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Out & About in Cleveland

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First Friday Club of Cleveland

Our next event was the monthly luncheon of the First Friday Club of Cleveland where the speaker was Dr. Carolyn Woo, President and CEO, of Catholic Relief Services since 2012. Catholic Relief Charities (CRS) was founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to assist World War II survivors in Europe. On this day we learned that its work is present in almost 100 countries on five continents and it works with 1,200 local partners only 50% of whom are Catholic. It's mission is to serve the poorest and the most vulnerable "on the basis of need, not creed."

We rode up to the City Club (where the First Friday Club always meets) on the elevator with Dr. Woo so we asked her if she had ever met Ms. Margaret W. Wong. Dr. Woo replied that she had not but she really should meet Ms. Wong and get to know her because they probably have many things in common because they both immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong around the same time.

Upon arriving, Dr. Woo had a conversation with Mr. Pat Gareau, the President and CEO of Cleveland Catholic Charities but they were both nice enough to pose for a photo for our blog. We also visited with Sister Kathleen Ryan, Director of the Diocesan Social Action Office, and Ms. Kelly Davis, Director of Catholic Relief Services at Cleveland Catholic Charities. Both of them said that they hoped that Ms. Margaret W. Wong would come to this lunch and a moment or two later Ms. Wong, herself, did arrive and everyone was very glad to see her including Dr. Woo who finally got to meet her and have a brief visit before everyone settled in for lunch and the program.

We were assigned to Table #8 which we shared with Ms. Kathy Harris, a retired computer programmer who worked for the Cleveland School Board; Mr. Joe Manning from the Riverside Company; and Mr. Patrick Whitmore from KeyBank. At the table across from us sat Mr. Frank Wardega, the National Facilitator from Christ Renews His Parish. Mr. Wardega told us that in 2013 Foreign Policy magazine had named Dr. Woo as one of the 500 most powerful people on the planet and one of only 33 in the category of a force for good.

During her presentation, Dr. Woo talked about her background and how she was educated by the missionary sisters so she considered herself a product of the "American Universalist Church."

She devoted the great majority of her presentation talking about CRS and the work that it does. She said that she always considered herself to be "enlightened" but would skip over certain parts of newspaper stories dealing with conditions abroad and was never very much into geography but the job that she does now has certainly changed all of that because CRS has been all over the world in the most difficult places and plans to be more involved in places like Nigeria.

Dr. Woo quoted a prayer that asked God to provide food for people who are hungry and, for those who have been fed, provide them with justice. In order to accomplish this, the workers from CRS and those associated with it must maintain faith, take action and produce results. Dr. Woo also talked about what an inspiration Mother Teresa was to her and how she has high hope for the tenure of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group because he has expressed a preference for helping the poor by way of radically reducing the poverty rate in the next 15 years and to carefully monitor the areas where money has been invested to make sure that it helps the most vulnerable.

Not too surprisingly, though, Dr. Woo contended that the biggest problem that CRS has to deal with is not poverty but violence because without violence significant economic strides are possible.

Everyone present at this gathering was very impressed by Dr. Woo and what she had to say including Ms. Margaret W. Wong. As he was closing the program Bishop Roger Gries said that Dr. Woo might have problems reading a map but she certainly took us around the World today.

Our last event for Thursday took us to P.J. McIntyre's on Lorain Avenue and Rocky River Drive in Cleveland where Fairview Park City Council President Michael Kilbane was having a fundraiser. We have known Mr. Kilbane for years and admire him for working hard on behalf of his constituents and the things he believes in. When we first arrived we asked Mr. Kilbane what he plans to do if he is re-elected this year and he said that he would do the same thing that he always has which is to "fight for the working families in my city."

By all indications Mr. Kilbane is admired in just in Fairview Park but throughout the Cleveland area since Parma Heights Mayor Mike Byrne and South Euclid Councilman Marty Gelfand turned up to support him as well as Fairview Park Mayor Eileen Patton and several fellow Fairview Park councilpersons.

Former Fairview Park Clerk of Council Ms. Tracy Nolan said that she likes Mr. Kilbane because of his consistency-he supports the people and the issues that he believes are right even though they might not be particularly popular.

Fellow Fairview Park Councilperson Peggy Cleary said that Mr. Kilbane is brave and courageous in principle, he is honest and he will not back down. What's more he is well-informed, organized, fair, responsible, considerate and doesn't use his power as President of City Council to punish the council members who do not agree with him. Councilperson Cleary said that Mr. Kilbane has helped Fairview Park because, since it has been President, the council has been more organized and works more efficiently.

There must have been fifty people packed into the downstairs room at P.J. McIntrye's while the musical duet, the Porter Sharks, appropriately played Irish music from beginning to end.

We had a good time visiting with people that we hadn't seen in a while and wished that there were more Michael Kilbanes out there.

Out & Aboutimwong