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Lebanese consul general has office hours in Toledo

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Rob Hamzo, 24, from Toledo, fills-out the paperwork for a new Lebanese passport with the help of volunteer Dib Habbouche, right. (The Blade/Amy E. Voigt)

The Lebanese consul general in Detroit visited Toledo on Thursday to assist Lebanese-American residents in the Toledo area, and those with ties to the country, with vital statistics work.

Consul General Bilal Kabalan has set up a once-a-month satellite office at 609 Main St. in East Toledo for northwest Ohioans to more easily make use of the consulate’s services, such as passport applications, birth registrations, and marriage and divorce paperwork.

Thursday was his third visit since his office began the program in November, modeling it after a similar one in Cleveland that has been in place for a year and a half.

Mr. Kabalan, who oversees a 12-state region, said there was demand from Toledo’s Lebanese community to create a space for consular services, and that community leader Yehia Shousher offered him the east side storefront as a location.

Mr. Kabalan said his Detroit office has seen a lot of traffic from Toledo’s Lebanese-American community, which he estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 people.

“By being present here, they will congregate around the consulate,” he said.

“They will congregate under this title which is called the ‘Lebanese roots’ — we can create a stronger sense of community.”

A handful of people took the opportunity to file paperwork, or to simply meet and talk to the consul.

Ali and Ishey Orra of Toledo were there to see if there was a way to help a family of Syrian refugees that has been living in the basement of their home in Lebanon for the past two months.

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Lebanese Consul General Bilal Kabalan, left, from Detroit, talks with Amjad Doumani, right from Toledo, about renewing his Lebanese passport. (The Blade/Amy E. Voigt)

Mr. Orra, 69, said he can’t afford to rent a house for them in Toledo but wanted to see if there was any government assistance for the family of six that fled the besieged city of Homs after their home was destroyed.

“It’s our duty to help anybody,” he said.

“If you put yourself in their situation, and nobody helps us, it’s very tough.”

Mr. Kabalan said the monthly visits are a “soft opening” and that he hopes to find more projects to work on with Toledo’s Lebanese-American community, which he described as “vibrant.”

“I’m covering 12 states, and I can tell you that I have an attachment to this community in Toledo,” he said.

“And I’ve told them that on many occasions because what they did is they succeeded to be Americans, go through this melting pot, be 100 percent American, and at the same time keep their values as Lebanese and represent their ancestry in a good way and in a positive way.”

Contact Hasan Dudar at: hdudar@theblade.com, 419-724-6082 or on Twitter @h_dudar

This story was originally published in the Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 edition of The Blade and online at toledoblade.com.