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Greater Akron Area Chamber of Commerce Morning Buzz; Upstander: Lessons from the Life of Roddie Edmonds; 2nd annual Run for Sewa; Promoting Renewable Energy

On Friday, September 10th, we started our day at the monthly "morning buzz" at the Greater Akron Area Chamber of Commerce.

The guest speaker was Mr. Jeff Hoffman, Founding Director of The EXL Center at the University of Akron which is an "experiential learning center for entrepreneurship and civic engagement." Mr. Hoffman spoke about the need for a business to develop a suitable brand and zero in its outreach to the people who are most likely to make use of its services.

Before and after the meeting we talked to quite a few people and made about 12 new contacts. Among these was Ms. Serena Raybould, the owner of the Taverne of Richfield who, upon hearing that we worked for an immigration law office, talked to us for a minute about how her mother immigrated to the United States from Croatia many years ago. We also talked to a man who used to recruit foreign-born people to work for technology firms and was involved in obtaining H-1B visas for them. He sighed as he said that the process used to be a lot easier than it is now.

We were surprised when Ms. Linda Dambrowsky, a tax consultant, and Mr. Jack Yard, a business communications specialist, recognized us because it had been almost a year since we saw them last. Mr. Yard told us that whenever the subject of immigration is brought up, he thinks of Margaret W. Wong and Associates. This made us happy because, as was said at the meeting that morning, networking is about meeting people and growing your business because these people help you meet other people.

After our return from Akron, we headed right to the City Club to attend a luncheon devoted to the legacy of Mr. Roddie Edmonds titled "Upstander: Lessons from the Life of Roddie Edmonds" in which Mr. Edmonds' son, Pastor Chris Edmonds of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee was there to talk about his father.

IMG_4380We had not heard of Mr. Roddie Edmonds before this time so we looked him a couple of days before Friday. We learned that during the final months of World War II, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of the U.S. Army was confined in a prisoner of war camp for 100 days where, as the highest ranking noncommissioned officer, he was in charge of 1,275 U.S. soldiers. On January 26, 1945, the German commandant ordered all Jewish soldiers to come forward the next day so that they could be shipped off to special camps where the chances of their survival were at best quite slim. Master Sgt. Edmonds refused to do this and instead ordered all of the men to fall out the next morning, January 27, 1945. The commandant was furious and threatened Master Sgt. Edmonds at gunpoint to identify the Jewish Americans. Instead Master Sgt. Edmonds calmly said that, "we are all Jews here" and told the commandant that if any of the Americans were killed then he would be prosecuted for war crimes after the war was over. The enraged German commandant then backed down.

We believe that the courage displayed by Master Sgt. Edmonds was amazing; we do not know what we would have done under similar circumstances but we can only hope that we would act in a comparable manner. Mr. Mark Swaim-Fox from "Facing History, Facing Ourselves" was there and he felt the same way.

On this day, several tables were occupied by students from Montessori High School at University Circle. Their teacher/chaperone was Mr. Peter Friedman, the son of noted Cleveland attorney Mr. Sidney "Skip" Friedman. Mr. Friedman told us that his father was one of the soldiers protected by Master Sgt. Edmonds and that he wouldn't be here if it were not for his courage.

During lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Avery Friedman, Legal Analyst for CNN Saturday, who told us that he was very grateful to Ms. Margaret W. Wong for contributing to "Avery Friedman Human Rights Scholarship" established by Ursuline College. Also at our table was Mr. Thomas J. Nowel who talked to us about the wonderful legal/humanitarian work that his soon-to-be daughter-in-law, who just graduated from law school was doing in Seychelles.

Master Sgt. Edmonds passed in 1985 and didn't tell his family much about his WWII service. During his presentation, Pastor Edmonds told us that he was inspired to investigate his father's war service by passages in a diary that was IMG_4384discovered. He ran a computer search on his father's name and found an article about Mr. Lester Tanner, a prominent New York attorney in which he credited Master Sgt. Edmonds with saving his life during WWII. Naturally, Pastor Edmonds contacted Mr. Tanner and learned what happened.

Over the years, historical research brought Master Sgt. Edmonds' heroism more and more into the forefront. On January 27th, 2016, exactly 71 years later to the very day of the incident in the POW camp, Master Sgt. Edmonds received the "Righteous Among the Nations" award which is the highest honor given to non-Jews who risked their lives to protect Jews during the holocaust. He is only the fifth American and first U.S. soldier to receive this honor. Pastor Edmonds talked about how thrilling it was for he and his family to attend the ceremonies at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. along with President Obama.

Pastor Edmonds devoted most of his presentation to talking about his father's life. He told us that his father didn't start his family until he was forty years old because, in addition to WWII, he served in Korean War. He had a passion for singing gospel songs and made his living as a salesperson. Above all, he provided for his family and was an active member of the community. Pastor Edmonds said that he was a great dad and a great role model and a true Christian who treated all people the same regardless of their religious affiliation.

Pastor Edmonds went on to speak about the frustrating efforts to obtain the Congressional Medal of Honor for his late father. All of the necessary documentation has been completed but the U.S. Army says that since the act of heroism occurred while his father was a POW he is not eligible to receive it because the current rules stipulate that the heroic act must take place during combat. Nevertheless, everyone Pastor Edmonds has talked to who are connected with the U.S. Army and the U.S. government believes that Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds is indeed worthy of this honor so hopefully it is only a matter of time.

As for the soldiers whose lives he saved, Pastor Edmonds said that a large part of his father's legacy "are these men." Near the end of his presentation, Pastor Edmonds said with great affection that his dad was "an ordinary guy who made the right decision...he followed God and he loved people."

On Saturday, September 10th, we received an invitation from Mr. Alfredo Carranza, Chairman and Founder of the Latino Business League in Canton, Ohio to be a part of their 2nd Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival and Health Fair IMG_4390 held at the Goodwill Community Campus on Ninth Street Southwest in Canton. The invitation indicated that the Latino Business League is a business and social support agency "bridging the gap between the Latino community and critical services in the areas of health, education, housing, employment and other related services." It went on to say that the people involved with it believe that "it is important to our community that each individual is given the opportunity to be informed and to gain access to the vital services that he or she may become productive and healthy citizens."

Mr. Carranza really admires Ms. Wong and has referred several people to over the years. He, himself, immigrated to the United States from Peru in 1991. When we arrived to table on behalf of Margaret W. Wong and Associates, Mr. Carranza was very glad to see us and introduced us to his lovely wife, Martha. We also met Ms. Julia Hout, a nurse from Aultman Hospital in Canton who is assists the Latino Business League in case managment matters.IMG_4386

For lunch, we were served food that was prepared by a company named "Delicia Latinas" which the Latino Business League helped to bring about. It is composed of women from Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, and Mexico who joined forces to offer food from their native countries.

We estimated that maybe 100 people of all ages were present at various times on that day. Among the people tabling was Ms. Jessica Zavala from Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery who told us that Ms. Wong helped a relative of hers obtain a green card and has helped several other people that she knew. We talked for a while with Ms. Patricia Dolezal and Mr. Jeremiah Fullerton from the local ABLE program that not only helps Hispanics but also many people who have immigrated to the United States from Korea, China, and Vietnam. We tabled next to Ms. Inese Alvarez from Buckeye Health Insurance who is of Latvian descent and anxious to learn more about her heritage. We said we would see if we could hook her up with the Latvian ambassador from

Another fascinating man who we met was Pastor Walter S. Moss who has traveled extensively to quite a few countries including Cuba, Martinique, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Pastor Moss was there tabling for Mr. John D. Ferraro who is IMG_4398running for re-election for prosecutor of Stark County.

During his short speech, Mr. Ferraro praised the work of the Latino Business League as he recalled his own family's experience when they immigrated here from Italy.

Other dignitaries who spoke were Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula who said that a strong workforce in Canton was both needed and necessary and thus there were openings for people such as those present at this event who are willing to work very hard and avoid usage of illegal drugs. We, ourselves, have found that these are characteristics of the lion's share of the immigrants that we have dealt with.

Finally, Canton Mayor Tom Bernabei who addressed us in both Spanish and English saying that events such as this one allow us in government to learn with all of you and give us the opportunity to meet with you on a personal level which makes us a better and safer community.

The next day was Sunday, September 11th, and what better way to start the day than to take part in the 2nd annual Run for Sewa? It was held at Weiss Field on Webber Road in Avon Lake Ohio and participants had their choice of partaking in either the 5K or the 1 mile walk/run.

IMG_4409 We have written of Sewa International before. Briefly, it is a Hindu faith nonprofit charity with chapters all over the U.S. in locations with a high density of Indian-Americans. Its mission is to serve those in distress, aid local communities, and promote volunteerism.

When we arrived we learned that about 150 people had signed up for this event but there were a lot of last-minute walk-ups. Ms. Viji Vijay asked us if we intended to go for the 5K or the 1 mile and, because we needed the exercise, we opted to walk the 5K. As things turned out, it was not too hot at 9am that morning when the event started so and we had good walking shoes so we completed the event in about an hour's time. What made things go fast was the fact that there were plenty of Sewa volunteers scattered along the way who smiled and clapped their hands to encourage us.IMG_4414

During the morning speeches, Dr. Hira Fotedar, the President of the Sewa International Cleveland Chapter, observed a moment of silence on behalf of the 9/11 victims 15 years ago. He then shared with us that last year's "Run for Nepal" had been a fine success raising thousands of dollars. Subsequently, the entirety of the proceeds raised from this very event would go to the Sewa Aspire education and mentoring program for refugees.

As the program notes state, the goals of the Sewa Aspire program are to "achieve 100% graduation rate (i.e. high school) of recently arrived at risk immigrant refugee children; improve fluency of English as second language in refugee children and their parents; provide after school in person and on line tutoring and mentoring."

Dr. Rupesh Raina, Chairman of the Cleveland Chapter Advisory Board, and Dr. Sree Sreenath, President of Sewa International in the U.S., both spoke for a moment. Dr. Raina said that he was glad that Sewa was focusing its IMG_4422attention on family services for both immigrants and the underprivledged. Dr. Sreenath told us that another project of Sewa concerned providing assistance to the flood victims in Louisiana and asked us to consider donating.

A special guest on this day was Mayor Greg Zilka of Avon Lake who was at last year's run/walk too. Mayor Zilka said that he was very impressed with Sewa because it raised money for great causes. He went on to say that he was very troubled by the political dialogue concerning the building of walls between countries. He reminded us that immigrants have made a significant contribution to Northeast Ohio and the nation as a whole in the past, in the present and are expected to do so in the future. He cited the fact that many of the medical personnel at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital immigrated here from other countries and that Andrew Carnegie immigrated here from Scotland.

As a former teacher, Mayor Zilka told us that he was very heartened that several of his former students were present at this gathering. We can see why the mayor felt this way; it shows that he properly inspired them to be constructively active in their community just as the Sewa volunteers intend to do with the young people they will mentor.

Our last event for the weekend took place on Abbey Avenue near the Tremon area where we gathered with many people to form the outline of "100%" and a wind turbine for an aerial photograph to promote the eventual goal of 100% renewable energy in 100 U.S. cities including Cleveland. This event was put together by Ms. Jocelyn Travis from the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club.When we were told, all of us there stood at the designated places so a person on top of crane could take the photograph.

At this time, Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo) has partnered with a Norwegian Wind Farm Developer to create a 6 turbine pilot project in Lake Erie that should be generating electricity by the summer of 2018. Mr. Lorry Wagner, the President of LEEDCo, spoke for a few minutes about expectations for the project and reminded us all the first wind turbine ever was created in Cleveland in 1988 by Mr. Charles F. Brush and that in the 1970's NASA Glenn Research Center built the largest wind turbine in the world.

We are excited about this project and others like it because it is yet another example of international collaboration in the Cleveland area. As Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur wrote in a May 27, 2016 press release,"wind power is gaining momentum globally as a major segment of energy production-- including having increased over seven-fold here in the United States in the last decade. With Lake Erie dubbed the Saudi Arabia of wind, LEEDCO has seen the future and captured it."


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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