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Heroes Behind the Scenes

On Thursday, February 12th, we attended an event that started at 5pm in Tower City where we could stay for only a half hour because we had to hurry to University Heights to attend another event that started at 6pm at John Carroll University. We had to hurry, which was the only thing that one could do to avoid freezing, but we were very happy that we were able to attend both events. The first event in Tower City was the "Heroes Behind the Scenes" reception put on by Values-in-Action/Project Love in order to "celebrate everyday heroes who facilitate, manage, coordinate and maintain a culture of kindness and collaboration within their workplaces and Northeast Ohio's civic, business and philanthropic communities."

This honor was bestowed upon 10 people who "embody all the characteristics of a hero behind the scenes" and these people were Ms. Eileen Von Alt, Secretary to Bishop Richard Lennon, Catholic Diocese of Cleveland; Ms. Victoria Zak, Executive Assistant to the Chairman of Consolidated Solutions; Mr. Michael Krnac, Cleveland Office Administrator, Squire Patton Boggs, LLP; Ms. Barb Disterhof, Officer Manager of Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland; Ms. Karen Lerchbacher, General Manager of the Lubrizol Foundation; Ms. Barb Juknialis, Administrative Director of the Department of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University; Ms. Barbara J. Ruda, Registered Nurse, Cancer Care, Metrohealth Medical Center; Mr. Stephen Gaines, Deputy Bailiff, City of Cleveland; Ms. Aidalis "Deli" Mills, Management and Program Analyst, Ninth Coast Guard District Planning and Force Readiness; and the Reverend John Betters, Pastor, Ss. Robert and William Catholic Parish, Euclid. In addition to these top 10 people there were over 40 "Honorable Mentions."

We spoke to Mr. Stuart Muszynski, President and CEO of Values-in-Action Foundation/Project Love, and his wife Susan, who told us that this is the first time that a community in the United States has nominated and recognized "heroes behind the scenes" like we were doing that evening.

We respect the work of Project Hope which is a character-building education and training organization that empowers teens and adults "to create a culture of kindness, caring and respect by putting their values-in-action wherever they go." Ms. Mary Alice Casalina, Director of Schools at Project Hope, told us that this is accomplished by providing good role models for kids who are not taught values at home because "they need to see that they have a choice."

Ms. Patricia Darby, Facilitator at the Schnee Learning Center in Cuyahoga Falls, told us that "I like to light kids' fires in terms of hope."

We were also glad to note that one of the "Honorable Mentions" was someone from Margaret W. Wong and Associates named Michael Patterson. We wish him well.

While we were at Tower City, we visited for a moment with Ms. Barb Disterhof of Ronald McDonald House and Mr. Craig Wilson, its executive director in Cleveland. We told them that we had to leave in a little while to go to John Carroll University to watch Dr. Akram Boutros, Metrohealth President and CEO, receive the Golden Door Award from the International Services Center. Both Ms. Disterhof and Mr. Wilson were very happy to hear that Dr. Boutros was being so honored because he has been very supportive of their work. In fact, a Ronald McDonald Respa Family Room was created at Metrohealth.

We were glad that almost 200 people braved the cold to attend the Thursday evening gathering in honor of Dr. Boutros. We got to see a lot of our friends including Mr. Murat Gurer, Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Mr. and Mrs. Ken Kovach, Ms. Joy Roller, Ms. Anne Hill, Mr. Ben Stefanski, Ms. Mari Galindo-DaSilva, Mr. Ray Saikus, Ms. Lisa Wong and Ms. Meryl Johnson. During dinner we shared a table with Ms. Yvonne Malcolm who teaches English to at the International Newcomers Academy and Ms. Yolanda Burt who is President of the Board of Trustees at Mt. Pleasant Heritage House. We were particularly proud to see that Margaret W. Wong and Associates purchased an ad in the program booklet.

During her opening remarks, Ms. Rosemary Taft-Milby, President of the International Services Center Board of Trustees, said that the Golden Door Award was established to honor Americans of foreign birth who have made significant contributions to American life and culture. She introduced Ms. Karin Wishner, Executive Director, and said that she was "a woman of passion and guidance who pushes the agency forward."

Ms. Wishner reviewed the work and accomplishments of the International Services Center and talked about how important it is for the Cleveland community to embrace those who have immigrated to the United States from foreign countries. She cited the fact that for every $1.00 the community spends assisting an immigrant, the immigrant himself/herself will put $10 back into the community. She also mentioned that foreign born people were apt to start a business and create jobs and that their children were often outstanding students.

Dr. Boutros was introduced by his daughter, Ms. Jasmine Boutros who said that her family was no stranger to diversity and how grateful she was that her father exposed his family to other cultures. She talked about how her father immigrated to the United States from Egypt with his family when he was only 12 years old and spoke no English at all. Thus, when he started school here in the United States the only person he could communicate with was an Israeli boy (at a time when Egypt and Israel were very much at odds) and they bridged the gap by becoming close friends. Ms. Boutros was proud of her father's achievements at Metrohealth including a program that called for more diversity in hiring. She said that her father taught her that no matter where you are at in the world, you hang on to what you have learned before in other places to make positive changes for the betterment of society.

It was then time for Dr. Boutros to accept his award. During the course of his brief speech, he said that immigrants do not like to leave their homeland but come here for the "options" that the United States has to offer. Once they are here, though, they want to "belong" and if we can to one thing to help an immigrant it is to help them feel like they do. Dr. Boutros concluded by saying that the United States has given him so much including his family and acknowledged his wife, Suzanne, and their three daughters Jasmine, Tess, and Shannon. Dr. Boutros said, with a twinkle in his eye, that he learned more from his daughters than they learned from him and added that he knew they would largely agree with that statement.

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