Second hiking trip of the autumn produces a wrong turn for the Miracles

By Norm Weber
Nweber@thelivingmiracles.org

BRECKSVILLE – Eleven members of Living Miracles went on the second nature hike this fall, this time to the Meadows Trails in the Brecksville Reservation Tuesday.

Those going on the trail on the brisk October day were Tiffany Gainer, Carolle, Cox, Charlie Tutt, Al Sanders, Kurt Johnson, Marc Mannheimer, Jeff Perault, Doug Hallman, Sue Kane, Doreen Weir and Norm Weber.

All things went well except there was a little snafu toward the end of the excursion. The group wanted to take an alternative route back to the van from the route it took to get to the Nature Center. Someone told the group to follow the yellow trail, but the yellow trail led to the main road.

The Living Miracles then walked along the main road and took Meadows Road about a mile to get back to the van.

Still, the walk toward the Nature Center was an extravagant one. The hikers went up flights of stairs and down flights of stairs, saw black squirrels and engravings on trees along the way, and had many great conversations surrounded by sticks.

Arriving at the Nature Center for the group was quite nourishing as well. Mr. Hallman asked the girl working at the Nature Center if she knew his cousin, Dale Hallman, and sure enough she did.

It turns out that Dale Hallman was a long-time investigator/ranger in the Metroparks system and spent a good deal of his time in the Brecksville Reservation before retiring.

The Meadows trails were not the first one the group tried out upon its arrival into the Brecksville Reservation. Before retracing to the Meadows Picnic area, the Living Miracles first tried a grass bridal trail, but it was too wet and muddy.

The Meadows’ hiking trails then suited them just right.

A couple Miracles took vote for Issue 80 signs to put on their front lawns that the Nature Center was offering to visitors. Issue 80 is to the issue to support the Metroparks System in Cuyahoga County.

It’s been said that the best things in life are free and many Greater Clevelanders would agree to that about the Metroparks system.

“Thanks to John Muir, we have these national parks,” Mr. Johnson said. “He was for protecting all the wildlife. He would send correspondence back to DC via Pony Express to let Congress know how important it was for Americans to have nice parks. He really fought for it.”

Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist. He wrote several books on preserving the wild in America. Muir founded the Sierra Club. His petition to the US Congress enabled the US Park Bill to be established in 1890.

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Living Miracles’ annual hayride and dinner is a winner

Story By Marc Mannheimer (mmannheimer@thelivingmiracles.org)
Photos By Jennifer Kruse
On Saturday, October 12, The Living Miracles had another splendid outing, this time to LaGrange for its annual hayride and dinner out at a Chinese buffet.
At noon, the group drove out to the Carlisle Reservation of the Lorain County Metropark System and, with a few missteps, found the equestrian center with its horse-riding trails and corn maze.
Two large Clydesdale draft horses, Bella and Jasmine, pulled a white cart stocked with 18 Living Miracles members and staff through the scenic woods in a circular path. The path, hedged by a creek with still water, was roughly a mile long.
The woods were quiet, and The Living Miracles group often fell silent in calm awe at the stands of motionless trees and the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves. At Kurt Johnson’s inquiry, the driver told the members that each horse weighs over 1,600 pounds.
Once the ride ended, humans were allowed to gently pat the horses on their muzzles.
Next was the corn maze. A worker at the Carlisle Reservation explained that some people get lost in this huge corn field and are never seen again. So TLM’s group members walked cautiously along the twisting pathway cut through the corn, and Living Miracles member Tiffany Gainer dutifully read the clues left on fence posts for those daring the maze. Fortunately, all TLM members made it through as the skies were turning grey, and staff member Betty Gradiski and Executive Director Jennifer Kruse found their way out first.
Group members all worked up an appetite during the day’s events, so after some pictures, the club van headed off to the Great Wall Buffet near Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted. Members brought quite an appetite, each filing at least a plate or two. Several remarked that this was the best Chinese buffet they had ever enjoyed.
After some post-dinner chatting and reading of fortune cookies, it was time to return home after a great day spent in one another’s company, and in exploration of the local resources for fun.

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Five honored, two voted on to the board at The Living Miracles Annual Meeting

By Norm Weber
nweber@thelivingmiracles.org

Five individuals were honored for their ongoing contribution to the overall success of The Living Miracles and two new board members were elected at the Annual Meeting of the organization Thursday.

TLM Executive Director Jennifer Kruse presented the annual financial report and TLM Board President Marissa Norden administered the annual report.

“Two of the greatest increases this year came in community outreach and in mentoring,” Norden said.

During the 2013 fiscal year, TLM gave 196 units of community outreach, which includes the effort to recruit new members and reach the underserved population in the community.

Also, TLM gave 1,647 units of service in mentoring, which is a program that sends out members to North Coast Behavioral Health and the Crisis Shelter to deliver messages of hope.

Kruse listed 26 line items that TLM must pay out in expenses and somehow through the help of the ADAMHS Board.

“A function like this in which we have to buy food and awards costs nearly $1,000,” Kruse said.

Long-time member Don Mackay received a shining star award for making a difference.

“It’s the journey and you guys did it,” said Mackay.

Doug Hallman, a member for the past year, also received the shining star award and was equally as thankful to the other members as Mackay was.

“You guys aren’t people; you are my peers,” Hallman said. “Things cannot be said to people outside these walls, but things could get said in here and it is OK with everyone else within these walls.”

LeeAnn Gramuglia, a board member who volunteers more hours than anyone at TLM, received the above and beyond award.

“Just that little extra gesture goes a long way here,” Gramuglia said. “People are very kind here. I couldn’t have done this without the rest of the people here.”

Receiving staff shining star awards were Betty Gradiski and Brian Young.

Trish Balas and Cheryl Lydston were voted onto the board. Balas received 25 of a possible 25 yes votes and Lydston 22 of a possible 25.

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Living Miracles visit Amish Country, fundamental living, strong families, great work ethic, and pristine values

By Norm Weber
nweber@thelivingmiracles.org

SUGARCREEK – Nineteen members of The Living Miracles attended the Annual Ohio Swiss Festival here Friday and had a great time.

The Amish and Mennonites are known for their strong family units, strict religious beliefs, traditional work ethic, kind natures, fundamental living and keen adherence to spirituality and the inner person. They have little stress and mental conditions. It was evident by the observations made by the Living Miracles

The day started off with a buffet lunch at a Pennsylvania Dutch-style restaurant in the heart of Amish Country here. There was plenty of salad, main course meal, soft drinks and desserts to be devoured by the nearly two dozen visitors from Lakewood.

After everyone had enough food for three people each, they all stuffed themselves into a caravan of three cars and drove to the downtown area, where the festival was kicking off for the weekend.

First, there was a visit to the old museum that had several artifacts relating to the work that the Amish and Mennonites have been performing here since the 1800s.

“This festival used to be even bigger,” said one local gal, who a few years ago was the queen of the parade and whose father served in Vietnam (both are in the museum). “This used to attract about 75,000 people from all over on the Saturday of the event.”

In the museum was an old cheese carrier brought over from Switzerland in the 1800s, the old printing press for the local newspaper, tools for making wood products, tools for making food products, a hand-processed ice-cream machine, old doctor’s equipment, an old bicycle, old dolls, old ledgers, a simulated barber shop, an old sled, an old phonograph and more.

“I liked to see the way they dressed and took care of the fires and the firehouses and all that,” said Tiffany Gainer, a member of Living Miracles. “The water and pails were neat. I liked the scenery of the churches and all that.

“It was nice seeing a sled like my dad had. I used to ride them down the hills to see which way they would go and sometimes flip over on them.”

LeeAnn Gramuglia, a board member at Living Miracles, made the trip to Amish Country for the third time with the group and, for her, each year gets better.

“I am more familiar with the members this time and feel more comfortable with them,” Gramuglia said. “I am more relaxed. The beauty with the autumn of things starting to change was just something. I enjoyed my meal.

“I enjoyed the medicine part (of the museum) with the supplies the doctor would use. I liked the weight scale and the little book in which they wrote down the weights. I liked the schoolroom and the barber. It reminded me of growing up.”

The Living Miracles couldn’t have asked for a better day in terms of weather: sunshine and in the 70s. No sight of rain for miles.

Then after the warm-up band was done playing in the street, the parade began. This included the middle school band playing the McCoys’ “Hang on Sloopy,” and contest winners for the best decorated dog, best decorated cat, best decorated junior couple, etc were announced as they paraded down the street.

“This has been incredible; the meal was great,” said Living Miracle member Kurt Johnson. “Doug (Hallman) and I went to a general store and I was able to get some clover honey. I got some sugar candies, jelly candies, spearmint. We had a great ompah band. It’s a great move from the city to the country.”

Then the Living Miracles went on a trip down the road in a buggy driven by an Amish man, who spoke German to one of the members of Living Miracles. He was happy that a member of the Miracles could speak in the tongue that is preferred in Amish Country.

“There are a lot of activities so that it becomes an issue of not knowing where to go to first,” said Brian Young, a peer support specialist at Living Miracles.

After the buggy ride they took a trip down route 62 to Holmes County to visit the Heine Swiss Cheese Factory, where members of the Living Miracles were able to sample cheese and buy chunks of cheese to take home to their friends and relatives.

“This is my second time and I like it better because I know the people better and I am with some of my best friends,” said Don Mackay, a Living Miracles member.

Jay Larr was down with Living Miracles for the first time.

“It was nice to get out of the house; it’s a little different atmosphere,” Larr said. “It’s a different type of culture. It’s much different than the city. The people here are spectacular.”

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Nature walk brings Miracles to American Indian ceremonial mounds

By Norm Weber
nweber@thelivingmiracles.org

NORTH OLMSTED – A group of 11 members of the The Living Miracles enjoyed the beautiful day on Tuesday, Sept. 24, and went on a nature walk in the Metroparks.

They decided to take the excursion all the way down from the Detroit entrance on the Lakewood-Rocky River boarder to all the way past Shepard Hill to the Nature Center just prior to Cedar Point Hill.

Kurt, Kim, Doreen, Nora, Rich, Norm, Howard, Carol and Dennis decided to take the trail behind the nature center that wound around and up to the top of the hill, where they found the drudge of the walk worth it with a beautiful view of the river, the sun splashing down upon it.

Don and Marc remained behind to have snacks.

The group was also able to see some Indian mounds at the top of the hill. They were covered with moss, but they were still visible after 100s of years.

“The Native Americans built these mounds to have celebrations and ceremonies 100s of years ago, before the White man every inhabited this land,” said Kurt Johnson, a peer support specialist and mentor at Living Miracles. “They are hard to see after all these years but they are still there.”

The mounds were protruding out of the ground and had moss all over them. Some of them had trees that have grown upon them within the last 100 years or more.

Johnson is an avid fisherman and once took a group of Living Miracles on a fishing trip to the Metroparks.

“The Metroparks is one of the top 100 fishing spots in the whole country,” Johnson said. “During the season, there are cars parked with all kinds of license plates: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, etc. Right where we were looking, the river splits. One goes to Wallace Lake in Berea and the other one goes toward Medina, I think.”

Smiling faces at Mahall’s Lanes

By Lee Ann Gramuglia

On September, 21, 2013, even though it was a soaky, damp and rainy day, the popular monthly bowling event held at Mahall’s still became a reality.
The bowling event drew nine members from Living Miracles. In addition to the driver Bob, Dennis, Sandy, Lee Ann, Carol, Jay, Don, Tiffany, Michelle, and Peggy participated.
LM welcomed its newcomers Tiffany and Jay. It was their first time participating at this Living Miracle event.
They were thrilled to be part of the occasion. Tiffany shared she started bowling at age ten. She said, “It was a family experience. “Coming to this activity today has been exciting and adventurous.”
Jay stated that he commenced bowling at an early age of ten. “I belonged to numerous leagues,” Jay commented. “Bowling is such a fun and inexpensive activity.”
Other members also shared some comments. Don said chuckling, “I have been bowling since I’ve been knee-high – to grasshopper’s — since I was four or five years old.” Don stated bowling to him “was very diverse and precision like.”
Carol responded that she was ten when she started down the lanes. Bowling to me is “socialization and fun,” she said.
Anna started bowling at an early age, too. Her response was “making all the pins.”
Lastly, Dennis ejected that he has been bowling since Living Miracles existed. His response regarding bowling was that “He enjoyed socializing with his peers and being able to keep the score.”
All in all there were six bowlers: Anna, Don, Carol, Michelle, Peggy and Jay. Sandy and Dennis were the scorekeepers along with being some of the cheerleaders for the members of Living Miracles. Also, Bob and Lee Ann were rooting from the sidelines.
After the group finished bowling, Bob drove the gang to Mr. Hero. It was a nice lunch. They even got a treat of a free piece of cheesecake.

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The Living Miracles attend Community West Annual meeting

By Norm Weber

CLEVELAND (WEST PARK) – Nine directors, staff members, board members and members of the Living Miracles Wednesday attended the annual meeting of the Community West Foundation, one of the generous private grant donors of the Lakewood-based peer empowerment center.

Gayle DuPerow, Don Mackay, Doug Hallman, Jennifer, Kruse, Lee Ann Gramuglia, Kurt Johnson, Betty Gradiski, Owen Charles and Norm Weber were in attendance for the meeting.

Keynote speaker for the event was Christine Reeves of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), based in Washington, D.C.

“Anyone living on more than two dollars a day, which half the world is not, I consider living in comfort,” said Reeves, who holds degrees from both Duke and Emory. “We’d love to have more money for the foundations so that the funders could give more money to non-profit organizations, but we need to realize the limited time resources and focus on leveraging as much as possible.”

The model she used included three dollar figures: $3 billion, $45 billion and $58 billion. The first represents the non-profit money donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the second the amount donated by all other funders in the US and the third the education budget of the state of California. (The extreme left- leaning Governor Jerry Brown of this state has been touted a fiscal conservative, but reduced very little when signing the renewal of the education budget just two and a half months ago, expecting his state to be the model of education for all other states, as it has been with its advancement in higher education the past 55 years).

“Meditate on that for a while,” Reeves said. “Whenever I talk to funders who claim they are not big enough to give more money, I tell them they have more in common with both Gates and the other donors than they do with one state’s education budget.”

Reeves also discussed improving strategies.

“There are 600,000 homeless individuals on any given day, which is an entire congressional district,” Reeves said. “One in five children is food insecure each day in the United States on our watch, which is enormous. Philanthropy is an amazing opportunity.”

She made the note that outside of the perfunctory five percent of profits companies give to philanthropic efforts that there is very little accountability.

“Foundations need to look within themselves to do internal critiques,” Reeves said.

The best illustration Reeves gave was the ratio of non-profits to funders. There are 1.9 million non-profits and 74,000 funders in the US.

“What if those numbers were reversed?” asked Reeves. “What if there were 1.9 million funders and 74,000 non-profits? Non-profits would be making site visits to funders and funders would be giving multiple-year gifts no questions asked.”

More internal monologue is required.

“It’s easy to say, ‘That’s not fair’ when we see someone has more than us,” Reeves said. “We should also be saying, ‘That’s not fair,’ when we see that we have more than others.”

She also discussed the significance of general operating (rent, light bills, etc.) support of a non-profit and how that should be discussed between grantors and grantees before considering how all the other programs that actually help people in a philanthropic way will be funded. This is all built through trust.

Other funding needs to go into human resources since non-profits generally do not really have a product. A lot of this comes through multi-year support and Reeves said 89 percent of funders do not give multi-year support on the national level.

Reeves has a special interest in social justice, campaigning for “bottom-up” change and giving examples of how social justice can save taxpayer dollars.

“Of all lobbyists in D.C. fewer than five percent represent the underserved communities,” Reeves said.

On one slide, Reeves had listed no fewer than a dozen underserved groups, which includes race-based, sex-based, disabled-based and income-based communities to name a few.

The Community West Foundation donated $1.3 million last year to non-profits such as The Living Miracles. The vast majority of the organizations it funds get repeat gifts from year-to-year.

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(L to R) Norm Weber, Gayle DuPerow, Don Mackay, Jennifer Kruse, Betty Gradiski, Doug Hallman, Lee Ann Gramuglia, Kurt Johnson, Owen Charles

Living Miracles enjoy good day on Goodtime III

By Norm Weber

The Living Miracles went on their annual excursion on the Goodtime III Tuesday, with 13 members enjoying a great trip after not getting foiled by the rain.

A heavy downpour and dark skies in the morning left some wondering if there could be a good time had on the Goodtime, but the rain began subsiding around 11:30, died to a drizzle by the time the group arrived to the dock and disappeared completely during the ride.

“This is my second time (on the Goodtime III),” said Don MacKay. “Last time it was very hot and this time it is cool. It was oppressive the last time. Now it is pleasant and I am enjoying the company. I now know the people I knew last year more in depth this year. I feel more comfortable.”

Gayle DuPerow was never on the Goodtime III until now, but has been on other ships.

“This boat seems a little different,” DuPerow said. “I’ve been on a cruise and have never gotten seasick.”

Sami was on a similar boat at Niagara Falls.

“I went under the fall,” Sami said. “I was able to get a lot of rain there. I had to wear a jacket. It cost me money. I took a helicopter from Buffalo to there. This is as fun as that.”

Tiffany Gainer was also taking her first trip on the Goodtime III.

“It’s nice; I like it a lot,” Gainer said. “I’ve been on another boat, but it was tiny. I am really excited about this.”

After the trip, the group went back to the LM Center and had birthday cake since it was Howard Fredrick’s birthday.

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Living Miracles dodge the rain at the county fair

By Norm Weber

BEREA – Although the rain that pelted down from 10 to 3 put a damper on things, The Living Miracles enjoyed a fined day at the Cuyahoga County Fair on Wednesday here.

The Miracles were able to enjoy free admission and some were able to get on the unlimited ride plan for half price although many of the rides were closed for half the afternoon due to the rain.

While some took advantage of the rides, others enjoyed the animals, music, exhibits and food while dodging the raindrops.

“I thought the rides were the most fun part,” said Nora Jones.

Norm and Tiffany broke the record for the group by going on seven rides — three times on one and twice on two others.

“I liked the walking around the best,” said Sue Kane.

Marckie Mannheimer avoided the rides but enjoyed most of the other things.

“I really enjoyed the sausage sandwich,” Marckie said. “The music and animals were good too.”

The animals were endearing to some of the Miracles.

“I liked the bunny rabbits,” Nora said. “I also liked the guinea pigs and goats.”

There were also horses.

“I wanted to take some pictures of some horses,” said Sandy Ward. “But their butts were hanging out every time I would go into the stable.”

Some stopped by the pig races and others watched the comedian, who hypnotized a group of people on a stage and got them to jump every time he mentioned the word “hypnotize.” Other times he put them to sleep and had them change their names when waking up and counting 11 fingers on two hands by skipping the number seven through hypnosis.

Everyone must agree that one of the best parts was when the sun finally came out at 3.
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Soothing Our Souls

By Lee Ann Gramuglia
“Nothing soothes the soul like a scoop of velvety ice cream.”
There was a relaxing ice cream social event held at LM on July 26, 2013 between 3-430pm. It has been a summer tradition here at living miracles. All of us anticipated this celebration. It was held inside the building.
Staff worked diligently in preparing for this event. They had decorated the table. They organized the toppings. There were an enormous arrangement of sparkles, nuts, maraschino cherries, caramel, hot fudge and not to mention whipped cream. Brian and Sandy were the official ice cream scoopers. Gayle and Sue directed the members. Both of them kept things organized.
Living Miracles Don, Kurt, Tiffany, Denise, Michelle, Peggy, Lee Ann, Marlon, Charles, Tom, Howard, Anna, Tammy and Kim were full of excitement and gleam. As we stood in line, we reminisced and shared our childhood memories.
Many recollected going for family rides on Sunday for an ice cream cone, anticipating the ice cream truck in the neighborhood, eating a nutty buddy bar, getting a vanilla, or obtaining a chocolate container of ice cream with a wooden stick or Neopolitan ice cream and banana splits! We felt like little children again. We were able to create our own sundaes. We had a choice between vanilla and chocolate ice creams. There were many combinations made by all. It was a fun and successful event. We enjoyed ourselves and going back to memory lane. It was a blast. It sure was delicious and good. What a wonderful treat it truly was to have.
We listened to music and ate our mile-high sundaes. Where can one go for such a generous treat? We acknowledge Jennifer Kruse, executive director, for making the event possible. Jennifer has a wonderful approach toward her members. She mingled and conversed with us. She goes the extra mile. She truly cares.
To conclude, we all experienced how a scoop of velvety ice cream surely soothed our soul. We felt renewed and refreshed!