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Tabling at The 2016 Ohio Human Resource Conference at the Kalahari Resorts; The Student Art Exhibit

On Wednesday and Thursday, September 21st and 22nd, we tabled for Margaret W. Wong and Associates at the 2016 Ohio Human Resource Conference at the Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky. It was the conference's 44th year and 900 plus people attended along with 112 vendors.

We encountered several people there like Ms. Ginny Haas and Ms. Debbie Meeker from "Radcom" who we had met at other human resource conferences that we have lately attended.

We also ran into Ms. Paula Tresger from "AHOLA Human Resource Management" who we know through our img_4661involvement with the Solon Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Jeff Ahola, the Chief Executive Officer of AHOLA, made it a point to come by our booth and tell us how much he admires Ms. Margaret W. Wong and offered to help us with some referrals.

Among the interesting visits that we had over our the two days in Sandusky were those with:

****A person named Kevin who had worked for a company that often used the services of Ms. Margaret W. Wong to obtain H-1B visas. This company is no longer and Kevin is seeking to hook up with a new company. Maybe then he can work with us some more.

****A person who has a friend from the Ukraine who won the lottery there and was allowed to immigrate to the United States. She is having a tough time, though, helping family members from the Ukraine do the same thing.

****Mr. Antony Kibogo who took an interest in Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" so we gave him a copy. Mr. Kibogo, himself, immigrated to the United States from Kenya in 1992 and became a citizen in 2006. He now works in the human resource department at Price Waterhouse.img_4658

****A human resource person who works for a Korean company that just opened an office in this region. The home company was supposed to send technicians here to make the new office functional but they couldn't come due to visa problems.

****The director of human resources from a child care agency who is helping a prospective employee from China obtain an H1B visa. She is, however, really put off by the high cost and the employer's responsibility.

****Mr. Robert J. Drusendahl, President/CEO of "The Pre-Check Company" who remembers hearing Ms. Margaret W. Wong speak at a human resources convention years ago and was impressed.

****A person from a payroll company who took our contact information because his company does work for companies in Canada, Mexico and Brazil. He believes that knowing about an immigration law firm like Margaret W. Wong and Associates might be a good thing for the future.

****Ms. Angie Reyes, Human Resources Manager for the Kalahari Resorts. Ms. Reyes took our contact information, smiled and said, "You never know!"

img_4657During our breaks from tabling we walked around to see what other people were doing. We enjoyed helping Mr. Adam Holmes from "The Ashley Group" set up his collapsible banner (we are pros at this by now) and he was very grateful for our assistance.

We also had a long talk with Mr. Jacob Plassman from "Maumee Valley Vending" that provides organizations with vending machines and servicesthem. Mr. Plassman referred us to several companies that hire foreign-born workers. To be sure, Mr. Plassman had vending machines on display at his booth and one of them gave forth great Starbucks coffee for all who wanted it. We wanted to repay him for taking the time to talk to us so we snuck out to the local market and bought some soy milk for those who enjoy it with their coffee and including ourselves. On Thursday, before we left, Mr. Plassman told us that the soy milk proved to be a welcome addition to his booth.img_4656

After we returned from Sandusky on Thursday, we went to St. Ignatius High School on West 30th Street in Cleveland for a showing of four mini-documentaries about refugees  now living and working in the Cleveland area. It was organized by the Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland as part of the "Welcoming Week" celebrations.

On Tuesday we had gone to another "Welcoming Week" program which was the screening of "Salam Neighbor" at CWRU but we missed the Student Art Exhibit at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy on Wednesday because we were still in Sandusky. We met Ms. Maria Bozak from Thomas Jefferson at the documentary screenings and she said that we could come at any time to see the artwork.

Before the documentaries were screened, Father Ray Guiao, the President of St. Ignatius, introduced Mr. David T. Dombrowiak, the President and CEO of Community West Foundation which helped to fund the short films. We had talked to Mr. Dombrowiak the previous weekend at the Tremont Arts Festival where he wore a t-shirt in support of refugees. At this time, he said that it was very important to raise awareness about the refugee issue and among the most effective ways to accomplish this is for people born here to get to know the refugees on a personal basis which is what the films that we were about to see were trying to accomplish.

He reminded us that all of our families were immigrants at one time and reminded us of the words engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty that read, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Mr. Dombrowiak then praised the Refugee Services collaborative as being "a welcoming community that keeps the lamp of liberty burning" and pledged always to assist them.

img_4670 Our friend Ms. Danielle Drake of US Together briefly discussed the work of the collaborative which, as its literature states, "links together a group of Cleveland-area organizations who serve the rising numbers of refugees resettling in Northeast Ohio. It includes the three Cuyahoga County refugee resettlement agencies, area school systems, healthcare providers, and faith-based organizations."

Then Dr. David A. Foster, Assistant Professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University, who oversaw the production of the documentaries talked about the creative process of film making.

When Dr. Foster was finished, we watched:

"Kafaya's Kitchen" by Mr. Chris Langer (filmmaker) that told the story of Kafaya, a Somalian who spent 7 years in a refugee camp before she came to the U.S. She had few skills but she had always been an excellent cook so she opened "Kafaya's Kitchen" on 117th Street in Cleveland which has been quite successful.img_4684

"Fatima" by Mr. Babaak Parcham (filmmaker) that told the story of Ms. Fatima Faizi, a refugee from Afghanistan who came to Cleveland where she went to work for "National Safety Apparel" where she is now regarded as a role model for other refugees who have found employment there.

"Beating the Odds" by Mr. Jake Hochendoner (filmmaker) that told the story of Mr. Pete Habib, a refugee from Iran who is working at "Jack's Casino" where he learned how to deal cards and is now doing terrific.

"Crossing the Bridge" by Ms. Chelsie Corso (filmmaker) that told the story of Ms. Mariana Bosiljcic, a Bosnian refugee who completed cosmetology school and is now working at "Bella Capelli Sanctuario" salon in Westlake. Ms. Sandy Borelli, the salon's co-owner, now describes Mariana as "family, disciplined, and remarkable."

img_4674All four of the films had at least two things in common which is that they were all under 10 minutes in length and they told the story of a refugee who came to the United States with almost nothing, learned a trade, is succeeding more than admirably, and is making a contribution to the community.

Before we left to go home, we were treated to a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Brian S. Upton, the Executive Director of "Building Hope in the City" in which Ms. Fatima Faizi, herself; Mr. Sal Geraci, Chief Operating Officer at "National Safety Apparel" Fatima's employer; Ms. Lauren Penkala, Program Administrator at "Catholic Charities"; and Ms. Maureen Pansky, Human Resources Manager at "Oatey Company" talked about what is like to be a refugee and how rewarding it can be to work with them and give them the resources to grow.

At this program, we shared a table with Mr. and Mrs. Rod and Marianne Semrad and their daughter, Ms. Susie Semrad. They are longtime members of  the Cleveland Council of World Affairs (CCWA) and over the years have hosted several international students in their home. They told us that both they and the students had "many good times together."

Ms. Eileen Korey, who did the publicity for this event, told us to be sure to say hello to Ms. Margaret W. Wong who has been her friend for years.

Lastly, we encountered Sister Katherine Feely from the Sisters of Notre Dame. We told her that we went to the annual BBQ last weekend and Sister Katherine said that she plans to go this Sunday. We told her that we wrote about the BBQ in our blog and said that 6,000 people (total) were expected to attend on the two Sundays. Sister Katherine told us that the projected numbers were 6,000 people per Sunday making it grand total of 12,000 attendees.

Even though Sister Katherine laughed and told us not to worry about such numbers, we told her that we would correct our blog which we are now doing.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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