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Veterans and Dogs: A Match Made in Cleveland

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Dogs, Veterans and a Match Made in Cleveland

 

 

When U.S. Army veteran Frank DeLorenzo learned there was a three-year wait to get a medically prescribed service dog from an out-of-state organization, he and his wife Jeniffer began doing research that became life-changing for many veterans.

 

With the help of dog trainers, they adopted a puppy and began working with her to become Frank’s service dog.

 

Frank’s position as the Army Wounded Warrior advocate at the Wade Park Veterans Administration campus in Cleveland led doctors and other veterans to ask about his service dog. The couple worked with other veterans to help train their dogs, and the organization grew from that need.

 

The DeLorenzos co-founded Wags 4 Warriors in 2011 to help veterans who have been affected by their combat experiences that challenge them every day. Service dogs help with anxiety or focus issues, giving the veteran a reminder of where he or she is and that all is calm.

 

The group is a nonprofit agency that accepts tax-deductible donations to help with the adoption, veterinary care, training and equipment expenses.

 

“We didn’t want to see families struggle the way we did,” Jen says. “We wanted to make sure that if there was something we could do to help a veteran, we would. We quickly realized there was a huge need here in Ohio. We wanted to help veterans without causing them any financial burden or strain.”

 

Wags is the only organization in Ohio that does this free of charge for veterans.

 

As of 2017, the program has helped rescue more than 350 dogs and warriors.

 

“Ninety percent of these canines are rescues from shelters,” Frank says. “We have had approximately 50 or more Vietnam veterans and another 50 or more ages 50-plus in the program.”

 

Recently the program moved into a new training facility in Broadview Heights.

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A Fresh Start With An Old Product – Tom Lix, owner of Cleveland Whiskey, takes a shot at the bourbon business and discovers how a detour can lead to a new venture

You could say Tom Lix reinvented the whiskey business — and himself — thanks in part to a stint in the Navy and a 70s sitcom.

Fueled by endless cups of black coffee, Lix, 64, is an energetic booster for his growing Cleveland Whiskey company. He’s understandably enthusiastic about his distillery, housed in the MAGNET business on East 25th St., creating a label that’s available from New England to Georgia, to Europe and now into Japan.

With his growing business, Lix seems to be headed in one direction — forward. He’s embracing the adventure, in fact, seems to revel in it. Lix may have landed in Cleveland through an unexpected yet all-too-familiar family situation, but his business success has been deliberate and thoughtful. He saw an opportunity, created a solution and dove in.

EARLY ADVENTURES, LATER SUCCESS

Before Lix’s latest incarnation, he spent time fighting forest fires in Alaska as a teenager and went to Penn State. As a student activist he protested for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. He bounced around and kept his eyes open.

Whiskey entered his life when he joined the Navy, where he served for six years. He learned distilling basics from a chief petty officer who fashioned a still in the galley of the Navy ship Lix was assigned. He tucked the knowledge in the back of his mind.

Lix ended back in college, picking up degrees in biology and chemistry before heading to Boston University where he earned a doctorate in marketing. A born entrepreneur, Lix owned or operated software, technology and other companies, creating a host of successful enterprises that had nothing to do with bourbon making but everything to do with business acumen.

Then a family crisis intervened. His mother, MaryAnn, was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s and needed care.

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January/February 2017 Profiles

Called to Serve – Elaine Geller Finds Meaningful Service Through the NCJW/Cleveland

In 2003, Elaine Geller moved back to Cleveland after many years in California. Her husband had recently died and she had just retired from her position as a vice president of the Federal Reserve System. She was looking for a meaningful, supportive community to get involved in, and she found it in the National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland.

Geller liked that she did not have to “put in her time” before she could start making a difference. NCJW has more than 18 community service projects with which she could immediately start volunteering. She also liked that though the organization is inspired by Jewish values, its mission is to help improve the lives of all women, children and families throughout Cleveland.

VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP

Elaine Geller is the embodiment of the Jewish philosophy to “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” She’s been NCJW/Cleveland’s vice president of finance and treasury (four years), and recording secretary (two years), among other work. In recent years, Geller has felt that her responsibility as a NCJW/Cleveland volunteer extends beyond the community in front of her, to the wider community in which she lives.

This ideal drove her to learn about — and then lead — the Stop Human Trafficking committee two years ago, the first Jewish Cleveland organization aimed at advocating for and protecting trafficking victims, a $32 billion annual criminal industry.

Each year an estimated 1,078 Ohio children become victims, and 3,016 more are at risk.

BATTLING A SINISTER INDUSTRY

Geller and her committee drive to local hotels monthly to drop off pictures of missing children, to distribute posters listing signs to look for to identify trafficking victims, and to hand out free soap — labeled with the human trafficking hotline — to cleaning and hotel staff.

Geller and her committee have spoken to more than a dozen local organizations and businesses about human trafficking.

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November/December 2016 Profiles

Maggie’s Mission – Every Animal Needs a Hero

Sarah Aitken has been rescuing animals for more than 30 years. Today she works with Maggie’s Mission (maggiesmissionrescue. org), a Medina County-based organization that relies entirely on volunteers and foster homes to care for dogs, cats and horses.

Many of the dogs and cats are saved from urgent situations throughout Northeast Ohio, as well as from overflowing shelters. Horses and donkeys, such as the ones shown, often come from auctions where they were to be sold for meat.

Sarah says animal lovers can easily find a place to volunteer that suits their interests and time.

“Many groups, including Maggie’s Mission, have many options for volunteers. Maggie’s Mission shows pets at PetSmart in Montrose, Pet People in Strongsville and various other locations throughout the year. We always need volunteers to sit with a pet at these events, and they are only a couple of hours each. We also have the need for computer-savvy volunteers to help with inputting information and transporters to transport pets from shelters or to and from vet appointments.”

Her own interest started as a teenager. Birds, turtles, rabbits — if an animal needed help, she was there.

“When it’s in your blood, you can’t really walk away from it. You can take a break, but it draws you back in when you see a face that’s in need of help, and you know you can be the one to make a difference,” she says.

“We need more compassion in our world. We have domesticated these animals and it is our responsibility to take care of them properly.”

 

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November/December 2016 Profiles

Unseen Battle Scars – With Veterans: Ask, Don’t Judge

Each week, veterans — many with minds upended by both seen and unseen battle scars — enter Dr. Walter Knake’s Beachwood office.

A welcoming flame glows from an electric fireplace. An Oriental rug blankets the floor. Propped everywhere are stuffed animals. The vibe is cozy and soothing. Except for the American and military flags in a corner and a large bulletin board packed with medals, patriotic badges and pins, the clinical psychologist’s office could be the den in a suburban home.

FAMILIAR ISSUES

Each Nov. 11, Americans honor military veterans. Knake treats the ones who rarely feel honored or respected; much of their energy is consumed by the psychological effects of their military service.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one issue. Others may be dealing with traumatic brain injuries or relationship issues, alcoholism, drug addiction or a combination of problems. About 70 percent of Knake’s patients are combat veterans who hear about his practice through word of mouth.

An average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Aging veterans are the most vulnerable; 65 percent who died from suicide were 50 or older. Veterans made up 18 percent of all suicide deaths, according to most recently available statistics, but comprised just 8.5 percent of the county’s population.

Battlefield trauma and its long-term emotional consequences aren’t new. From the time people have fought wars, many carried the effects into middle and old age. Today’s PTSD was yesterday’s battle fatigue, shell shock or war neuroses.

As America continues losing its World War II and Korean War veterans, those who served in Vietnam are filling Knake’s appointment book. When people approach their 60s and 70s, most become increasingly reflective and have more time to think. For veterans, their thoughts often turn to their war experiences, he says.

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November/December 2016 Profiles Volunteerism

Give – These Are The Faces of Champions.

They won’t be cheered by thousands or earn millions. They give, not take. Their work is behind the scenes. They cut hair. They mend band uniforms. They encourage young children to read and frail adults to walk.

Meet a few people over 50 who are changing our area.

CLEVELAND AMBASSADOR Leroy Wilson Jr.

Leroy is a super volunteer — and he has an award to prove it. The 2016 recipient of the David F. Leahy Award for Volunteer Excellence by Greater Cleveland Volunteers, he is an ambassador at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport where he directs visitors and offers information to them, and he delivers meals to homebound people through the Southeast Clergy Meals on Wheels. He also serves on their board of directors.

Leroy says he found out about volunteer opportunities through GCV and that his life has been enriched because he can help others in need.

A ROCKER FINDS A HOME

Elaine Minch

Elaine is a long-time rock ’n’ roll fan. After retiring as a pharmacy technician, she began volunteering for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

“My family owned and operated the Rollerdrome, a roller skating rink in Euclid, and during those days, rising musicians would be booked with Bill Randle and his Cavalcade of Stars. They would perform live, sign autographs and mingle with the crowds at the rink,” she says.

Elaine also volunteers at the Rock Hall Library and Archives at Cuyahoga Community College, where she catalogs donated vinyl record collections for the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts at Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus.

A TUTOR WITH A PURPOSE

Elva Fosh

Elva helps students read and achieve as a literacy tutor/team leader and literacy booster for Greater Cleveland Volunteers in the AARP Foundation Experience Corps program. She’s backed implementation of projects across grade levels with slight modifications that challenge higher-performing students.

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Fall 2015 Fitness Profiles

Keep Moving with Jack from the Cleveland Marathon

Nothing can slow down Jack Staph, who recently turned 70. Staph, executive director of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and a business/corporate lawyer with a private practice in Pepper Pike, hasn’t run in two years.

Although he endures issues with both knees (including missing cartilage), it doesn’t mean he won’t one day navigate a hiking trail to a mountain peak or enter a marathon walking category.

“It’s hard to say I’m only going for a walk,” Jack says. He still sneaks in a run at times for a few seconds. “When I see an incline, I push it as much as I can, and I may run to a telephone pole.”

Jack relishes any opportunity to be outside in the sun and even when it rains while he walks with his umbrella. He also enjoys all the responsibilities that come with overseeing the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

TAKING ON THE RACE

He bought the rights to the event in 2002, turning it into a year-round family business. His son Ralph helps run operations. The marathon and related events attract 40,000 runners, volunteers and fans. He’s always busy with race details and looking after elite athletes.

Staph, in fact, ran the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon only one time in 1978 – when the event began as the Revco Cleveland Marathon. He was general counsel for Revco, which asked him to take the helm the next year.

Over the years, however, Staph managed to run seven other marathons in West Palm Beach, Buffalo and Erie. He credits world-famous long distance runner Frank Shorter for inspiring him in the 70s when the running movement took off.

“Anyone who does something positive for others motivates me,” he says. “It’s not so much what they did but how they went about doing it.”

For now, Jack plans to continue leading the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and to see how he can challenge his body and his mind.

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Featured January/February 2017 Profiles

On A Roll – Bakery Owners Discovery Every Job Creates Opportunity

Debbi and Rick Sands’ lives are busy and fulfilling with a dose of fun thrown in to keep things interesting. Their jobs suit their interests and abilities.

Married for 37 years, the affable couple raised and launched two kids.

Rewarding? Sure.

Chance? Maybe.

The Sandses are a good example of people who have the confidence — and faith — to make mid-life career shifts. They’ve parlayed past jobs, current goals and an ongoing optimism into lives that work not only for themselves but for others, too.

BREAD AND MORE

Rick Sands is the kind of guy who doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. He gives off a mellow vibe that’s both unexpected and appealing — a vintage Volkswagen bus-owning sort of guy. In fact, he did have one, but sold it awhile back.

Rick and his wife, Debbi, own Great Harvest Bread Company in Stow in Summit County. Both worked hard to grow the popular franchise bakery into a must-visit stop for local bread lovers. These days, Rick is likely to be the one floating between the front counter and the ovens, offering up conversation and bread to customers. Baking bread and being a small business owner seems like a long way from his years working in warehouses and running forklifts.

Debbi, with an accounting and bookkeeping background, manages the bakery’s finances. More than a decade ago she transitioned away from daily bakery operations to focus on her own midlife career change: working as a Christian counselor.

Anyone who needs a nudge to make a mid-life job or career change would do well to take a lesson from the Sandses. They’ve been open to opportunities, willing to take risks and determined to make their work reach beyond the borders of Summit County.

Debbi grew up in Mentor and graduated from Lakeland Community College with an associate degree in business the same year she married Rick.

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