On the weekend of July 24, 25, and 26th we had to make ourselves known at two local festivals which were St. Sergius Cathedral’s Russian Festival held this year at German Central Park on York Road in Parma and the 33rd Annual Irish Cultural Festival held at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea.

We made arrangements with Ms. Laura Verbiski, Community Outreach and Marketing Co-Chair of the Russian Festival for Margaret W. Wong and Associates to purchase an ad for the program booklet that read, “Celebrating Russian Culture and Heritage!” and arrived early on Friday to hang a banner for our office on the Outdoor Stage between the Main Hall and the Russian Tea Room which we remained there throughout the festival. When we took it down on Sunday evening we ran into our dear friend, Mr. Ken Kovach who was there to take down the banner that he hung next to our on behalf of One World Day which will take place on August 23rd. From what we saw and heard, the festival was beautiful and we were sorry we could not have enjoyed the food, fellowship and entertainment.

This was because we were maintaining an information table for Margaret W. Wong and Associates at the fairgrounds. No one had an exact figure as to how many people attended the annual Irish festival but the people who had been working it consistently over the years were very pleased with the turnout which they largely attributed to warm, festival weather.

Ms. Kathleen Golobic said that “this festival has been going on for 33 years and I’ve been here for 29 of them!”

At various times over the weekend we walked through “the newest festival feature” which was the Temple Bar and Museum where one could relax, have a drink and look at an abundance of photos that really captured the flavor of Ireland. All weekend long there were lectures and workshops on Irish history and culture. Next year we hope to arrange things so we can spend more time there.

Yet we were very happy with our location which was in the same building as the Claddagh Stage were Irish bands and musicians performed all weekend. We didn’t realize it until this weekend but a good deal of the Irish music seems to be written from an immigrant’s point of view since it deals with longing for the beauty of one’s homeland.

We particularly enjoyed listening to Mr. James Kilbane perform because he talked a lot between his songs so we learned that a lot of the first wave of people of immigrated to the United States from Ireland settled in the Appalachia mountains of Virginia and Kentucky and laid the groundwork for the country western music of today. Indeed Mr. Kilbane played a couple of Irish songs and a couple of country western songs and we were struck by their similarities. Mr. Kilbane also talked about how the late Ms. June Carter Cash was of Irish descent and she and Mr. Johnny Cash honeymooned in Ireland, a country that Mr. Cash found so beautiful that he wrote the ever popular “40 Shades of Green.”

Many vendors were in our building and we were located between our friend Mr. Patrick Coyne who was there promoting the Ohio Celtic Festival which will take place August 7-9 in Eastlake and Professor Sean Webber who taught courses on the Culture of Ireland for many years at Carnegie Mellon. This weekend Professor Webber was at the festival selling lovely cards depicting the saints and other characters of Irish folklore. A customer would purchase a card and Professor Webber would write the customer’s name on the back of the card in Gaelic and what the name signified.

As usual, we ran into a lot of people who knew/knew of Ms. Wong and many people stopped by our booth to chat or to ask about a particular issue either they or of friend of theirs was having regarding immigration. These included:

Ms. Eileen Manganstull was the emcee of the Emerald Stage across the way. She has been working at the Irish festival for 20 years now and said that she thought Ms. Margaret W. Wong was great because she has helped a lot of people.

Mr. Jim McConnell from “Fired Up Glass and Creations” had lunch with Mr. George Wong earlier in the week and told us that he considered Ms. Margaret W. Wong to be a “sweetie” as well as an old family friend.

Several people stopped by to inquire about how to obtain dual citizenship for the United States and Ireland. They plan to call our office and then decide what works for them.

A small child stopped by and asked what Margaret W. Wong and Associates was all about. When we told him that we helped people who had issues pertaining to immigration the child said that he knew a lot of people who had already come here from other countries but he didn’t know of anyone who was planning to immigrate at this time. We gave the youngster a nectarine.

We discussed immigration for a moment with Mr. Dennis O’Connell, a farmer who immigrated from Ireland and settled in Canada in 1991. Mr. O’Connell came to Cleveland from Canada to attend this festival. This brought to mind a conversation that we had had with Mr. John O’Brien who founded the festival years ago. Mr. O’Brien said that one of the things that people really enjoy about it is that they get to hook up with people that they normally wouldn’t see.

A man named Jim who has traced his ancestry back seven generations. He has done all that he can in Cleveland and is considering traveling to West Virginia where he was raised to do more research. He thought that Margaret W. Wong and Associates was a genealogy service as did several other people. We advised all of them to check out Western Reserve Historical Society, the Mormon Church in Kirkland, or ancestry.com

A person who worked in the Department of Family Medicine at MetroHealth recalled Ms. Margaret W. Wong helping some residents who had visa issues years ago.

Mr. Ted Miller, a musician who plays with the group, County Mayo, told us how much he enjoyed going to Washington, D.C. with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform last year. We discussed immigration reform for a moment and, of course, we both agreed that it was badly needed.

A social worker from Fairview Clinic took several of our brochures which she plans to give to several people she deals with who are dealing with immigration matters. She said that Fairview Clinic assists a lot of people who are Spanish speaking but lately they have been working with people who have immigrated to the United States from Nepal as well as other countries in the Middle East.

Mr. Brian Marek from Margaret W. Wong and Associates stopped by to say hello. We got to meet his charming wife and his dad.

A woman took our contact information for her co-worker whose husband might have to return Columbia due to immigration problems.

On Saturday night there was a 5K going in the field next door. We walked over to the fence and chatted with a couple of the runners. One of them was a young man from Brazil named Jacques who would like to obtain a green card. We ran back to our table and brought Jacques back our contact information and a nectarine.

A young man from the University of Akron took a lot of our brochures because he knows several people there who might be in need of our help. He said that our being at the festival and him being there was “perfectly timed.”

To no surprise, there were vendors in various parts of the fairgrounds. We walked around and gave out our contact info to those who have business connections in Ireland. One person we talked to was a young man from Ireland who may want to extend his visa.

Every year at this festival on Sunday morning a mass takes place. This year it was conducted by Reverend Father Thomas Mahoney. During prayers it was asked that immigrants from all nations be blessed and that those of us who were already living in the United States feel comfortable with these new immigrants as well as the new immigrants finding comfort from being here with us.

We like to attend as many events as we can within an hour’s driving distance from Cleveland so on Tuesday, July 28th, we got up early to drive to Sheffield Village by 7:30am to attend a North Coast Chamber of Commerce structured networking event at Montrose Kia called “Bagels and Business Cards” in which the chamber provided the bagels and coffee and we came prepared with plenty of business cards.

Mr. John Sobolewski, Executive Director of the North Coast Chamber, said that research had revealed that networking was the number one reason that people joined a chamber so the administration was doing as much as they could to create as many networking opportunities as possible.

On this day, the structured networking involved people sitting opposite each other at long tables. Each person got two minutes each to talk about themselves and/or their companies before one side moved over one chair and the other side stayed and got ready to talk to his/her new networking partner.

Of course, by now we knew many of the people that we spoke to but, still, we got to meet some new people like a representative from Liberty Mutual Insurance who sometimes deals with foreign born clients; a person from Riverstone Capital Consultants who let us know that he could possibly help our clients with financial matters; a college student who is majoring in business and wanted to meet people and make a few contacts for his future; and a sales professional from Montrose Kia who says that sometimes that people who have immigrated to the United States from other countries sometimes do come there to purchase cars-in fact last week a customer was telling him that he was planning to stay in the United States permanently and in the process of making this happen.

Mr. John D. Hunter, Mayor and Safety Director of Sheffield Village, spoke for a few minutes and said that getting business people together is what it is all about because when businesses can work with each other new customers are created.

On Tuesday night we went to a program put on by the Maltz Museum, that actually took place at CWRU’s Siegal Lifelong Learning Program-Beachwood Facility on Shaker Blvd., titled “Breaking the Gender Barrier: Justine Siegal’s Story” in which Dr. Justine Siegal, herself, talked about how her lifelong love of baseball and her determination to realize her potential motivated her to overcome gender barriers and become a role model for female athletes particularly ball players throughout the world.

To be sure, Dr. Siegal always had the support of her family and her now 17 year-old daughter, Jasmine who was there with her at the Siegal Facility as were many of her family members. We sat next to Mr. Jay Fertel, her grandfather’s cousin, who said that it was “very unusual for Justine to have accomplished what she has accomplished.”

Dr. Siegal talked about how she dreamed of being a Cleveland Indians’ player and played baseball quite well. Then, when she was 13 her coach told her that a girl couldn’t be on the baseball team-she should play girls’ softball. A similar experience occurred a few years later after she had reasoned that she would probably never get to be part of the Cleveland Indians as a player so she set her sights on coaching for them. Subsequently, her own high school coach laughed outright and said that no male ball player would ever take instructions from a woman.

Nevertheless, Dr. Siegal persevered and ultimately succeeded. In 2009 she became the first woman to coach first base in men’s professional baseball through her work with the Brockton Rox and the CanAm League. On February 22, 2011 she became the first woman to throw batting practice for a MLB team when she threw for the Cleveland Indians and went on to throw for the Athletics, Rays, Cardinals, Astros, and the Mets.

Career-wise she earned a doctorate in in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Springfield College, MA and is now the Director of Sports Partnerships at the Center for the Study of Sports in Society at Northeastern University. She is also the Founder and Executive Director for “Baseball for All” that works to provide meaningful opportunities for young people in baseball, particularly young women.

One of the people present at this event was Ms. Susan Petrone who has known Dr. Siegal for years. Ms. Petrone has authored a novel in which baseball is an important element titled “Throw Like a Woman” which was published earlier this year.

Another person who was there was Ms. Alanna Cooper, Director of Jewish Lifelong Learning at the Siegal Facility, said that it was a shame that she didn’t bring her young daughter to hear Dr. Siegal; we think it was a shame that our son, Brendan, who coaches water polo in California couldn’t have been there.

We got to talk to Dr. Siegal’s daughter, Jasmine, for a moment and learned that although she is totally supportive of what her mother is doing, her own passion is the arts which is absolutely fine with Dr. Siegal because, as she said, her daughter is the most important thing in her life and only hopes that Jasmine will love what she does “and gives back to her community.” Already, she considers Jasmine to be “very much her own person. She is confident, thoughtful, happy, and inspiringly creative.”

As we were leaving we stopped and chatted with Dr. Mitchell Rose, Ph.D, registered patent agent with Jones Day about Margaret W. Wong and Associates and, like Dr. Siegal, how determined immigrants are to succeed.

The most inspirational and moving part of the evening for us was when Dr. Siegal, who has played baseball all over the world, talked about how a game that she played when she was 19 years old in Venezuela; afterwards a man walked up to her and said that his daughter always wanted to play baseball but he had never allowed it because he didn’t consider it to be a girls’ game. Now, after watching Justine Siegal, his mind had been changed. It was then that Dr. Siegal realized that she had the potential to be a powerful force for change in the lives of both men and women.

We almost didn’t make it over to the City Club on Wednesday due to the fact that the Cleveland Indians were playing that afternoon so all of the streets in the vicinity of East 9th and Euclid were jammed and parking lots were full. In fact, we inched along for over a half hour before we finally managed to pull into the lot of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association near 9th and St. Clair. From there we hurried, as fast as we could in the heat, several blocks to the City Club and managed to get there just before the program started.

Today’s presentation was titled “Patient Experience Partners: Raising the Bar in Northeast Ohio” which was a panel discussion featuring Dr. Adrienne Boissy, M.D., M.A., Chief Experience Officer, of the Cleveland Clinic; Ms. Catherine S. Koppelman, R.N., M.S.N., Chief Nursing and Patient Experience Officer, University Hospitals; Dr. Sara Laskey, M.D., Chief Experience Officer, the MetroHealth System; and Ms. Sue Tyler, Executive V.P. and Chief Experience Officer, Medical Mutual. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Sarah Tribble, WPCN Health Reporter.

First of all, it seemed like all of the panelists would agree that Wikipedia’s definition of “Chief Experience Officer” or CXO is correct when it says that it is “the officer responsible for the overall user experience (UX) of an organization. This executive is ultimately responsible for the strategy behind the user interface design of the organization’s products and services and may oversee marketing communications, community relations, internal relations, HR relations, investor relations, and other interactions between the organization and its various audiences.” Wikipedia went on to include a quote by author Mr. Howard Larkin, who wrote in “Hospitals and Health Networks”, that in healthcare the CXO “is responsible for making sure every aspect of a complex delivery system consistently meets basic patient and human needs” and what it calls “operationalizing the patient experience mission.”

All of the panelists talked about how their organizations are working to make the patient experience a more positive, interactive one with not just the doctors and the nurses but with all members of their staffs.

Ms. Koppelman said that this was about “culture, values and beliefs.” She talked about meetings are often started by addressing one aspect of the patient experience and often patients, themselves, are brought in to talk to the medical professionals.

Ms. Tyler talked about how phone calls in which the insured talks about problems with their medical coverage are carefully analyzed to note trends in complaints so that those who answer the phones can be taught how to better deal with them.

Dr. Boissy discussed how the Cleveland Clinic tries to find the right balance between realizing that medical professionals, as well as other staff members, are often overworked and doing their best but at the same time motivating them to improve their performances and providing training and resources for them to do so.

Dr. Laskey talked about a rewards systems at MetroHealth where “pay it forward” pins are used for medical professionals/staff to reward each other for truly exemplary work.

Clearly morale and training are very, very important as are the various patient surveys. Thus the panel spent several minutes discussing the in’s and out’s of surveys and how technology can often be employed to register the patient’s immediate response to the treatment that he/she is receiving instead of having to wait until the treatment is completed.

It was this last item involving patient feedback that really interested us because we know that in order to be accurate, a survey would have to take under consideration the different cultures and languages of foreign born people. We spoke to Dr. Boissy and Dr. Laskey about this afterwards and they were 100% in agreement with us and talked to us about how their organizations are constantly striving to improve themselves. Subsequently, they both took our contact information so that we could be invited to one of their upcoming trainings so that we could observe what they were doing.

We also talked to Ms. Tribble, the moderator, who said that she had covered stories in which healthcare for immigrants played an important role. Ms. Tribble then put forward the idea that a whole program, perhaps at the City Club, could be done around this topic and we think we might look into making this happen.

So, in the end, even though getting to the City Club on this day was tough; we were ultimately glad that we did.

On Wednesday night we braved the heat to attend a Bluegrass Concert put on by the Cleveland Orchestra in Wade Oval in University Circle which was attended by 4,000 to 5,000 people.

Each year University Circle, Inc. puts on several events to thank its supporters so a section of the oval was roped off, tents were set up, and about 200 supporters including ourselves (we were there on behalf of Ms. Margaret W. Wong) got to enjoy conversation, cold drinks, appetizers and gourmet sandwiches for dinner-one of which was vegetarian.

We got to say hello to several people that we knew like Mr. Tom Scanlon of Collins & Scanlon, LLP and his wife, Ms. Anita Scanlon and Mr. Felton Thomas, Jr., Director of the Cleveland Library who was there with his wife, Ms. Linda Thomas.

We got to meet Mr. Gary Hanson, Executive Director of the Musical Arts Association who immigrated to the United States from Canada years ago. We had a good conversation with Mr. Hanson about the potential of immigrants to help revitalize Cleveland/Northeast Ohio.

Before the concert started, Mr. Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle, Inc., and Mr. Bill Seelbach, Board Chairman, welcomed new board members and talked about the goals and accomplishments of University Circle, Inc.

The concert then started and, even though we are not music buffs, found listening to Bluegrass to be very relaxing. We particularly liked it when “Dueling Banjos” from the film, “Deliverance” was played.

We walked around and talked to several more people like Mr. Richard Veres who has been to our office and his wife, Ms. Beth Veres.

Another person who knew Ms. Wong was Ms. Alicia King, Project Coordinator with Northern Ohio Recovery Association (NORA). Ms. King told us that a couple of months ago her organization put on a program titled “Nora’s Got Talent” at Margaret W. Wong and Associates and really appreciated Ms. Wong for allowing them to do so. Ms. King also works with Global Cleveland.

Probably the success of the concert and the mood of the evening was best summarized by Mr. Mark Balin and Ms. Michelle Balin who attributed it to the “atmosphere of being out in the park and everything going on.” They noted that it was a combination of music, ambiance, location, and a bounce house for the youngsters.

In the morning of Thursday, July 30th, we attended the “Fifth Thursday” networking event for July put on by the Painesville Chamber of Commerce at the Grove Church on Mentor Avenue.

On this day about 16 people were there and we got to connect or reconnect with people like Ms. Kate Varholick with “Ask Kate Human Resources, LLC” who was familiar with the work of Margaret W. Wong and Associates because she worked at MetroHealth for years. Our work was also known to Mr. Mike Carswell from Spirit Media because he used to work for a consulting firm that did a lot of international hires.

During the course of the meeting, Mr. Mike Kostelnik from Vantage Financial, Mr. Tom Szabo from “A. Thomas Image, and Pastor Jeff Sivyer from the Grove Church all talked about what chamber membership meant to them and all agreed that the Painesville Chamber of Commerce was important because it helped them cultivate personal relationships and be active members of the community which has ultimately helped their organizations grow.

Pastor Sivyer gave an example of how the connections that he made at the chamber helped him when he put together a youth project a couple of years ago. He said that because of his chamber membership he “gained credibility” which really helped him do his work.

On July 30th, 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law and within the first year 19 million United States citizens enrolled in it. Today Medicare provides health insurance to more than 55 million people including 46.3 million people ages 65 and older and 9 million people with permanent disabilities under 65. It has contributed to higher life expectancy and dramatically reduced poverty amongst seniors.

Accordingly, we drove over to Lakewood Park in Lakewood to attend a 50th birthday celebration for Medicare where we heard such speakers as Ms. Debbie Kline of Cleveland Jobs for Justice, Ohio State Senator Michael Skindell, and Ms. Debbie Silverstein, State Director of Single-Payer Action Network Ohio talk about the history of Medicare and how it has positively affected the lives of so many people and what could be done to provide or improve current the health care services for even more people. Also in attendance, and very welcomed, was Mr. John Ryan from the office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown who read a letter from the Senator.

We really liked it when Ms. Kline talked about the need to improve the wages of home health care workers which currently average only $9.36 an hour or only $13,000.00 a year. We agree with Ms. Kline that the work that these people do is so important that they deserve a substantial increase.

There was at least 100 people there to enjoy a picnic lunch and attend the rally. Among the very diverse crowd of attendees were members of the United Auto Workers, National Nurses United, Common Good Ohio and United Steelworkers.

We talked for a while to Ms. Marlene Goldheimer who is a local Navigator for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which means that it is her job to sit down with people, hear their stories and see how their individual needs can be met by the ACA. Ms. Goldheimer was very glad to see us there because her partner is Ms. Carol Rivchun who is a good friend of Ms. Wong who she respects very much. We asked about coverage for immigrants and Ms. Goldheimer said, as its stands now, that a documented immigrant is eligible for Medicaid only if the immigrant has lived in the state in which he applies for it for five years. She told us about how she recently worked with some people who had immigrated to the United States from India and ultimately referred them to Asian Services in Action.

Ms. Rachel DeGolia of the Cuyahoga Health Access Partnership told us that recently arrived immigrants are indeed “a complicated situation” in terms of obtaining proper medical coverage.

Towards the end of the rally we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Medicare and really stressed the “many more” part of the song.

The purpose of the Downtown Painesville Organization is to work “to preserve, protect, and promote the historic past and heritage of Painesville, while embracing our diverse community and fostering economic growth” which are certainly worthy goals and since its executive director, Mr. David Polakowski is a good friend of ours we decided to attend its 2nd annual “Farm to Table 2015″ fundraiser which took place at the beautifully restored Steele Mansion which was described as the “grandest home in Painesville” when it was first built in 1867. Since the mansion has gone through some rough times but in 2010 it was purchased by the Shamakian Family who did a masterful job of putting it back together so it can function as a “Historic Inn and Greeting Center”.

Tents containing long tables were set up in the back yard which proved to be an excellent location for this event in which all of the attendees, including ourselves, showed up dressed in nice but casual clothes which were appropriate for the hot summer. We shared a section of a table with Ms. Marianne Gaydos, Director of Donor Development for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lake County, and Ms. Cristen Kane, Director of RSVP of Lake County which “matches skills, talent, and experience of adults 55 years and older with local volunteer opportunities.

A five course dinner prepared by several local restaurants was served consisting of appetizers, salads, three entrees and a dessert. Two of the entrees were pork and beef but Chef Dan McQuiston of “Jimmy’s” wisely included a vegan carrot and vegetable dinner with mushrooms and curry as well as a sorbet dessert for vegetarians like us.

It was great seeing people that we hadn’t seen for a while like Ms. Patty Penca of the Lake County Minority Business Exchange and Mr. John T. Sheppard, Superintendent of the Painesville City Local Schools. We talked to Mr. Shepard for a few minutes about very promising efforts to aid local families, possibly immigrants, through the Family Resource Center which is supervised by a bilingual person.

Immigration came up in several conversations included one that we had with Mr. Colby Dyer and his wife, Ms. Margie Delong about how their daughter Heather, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer, once directed some Bhutanese refugees to Margaret W. Wong and Associates for help. At this time, Heather is trying to assist some Ukrainian friends of hers who were visiting the United States when the turmoil broke out in that region and are attempting to work it out so that they can remain here permanently.

We also talked to a young man named Dean who immigrated to the United States from Ireland about two years ago and is studying to be an attorney. We gave him our card and asked him to call us if we could help him.

Another attorney that we met was Mr. Jeremy Iosue who might be doing some immigration cases for his law firm. His wife, Ms. Vanessa Tey Iosue, helps to run local nonpartisan political campaigns and served as a event co-chair for the evening.

Later we toured Steele Mansion and got to explore most of the elegant guest rooms. Even though we live only a half hour from Painesville, we just might come back and spend a night there this winter because it seems like a perfect place to sit and drink hot tea or coffee and watch the snow fall.

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