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Coffee Contacts and the annual Heights-Hillcrest Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

On Thursday, May 7th, we attended three events and the first two involved expositions (of sorts). We started our day off renewing friends and acquaintances at "Coffee Contacts" for the Mentor/Painesville Chambers of Commerce. Today over 50 people attended and we all got to give our "30 second commercial" about the businesses that we represented.

We always say that we are from Margaret W. Wong and Associates, an immigration law firm and then either outline a success story or list the places that we have been in the last few days because the attendees always enjoy hearing about our "out and about" activities.

On this day, "Coffee Contacts' was conducted at the Craft and Antique Co-op on North Ridge Road in Painesville. We had never been there before and were very impressed. Mr. Dennis Dempsey, the owner, told us that it takes up an entire acre of land (47,000 sq. feet) and 150 vendors sell various antiques, crafts, and collectibles here. The Co-op has been in existence for 12 years now and vendors come from as far away as Michigan and Pennsylvania to do business. There is an auction every Thursday night and there is even a small café that enables the shopper to enjoy a coffee or a lunch.

One of the attendees who lives close by told us that her twelve year old son loves to come here and chat with the older vendors. She told us that the boy has quite a collection of shot glasses and pocket knives and she can't wait to see what he gets her for Mother's Day.

Later in the afternoon we went to the 21st annual Heights-Hillcrest Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Expo which was held at 700 Beta Banquet and Conference Center in Mayfield.

This expo ran from 2:30pm to 7pm and we arrived just before 3pm confident that we would find a parking space right by the entrance only to find that the main parking was completely full and we would have to park in the auxiliary parking lot across the street and chauffeured over via a minivan.

The expo took place in two large rooms and it would have been very tough to count all of the vendors on the spot but later we went through our written program, tallied them up, and found nearly 100 businesses and organizations took part. This does not count the informational booths set up by the cities of Cleveland Heights, Lyndhurst, Richmond Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and University Heights.

We walked around and had a few conversations with the vendors who included Ms. Penny K. Parker of "" who is an old friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong; and ease@work, a division of the Centers for Families and Children that provides employee assistance, work/life and wellness services to companies throughout Ohio. We learned that they did a lot of work with "El Barrio" and Ms. Julia N. Zetti, the Business Engagement Manager, attended the same fundraiser that we did several weeks ago in Lakewood. In addition we stopped and talked to a representative of "Ayusa" an organization that connects exchange students with families that can host them.

Of course it is always fun to see our good friends Ms. Angie Pohlman, Executive Director of the HHRC, who was busy dashing around trouble-shooting and Mr. Ken Kovach who was standing in one place and happily conducting the raffle.

Our third event for the day was the 40th Anniversary of the Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO) which was held at the Near West Theatre at 67th Street/Detroit Avenue in Cleveland. This event was sponsored by JP Morgan Chase and Co., Citizens Bank, and Third Federal Savings and Loan.

What made it extra special was that honored former U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes who was presented with a resolution from the Ohio State Senate by Ohio State Rep. Kent Smith who said that it was impossible to list all of the Congressman's accomplishments in just four paragraphs. Congressman Stokes, no stranger to award ceremonies, said that, "I can't tell you how much this means to me," and went on to say that the CTO "does the kinds of things that I went to Congress to do!"

Many political leaders turned out for this event including U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Cuyahoga County Councilpersons Dale Miller and Sunny Simon, Cleveland City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, and Brook Park City Councilman Mr. Tony D'Amico who is also on the staff of the CTO.

Ms. Angela Shuckahosee, Executive Director, praised both Congressman Stokes and Congresswoman Kaptur. She gave a brief presentation in which she discussed the history of the CTO stopping several times along to acknowledge the people who played a significant role in its development.

The mission of the CTO is to educate tenants and landlords, empower the community, and advocate for affordable, fair, and quality rental housing. Its vision statement is for a community that protects the rights of tenants and promotes affordable, safe, healthy, fair, and stable living conditions.

We talked to Ms. Gilda Malone, a landscaper and entrepreneur, who came to Cleveland from Montgomery, Alabama more than twenty years ago. She told us that the Cleveland Tenants Organization was the first organization in Cleveland to give her a voice. This occurred at a time when she was personally experiencing problems with the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority. Ms. Malone went on to say that the CTO helped her to straighten out the problem and went on to make public housing in Cleveland a lot better.

In the written program for the evening, Ms. Shuckahosee wrote that "CTO is a member of a prominent housing coalition that is working with our government leaders to build a more robust housing policy agenda. Together, we will make a difference for the 1.2 million people who call Cuyahoga County home-both our renters and homeowners."

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