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LEDI International Life Changer Award and Fundraising Dinner

On Friday night, October 21st, we went to the 2016 Liberia Economic Development Initiative (LEDI) International Life Changer Award and Fundraising Dinner at the Club at Key Center in downtown Cleveland. We are proud to say that "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" was a sponsor of this event whose theme was "Building a Better Future."

As Ms. Joan Curran Darkortey, LEDI Co-Founder and Event Host, wrote in the souvenir booklet, "as you enjoy the evening, please be reminded that this is a party with a purpose-to raise funds and support LEDI's mission to reduce poverty and change the lives of people in great need. With your generous support, by the end of this evening, LEDI will be able to send moreimg_5486 impoverished children to school and begin the first phase of our public library construction project..."

The thoughts of her husband, Mr. Rufus Darkortey, who immigrated to the United States from Liberia, were contained in the booklet also and read in part, "Because I did not like the pain and suffering that I endured growing up in Liberia due to poverty, I knew I had to do something to change my situation and help change the condition of others. I know that I cannot do it all, but if I can help to change the life of one child for the better so that they don't endure similar poverty, my life is fulfilled!"

On our way to the affair which took place on the 4th floor, we rode the elevator with Mr. Jackson Konah who has known Ms. Margaret W. Wong since the 1990's.

During the reception we talked to Chief Andres Gonzalez of the Metropolitan Housing Authority about the City Club program that we had attended earlier in the day concerning lead poisoning in mostly older buildings.

We also visited with Mr. Jason Humbert who served as a nurse with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. in Monrovia, Liberia for seven months during the Ebola epidemic of 2014. He would talk about his experiences later in the program.

We really enjoyed talking with Mr. Lucas Willis and Mr. Vincent Foisy from "Lower Right Visuals" who put together a short film that was shown later in the program containing interviews with the recipients of the 2016 "International Life Changer" awards. They recalled interviewing Ms. Margaret W. Wong when she received the same award last year. We really have to compliment Mr. Willis and Mr. Foisy because later in the program there were problems with their equipment and it didn't look like the important video would get to be shown but they persevered and finally got things to work which really enhanced the evening.

Another person that deserves a compliment from us was Mr. Eric Little, the Service Director with the Club at Key Center because we neglected to request a vegetarian dinner and he managed to put one together for us.img_5518

This year the people receiving the "International Life Changer" awards were Mr. Jeffery K. Patterson, Chief Executive Officer with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority; Ms. Geri M. Presti, Executive Vice President and General Counsel with Forest City Realty Trust; Dr. Yvonne Pointer, writer, speaker, activist, and philanthropist; and Mr. James Szakacs, Executive Director of the Nehemiah Mission.

As the proclamations presented to each of the recipients by the Office of Mayor Frank G. Jackson of Cleveland indicated, these people were chosen to be so honored due to their support of "LEDI's mission to promote positive change in the lives of impoverished children through educational scholarships, literacy campaigns and/or economic empowerment; and this award recognizes the dedication and generous donations of funds, time and support" as well as offering "life changing hope to those who need it the most."

During the program, Ms. Janessa Webb, meteorologist from Cleveland served as emcee. Ms. Webb recalled First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Liberia and how concerned that she was over the lack of educational materials. Ms. Webb went on to say that it was important that this banquet be seen as an opportunity to be aware of what is going on in different parts of the world and to give future leaders support.

Likewise as he gave the invocation, Mr. William T. Tarpeh, LEDI board member, praised the vision of Mr. and Mrs. Darkortey which is about enabling children to "achieve knowledge and know no limits."

Soon afterwards we were treated to a readers' theatre skit performed by three young women in which they offered facts about Liberia dealing with both the past and with the present and why we should be concerned about img_5485conditions there. While we had dinner, we were entertained by "Djapo Cultural Arts" who entertained us last week at the "Plant a Seed for a Child' dinner in Lyndhurst.

After dinner there were several other speakers and then the awards were presented. Unfortunately, Dr. Yvonne Pointer could not be present but her friend, Ms. Sharon Rose accepted the award on her behalf. Ms. Rose credited her friend for doing outstanding work in creating several schools in Ghana in memory of her daughter who died tragically. Ms. Rose said that Ms. Pointer accepted in Africa as a "beacon" for young children.

Mr. Szakacs asked us to imagine traveling on a magic carpet and all the places it would take us and all of the things that we would learn on our journey. He then said that the magic carpet was the books that are available for us at the local library that we are so blessed to have. He urged us to remember those who do not have such access and to keep in mind that we have the power to change all that through our support of LEDI. He concluded by saying that "the magic carpet may help the children of Liberia realize their dreams."

Ms. Presti presented us with some compelling facts about how education is vital to the success of a community and of a nation. She praised Mr. Darkortey for not having any bitterness regarding the hardships that he experienced growing up in Liberia. Instead, she termed him a "survivor" who beat the system through courage, faith and perseverance. She said that he was a "very inspiring individual" who had great spirit and was determined to give back to his homeland. In fact, she upheld him as "Liberia's Gandhi."img_5502

When he was presented with his award, Mr. Patterson said that he believed that it was very important that we put the power and prestige that we get when we are recognized (such as the honor that he was receiving at this time) to work in the service of others. He only spoke for a moment because he was also slated to give the Keynote address which took place right after the awards were distributed.

During his speech, Mr. Patterson talked about an educational opportunity that he was involved with called "Connect Cleveland" which will enhance internet access in public housing. Likewise, he acknowledged the work that LEDI does to provide the tools that will enable people to connect with each other perhaps to survive.

He then told us about a ceremony that he attended the day before in which 25 seniors who successfully completed a basic computer course were given a refurbished computer and a certificate of achievement. Mr. Patterson was greatly moved when an elderly Hispanic woman who completed the course with a great deal of difficultly was so happy about her accomplishment that she tearfully hugged him. Thus, he thanked LEDI for providing the funding and opportunities that help people to achieve their goals. He paid tribute to Mr. Darkortey who "reaches back to bring others forward."

Mr. Patterson wrapped up by saying that a strong country helps to create a strong world containing strong people. He contended that "it's all about people helping each other and serving."


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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