who come through out-door."

Quite a few of the people being assisted by St. Herman House were present at this event including a young man who now has a goal of becoming a professional soldier and plans to join the United States Marines in very short time. Mr. H. Paul Finley, the Center Director, expressed his great love for these people when he said that they were truly the "treasures" of St. Herman's. "They come with a turn and they turn right around and serve people." He noted that there were a few residents who would like to have been there but couldn't be because they were busy serving an evening meal to those in need of food, a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Prior to the start of the program,  we encountered our good friend, Mr. Alex Machaskee who is a close friend of Father Chad Hatfield. We then sat for a while with Father Michael Hontaruk from St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma and Mr. Michael and Ms. Dareen Jogan who also worship there. We told them about the dinner that we attended on Friday night put on by the Russian American Cultural Society which raised monies to help displaced Ukrainian children.


Independence City Councilperson Jim Trakas (a former Ohio State Representative), who we have known for years, is on the Advisory Board of St. Herman's. We talked about what to expect from the upcoming Trump administration on several matters including immigration reform.

And we visited with Ms. Deborah Finley. Paul's wife, who told us of a promising new project that involves training some of the people being assisted by St. Herman's to become beekeepers. Mr. Finley also mentioned this in his talk and we learned that the sale of the produced honey has the potential to raise thousands of dollars to enhance the ministry of the St. Herman House.

Along with Father Chad's talk, the highlight of the night for us was the display of photographs on the wall that were taken by residents of St. Herman House. Ms. Brenda R. Saridakis, of the St. Herman Advisory Board, explained that these photos came about as the result of a project initiated by Mr. Daniel Kozminski and Mr. Dave Woolridge from the Cleveland Photographic Society who provided cameras for about five residents, taught them how to use them and then sent them out to take pictures.

img_5980As the mission statement for the project reads, "the goal was to capture the street life of Cleveland as seen through the eyes of individuals who have experienced homelessness. Each participant was given a digital camera and one instruction: take photos of scenes that move you in some way. The intent was to give a voice to the homeless and to, hopefully, open the eyes of the public to the fact that all people are deserving of respect and, when necessary, a helping hand."

We spoke to Mr. Kozminski and Mr. Woolridge who told us that the photos on display at this time were also on exhibit at the Ingenuity Festival. They showed us a book that contained comments showing how moved people were by them. This collection will be on display in the Atrium Gallery in Lerner Tower at University Hospital near the main entrance on Euclid Avenue for six to eight weeks commencing on January 23rd and we urge those who read this blog to give it a view.

Interestingly, earlier in the day on Saturday we had another experience with people dedicated to providing assistance to those less fortunate than themselves when we attended the open house for Project Hope, a Painesville facility whose website states that "since 1993 more than 5,000 children and adults experiencing homelessness in Northeast Ohio have received shelter, care, and guidance through Project Hope, the only emergency shelter in Lake County." img_5956The goal is to help these people establish independence so that they will be ready to leave after approximately 30 days though some have stayed longer. For a few minutes, we watched a video consisting of testimonials by former residents who have been greatly helped by Project Hope and staffers/volunteers who talked about how rewarding it was to be a part of this.


Along these lines we visited with Ms. Jamie Jelenic who has been volunteering at Project Hope since February, 2016 and Mr. Ernie Hines, a volunteer who has been there a bit longer; in fact, on December 25th it will be 11 years!

We talked with Ms. Cheryl McAndrews, Residential Assistant for Families, who has been working there for two years and really loves her job because she believes that she was born to serve others. Ms. McAndrews pointed to the shelter door and said that how people are greeted when they come through that door affects their entire experience with us. She went on to say that people need to understand that they will be "loved, respected and shown God's grace through our work here."


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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