What’s the Shaker Ambassador Program? HeyShaker
Sean Malone from Shaker Heights City Council joins us to explain what the Shaker Ambassador program is and how you can get involved.
Hey Shaker, my name is Nora, I live in Mercer and I love Shaker Heights because of the programs it offers.
Jennifer Owens (01:53):
Hey Shaker, welcome to the first and only podcast bringing you what’s happening in Shaker Heights. I’m your host Jenny Owens and with me is your other host.
Brad Owens (02:01):
I’m Brad Owens and in this episode. Jenny, who did you talk to?
Jennifer Owens (02:04):
I got to talk to Sean Malone again. So city council member for Shaker Heights and we met up to talk about these Shaker ambassador programs. So you might’ve seen some notices about this going around asking for people who speak a second language or people who want to help others feel more comfortable as they move into Shaker Heights.
Brad Owens (02:23):
Shows you how out of touch I am. I haven’t seen that, but tell me what this whole Shaker ambassadors thing does.
Jennifer Owens (02:28):
Well, why don’t I let Sean tell you in the episode.
Brad Owens (02:30):
Jennifer Owens (02:33):
Sean Malone (02:34):
Jennifer Owens (02:35):
I’m Jenny Owens, with the Hey Shaker podcast. I’m sitting here in 3-19 with my friend Sean Malone. Thank you so much for coming out this morning.
Sean Malone (02:41):
Thanks for having me back. Really appreciate it.
Jennifer Owens (02:43):
I was hoping this morning to talk with you about the Shaker ambassador program. So we touched base on this very briefly. I know we’ve had our first meeting already, but can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of the Shaker ambassador program and what the intention is going forward?
Sean Malone (02:58):
Sure, to tell you what the Shaker ambassadors broken is, I have to take a step back and tell you what the human relations task force is. Um, so I’m chair of the task force. It’s an organization created by our former mayor Earl Liken. Uh, it’s been in existence for about two and a half years now. We meet every other month and we have a simple goal to try to make Shaker a more welcoming place. And that’s both for residents who are already here but might not know their neighbors or their neighbors on the other side of the city as well as they would like. But also to welcome new people into the city. Uh, whether they’re moving from the city of Cleveland next door or in this case, the other side of the world. Um, so we, we’ve had a number of initiatives over the past few years, uh, some of which I can tell you about in a moment, but the, uh, one of our focuses from the beginning of this group has been to try to, um, find ways to welcome international newcomers, specifically the Shaker ambassadors program is something that we’ve come up with, um, the last few months really. And we’re at the beginning of trying to, put this together and see what it will look like. But, um, we would like to have a list of Shaker residents, preferably those who have language foreign language skills, but not necessarily, um, people who are interested in helping newcomers to the country who are settling in Shaker, um, get acclimated to life. And Shaker to life in Northeast Ohio. It can be and we’re not necessarily asking for these residents to provide, say, legal services or translation services, but it’s more as a mentor to the, to the newcomers to help them connect with existing resources that are out there, helping them find affordable legal representation if that’s what they need. Helping them learn about, for example, our library’s english as a second language program that happens every Tuesday night. It’s free to anyone who wants to improve their English skills. Um, helping them get their kids registered in the school district, uh, fill out paperwork, open a bank account, basic things that we take for granted. Uh, those of us who grew up here. But it can seem very daunting for people moving here for the first time. So we want to compile a list Shaker residents interested in volunteering and then pair them up with newcomers who asked for assistance or in some cases, um, maybe we can reach out to people through if we know from, for example, the school district enrollment data information that we have someone coming from another country, uh, the task force will be able to reach out to them directly. Or if we learn on the city side, um, that there’s someone who’s resettling, we can also directly reach out. So that’s the goal. And we have a great group of volunteers working on this already. So in a nutshell, that’s what we’re envisioning the Shaker ambassadors program will be. And ultimately maybe we can do something that’s broader than just focused on the international community. Maybe it’s welcome, cause that’s another thing we’ve been doing with our task force. Uh, mentioned that in a second. But, um, for now the focus is on the international newcomer population.
Jennifer Owens (07:06):
Fantastic. That’s a, I think important thing to do to make sure people feel comfortable acclimated, especially, you know, we’re sitting here on a day when it’s snowy and like it’s typical Northeast Ohio February day. Exactly. Yeah. Um, so talk to me a little bit about the, the Shaker residents that you’re hoping to attract to this program.
Sean Malone (07:27):
Well as I said, I think ideally people who have immigrated in themselves or, or who have a fairly good foreign language skills, but I don’t want to limit it to that because, um, as Carolyn Steiner will tell you, uh, who runs the library’s ESL program, anyone can help someone learn English or improve their English skills if you’re, if you’re willing to, um, spend some time on and get to know somebody and, um, laugh and, uh, you know, be patient. So we don’t want to limit it to the people from the foreign language skills, but, and we also want to ultimately make it something that’s flexible with people’s schedules. They don’t need to feel that they have to drop everything in their lives to completely adopt a family, but, um, to provide the kind of help that they can, that fits into their schedule. So we may have some sort of a a-la-cart option, for lack of a better word. Uh, but again, we’re in the early stages. We’re just trying to get interest and awareness about this program.
Jennifer Owens (08:30):
So if we have interested listeners, where can they go to find out more? And what would their next steps be?
Sean Malone (08:36):
I would say the simplest thing to do is to email me and my contact information is on the city’s website. You can, there’s a little bit of a blurb on the city and the city’s homepage. You can under, I think, um, government, you’ll, you’ll find task forces. One thing I’ll say, we don’t have a Facebook page. Um, and that’s somewhat by design. Um, partly because, uh, this is a volunteer group and we’re not, we don’t have someone paid to run a Facebook page. But also one of the objectives of this task force has been to get people to interact on a one on one basis, face to face as opposed to a Facebook. So, uh, word of mouth has been the way we’ve attracted people to our group. We’ve, we’ve, I think we officially started with 15 formal members. We, from the beginning, we’ve had people from the library of the schools in the city working together. But we also had, I think 10, maybe 10 or 11 residents involved, but we’ve not limited it to those original 15. In fact, some of those 15 decided this wasn’t for them and didn’t come, uh, after the first few meetings. But we’ve also had numerous people join us over the time and I would say fairly regularly, each meeting we have 15, 15 or so people, sometimes more, sometimes less, um, that show up. So it’s been a terrific experience.
Jennifer Owens (09:57):
So an interested ambassador can email you and then you will make sure that they are on the list for any future meetings or connect them with existing members of the task force.
Sean Malone (10:05):
Yes, Dalia is compiling our master list right now. Soon we hope to have this information available electronically on a, on a website somewhere, probably the city’s website and probably even a sign up page. That would be the ultimate goal. Um, but for now it’s word of mouth and we’re, and we haven’t scheduled next, our next meeting yet, so I can’t tell you about that, but we did just have a meeting at the library, um, last week and I think we say we had 15 or 20 residents show up, so it was a great turnout. Um, one other thing I’ll just plug since it happened last night and people can’t see it, but we did have a nice, um, art exhibit come to the library for two days. It’s called Columbus crossing borders. This is an exhibit that highlighted the experiences I’d, the resilience really of of refugees from around the world. Um, rich resettling. And in this case it was the Columbus area, but artists painted a whole series of paintings in which, uh, one aspect of the painting cross the border into the next artists painting so that they were all connected. Uh, there was a neat documentary that showed how this came together and the artworks now going to be auctions was the last stop for it. Uh, going on a tour of sorts on the last couple of years. Now there are parts going to be auctioned off, um, and proceeds given to an organization in Columbus that supports refugees. Um, so we were hoping by bringing this art exhibit to Shaker to hopefully inspire, uh, residents to get involved with our, with our initiative here, this small Shaker ambassadors program. We, we may not have refugees per se in Shaker, uh, but certainly have newcomers coming from other countries. And this was a way to interest help people think beyond our borders of Shaker Heights and um, think about ways they can welcome people in the Shaker.
Jennifer Owens (12:08):
That’s really exciting. I’m so glad that that traveled from Columbus up to here.
Sean Malone (12:11):
We are to. It was terrific. And I just want to thank Francine who’s one of our task force members. She’s the one really who reached out to crossing borders a curator, Laurie van Balen and brought the, you know, did the logistics to get this to happen.
Jennifer Owens (12:27):
That’s awesome. So one more thing I wanted to go back to before we close out. You mentioned that eventually the hope is to expand the scope, not just international, not to international people resettling in Shaker, but also to our Shaker neighbors who are, or who may be moving into the neighborhood.
Sean Malone (12:43):
Sure. If you’d allow me to talk for a minute about the other stuff our task force is doing, because as I said, it’s a volunteer group. We’re not spending the city’s money, although ultimately we may need a little bit of help to coordinate some of these volunteer efforts. But we’ve been trying to welcome not just newcomers from overseas. Welcome. Anyone who’s moving into the city, that’s the goal. Already there are two neighborhoods where this is happening, starting to happen without the city’s help. But now the city’s been involved and I think been a good partner. One is the Lomond Neighborhood and the Lomond association. Uh, Lynn Lilly, the former, um, I guess president of the neighborhood association. I think she and a couple others started, uh, really a kind of a welcome wagon program where they would, um, bring care packages to people that move in on a new street or on the street for the first time. Information about the city, just knock on the door. How are you? Thanks for moving. Um, I think that means a lot to people when they first show up in a neighborhood. Now we have residents in Fernway who are interested in doing that. We’d love to see that spread throughout the city. Again, that may require a tiny bit of coordination from the city, uh, to help people know. Usually, you know, when somebody who’s moving and under the street, but there may be times when you don’t. Um, so that’s one simple thing. We also want to do something comparable at the school, uh, at the school district level where kids may move in, um, in the middle of the year and they don’t know anybody. And it can be, I think, a disorienting experience for a lot of people. Um, certain of this schools have a program where they may pair up a newcomer with, uh, an existing student for a couple of weeks just to show them the ropes, look out for them. There’s no district wide program. So I’m hoping to sit down with the high school and, and I had mentioned this to Dr. Glasser, he’s, he thinks it, it’s a great idea. So that’s something we may try with the school district. Um, so that’s welcoming people into Shaker and that’s great for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which I personally think the city of Shaker Heights could stand to increase its population. Um, we need, um, we’ve got many opportunities with new housing coming on online and we’ve got a great story to tell and the city’s doing a terrific job with its marketing, but we want to bring people in Shaker, but people aren’t going to stay if they don’t feel connected to their neighbors. So that’s the other big component of our task force. Helping people already here have more meaningful interactions with their neighbors and particularly neighbors in different neighborhoods of Shaker that they might not interact with on a daily basis. So I, I think people, I’m a big believer in the idea that people build friendships with those who look different or have different backgrounds when they have shared experiences together. So it’s not only that we need to have challenging conversations about any number of hot button issues, race, class, gender equity, all those topics that can be quote unquote hot button. But we also need to have time to just hang out with people and go to sporting events, go to music events, um, get to know each other’s kids. We need more opportunities for that in Shaker. And so that’s one of the things that I would like and I think we have tried to have our task force focus on, um, residents come to us with all sorts of interesting ideas. I’m just gonna throw one out there that we may have for this summer. Uh, there’s a organization called the roots, uh, called, uh, I’m sorry, roots of American music, ROAM, they are a nonprofit music education, um, company. And they would like to have, we have Shaker resident who was on their board at one point. They’d like to have something in they are calling a, GarageBand garage sale event where they have kind of a neighborhood party. I could envision this being part of a, a block party. And so that’s a great thing we have in the summer in Shaker. Um, at the same time they have a block party in the garage. The band plays, they’re auctioning off the, people donate things. It’s auctioned off and it supports ROAM. Um, but it also brings people from that street together. Ideally, it would be nice if we could find a way to bring people from different neighborhoods together. Maybe you go visit the Lomond neighborhood this time. Uh, and then, you know, a week later, Fernway is hosting something. So cool idea that someone brought to us. It would be neat to find a way to make that happen. Um, you know, maybe it’s as simple as a program where people are inviting neighbors into their home for dinner and it’s a neighbor who lives in a different, uh, elementary school district. Um, so, you know, as I said, these sometimes it can be frustrating as an elected official, you want to see results. You want to see a measurable data that, you know, our neighborhood is becoming more engaged because of X, Y, Z. A lot of times just having the meeting is the whole point. Or, um, having the party, um, having a conversation is the whole point. We’re not, that’s it’s challenging for has an elected official use of said, remember we’re, you know, community isn’t, isn’t an amorphous thing, but it is, it is real. And I think the more people have opportunities to connect with each other and know about events. So that’s the other thing that our group has been trying to do is spread the word about events that are already happening and Shaker that a lot of people don’t know about. Um, the more we have those opportunities available for people, the more people feel like Shakers a place they want to stay and uh, you know, raise a family and just commit to for the longterm,
Jennifer Owens (18:37):
You know, where I stand. Um, anything else you want to talk about? Any questions you want to answer that we haven’t asked?
Speaker 3 (18:46):
Well, um, I was going to keep it simple because I just, I’m a big believer that like for example, our task force, there’s, when you say human relations task force, it can mean any number of things, any number of people. But I’ve tried to keep it focused on the simple notion of be more welcoming because I think the idea of simple things done well is better than trying to come up with some grand plan, uh, to reinvent the wheel. So, you know, I just encourage people who are interested in making Shaker more welcoming place, um, to reach out to me to come to one of our meetings. We’ve got a meeting next Thursday, March 5th, um, and there are any number of volunteer opportunities in Shaker. That’s what we’re trying to do. I’m trying to get a community of people who want to help their neighbors, don’t want to rely on the government to do everything for them. We want to give them opportunities to do that. But since you’re asking me other things that I want to mention, I actually, I’m going to slightly change topic for a second and I’m going to promote a couple of things that just spring to mind. One is real simple, vote. So I know this is coming up March 17 a primary election and everyone will probably hear about the presidential election, but there are other issues on the ballot. There is a levy, there are judges on the ballot. We have a number of terrific judicial candidates for common pleas and eighth district court of appeals that live in Shaker. So, um, make sure you vote all the way down the ballot. It’s on st Patrick’s day this year. So you might want to think about voting early if you can. Um, but, but educate yourself about the judges and if you don’t want to take the time to do that, call a lawyer, call somebody who’s in the legal field and get their thoughts on it. But there’s a great website called judge for yourself. The league of women voters has information about the election. So vote. The other thing, I’d be remiss as an elected official if I didn’t mention the census, I think it’s coming up.
Jennifer Owens (20:48):
We did a whole episode on that. Yeah,
Sean Malone (20:50):
You guys did. Um, but it just remind people that that’s coming up in the next month or two. I think it’s gonna you’ll start to be able to register. Um,
Jennifer Owens (20:59):
Can I just springboard off of that? Because one of the big complaints that I hear about the census is that they don’t want people coming to their door, which is totally valid. I understand. But what I learned when I talked with Susan from the census is that you have multiple opportunities to participate and sending somebody to your door is actually their last resort to get you counted. So register early.
Sean Malone (21:19):
That’s a great point. Um, cause that, and that stuff is important because it affects, um, congressional redistricting and at the federal level, but it also will affect the city of Shaker Heights, our eligibility for certain federal grants that we can get. Um, you know, nobody wants to, it’s great to be able as an elect, local effective elected official to rely on federal funding, state funding as opposed to asking the residents for more ourselves,
Jennifer Owens (21:48):
well, it’s about accurate data, right? I mean, you want to have the best data to work from that you can. And if our, if our numbers don’t reflect the actual makeup of Shaker, then we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
Sean Malone (22:01):
So, um, yeah, I just wanted to remind people those, those things coming up, um, and encourage them to stay involved. I, I guess maybe the last thing I’ll say, and I’m think I mentioned this last time I was on your podcast, don’t forget about local politics and local government. Um, there are lots of volunteer opportunities aside from our task force. There’s a sustainability committee that we’ve expanded. We brought it from a task force level to a full fledged committee and residents are able to volunteer. If you’re passionate about recycling, if you want to, um, help residents create, um, rain gardens or rain barrels and um, reduce your fees that you pay in your stormwater, uh, you can volunteer at, we have subcommittees on the sustainability committee where residents can lead initiatives on their own. Uh, I think you’ve got, you guys are hopefully gonna. I hear, uh, highlight rust belt riders are a great partner with the city compost. You can reduce the amount of waste you’re putting in your, uh, your garbage. So, uh, there are ways through these task forces that you can get involved. You can follow, uh, the city meetings through the website and you can listen on, uh, we have audio recordings of every meeting you can get on an email list. If you, if you just want to look over the agendas of the meetings, you can ask the city to be put on the sunshine calendar email and, and you’ll be notified every time the finance committee has an item come before it. And you’ll get the email, that same email the council members get. You can read the same memos that we, that we read. You can show up at our meetings. Um, you know, because I think it’s great that you guys are giving us this platform and giving the residents of Shaker this platform, but a lot of, uh, government, local government happens without people paying attention to it. So I, last thing I guess I would encourage people to do is remember to pay attention to your local government because you’re going to hear everything about the national election. But I think what will have a greater impact on your day to day life is happening here at, over across the street here. A Shaker city hall and across the street here at the library and then down the road over there at the administration building for the school. So pay attention to what’s happening locally.
Jennifer Owens (24:14):
That’s good advice. Thanks Sean. Appreciate it.
Sean Malone (24:16):
Sure. Always a pleasure. Thank you.
Jennifer Owens (24:25):
As always, Sean, thank you so, so much for coming on the show and chatting with us. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you.
Brad Owens (24:31):
And thank you to our sponsor for this episode. Picnic Hill. Jenny, what sort of things are you looking forward to on March 7th for their Brunch that’s starting up?
Jennifer Owens (24:37):
So when this starts, that’s this weekend. I am beyond excited. The Pharaoh’s Farro sounds amazing, which is Farro with a rugala, avocado, roasted veggies, a poached egg, and a lemon citrus dressing. Sounds amazing. Also the sunrise charcuterie board, which serves two people, which seems like the best thing to just like get and linger over as you drink your mimosa or your raspberry Bellini. Perfect. Sounds delicious.
Brad Owens (25:00):
So I’ll get the French toast and then we can share the whole charcuterie platter and get Bellinis and whiskey milk punch. Perfect. All right. So March 7th Ya’ll will see us there.
Jennifer Owens (25:13):
Yes, picnic hill market cafe. And as always, thank you our listeners for listening. We always appreciate you and your ears and your feedback.
Brad Owens (25:21):
You can subscribe to future episodes and your favorite podcast app of choice. We’re absolutely everywhere.
Jennifer Owens (25:25):
Or you can find us at www.heyshaker.com where you can also continue the conversation with your Shaker neighbors in the comment section of this episode.
Brad Owens (25:31):
Yup. And if that isn’t enough, you can also find us on Instagram and Facebook. We’re out there at HeyShaker.
Jennifer Owens (25:37):
We want to hear from you. Do you have an upcoming event that you want to highlight? Do you have a story idea? Do you have pictures you want to share? We’re starting to get photo submissions for our social media streams, which I love. Please send us your pictures. Shoot us an email. We’re at hello@HeyShaker.com.
Brad Owens (25:50):
so until next time, I’m Brad Owens.
Jennifer Owens (25:52):
I’m Jenny Owens.
Brad Owens (25:53):
and this has been the Hey Shaker podcast letting you know what’s happening.
Jennifer Owens (25:56):
in Shaker Heights.