Polish Festival, Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus and "Keeping the Doors Open" A Benefit for St. Colman Church
On the weekend of October 2nd through October 4th, we spent quite a bit of our time tabling at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus' 24th annual Polish Festival in Slavic Village. This was the third consecutive year that Margaret W. Wong and Associates has tabled at this event because, as Cleveland City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli (12th Ward) wrote in a letter that appeared in the program booklet, "the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus stands as an anchor in a community that is experiencing a resurgence." Councilman Brancatelli also wrote that the "Broadway Slavic Village neighborhood was built on Eastern European roots and our Polish heritage shines through the incredible music, dance, food, and special beverages. Cleveland is known for its warm hospitality, rich history and cultural diversity, all of which you will experience at the St. Stanislaus Polish Festival." To be sure, we certainly loved the Polka music of the Box-On Band, Ray Jay and the Carousels, and the Polka Generation. We also had to restrain ourselves from eating too many perogies, potato pancakes and scoops of smooth mashed potatoes. Once again, we credit the event organizers Mr. David Krakowski and Mr. Larry Bender as well as consistent workers like Ms. Connie Schultz for doing a terrific job. On Saturday night, we talked to Ms. Maria Paganini who immigrated from Poland 30 years ago with a little help from Ms. Margaret W. Wong who assisted her with some of her paperwork. Ms. Paganini told us to be sure to thank Ms. Wong for once sponsoring Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra which is the only one like it in the United States and makes use of international talent from such countries as Israel and Japan. Another person who stopped by was Ms. Millie Migliorini who worked for our Ms. Rose Wong for 15 years and knows all of the Wong family and admires them a lot. Our table was located near that of Ms. Krystyna Sweeney, a retired school principal who now sells Polish pottery at festivals throughout the United States because she loves to travel and loves to keep her Polish heritage alive. We talked to her for a while and learned that her parents and brothers and sisters all immigrated from Poland to the United States where she was born. During World War II, Ms. Sweeney's parents (who came from the same village) were prisoners in a German concentration camp. Her father escaped, though, and joined the Polish underground. He initially immigrated to the United States in 1946 and was able to bring his wife and children here in 1949. He worked as a railroad worker and his wife made clothing. They learned English eventually but Ms. Sweeney recalled that her dad always had a beautiful Polish accent which she loved. Ms. Sweeney was staying in a motel in Lakewood so we urged her to try a coffee and a vegan cookie at the Breadsmith at the corner of West Clifton and Detroit for breakfast before she returned to Nashville when the festival was over. During the course of the festival, we were heartened when a few people stopped by our table to say that they didn't like when some politicians were saying about immigrants as of late. Especially perturbed was a woman who said she found it offensive that some people were talking about immigrants as if they were not human. One man said that except for Native Americans, "we are all immigrants off the boat unless we walked here." Overall, we would say that the spirit of the festival was best captured by the Reverend Father Eric S. Orzech, Pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, who wrote that "most of all, we hope that our hospitality allows everyone to gather and enjoy each other's company in a true 'homecoming' for, as a family of faith, building up and strengthening our community is the ultimate reward for all of our efforts." (Just before we shutdown our table on Sunday, Ms. Sweeney stopped us and said that she had been to the Breadsmith and bought all kinds of good things and just "loved" the vegan cookies) On Sunday, October 4th, we left the festival for a while so we could attend the first annual "Keeping the Doors Open-A Benefit for St. Colman Church" which Margaret W. Wong and Associates contributed to. It was held at the West Side Irish American Club (WSIA) on Jennings Way in Olmsted Falls. As Ms. Eileen Kelly, St. Colman's Outreach Director, and Ms. Debbie O'Boyle, a benefit co-chair, explained the gathering was so titled because several years ago the parish had to fight to keep their doors open when the hierarchy planned to close it. The parishioners won so now they want to do all that they can to keep their doors open for years to come. Plus, last year around this time St. Colman Church had a very successful benefit for Father Bob Begin here at the WSIA so they wanted to do something like that each year. We enjoyed attending this because we got to see old friends like Mr. Jim Goggin, Mr. John O' Brien, Ms. Mary Campbell Stack, Mr. Murray Evans and Ms. Margot De La Rosa, and Ms. Pat Neforos from whom we bought our ticket. Also being initiated in 2015 was the practice of giving awards to people/businesses who have made a significant contribution to St. Colman Church, the neighborhood surrounding it, and the community. On this day these awards would be presented to the proprietors of three family-owned businesses which were Sokolowski's University Inn in Tremont (accepted by the Mr. Bernie Sokolowski and Ms. Mary Sokolowski); Mr. Pete Leneghan and Ms. Eileen Sammon of the Stone Mad Pub on West 65th Street; and the Page family for Honey Nut Ice Cream (accepted by Mr. Bruce Page) which has locations in Cleveland, Parma, Solon and New Brunswick. Mr. Jim Kilbane, a member of Friends of St. Colman, explained the financial status of the church to us all. Currently, things look good because someone bequeathed to the church a condo which was sold for a significant amount and enabled it to meet expenses and have a small reserve. On top of this, Bishop Lennon also arranged for St. Colman to receive a sizable grant to create a parking lot. So, all told, if people continue to donate generously, the doors should remain open for quite a long time which is what we all want. As an information sheet that was passed out reminded us, St. Colman Church has been standing for nearly 100 years and welcomed the first Irish immigrants when they first arrived in Cleveland and the priests and sisters helped them find jobs, housing and obtain an education. It is an "architectural treasure" and a "beacon of hope" where people received help through its many outreach programs. When we were in the parking lot, we ran into Father Bob Begin (now retired) and took his photograph. Father Begin laughed and said that we must have many photographs of him by now. "Yes," we replied, "we just can't get enough of you!" As one can tell, we really moved around on Sunday and our last event for the day, after we shutdown at the St. Stanislaus Church Festival, was a fundraiser for Councilwoman Jennifer Mahnic, who is serving her 4th two-year term as At-Large Councilwoman in Broadview Heights. She will stand for re-election this November in a field that has five contenders (including herself) competing for three seats. This time, however, due to a recent change, the length of the term will be four years. The fundraiser was held at Corleone's Restaurant and Bar in Parma. Ms. Mahnic told us that one of the things that she is most proud of is that she has established a reputation as a public servant who listens to her constituents and has their best interests in mind. She is also able to work with her fellow council members and accomplish things for her community. We got to meet former state legislator Frank Mahnic, Jr. (Councilwoman Mahnic's father) who was in Leadership Cleveland with Ms. Margaret W. Wong. Mr. Mahnic (also a Vietnam veteran) served in the Ohio state legislature from 1979 to 1992 when re-districting forced him to retire. Other notables who attended the fundraiser were former Parma Mayor Dean DiPiero and Mr. Chris Miles who was a Portage County commissioner for 24 years. It was interesting that Councilwoman Mahnic's sister, Ms. Lisa Mahnic was a county prosecutor who once worked with the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones when she served as Cuyahoga County Prosecutor before she became a U.S. Congresswoman. We told Ms. Mahnic that we had attended an event involving the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Art Gallery at Cleveland-Hopkins Airport earlier in the week where memories of her were shared. Before we left, we spoke with Mr. Pete Bosinger who both supports Ms. Mahnic and owns Corleone's so he was proud to have an event here for her. When we told him that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, he brightened and told us that his father immigrated to the United States from Hungary after World War II. He also took a card from us in case he should encounter anyone who might need our services.