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Out & About in Cleveland

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Morning Buzz at Hilton Garden Inn; German-American Festival at German Central Farm; 27th Annual Parade in The Circle; "La Placita"; 28th annual G.I.F.T. (Gay/Lesbian Invitational Fellowship Tournament) Cruise

On Friday, June 10th, we got up early and drove to the Hilton Garden Inn in Akron to attend the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce's monthly "Morning Buzz"  consisting of a presentation, welcoming of new members and networking.

IMG_1898On this day the presenter was Ms. Deborah Easton, an internationally known trainer and coach for over 30 years, whose subject matter was "Generations in the Workplace." Ms. Easton didn't really talk about the traditionalists (1922-1945), baby boomers (1946-1964), generation X (1965-1979), and the millennials (1980-2000) but instead donned light costumes representing the style of each age group and, in the spirit of method acting, became a representative for each generation talking about their values, lifestyle and what really mattered to them in terms of job/career. In the end, she received a big round of applause.

We also got to visit with a lot of good people, several of whom were aware of Margaret W. Wong and Associates and our services. These included:

***Dr. Daniel J. Gisser, Ph.D. MBA from "AdviCoach" who knows our Mr. Francis Fungsang through their work with the Cleveland Leadership Center.

***Ms. LaTonya (L.T.) Myers, MBA, Owner and Executive HR Director of "ExcelHR Consulting" who used to work in the human resources department at TRW where she assisted Ms. Margaret W. Wong on occasion.

***Ms. Amanda R. Yurechko, Partner with "Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA" who once handled collections for Margaret W. Wong and Associates.

***Ms. Ewa Hruby, Director of Sales for the "Courtyard Marriott" who we know through being members of the Solon Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Hruby immigrated to the United States from Poland and told us that she is looking forward to attending the German Festival at German Central Farm in Parma over the weekend.

***Mr. Sam Kousagan, Account Representative with "Mature Staffing Systems" who is associated with Encore.org so we talked about the City Club presentation of Mr. Marc Freedman concerning older people being an invaluable asset to our society.

***Ms. Stacy Corp, Director of Ticket Sales/Promotions and Social Media Coordinator for the "Akron Racers" a renowned women's softball team that sometimes recruits members from other countries including Argentina and Japan.

We also met Mr. Tony Gallo from "Real Time Software Solutions." When we told Mr. Gallo that the president of the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce was also named Tony Gallo, he good-naturedly laughed and said, "it's a name to live up to!" but if Lorain's Tony Gallo was the president of the chamber of commerce then he must be doing a pretty good job of doing it.

IMG_1902On our way back from Akron, we stopped at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland to attend the annual "Fiesta of Hope" put on by Esperanza whose mission is "to improve the academic achievement of Hispanics in Greater Cleveland by supporting students to graduate high school and promoting post-secondary educational attainment."

As the programs notes indicated, Esperanza served 1,000 students from low-income homes this year and strives to be "a model of academic and community excellence." We also read in our programs that "Esperanza focuses on student's academic success by providing a structure of student reflection, goal setting and support. When a student joins Esperanza, they complete an Individual Service Strategy, which analyzes their current school performance then

IMG_1905maps out an action plan to guide their path towards success." To implement this, programs are offered via mentoring, academic support, family engagement, leadership and alumni support.

The opening remarks were given by Mr. Russ Mitchell; Anchor and Managing Editor at WKYC-TV; who said that if this was a person's first time attending this luncheon, he/she will be in for a treat but if the person had been to other luncheons, he/she knows to get ready for a great emotional impact.

IMG_1907During the course of the program, five people whose lives were touched by Esperanza gave very moving testimonies about how they would not be as successful as they are at this time if it had not been for hard work and dedication on their parts along with the guidance and support of Esperanza.

One of these people was a woman named Alicia who immigrated to the United States from Argentina with her daughters to get away from a dangerous domestic situation. It was very scary when they first arrived here because they were in a strange place, did not know the language and had to spend six months living in a shelter. Eventually however, friends stepped in to help and advised them to seek Esperanza's assistance. At this time, Alicia is working with Esperanza as a Family Engagement Advocate and her daughters are doing very well in school.

Mr. Victor Ruiz, the Executive Director of Esperanza, said that a thriving community depends on an educated citizenry and a child's success depends to a large extent on his/her family's well-being. Mr. Ruiz also pointed out that jobs may come and go but educated people are able to "adapt, expand, and innovate."

It was good that we got to share a table with Mr. Stephen Baumgarten, Senior VP and Wealth Advisor with "Morgan Stanley" because he had been to Europe recently and was able to give a first-hand perspective of the refugee crisis. Sitting on this other side of us, was Dr. Michelle Spain who has done a lot to assist minority-owned small businesses. She is also a good friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and said to say hello to her. Also at our table was Ms. Maureen Dee, Executive Director of Catholic Charities and Mr. Gonzalez, the father of one of the students that Esperanza was honoring.

The last part of the program was devoted to the reading of the names and giving special certificates to the 96 students who received Esperanza scholarships for this year. Mr. Andrew Connor, Esperanza Board President, said that the speakers and the scholarship recipients inspired him to believe that super heroes exist and they are here on this day.

That Friday night we decided to relax and head over to the German-American Festival at German Central Farm on York Road in Parma for dinner and some polka.

We were greeted in the dining hall by Ms. Renate Jakupca, the Austrian Ambassador for Clevelandpeople.com (her husband, David, is the German Ambassador) where we enjoyed a great dinner composed of potato pancakes, red cabbage, German potato salad, and sauerkraut.

IMG_1908Ms. Jakupca told us that "all the fun people hang out at the pavilion" so we then walked over to there where we listened and danced to some polka music played by our good friend, Mr. Fred Zwich his International Sound Machine. We didn't know that there was a polka rendition of the Beatles song, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" but there was and we had a good dancing to it. Later, we sat back and watched some German dances performed by the  Cleveland Saxon Dance Group. Finally, we took a nice walk through the woods located on the grounds of the German Central Farm before we went home.

The German American Festival is sponsored each year by Federation of German-American Societies of Greater IMG_1911Cleveland (Cleveland Stadtverband). We looked it up on the Global Cleveland Website and read that, "the Stadtverband provides a forum of cooperation for its 16 German-speaking groups in Greater Cleveland. In partnership with these organizations, the Stadtverband organizes events that emphasizes the pride and value of our rich and varied German heritage."

We then did some research about the German-American Festival itself and discovered a quote by Ms. Hilde IMG_1917Kobetitsch, president of German Central, that appeared in the June 5, 2015 edition of the "Post" newspapers that read, "We would like to make people aware in Cleveland that German societies are well and alive and are still growing strong. We would like for them to come out and enjoy the days with us. Without our nationalities we would not have what we have today. We do have German groups available and are doing a wonderful job in the Cleveland area....Everyone is welcome to come and join us and learn something about our nationality. There will be plenty of food and beer available and live music and a wonderful time by everyone."

Naturally, on Saturday, June 11th, we made it a priority to attend the 27th Annual Parade in the Circle. It always starts at noon in Wade Oval so we scheduled 10:30am as our approximate arrival time so that we could find a placeIMG_1931 to park which wasn't easy but it was worth it because we love attending this event each year because we find it fun,funky, avant-garde, and international.

This year the theme was "temenos" which is "a space considered safe; a labyrinth within a sacred circle of creativity." We had also read that approximately 1,000 people would be taking part including groups from India (for the first time) and Brazil. Plus, there would be 80,000 parade watchers including ourselves. IMG_1929Temperatures broke 90 degrees on Saturday but fortunately the City of Cleveland supplied a water truck so we could fill our water bottle a couple of times.

The parade is presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art which turns 100 this year so the parade opener was a "centennial gargoyle" resembling a Chinese dragon composed of 50 people or "100 feet" among them our friends Mr. Wayne Wong and Ms. Lisa Wong. All we can say about the parade, itself, was that it was spectacular as always; a unique coming together of imagination, talent, wonderful colors, dedication and diversity.

We noticed a man who seemed to know what he was doing, telling the various sections when it was time to step off,IMG_2003 where to turn, and when to proceed on the parade route to avoid things getting jammed. We walked over and talked to him for a moment and learned that his name was Chuck and he had been taking part in this parade for 26 years. We then asked Chuck how he would describe the parade and he said that it was his most "favorite thing in the whole wide world!"

After we left "Parade in the Circle" we paid our first visit to "La Placita" or the marketplace at the corner of West 25th Street and Clark Avenue in the U.S. Bank parking lot.

"La Placita" was first organized in the summer of 2015 to give local Hispanic entrepreneurs/merchants a chance to exhibit their wares and to promote the neighborhood's Hispanic culture. It takes place on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 1pm to 6pm so the next three dates will be July 9th, August 13th, and September 10th. The three big movers behind it are the Hispanic Business Center; the Hispanic Alliance, Inc.; and the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office (DSCDO).

We went to the website of the Hispanic Business Center and learned that the four goals for this venture are to create opportunities for small business to grow, eliminate economic barriers, draw increasing numbers of merchants from Cleveland and Northeast Ohio and to create a robust retail district. When we arrived, we said hello to Ms. Jenice Contreras, Executive Director of the Hispanic Business Center, who was especially instrumental in the instigation of this project.

Since we hadn't had lunch yet so we bought some rice and visited with a few of the vendors. Of course some of tabling was by established institutions like the Horizon Education Centers, CareSource, and the Center for Families and Children. We talked for a few minutes with Ms. Leslie Bowser from the LADO International Institute located locally at Baldwin-Wallace College which has helped many people who have immigrated to this country learn English and thus feel more comfortable with their new surroundings. We also recognized Ms. Rachel Napolitano from the InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF) so we chatted its 35th anniversary celebration that will take place next weekend.

Nevertheless, there were quite a few small businesses with tents there also like that of "Sew Me Maybe" which sells bags and purses made by Ms. Vanessa Aguilera at her home. She told us that such creativity is "my hobby and my passion."

After we got home, we did some research on "La Placita" and found an article dated June 11, 2015 by Ms. Jacqueline Bon that was posted on "Fresh Water." The article quoted Mr. Adam Stalder, Economic Development Director at the DSCDO, as saying that "the entrepreneurial spirit is very alive in the neighborhood and a lot of people would like to do it as a living but don't know where to get started. La Placita can be the first outlet."

After "La Placita" we had a chance to relax for a little while before we were off to our last event of the day which was the 28th annual G.I.F.T. (Gay/Lesbian Invitational Fellowship Tournament) Cruise aboard the Goodtime III. We arrived early and said hello to Captain Rick Fryan who would be piloting us and spoke for a moment to Mr. Rob Lach IMG_2013 and Mr. Ed Progar who checked us in. We learned that the proceeds from the cruise would be divided between the LGBT Center in Cleveland, the Community AIDS Network Akron Pride Initiative (CANOPI), and the Malachi House, a respected hospice facility in Cleveland.

We boarded the Goodtime III and spent the next several hours visiting/networking with people and enjoying the increasingly cooler weather and a beautiful sunset over Lake Erie. Unfortunately, most likely due to a projected storm that did not occur after all, there were not as many people present as there was last year but still enough to make it a good time.

IMG_2015 We noticed a man with a t-shirt that had a quote by former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson printed on its back that read, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something" so we talked to him about how true it was.

We spent a lot of time talking to Sister Nadia Heddensmile, Abbess with the "Rock n Roll City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" about the fine work that the organization does to promote safe sex and good health practices. This

IMG_2018project originated in San Francisco in 1979 and now has chapters and members in several countries throughout the world.

We also spoke to a gentleman from England named Thomas about immigration and how Mr. Donald Trump is perceived at this time in Europe which is not too good. Thomas expressed concern about how other countries would perceive the United States if Mr. Trump were to be elected President.

After docking, we headed right home because our attendance at this rainbow of events had tired us out but in a positive way.

Next day on Sunday, June 12th, we didn't have to be anywhere until 11:30am which was when the British Cultural Garden Centennial Celebration was scheduled to start. We got there early and helped put certificates in frames, IMG_2052carry water from a car to a tent, and pass out programs.

We talked for a few minutes with Ms. Stephanie Wachalec, Regent of the Westminster Chapter of the Daughters of

the British Empire, which oversees the maintenance of the British Garden. We also got a delightful treat when we got IMG_2035 to meet Ms. Margaret Mahovlic who is a very respected member of that organization. Ms. Mahovlic (whose maiden name was England) married an American G.I. who was of Croatian descent and immigrated to the United States from Great Britain in 1947. Initially she knew no one here and very little about this country so she joined the "war brides" chapter of the Daughters of the British Empire and found them to be tremendously supportive.

The celebration started a bagpipe procession led by members of the Pipes and Drums team from the Irish-American East Side Club. Reverend Mark Webster gave a moving invocation in which he noted that gardens were IMG_2046referred to quite frequently in the Bible. He said that God gave the earth to the people but it is our responsibility to make good use of it and to tend it in such a way that its full potential was realized which was certainly the case with the garden whose anniversary that we were celebrating.

In the course of the ceremony there were brief talks about how the history of the British Cultural Garden, initially known as the Shakespeare Garden, which was established in 1916 and was the first garden in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens to come into being. Among the speakers were Ms. Sheila Crawford, President of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation; Honorary Consul Sandra Morgan; Ms. Veronica Pearce, President of the Daughters of the British Empire in Ohio; and Mr. Chris Ronayne, the Mayor of University Circle.

We all rose to our feet when Ms. Pearce paid a special tribute to Ms. Mary Hamlin who had assumed responsibility for the care of the British Garden for so many years. Ms. Pearce said to Ms. Hamlin that "you started us on this journey and we hope to continue your work."

A sadder tribute occurred when Ms. Crawford asked us to please observe a moment of silence for Mr. George Voinovich; former Mayor of Cleveland, Governor of Ohio, and U.S. Senator; who had passed away that morning.

Contributing to the specialness of the program were Ms. Anna Truax who beautifully sang such melodies as "God Save the Queen", "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton", and "Barbara Allen"; and Ms. Erin Hogan who introduced several dances performed by the Murphy Irish Dancers of which she is also a member. It was clear that Ms. Hogan had done her homework because prior to each dance she impressively gave a short but comprehensive history of each.

What was terrific about this gathering was that people of so many ethnic backgrounds came together to join in the celebration. Among those there were people of Lituanian, Estonish, Lebanese, Irish, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Indian backgrounds (among others) symbolizing the coming together of people from all over which is what the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are all about.

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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