Creating and Using Forms, and Extracting Data for Mail Merge

I’m part of Peace Lutheran Church’s HOPE Jobs Fair team preparing to assist unemployed homeless and other individuals to re-enter the workforce. As part of this effort, we are helping these individuals prepare resumes to present to prospective employers.
To streamline the process for the 100s of applicants we anticipate serving, I have adapted a form-filling process that I have been asked to use by my financial institutions to provide them data about me. This process uses Adobe Acrobat Pro, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and Microsoft Word.
By using this process, we can standardize the type and look of information applicants present employers. By using standard software that is widely available for Windows, Mac, and Android platforms, and forms that are simple to fill out, we can accept entries from many different preparers — applicants, service agencies, our church volunteers — who do not need much training or experience. The applications can be saved and edited to produce revised resumes. Also, by preparing differently formatted resume masters, we can produce resumes with different look and feel from the same data on file without requiring re-entering data.
While this process spreads much of the work of preparing many resumes to many with basic form filling and MS Word skills, it does call for an individual or small team with some experience with Acrobat and Word. As my own experience was quite dated, I had to re-learn how to locate and use the various tools that Adobe provides. Similarly, Microsoft has changed Word and its location of Mail Merge features has been changed over time requiring work to re-learn their process.
Now that my re-learning is complete, I’ve documented the steps required to help me and others tackle the job more easily in the future.
Here are the steps in the process that I came up with, using the latest Adobe and Microsoft products on my Mac.
  1. Produce .pdf form with Adobe Acrobat Pro, using a model form downloaded from the InternetHOPE Step 1
    1. Use Edit PDF tool to modify layout of formHOPE Step 1a
    2. Use Prepare Form tool to edit form’s entry fieldsHOPE Step 1b
    3. File>Save As to save the form with a name indicating version date
    4. Within Prepare Form click Distribute button …HOPE Step 1d
    5. … use Email, continueHOPE Step 1e
    6. Save a local copy and manually send it later, NextHOPE Step 1f
    7. Don’t bother with Collect name & email from recipients, Finish
    8. Close the Tracker windowHOPE Step 1h
  2. Email forms to desired recipient organizations and individuals
    1. Forms can be printed for easy completion by hand
    2. Optional: Show recipients how the data on the forms will look at the end of the process, with the resulting resume
  3. Receive completed forms from applicants and enter data
    1. Download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader DC in Windows, Mac, or Android computer from https://get.adobe.com/reader/
    2. Open the latest .pdf Job Seeker Application form fileHOPE Step 3b
      1. Even though the applicant may have used an earlier version of the form, all the fields of earlier forms are in the latest form file
    3. Enter the data in the appropriate fields on the form
    4. Print out the form and provide to applicant to review & correct
    5. Save As the entered form with the applicant’s name inserted in the front of the filename, but keeping the rest of the filename intact so we can identify which version of the form was used enter the data
    6. Email the saved form to the HOPE team
  4. Open the latest Job Seeker Application PDF Form mmddyy_responses.pdf file in Adobe Acrobat ProHOPE Step 4
    1. Click Get StartedHOPE Step 4a
  5. Add completed .pdf files
    1. Click Add in left barHOPE Step 5a
    2. In Add Returned Forms, Add File
    3. Click on completed .pdf files to add, holding Command/Ctrl key to select multiple files, Open, OK.
      1. If Acrobat gives a warning message about fields not exactly matching, accept with YesHOPE Step 5c
    4. Continue steps 5.b. and 5.c. to add more files
  6. Export list file for Word Mail Merge
    1. If you want to produce resume just for new files, Command/Ctrl click on the new filesHOPE Step 6a
    2. Click Export in left bar
    3. Click Export all or Export selected
    4. In Select Folder To Save File window, select where to save the CSV Format file for Word to Mail MergeHOPE Step 6d
    5. Close Acrobat Pro
  7. Produce draft resumes with MS Word Mail Merge from exported Adobe form fields
    1. Open Entry Resume Master in Word
    2. Use Mail Merge wizard to:
      1. Create Letters using the Master documentHOPE Step 7a
      2. Select Recipients, Using Existing List …HOPE Step 7b2a
      3. …selecting the CSV Format file created in 6.4.HOPE Step 7b2b
      4. Preview ResultsHOPE Step 7b3
      5. Finish & Merge, Edit Individual Documents, to create draft resumesHOPE Step 7b4
      6. File>Save As to save draft resumes as a .docx fileHOPE Step 7b5
    3. Edit the draft resumes
      1. Remove lines created from empty fields
      2. Select pages for an individual’s resume, Edit>Copy, File>New, Edit>Paste, Save to create resume file for each Name
      3. Repeat previous step for each individual
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Capital Univ. Chapel Choir at Peace

The Capital University Chapel Choir kicked off its 2016 Concert Tour with a stirring performance at my church, Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, OH on Feb. 25, 2016. I was delighted to hear Leif Nilsen and his fellow choir member sing here before they appear in NYC’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 29th!

I have posted my photos from the concert on Facebook. Here are the video clips I managed to take with my little handheld Sony point-and-shoot camera and post on YouTube. I’m pleasantly surprised that my camera managed to capture some of the Choir’s magnificent sound. I hope these clips give you a sense of the majestic performance the capacity audience enjoyed.









My Other Voice

Having grown up in NYC, I became accustomed to seeing great theater performances. Last night, I had the rare pleasure of seeing a Broadway show in formation, with the extra benefit of knowing something about the back story.

In his 7/29/2012 sermon at my church last Sunday, Pastor Kai Nilsen introduced a young man from our community who had been coming to our church. Alex Kip was a 2006 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate who went on to my alma mater, the University of Michigan, to study Musical Theater. In his senior year, about to go to Broadway to pursue his craft, Alex came down with cancer that not only affected his singing voice, but gave him only a 15-30% chance of living. Alex fought and made it through, returned to Broadway, and, with the encouragement and help of a director, Ari Laura Kreith, started writing a play based on his story. After three table readings in NYC, he brought the play back to his high school and worked with Actors Equity and high school performers for a week to stage its first performance.

What a thrilling performance it was! The story was compelling. The glimpses we get of the great richness and power of Alex’s singing voice help us understand the crushing blow he must have felt in hearing that he may lose his singing voice forever ‒ a message that hit him as badly as the one that he may die. The reality of family life is presented with the poignancy of supportive love. Even knowing the outcome, I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.

This is a work in progress, with script changes being made daily. So as explained prior to the performance, the cast performed with scripts in hand. It wasn’t at all distracting, but a reminder to the audience that we were having a hand at forming this work. Our part became more active in the “talk back session” after the performance in which the audience provided comments and suggestions. What an unusual opportunity it was to see and hear how a play is created! The director explained that even the audience reaction during the performance offered them suggestions on adjusting the play.

NBC4 News in Columbus covered the show. Here’s the clip from their news broadcast last night:

See more about Alex and the production at his website: http://akipprod.com

Midwestern friendliness and the flu

A few days ago, I came down with a mild case of what I conclude is the flu. A little headachy, slight body aches, fever that progressed daily from 99.4° to 101.4° to 100.8° to normal today, and a general blah feeling. With my Internet connection, I was comfortable at home, keeping in touch with family and friends via facebook and email. I got a lot of sympathy and good advice.

This morning, my pastor, Kai Nilsen, called to alert me that he was stopping by in a few minutes to drop off some chicken soup and a bagel for me (and he’s not even Jewish!). Kai and his family have become good friends of mine, but I really am not accustomed to church pastors making house calls! I took advantage of the sunny 60° day and went outside to meet Kai. I thanked him for the soup and the bagel – but neglected to thank him for the gifts of his kindness and friendship – and explained I didn’t want to risk giving him the flu, so didn’t give him my traditional hug or invite him in to my virus-laden home. I did say that I was floored by the fact that I had received a house call from my pastor – on his day off – and would be posting the fact on facebook.

Kai’s visit ranks way up there in my book, on a par with my having personally been cooked dinner and served by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius in her Kansas Governor’s Residence. I’ve told all my family and friends around the world that my life in Ohio is distinguished by the genuine friendliness of people here. Today’s experience is another example of that friendliness.

This is the first time I’ve had the flu since 1988. I’ve been good at getting my seasonal flu shots each fall. I also take Chinese Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian herbal cold pills at the first sign of a sniffle. Despite these precautions, I got the flu – or maybe because of these precautions, my flu was mild. Or perhaps the mildness the result of the midwestern friendliness that I’ve been so blessed with.

In any case, I recalled and stuck by my doctors’ old advice for the flu: “Stay in bed for 3 days. You may feel better the second day and want to go to work. If you do, you’ll relapse and be in bed for 2 weeks.” So I stayed home, drank plenty of fluids, including my Mom’s new recommendation: honey and cinnamon in hot water (I used hot green tea, taking advantage of another friend’s recommendation). I feel almost completely normal now – and very blessed. Still, I’m going to limit my contact with others for the next couple of days to be sure I don’t spread any lingering virus particles.

A Moment in Time

Mine is one of thousands of photos included in the NY Times’  “A Moment in Time” website! Here it is.

In April, the Times asked its readers throughout the world to be ready to snap a picture of what they were doing on Sunday, May 2nd at 11 a.m., EDT and submit it to them for inclusion in this project. I knew I’d be in church and it would be at the end of the 10 a.m. contemporary service I usually attend at Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, Ohio. I took a seat in the area I normally do, thinking I’d get a shot of one of our pastors closing the service, along with the band and contemporary choir.

That Sunday, however, we had a guest preacher: Rev. Dr. Kevin Dudley, from the nearby Church at North Pointe, a fairly new congregation he had started. About 20 of us from Peace had attended a service at North Point in January as a way of starting to get our congregations to know each other as a prelude to possibly working together on ministry efforts.

Well, Rev. Dudley’s wonderful sermon was more characteristic of the African-American style of worship service and ran a little longer than our usual 10-12 minute sermons, so the service was still running strong at normal 11 a.m. ending time. Pastor Doug Warburger concluded the service with a special prayer involving members laying hands on Rev. Dudley. Rather than joining the group laying hands on, I remained at my seat to take my photo. It was exactly 11:00 a.m. and that’s the shot I got from my seat.

The idea of capturing a unique moment in time on earth and showing what thousands of people were doing at precisely the same moment in time is an intriguing one, and certainly one in line with my own practice of being a photo documentarian. That idea has been applied to the many books of photographs entitled “A Day in the Life of [country name].” Having admired those books, I felt that merely taking a beautiful photograph wasn’t the point. I wanted to capture something happening just there and then – something that couldn’t have occurred a moment after or before, or a day or year after or before. (Indeed, the Times reported they excluded photos that clearly weren’t taken at the prescribed time – for example, a daytime photo submitted from China, where it was nighttime.)

Looking at many of the other photos submitted – many of them quite beautiful as photographs – I am pleased that my photo was one of a small percentage of those that captured a unique moment in time. I hope you enjoy the photos on the website.

If you like my photo, I hope you’ll take a moment to “Recommend this photo” by clicking on the link at the bottom right of the photos in the Times website. Here’s a link to my photo (please be patient – it will take several seconds for the page to load): http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/03/blogs/a-moment-in-time.html?ex=1289707200&en=fe1e232b8fb2e13f&ei=5087&WT.mc_id=NYT-E-I-NYT-E-AT-0519-L1#/4bddcc2e0bca2560ba00068f.

From there, you can surf to other photos by geography (click “Return to globe”), or subject (drop-down list). As the site warns, “Make no plans for the rest of the day” – it’s a fascinating site to explore.