Tabling at the 2016 Middle Eastern Festival; North Shore AFL-CIO Annual Labor Day Festival; 61st Annual Hungarian Scout Festival; Canonization Celebration of Blessed Mother Teresa
On Friday, September 2nd, we did our first day of Labor Day weekend tabling at the St. Elias Church 2016 Middle Eastern Festival on Memphis Avenue in Brooklyn.
Father Alex Harb who was visiting from St. Maron Church in Cleveland gave the opening prayer in which he asked God's blessing upon the people who worked so hard to put this festival together and all of those who visited this annual event that has been taking place for 52 years now. Father Alex smiled as he noted that the weather, only in the 70's and a welcome break from the grueling heat we have been experiencing, could not have been more beautiful for the occasion.
Our friend Pastor Naim Khalil from St. Elias Church said a few words too as he expressed his wish that this festival would bring people of different backgrounds together so that they could unite as one family.
We set up our table for Margaret W. Wong and Associates between those of CAMEO/Lebanese Cultural Garden and the International Community Health Center (ICHC) which is part of Asian Services in Action.
Our friends Mr. Pierre Bejjani and Ms. Mary Bejjani staffed the CAMEO/Lebanese Cultural Gardens table. At the ICHC table, free health screenings were provided by Dr. Muna Orra, DO with the assistance of Mr. Benjamin Yao, Ms. Sharon Jiang, Ms. Allison Yip, Ms. Lutetia Li, and Ms. Anne Ming who were there at various times. It seemed like Mr. Michael To, ICHC's Program Coordinator who was there throughout the evening, did a fine job of organizing.
Among the people who stopped by our booth were:
****A woman who had finally gotten all of the necessary paperwork together and wanted our advice on how to obtain dual citizenship.
****Ms. Maryland Ubaid from the Birzeit Society, a Palestinian organization, who thanked us for buying an ad for a program that they recently organized and gave us a copy of the guide in which the ad appeared.
****A young man who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon and was finally on his way to becoming a U.S. citizenship and was quite excited about it.
****Judicial candidates Ms. Tonya R. Jones (Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court) and Ms. Kelly Ann Gallagher (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas) stopped by to say hello to us.
****A person who took our contact information because he might have a question regarding an asylum matter.
****A woman who wanted to know what we thought of Cleveland accepting 10,000 refugees. After we told her that we thought it was a good thing, she said that she agreed.
On Saturday, August 4th, we suddenly discovered that the North Shore AFL-CIO was hosting its annual Labor Day Festival at James Day Park on West Pleasant Valley Road in Parma. It was getting late in the day but we resolved to catch the last of so off we went.
Things were shutting down when we got there but we still got to say hello to Ms. Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO and Mr. Patrick Corrigan, Business Manager of the Heat and Frost Insulators #3.
In addition we talked to representatives of the Unity Workers Union America, Local 270; Cleveland Federation of Musicians; and Boilermakers Local 44 and gave them our contact information in case someone they were affiliated with had an immigration issue.
From there, we hurried back to St. Elias Church in Brooklyn to table some more for Margaret W. Wong and Associates.
Once again, Mr. Michael To from ICHC was there and today Mr. Mark Rodney, a community health worker who specializes in helping the Arab/Middle Eastern community was tabling with him.
M. Pierre Bejjani introduced us to Ms. Lisa Edwards from the Hillary Clinton campaign who was at St. Elias Church with several members of her crew registering voters. We enjoyed talking to Ms. Edwards about the prospects and potential of the campaign.
When we finally sat down at our table, we were soon visited by Ms. Donna Coury who is running for Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division. We took her information and forwarded it to Ms. Margaret W. Wong who is an old friend of the Coury family.
We also talked with two people who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon and wanted to talk to our office regarding assistance in bringing family members here too.
Among other people that we had conversations with throughout the rest of the afternoon and the evening were:
****A man named Richard who attends La Sagrada Familia Church on Detroit Avenue where we tabled several weeks ago. Richard told us that he may know a couple of people there who were experiencing a situation pertaining to immigration and promised to refer our office to them.
****A man who immigrated to the United States many years ago from Syria thumbed through Ms. Wong's book "The Immigrant's Way" and was impressed that someone took the time to research the history of immigration to the United States as Ms. Wong did. He said that it would be good if we could all go back in time 200 years ago to see what our ancestors went through. We offered him a copy of the book which he politely declined but urged us to keep up the good work.
****Another man named Tom stopped by our table and said that he had read "The Immigrant's Way" and liked it a lot.
****Finally, on a lighter note, we met a funny guy who said that he had green card issues and wanted to know if we knew anyone that he could marry so that he could stay in the United States. We said that off the top of our head, we did not. He said that he was a "fugitive" out here in Cleveland so we asked him where from and he replied, "California" which we could relate to since we are from California and have no intention of moving back there. We both laughed and exchanged contact information.
On Sunday, September 4th, we began our day at the opening ceremonies for the 61st Annual Hungarian Scout Festival which was held at German Central Farm on York Road in Parma.
Opening ceremonies started at 10am but we arrived at 10am so we had time to watch the scouts practice a dance named "Gyimes" under the direction of Mr. Tas Nadas that would be performed later in the day. We visited for a moment with Mr. Mike Horvath, Secretary of the American Hungarian Friends of Scouting and said hello to Ms. Andrea Meszaros, the district commander, who was busy with last-minute preparations.
We talked to Mr. Richard E. Sarosi, National Director of the William Penn Association, a fraternal benefit society that provides life insurance and annuities. Mr. Sarosi, who has seen us at other Hungarian events, said that it was founded far back in 1886 by immigrant Hungarian coal miners.
Finally, the ceremonies began with the scouts, both boys and girls, marching into the quad. Music was played and flags were raised. Then Mr. Imre Landvai-Linter, President of the Hungarian Scouts, accompanied by Mr. Meszaros and Ms. Irene Dala marched from company to company and quietly conferred with the scout leaders.
Then the formation was dismissed and everyone got ready to attend mass.
For us, however, it was time to move on to our next event was the "Canonization Celebration of Blessed Mother Teresa" which was held at the Albanian Cultural Garden. Earlier in the day, Pope Francis had officially declared Mother Teresa a saint during morning Mass at St. Peter's Square which was, according to news reports, attended by thousands of people.
As far as Cleveland goes, we estimated that over 100 people gathered before Mother Teresa's statue in the Garden for ceremonies that were presided over by Cleveland City Councilperson Dona Brady who said that this was "a glorious day." Councilperson Brady was instrumental in the creation of the Albanian Garden and so she talked about the garden's history and how those planning it knew that a focal point was needed so they decided to make it a statue of Mother Teresa who was born of Albanian parents in Macedonia even though she is was mostly known for her work in India. Since this event was attended by many people who had Albanian roots, Mr. Adem F. Meta translated Councilperson Brady's Welcome.
During her remarks, Ms. Sheila Crawford, President of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation, said that it was fitting that the Gardens be used as a place to honor people who have distinguished the countries that have Gardens there. She recalled the tribute to William Shakespeare that took place in the British Garden 100 years ago.
Ms. Crawford then spoke of Mother Teresa and said that she admired her for her hard work, the fact that she helped so many people find peace, and that she didn't think in terms of nationalities; she treated all people the same. Accordingly, Ms. Crawford said that it was only appropriate that Cleveland honor Mother Teresa because we have a history of being open to all nationalities and immigrants to come here and settle.
Our friend Mr. Asim Datta, the former President of the Federation of the India Community of Northeast Ohio was the next speaker. Mr. Datta was born and raised in Calcutta and in honor of Mother Teresa, he chose to wear a sari on this day which was her traditional dress. Mr. Datta talked of the work that Mother Teresa had done to help the poor and the sick. "Sometimes we move away from the poor and the sick," said Mr. Datta, "but she moved towards them." As part of his presentation, Mr. Datta sang a song that was a favorite of Mother Teresa's that was also sung earlier at the Vatican ceremony.
Sister Kathleen Ryan, Director of the Social Action Office of the Diocese of Cleveland, said that Mother Teresa's canonization was "one of the greatest events in the history of the Catholic Church." She had met Mother Teresa, herself, when she was quite young. Sister Kathleen has worked extensively to assist immigrants from Albania. She thus believed that Mother Teresa inherited many of the qualities that helped her succeed from her Albanian parents such as hard work, devotion, love of family, loyalty, the ability to work together and the endurance of hardship in order to achieve a greater goal.
Our friend, Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, FACHE Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, reviewed the life of Mother Teresawho became a nun when she was quite young and her tremendous capacity to perform good deeds and influence others in a positive manner. This can be witnessed by the order that she established, the Missionaries of Charity which started off with only 12 members and now has 4,500 representatives in 130 countries.
Finally, Bishop Roger Gries, O.S.B.,Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus, reviewed that process that had to take place before Mother Teresa was recognized as a Saint and the miracles accredited to her and her faith. Bishop Gries went on to say that the things we should take from the life of Mother Teresa and put to use in our own lives are being an advocate for those who have no voice, not being afraid to ask for help when it is needed, having a consistent and abundant prayer life, live humbly, and smile because when we smile we share an important part of ourselves with others. On the "live humbly" aspect, he told a telling story about how Mother Teresa once visited a shopping mall and was stunned by the number of things that she saw there but did NOT need.
The ceremonies then came to an end with the release of a white dove and bells being rung. Afterwards, we all laid the flowers that we were given on the base of Mother Teresa's statue. Our good friend Mr. Joseph Meissner said something really profound and true when he said that Mother Teresa "became a Saint this morning but to a lot of us, she already was."
After the event at the Albanian Cultural Garden, we sped over to St. Elias Church to set up our table again.
Things were not too busy at first but they grew busier as the day went on. Mr. Mark Rodney was back at the ICHC table doing medical screenings and we talked for a while with Mr. Pierre Bejjani from CAMEO who was tabling next to us.
Judge Matthew A. McMonagle, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, and his wife, Lisa, had been there for a while talking to the festival attendees and were getting ready to leave when they saw us arrive so they stayed a few minutes more to see how we were doing. We were impressed by how much they genuinely cared.
The musical group, Mike Jacobs and the Highliters was there playing classic songs for people to dance to like "New York, New York" and they performed until 3pm.
Then, about 3:30pm the 3rd Annual Hummus Competition was conducted in which five panelists tasted and rated hummus from twelve contributors, mostly local eateries. The contest was conducted by Ms. Jomana Mansour and the panelists were Mr. Jim Farris, Dr. Barbara Hatoum, MD., Ms. Therese Afram, Mr. Tom Johnson, and Ms. Debbie Snook, Food Editor with the "Cleveland Plain Dealer." In the end, the hummus provided by Sitto's Pita and Salad was named the winner.
Before he left, Mr. Johnson, a local and noted chef, walked over and told us that he had once worked with our Ms. Rose Wong on some cooking projects.
Other people who stopped by our table on this day were:
****A woman who just came from visiting the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. We asked if she was at the event that we attended at the Albanian Garden and she said that unfortunately she wasn't but she loved exploring the Gardens with her friend. She correctly pointed out that one could spend two full days there visiting the all of the Gardens and taking in their ambiance.
****A man who immigrated from Egypt 43 years ago and has been a citizen for 38 of those years said that he admired us for what we were doing but by now his situation was all in order and he had no need for our services.
****Another man who said that he wasn't an immigrant but his parents were; one of them immigrated here from Italy and the other from Australia and they met each other at Cedar Point. He laughed as he said, "I bet you don't see too many Italian/Australian combinations do you?" referring to himself.
Throughout the day we loved listening to the pop songs/oldies-but-goodies played by WIXY-1260 that was broadcasting from the festival and after dark there was plenty of Middle Eastern music to dance to which many people did.
On Monday, September 5th, we returned to St. Elias Church for our last day of tabling.
Predictably, the last day of the festival was not as busy as the other three but there were still quite a few people there in the afternoon so we stayed there for several hours. Mr. Bob Haddad, one of the festival organizers, told us that attendance was a lot better this year than last year because last year the weather was quite hot but this year it cooled down just in time for Labor Day.
On this day, Ms. Angie Sotelo, who immigrated to the United States from Argentina around 1970, stopped by our table and we visited for a few minutes. Ms. Sotelo likes to read about immigrants and knew of the work of Ms. Margaret W. Wong so we gave her a copy of Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way." Later in the afternoon, we bid farewell to Pastor Khalil and were on our way home.
We believe that it is only appropriate that credit be given at this time to Mr. Juan Roman from Buckeye Family Dental on Pearl Road who diligently kept an eye on his business' table throughout the weekend. Successful tabling requires dedication and Mr. Roman displayed it; however, we only got around to telling him this on Monday.
It had been a good festival for us and we look forward to returning to it next year.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC