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Northeast Ohio's Third Annual Game Change Conference; Chardon, Euclid, Willoughby Western Lake County, Eastern Lake County, and Mentor Chambers of Commerce Meeting

On Thursday, October 13th, we attended two events that gave us a lot of opportunities to do good networking.

img_5283First, we drove to Kent State University to attend Northeast Ohio's Third Annual Game Change conference which is, as stated in the program notes, a "collaborative product of Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative (CANAPI), Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation (GCEF); Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network of Northeast Ohio (GLSEN NEO), Kent State University's Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; the Akron Chamber of PFLAG, and the University of Akron's LGBT Union with additional support from Summit County Public Health."

We were attracted to the event because we read in the bulletin put forth by the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, "in an effort to promote further inclusivity in greater community, a collaboration of local social service agencies and professionals hold the annual Game Change Conference for professional development in current LGBTQ issues" and we always welcome the opportunity to connect with other LGBT advocates.

When we were there, we talked to Mr. Matthew C. Barlet, Director of Operations for CANAPI, who told us that the Game Change conference grew out of Gay Games 9 because quite a few of the athletes who participated traveled here from countries where the social climate was not very friendly to the LGBT. Therefore, it gave the athletes the opportunity to say that they were coming to Northeast Ohio for a "conference" instead of for the Games.

Throughout the day there were sessions dealing with important issue facing the LGBT community. We sat in on two of them which were "Inclusive Curricula for LGBTQ Students and Families: The Time is Now" and "Gender and Sexual Minorities" and learned a lot from each namely how important it was that efforts be made to reach out to the extremely vulnerable and to testify on their behalf.

This theme was expanded upon during the keynote speech at lunch that was given by our friend, Ms. Connie Schultz who told us that as advocates we have the capacity to reach as many people as she can with her fine writing because we have the opportunity to talk to the people that we know about LGBT issues and thus personalize them.

img_5282Ms. Schultz left us with an appropriate parable as she told us about how her husband U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (with his deliciously raspy voice) once sang for his mother who lovingly told him that he was a more effective singer when he was part of a group. What Ms. Schultz said really struck a chord because we now realize that if all of the people who are friends of the LGBT community were to step outside their comfort zone on occasion and speak to those who are wary of the LGBT because they simply do not know that much about them, then real progress would be made and reactionary movements turned back.

The second networking event that we attended took place at D & S Automotive on Tyler Blvd. in Mentor and it was a special gathering of members from the chambers of commerce of Chardon, Euclid, Willoughby Western Lake County, Eastern Lake County, and Mentor.

We spoke to representatives from several accounting firms who often deal with foreign-born clients who have immigrated to the United States and started their own businesses. It was good to hear one man talk about how both sets of his grandparents immigrated here from Italy and one of his grandfathers opened a grocery store that soon turned into a coming-together location for his community.

It was especially interesting to talk to Mr. Keith Bales from M.C. Mobility Systems, Inc. about how his company's technicians were sent to Germany and Sweden for special training. He was more than glad to take our contact information in case his counterparts would ever have the need to come to the United States for a brief or extended period.

We also spoke to people from a couple of nonprofits who have had clients who were immigrants/refugees and how gratifying it was to work with them.

To be sure, we were tired after driving back and forth from Kent but we appreciated the opportunity to make such good connections that might help us now and in the future.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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