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A Quarterly Business Publication of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber

Issue 11 | Spring / Summer 2021


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C on t e n t 6 Letter to the Reader

10 A Different Kind of Beautiful Newnan’s Tornado Recovery Expected to Last up to Three Years


16 Hope Manifested A Tree Felled by the Tornado Offers Unexpected Hope


Dubbed “The Midnight Tornado,” the EF4 storm tore through Newnan leaving devastation in its path. Photo:

City of Miracles Recounting the Tornado in Hollis Heights

46 #NewnanStrong Community Groups Organize

25 Three of Many Three Local Residents Retell Their Stories from the Tornado

30 Down, But Not Out



Weathering the Storms Coweta Schools Prioritize Students through Multiple Crises


Community Leaders Rally Around Historic Chalk Level Neighborhood

The Kiwanis Coweta County Fair A Community Looks Forward

36 No Place Like Home


Historic Estates Nearly Unrecognizable Following EF4 Tornado PHOTO BY CHRIS MARTIN


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Spring / Summer 2021




hen we set out to publish a business quarterly nearly two years ago, our intentions were simple – to establish a print publication that would serve both Coweta’s professional community and those interested in understanding more about local business and industry. Our goal was to highlight the stories behind those operations, large and small, that contribute to the thriving economic landscape that renders Coweta the exceptional livework-play community that it is. It’s a challenge, though, for the editorial team to evaluate many of the extraordinary humaninterest stories born of Newnan-Coweta, regrettably nixing many that we would love to tell but don’t align with the mission.

The devastating tornado that profoundly affected our community – both heartbreaking and uplifting – necessitated an exception to this unwritten rule. As we awoke on Friday, March 26, to vast devastation and spent weeks following in conversation with friends, neighbors, peers, and associates, we encountered too many personal testaments to the strength of our community to ignore; resilience that fosters the thriving business climate that grounds us.

As this current issue came into focus, we realized that the pages that follow serve as only the first chapters of a story that will likely unfold for years to come. The community members, non-profit organizations, and businesses that serve Coweta are all integral to this narrative, and we look forward to chronicling the details of how our community, once again, worked as one to ensure that we remain #CowetaStrong, no matter the challenge.


GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Paul Lewis, Luz Design Nikki Rich, Rich Graphics, Inc. PUBLICATION LAYOUT Nikki Rich, Rich Graphics, Inc. CONTRIBUTORS

As you read and digest these features, so thoughtfully crafted by our talented team of storytellers, consider that they serve as only a fraction of the accounts of benevolence, camaraderie, generosity, divinity, and community. There is so much more of the story to be told, and we look forward to working alongside other key stakeholders to share them.

Susan Kraut


PUBLISHER Newnan-Coweta Chamber

Wendy Bellacomo Melissa Dickson Jackson Susan M. Kraut Larisa M. Scott W. Winston Skinner

TO CONTRIBUTE: THRIVE welcomes your ideas. Please send inquiries to Susan M. Kraut at for consideration. THRIVE is published quarterly. Neither the Newnan-Coweta Chamber nor THRIVE is responsible for unsolicited material. Such material will become the property of THRIVE and is subject to editing and digital use. Reproductions of this publication in part or whole is prohibited without the express consent of the publisher. THRIVE is available at various locations throughout Coweta County. You can also email to request a copy.

A Quarterly Business Publication of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber 23 Bullsboro Dr. | Newnan | 770.253.2270

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A Different Kind of Beautiful NEWNAN’S TORNADO RECOVERY EXPECTED TO LAST UP TO THREE YEARS Written by W. Winston Skinner Photography by Susan Kraut


n the evening of March 25, most Cowetans were either sleeping or just becoming aware of the approaching tornado. But for Michael Terrell, the county’s emergency management director, staying on top of the weather is part of the job description. “We were watching the storm initially back into Mississippi – at home at first,” Terrell said. Then, as the developing storm got closer, he got in his vehicle and headed to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC sent a notice about the approaching tornado, and “about 40 minutes later, the storm hit in the county and into Newnan,” Terrell remembered. He watched as the tornado took shape in the Franklin area. As it reached Smokey Road, “it got larger and larger,” said Terrell. “The signature on the radar was enormous.” The National Weather Service reported the storm was an EF4, with winds reaching 170 miles per hour, the second-highest rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. “It was over a mile wide from Belk Road coming into the Newnan High area. That was the most fierce – the strongest winds,” Terrell noted. “It started to weaken as it moved toward downtown, but it was still mighty.”


Spring / Summer 2021

The strength dropped as the tornado reached Greison Trail, although Terrell noted that “it seemed like it picked up in intensity a little bit when it crossed the interstate.” From there, the storm continued to weaken as it headed to Peachtree City and Tyrone. The path of the tornado from Franklin into Fayette County was 39 miles long.


he tornado damaged a total of 1,726 homes in Coweta County. Destruction ranged from fallen limbs to destroyed dwellings. Of the total, 99 homes were deemed uninhabitable, and another 177 suffered significant damage. Many residents had to vacate their homes while waiting for necessary repairs, displacing at least 276 families. Trees on roofs, lost shingles, and broken windows were just some of the challenges experienced by residents of the 460 homes considered to have minor damage. Terrell said the cost to repair “minor damage” could still total as much as $300,000.

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elanie Reeves, executive director of River Life, a local ministry, said that needs in the community continue to evolve as time passes. Initially, River Life worked with the Red Cross to assist people in need of housing.

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People staying in motels often needed sustenance, and organizations stepped up to provide hot meals and shelf-stable food. “Some of the groups really pulled together for that,” Reeves said. Even as recovery progresses, needs will mount – and will continue to change. “It is going to be a two-year-plus recovery,” Reeves said. “It could take anywhere from 24-36 months to fully recover. We’re still in the relief phase. We haven’t gotten to the reconstruction and rebuilding phase yet.” “The hard part for me is that there’s still a ton of devastation,” said Jason Walton, community outreach pastor at Foundation Church. “Yet, there’s still a lot of hope.” Reeves, Terrell, and Walton are among the local leaders who agree it will be two or more years before the community returns to a semblance of normalcy. But, even then, things won’t look the same in the once tree-lined neighborhoods ravaged by the tornado.

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“It probably won’t ever look the same in our lifetime because of the tree canopy we lost,” Terrell said. Becky Trice, whose family made it through the storm with more minor damage than many, reflected pensively on the new landscape on Hollis Heights. “I especially chose this street because I loved the history, the ancient oak trees. It’s totally different now. It will never be the same.” But then her voice took on a brighter tone as she added, “It’s going to be beautiful again, though. It’s just going to be a different kind of beautiful.”


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Hope, Manifested Many people in Coweta County feel that God’s mercy helped the community survive the March tornado. However, evidence of divine intervention went a step further for the Pylant family when Terry Pylant noticed a cross in what remained of a black walnut tree in their Nimmons Street backyard. Pylant first saw the cross and pointed it out to his wife, Angie, on Easter day, April 4, a little over a week after a tornado devastated their neighborhood. 16

“It was so pronounced I couldn’t believe that no one had noticed it before,” Angie Pylant said. She took another look at a video taken the morning after the tornado to confirm what she now saw. “It was there,” she said, noting that the natural aging of the wood made the image more pronounced as the days passed.

Written by W. Winston Skinner Photograph byAngie Pylant

“No one ever touched this stump until I removed the cross when it was time to grind it,” Angie Pylant continued. “I’ve salvaged it and bound the pieces with rope. I will keep it as a testimony and reminder of God’s loving presence, protection, and Spirit shown through the countless, countless acts of kindness from within and outside our community.”

Spring / Summer 2021


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Spring / Summer 2021

City of Miracles Written by W. Winston Skinner


Photograph by Susan M. Kraut

aking refuge in her Hollis Heights home basement, Becky Trice heard and felt the tornado buffeting her house above her.

According to Michael Terrell, Coweta County’s emergency management director, 10 people presented at the hospital following the tornado.

She began praying. “Please protect us. Please protect our neighbors, family, and friends.” She prayed the words aloud, over and over, until the winds stopped.

“The hospital was able to release all of them after treatment with nothing serious enough to keep them there,” he said. “Everyone who has come in from other places - who does this in other places on an ongoing basis - is astonished that we didn’t have any fatalities that were directly related to the storm,” Terrell said.

“I never had any fear that we weren’t going to live,” Trice recalled. “I had peace that we were going to survive.” Many people prayed as March 25 turned into March 26, with a massive tornado racing through streets in and around downtown Newnan. Many people firmly believe God answered those prayers. Spring / Summer 2021

One local man died of a heart attack when emergency responders could not reach him during the tornado. In addition, at least one resident had surgery after his foot was injured when the tornado hit his home. 19

Still, Terrell remains amazed at the overall good fortune of the community. “We had houses that collapsed on families, and they were able to crawl out,” he marveled. “A lot of places have a storm like this, and people are still in the hospital two months later. We didn’t have anything like that.” As Cowetans reflect on the storm’s devastation and the lack of significant injuries and widespread death, they point to two things: technology that offered a warning in the vital moments before the tornado and God’s benevolent provision. Cowetans received warnings on their phones that urged them to seek immediate safety; warning sirens in many parts of the county added another alert that trouble was close. “Not only did the warnings work, but people heeded the warnings,” Terrell said. That made a huge difference. Melanie Reeves, executive director of River Life, a local Christian ministry, added, “I give great credit to emergency management and the great preparation of having the sirens. But, I also believe fully that the hand of God protected our community from loss of life. Not to take away from the people in Alabama who lost their lives, I believe God was with us.” Trice reflected on how different the result might have been in a pre-cellphone era. “It speaks to our communication system,” she said, noting that “a system in place that sends notifications to everyone’s telephone” turned out to be a great asset. Still, Trice credits more than electronics to how Newnan fared.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that nobody died. I can’t give any other explanation other than the hand of God was on our town. We were all kept safe,” she said. “I’m 100 percent confident the hand of God was protecting us.” “You have to look at it like that because nobody lost their life,” added Tina Melson, who survived the storm hunkered down with her brother in the bathroom of her Burch Avenue family home. “Any state that has a tornado come through, somebody lost their life. Someone was missing. Somebody was trapped.” Melson remembered Newnan Police Department officers coming through her neighborhood at about 4 a.m., checking people from house to house. One of them told her that a home down the street had a severe gas leak. A stray spark could have blown up the entire block. She added that the tornado was just the most recent event to demonstrate the need for people in Coweta to care about each other. She recalled other storms that have hit various parts of the county. And, of course, there’s the COVID-19 virus. “This was a warning. Maybe you could even say a test,” Melson said. “I think God is saying we have to get our hearts right, and we have to get our minds in order.” Newnan resident Michael Phillips said he feels the community was as prepared as possible, in ways both practical and spiritual. “Newnan is a praying community, a praying city. We took precautions as we should. A lot of people checked on each other,” Phillips said.



He pointed out how Newnan’s slogan “City of Homes” was exemplified the night of the storm.



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“It’s a city of homes. We all know each other. We’re neighborly,” Phillips observed. “The Good Lord just spared us. He just gave us a good stern warning: treat people right. It’s a warning you cannot overlook,” Phillips said. Jason Walton, the community outreach pastor at Foundation Church, sees God’s hand in the timing of the storm. He pondered how the result might have been different if the tornado had hit Newnan High while classes were in session. “I’m so thankful it was at night and not during the school day,” Walton said. “It provides hope. Everybody’s still here to rebuild together. That’s a big thing.”


The deliverance of the community’s people – and the response from the faith community – have had a lasting impact on many. Kim Maniaci, executive director of Rock of Faith House Restored, said an Atlanta friend saw how the community banded together following the tornado and told Maniaci, “If I ever move, I’m moving to Newnan.” People have also told Maniaci that they were uncertain of the existence of God, but the deliverance during the tornado and the spirit of unity that followed it restored their faith. A VEHICLE IN THE FIRST BAPTIST PARKING LOT DISPLAYS THE MESSAGE: “TEAM PATRIOT – HELPING IN JESUS’ NAME.”

“There’s something special here that God is doing in our community,” Maniaci said.



Spring / Summer 2021


Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains came to Newnan following the storm, along with the Samaritan’s Purse outreach. “They go out with us to every house,” said Elliott Willis, program director for Samaritan’s Purse. “The chaplains make sure the people impacted are in a good place physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We had 24 individuals who gave their lives to Christ while we were in Newnan.” After the storm, Renie Cochran encountered volunteers from three local churches immediately following the storm Foundation Church, Newnan City Church, and Crossroads. All of the volunteers, she said, were encouraging and eager to help. “My neighbor said, ‘I wasn’t a fan of organized religion, but this has changed my mind,’” Cochran related. “Almost everyone who has offered to help with food, physical labor, etc., for free has been from a church. What a testimony to the power of generosity.”

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Local nurse Terry Thompson spoke of what the community lost but also of what shines through the loss. “The tornado wiped out a huge part of our beautiful landscape in a matter of minutes. Trees gone. Houses obliterated. Yet everyone lived through it,” she said. In Thompson’s view, the ultimate result is a miracle from God. “It’s also a wake-up call for us to be ready and right with Jesus,” she urged. “All that we have can be wiped away in a matter of seconds, but Jesus is a constant and will always be with us.”


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Three of Many NEWNAN RESIDENTS RECALL MIDNIGHT TORNADO Written by W. Winston Skinner Photograph by Susan M. Kraut

Tina Melson Tina Melson lived in the same house for 53 years, but she doesn’t live there anymore. All that changed on March 26, when a tornado destroyed her family home on Burch Avenue. “Nothing inside, nothing outside made it through the tornado,” Melson said. She can remember when her family built the house. Burch Avenue was just a dirt road then. When the storm struck, she was living in the home with her brother. On the night of March 25, the weather warning sirens woke her with a start just a little before midnight. “I immediately turned on Channel 2. They were saying the tornado was a fast-moving tornado, and they were showing the different locations where it had landed,” Melson recalled. Concerned, she called to her brother to wake him. He grabbed some pillows, and they hurried to the bathroom to wait out the storm. As soon as Channel 2 reported that the tornado had touched down on LaGrange Street, the electricity went off, leaving the pair huddled in total darkness. Then, at 12:04, windows started breaking throughout the house. “Then I heard this train coming,” Melson remembered. Melson is familiar with the sound of a train. Tracks run just a block or so from Burch Avenue. The tornado sounded like a train, but it was louder than any train she had ever heard, more like two freight engines bearing down on them at one time. Then she heard another loud noise. She was startled to discover her refrigerator and stove moving down the hallway, pulled by the force of the winds. Spring / Summer 2021


“It was literally sucking up everything in the house,” she said.

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At one point, her brother’s feet left the floor as the winds pulled him upward. “I had to grab him so hard he said I pulled his shoulder out of place,” Melson said. Just as fast as it came, it was over. The tornado winds that had changed her life had come and gone in moments, but she said it didn’t feel like that. “It seemed like hours,” she reflected. “Then it was dead silence.” Moments later, Melson heard her granddaughter from next door calling out to her. “You’ve got to come out this way. You can’t come out any other way,” she said. The granddaughter helped Melson out through a window, and her brother followed. “The trees were down everywhere,” she said. Melson had to crawl under a tree to get to her daughter’s home and begin assessing the damage. Four trees behind her home that she had recently considered removing all ended up in Melson’s house. She found her trampoline on the roof of a house across the street on Robinson Street, and she learned that the storm had killed a neighbor’s dog. “It took the roof off every house around me,” Melson said, “and destroyed one home.” Trees that had been part of the landscape for decades were gone.


Spring / Summer 2021

She recalled a massive magnolia in a neighbor’s yard that had been a neighborhood landmark for half a century or more and is now gone. In just a few moments, the power of the storm had changed the neighborhood forever.

Michael Phillips Michael Phillips keeps up with the weather. “I drive a dump truck. The weather is a big factor in whether I work or not,” he said. “So we knew there was a big storm coming.” Phillips’ family had settled in for the night at their apartment on Watson Drive, off LaGrange Street, on March 25. Phillips was there with his fiancée Shaniedra Young, their three sons, and Young’s mother. Late that night, a weather alert signal rang out from Phillips’ phone. The words were ominous. “Seek immediate shelter. Be aware. Tornado.” “I thought, ‘It can’t be true,’” Phillips said. So he told his children to put on their shoes, quickly found an old mattress, and pulled it over his family. Phillips stepped outside to try to determine what was happening. As he went back in, he saw what he thought was a twig in the wind. Then the twig, actually a tree, landed on his car. “It totaled my Nissan,” he said.

Spring / Summer 2021



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Realizing the power of the storm, Phillips rushed back to rejoin his family under the mattress.

“Every tree that was in my yard was down,” he said. A massive oak was down next door, and there were two trees on his home.

“The scariest part wasn’t the tornado,” he remembered. It was the unknown. “I couldn’t do anything to convince my kids we were going to be alright.”

“Just to come back out and realize that everything’s gone,” Phillips mused. “That was hard.”

Twenty seconds of intense winds shrieked around his apartment, shaking the building, and then it stopped. Phillips emerged from behind the mattress and looked out at a devastating sight.

Phillips’ home was damaged, but he found another close by and did some painting to speed up his family’s move-in date. His goal was to get his children back in school and “get back to the normal routine.” For Phillips and his family, normal never felt so good.


Spring / Summer 2021

Becky Trice For Becky Trice, the evening of March 25 started like any other. Her husband, J.T., was doing laundry at their home on Hollis Heights. She went to bed to read, muting her phone as she did every night, and then realized she had forgotten to set her alarm. “I reached over to get my phone, and, as soon as I did, I got a weather alert,” she recalled. She woke her son, Hampton, who was in a deep sleep, and the family hurriedly headed to the basement and turned on the television. On the air, Glenn Burns was following the tornado from Franklin to Dresden and then toward Newnan. Trice’s mother and stepfather live in Dresden, a small, rural community between Newnan and Franklin. She called to check on them, and they reported that they were fine. Soon Trice heard Burns say the tornado was heading up LaGrange Street. “It gave me chills,” she remembered. “I was watching our streets on the T.V.” Then, to make the situation even more terrifying, the power went out. The family moved into the innermost part of the basement in the darkness, where they promptly lost cell phone service. “The sirens were going off. Then, what seemed like seconds later, we heard the tornado coming toward us. There was an eerie silence. Then we heard the roar,” Trice said. She compared it to an airplane engine. “It’s such a deafening noise, and it feels like it’s just over your head.”

Trice heard trees snapping and glass shattering. “What I didn’t anticipate was the wind speeds were so strong. The whole house was shaking for what felt like minutes, even though I’m sure the whole thing was under 60 seconds,” she said. When they could, J.T. and Becky Trice looked outside. All she can remember is the shock she felt at the destruction. “The amount of devastation – it was just unimaginable.”

After the Storm The storm brought devastation, but it also brought out neighborliness and a strong desire to help others. As soon as he could, J.T. Trice headed out to make sure no one nearby was trapped or in need of other help. He quickly teamed up with a neighbor to more efficiently canvas the neighborhood. Melson also wanted to check on neighbors. Many of them are also relatives – an aunt across the street, a nephew’s mother nearby. She called out but heard nothing, later realizing everyone was still shocked because of the sudden onslaught of wind and destruction. Phillips and Young also turned their thoughts toward others once they were sure the tornado had left them unharmed. Young checked on a neighbor who was alone and brought her back to their apartment. “Other people were starting to come out. Everybody was checking on each other,” Phillips said. “This tornado – this was a tough situation. It was a bad ordeal. A lot of people are hurt emotionally.” Still, some good came from it. Phillips said he feels closer to his fiancée and his family after living through that night. “We understand now that at any given moment, we all could be gone,” he said.


Of all the lessons that this tragedy has taught our community, perhaps none is more significant than this. Life is fragile and fleeting. So, as we rebuild, may we prioritize what is most meaningful and leave behind what is not as we work together to forge an even better and brighter future.

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Down, But Not Out


After tearing through the south side of Newnan’s GreenvilleLaGrange neighborhood, the storm banked east, aiming at one of Newnan’s oldest and most unique neighborhoods known as “Chalk Level.” The origins behind the name are varied. According to Newnan City Council member Cynthia Jenkins, “There are two theories. The area may be named for chalk deposits found along the creek. The other explanation is that when the railroad came in, workers used chalk to outline the most level parts of the neighborhood, creating a boundary where the tracks would go.” Whatever the origin, in the early morning hours of March 26, the community came together like never before. Neighbors called out to one another, checked in with friends, and offered shelter to those whose homes were left uninhabitable. Spring / Summer 2021

Many in the neighborhood, including laborers, homemakers, factory workers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, and community leaders, have deep ties to this community where families have resided for generations. Housing in the neighborhood ranges from elegant twostory Victorian-era homes to more modest cottages and bungalows. Many do not meet today’s zoning for square footage. Nevertheless, community pride runs deep here, and many older residents have seen the neighborhood weather political and cultural events spanning decades. Some in the area have resisted outside forces wanting to come in to “gentrify” Chalk Level, concerned that such development would strip the neighborhood of its rich identity. However, there has been no threat like that of the recent storm to render the area unrecognizable. Driving through its well-known streets -- Pinson, Savannah, Robinson, Burch, and others -- people familiar with Chalk Level can scarcely believe the destruction that the storm brought. The intense weather left houses with severe wind and tree damage, some barely standing and many unsafe for human occupancy. As a result, countless residents found themselves staying in long-term rental hotels, with friends, or with extended family. Kendrick “Taj” Stephens, who owns a home on Burch Avenue occupied by his father and grandmother, rushed to Chalk Level after the storm. Trying to get to his house and family was dangerous. Still, he eventually prevailed and brought his grandmother out in a wheelchair, taking her and his father to safety at his primary residence off Sprayberry Road. At the house on Burch, a telephone pole abutted the front door. Trees and debris littered the yard, and the roof was severely damaged. Eight weeks after the storm, Stephen’s grandmother and father are still residing with him while waiting for repairs to make the Burch Avenue house habitable. 33

Cynthia Jenkins and other community leaders and pastors have played a pivotal role in keeping relief and restoration efforts moving forward. Jenkins encourages residents not to sell out to those eager to profit from their misfortune but to hold fast until the full scope of relief funds and assistance for rebuilding are known. “We have an opportunity to bring many homes up to current day standard of living conditions,” says Jenkins, expressing her belief that affordable housing for Newnan must remain a focus. “We have an opportunity to build back better than before, and I hope that’s what’s going to happen,” says Jenkins. In the meantime, Jenkins is front and center with relief efforts while working with local churches accumulating funds to assist families. David Jones is the pastor of Newnan Presbyterian Church and the head of one such fund explicitly designated for Chalk Level. He tells of a Wisconsin woman who called wanting to send her stimulus check to help the community. The local hospital authority is also a generous 34

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NISSAN OF NEWNAN supporter of the fund. The committee in charge primarily uses funds to house residents displaced in the storm, which means finding and paying for hotel rooms. However, the primary goal of the fund, dubbed “Community Tornado Relief,” is to aid with repairs and reconstruction. Jones says he hopes each approved applicant for funds will receive roughly $10,000.


Jones went on to say, “Because Newnan Presbyterian is so close to Chalk Level, it made sense to make that neighborhood our focus. We work closely with the churches there to distribute supplies and gift cards and to offer help in the form of clean-up and some repair work.” What is the future of this Newnan treasure? Will new developments come in to build new and larger homes? Will long-time residents who’ve been there for decades be unable to return? Not unlike the rest of storm-damaged Newnan, Chalk Level is sure to rebound.


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No Place Like Home HISTORIC ESTATES NEARLY UNRECOGNIZABLE FOLLOWING EF4 TORNADO Written by Larisa M. Scott Photography by Jimmy D. Images Research kindly provided by Newnan-Coweta Historical Society.


ewnan’s six historic districts, all on the National Register of Historic Places, contain some of Georgia’s most beautiful homes and commercial buildings. In fact, Newnan still boasts so many historic houses, represented by the antebellum and Victorian styles that dominated Newnan’s early and mid-19th century development, that it is often called “The City of Homes.” When the tornado of March 26 roared through town, though, it showed no respect for these treasures from the past. Many stately residences suffered heartbreaking damage, but their owners are already picking up the pieces and working to bring these cherished local landmarks back to life.

92 Greenville Street Located at 92 Greenville Street and once known as the Freeman-Haney-Holland home, this house was built in 1889 by R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company. The sizeable, stately home took a direct hit the night of March 26 and yet survived as it did decades ago when it was listed as a tear-down to make way for a shopping center. Today it still anchors the entrance from town into the residential portion of Greenville Street. The storm did take a toll, though. In the tornado’s aftermath, three porch columns of this home shifted left, while a fourth one lay forlorn, completely detached. A pair of stone lions, which once guarded the front steps, toppled and broke during the storm. While the storm shattered many historic “rolling” or “wavy” glass windows, the original stained glass remained unharmed in a stroke of good luck. Built for Judge and Mrs. Robert Wesley Freeman, the Greek Revival home features interior Victorian-era touches, including recessed doors with beveled glass. Its original owner was an active citizen in Newnan who served as Superior Court Judge, President of First National Bank, and President of the Newnan Cotton Mills. Judge Freeman’s widow, Mrs. Callie Freeman, lived in the house until 1962. The Freemans’ daughter, Mary C. Freeman, a lifelong resident of Newnan, made her mark in the world by being named Lieutenant Colonel during World War II and was awarded the Legion of Merit for outstanding service to her country. Since the Freemans, other owners have come and gone. Then, about ten years ago, Newnan resident Brandon Hand bought the home. The family, including Hand’s wife, Rachel, and their twin girls, enjoyed the spaciousness, the location, and the many unique features of the house. But, on the night of the storm, the four of them huddled in the basement. As the family listened to the frightening sounds and thuds coming from above, they did not know if they would find their home intact when the winds subsided. With their ears hurting from the pressure, the young girls began to weep after a pipe burst and water started pouring into the space. When the family finally emerged from below, Hand says the first thing he remembers is the smell of fresh pine and the sight of trees and debris everywhere. Destruction to the home was severe but not a total loss. The family is now living with grandparents, and the house is empty in preparation for repairs. Hand guesses it will be at least a year before the family can return. However, he is optimistic, thankful, and looking forward to the house being “better than it’s ever been.” Hand is grateful to live in a community like Newnan, which has shown his family such support, saying, “Newnan is truly strong and always pulls together. Everything will be okay.” 40

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75 East Broad Street With the success of R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company, R.D. Cole Jr. set out in 1905 to build a Victorian-era showplace, designing and constructing it himself. Eventually, the Coles moved out to Platinum Point, but their daughter, Ruth Blackburn, stayed in the house and lived there until her death. In the early 1940s, the Blackburns made extensive renovations to the home. They installed new molding, a bay window, and builtin shelving, moved the staircase, and added a few art deco touches. But, perhaps one of the most notable features was the surrounding gardens, complete with an impressive gazebo. There was even a small pond on the property —— all of it a stone’s throw from where R.D. Cole Sr. founded the company that helped make Newnan what it is today.

away in his car to safety. The Landrums feel incredibly blessed to be alive and are now living in a rental near town as they deal with frustrating insurance issues and problems with bureaucracy. Still, the family has already survived a similar ordeal, so they are settled in once again to wait for the day they can return home. Landrum says, “The force that was at play over our town was just incredible.”


After Ruth Blackburn’s passing, a few families came and went over the years. The current owners, Chuck and LaVann Landrum, purchased the home in 2000. In 2003 a large oak to the right of the house fell during a storm slicing through the roof. The Landrums vacated for a year to allow for the necessary and extensive repairs. And then calamity struck again, just after midnight on March 26.


“We love a good storm,” says LaVann Landrum. “My husband was up watching the lightning from a good viewpoint upstairs, and one son was downstairs with our puppy.”


By the time the tornado sirens started going off, the whole family was upstairs discussing the idea that they should all go downstairs. Then they heard a crack, followed immediately by a powerful impact. Another enormous oak torpedoed the house right above LaVann’s bedroom. She sat up in bed as the plaster and ceiling separated and fell, knocking her out of bed and onto the floor. And then darkness. LaVann’s husband shouted, asking her repeatedly if she was okay and warning her to be careful where she stepped with her bare feet. The family fled downstairs, where they huddled and prayed, not knowing what would happen next. Soon they heard a voice from outside shouting, “LaVann! Are you okay?” It was friend Barry DeBrough who had driven over from his house in College-Temple. He took the family Spring / Summer 2021

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66 LaGrange Street Perhaps one of the most disturbing sites after the storm was the immense destruction of the southern beauty at 66 LaGrange Street. With its roof completely blown away, the house attracted drivers-by and onlookers, who stopped and stared in disbelief.

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Built in the late 1890s by Civil War Captain John Simms, the house originally served as a town home for his family. Since that time, the residence, with its Corinthian columns, balcony, and veranda, has majestically stood at the LaGrange Street entrance. Some of the home’s more elegant interior features include deep crown molding, pocket doors, stained glass, and “rolled” or “wavy” glass. In recent years, the young Adkins family of five purchased the house, known as the Simms-Albright home. On the evening of March 26, the Adkins tucked their children in as usual. However, when alerts started coming in on their cellphones and Alexa, Brittany Adkins reports that the entire family went to the “safe spot” behind the stairs on the main level. At one point, she said they thought it would be a “non-event,” but when the kids asked to go back to bed, Adkins recalled telling them “just ten more minutes.” The Adkins felt pain in their ears as the pressure dropped. Brittany and her husband David looked each other in the eye when they realized the severity of the situation. They huddled, praying out loud as glass and debris began to fly.

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“There was a tremendous boom. We didn’t know if these would be our final moments together as a family. Still, we trusted in God,” says Adkins, adding, “It was utterly the most terrifying and helpless moment...and the longest 90 seconds of my life.” Once the noise subsided, her phone rang. Neighbor Ashley Bercich reported that the roof was gone and encouraged them to get out of the house as quickly as possible. As they exited, neighbors from the new townhomes next door took the family to safety at their homes.


“I’ll never forget walking down the street in pitch black, with just the moonlight shining on our house, and seeing the sky through the second-story windows,” Adkins says. Good friends initially took the family in, but the Adkins are now renting a townhome while their house undergoes roof replacement and structural repair.


“We are so grateful for all the friends and relationships we’ve built in Newnan,” says Adkins. “The graciousness and generosity are truly inspiring, and we hope to give back tenfold.”


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83 Greenville Street The local event venue, “Lillian Gardens,” has hosted thousands of happy occasions during the last 20 years. But, unfortunately, a charming veranda and fairytale-like garden space in the back were both rendered into a horrific site by the storm. Forced to walk through a neighbor’s house because the streets were blocked, co-owner Ashley Keeley-Bercich dashed from her home nearby to find a disheartening scene. Her antebellum beauty and its Victorian interior were in shambles. In a matter of seconds, the tornado undid many years’ worth of painstakingly hard work. But with a positive outlook, community support, and a lot of energy and determination, Bercich immediately got to work to set things straight. Built in 1859 by the Davis family, the house served as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War. The home features a wrap-around front porch, wide plank oak floors, stained glass windows, and a stately winding staircase. A daughter, Virginia Banks, descended from the home’s second owners, lived in the house for 80 years. The home became a tearoom at her passing, then the “Something Special” event space, and most recently, the “Something Special at Lillian Gardens,” a premier event venue in Newnan.

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One of the first significant improvements Bercich made following the tornado was the garden area. Just weeks after the storm, a visitor looking at the garden would not know that it was recently in complete disarray. Bercich rebuilt the groom’s cottage at the entrance but amazingly, the gazebo where so many couples have exchanged wedding vows stands undamaged. Sadly, the front and side views of the house still tell the story of what happened the night of the storm. The veranda is gone, along with the chimneys, the windows boarded, and the roof tarped. On a tour of the interior of the house, Bercich points out buckled plaster and cracked doorways. “When it’s all said and done, Lillian Gardens is going to come back better than before,” says Bercich. “As bad as it is, it could have been a lot worse.” She went on to say that at times it seems as though most of Newnan has resumed everyday life while those in GreenvilleLaGrange struggle to make things whole again. With sneakers on and cellphone in hand, this business owner is on a mission. Likely, within a year, Lillian Gardens will indeed be back better than before. Spring / Summer 2021

home started life as a cottage built in 1830. Then, in 1852, Hugh Buchanan, headmaster of the Male Academy, oversaw the construction of the front, east-facing two-story Greek Revival addition, complete with majestic columns built by R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company. While living in the home, Buchanan was a lawyer, congressman, Superior Court Judge, and Lieutenant Colonel during the Civil War. In addition, the house served as temporary headquarters for the swashbuckling “Fightin’ Joe Wheeler.” Wheeler oversaw the Battle of Brown’s Mill, where Union troops suffered defeat, sparing Newnan from destruction.

87 LaGrange Street The stately home on the hill, known as “Buena Vista” absorbed a mighty blow the night of March 26. Shortly after midnight, owners Mike and Leah Sumner, who had just arrived in St. Augustine, Florida, received a phone call from one of their sons, saying they needed to turn around and head home. The Sumners made it back just as the sun was coming up in Newnan, shedding light on the horrific debris and destruction. The Sumners walked over the bridge leading into their neighborhood and saw something they had never been able to see from that vantage point—their house. The sight of it beaten and bruised, large trees leaning and columns askew, caused them to pause and take a deep breath. Their antebellum jewel, renovated and carefully tended since 1990, was almost unrecognizable. Surrounded by giant oaks and overlooking the southern part of Newnan decade after decade, Buena Vista has a rich history. The

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The son of Hugh Buchanan lived in the house until he died in 1960 at the age of 92. The Glover family then purchased the home, eventually selling it to the Sumners. During the storm, all four columns along the front of the home suffered damage, and the roof twisted off its foundation. The chimneys imploded, sending brick and mortar into the rooms. The wind and rain ruined all interior soft home goods such as bedding and curtains. The Sumners say that the process of making repairs will be like putting together a large puzzle. They report that their insurance company has been a wonderful partner with an understanding of the delicate nature of the work ahead. The Sumners are renting across the street from Buena Vista, predicting that they’ll be there at least a year. When asked how she felt when she first saw her home, Leah Sumner said her first thought was, “I don’t know that place.” She continues, “It’s been like a death, and we are still grieving.” Yet, in her next breath, she quickly points out how moved and uplifted she is by the outpouring of community support.


Weathering the Storm COWETA SCHOOLS PRIORITIZE STUDENTS THROUGH MULTIPLE CRISES Written by Melissa Dickson Jackson Photography by Susan M. Kraut Early Friday morning, March 26, 2021, Atkinson Elementary principal Ben Tarleton headed toward the downtown Newnan campus. Concerned about damage from the previous night’s tornado, he was hopeful that the 65-yearold historical structure weathered the storm. If it hadn’t, he needed to assess the damage and begin the process of recovery quickly. But, before he could even get into the affected area, a call from school system officials turned him away. “You can’t get through,” they told him. Nimmons Street was blocked with downed trees, as was every street for blocks. Newnan High School principal Dr. Chase Puckett faced a similar challenge on and around his 2,400-student campus just a few blocks further. Blocked roads, flooded classrooms, and severely damaged buildings served as evidence of the EF4 tornado that tore through Newnan just after midnight, carrying wind in excess of 160 miles per hour. Once again, students would not finish a school year as they began, face-toface, with their teachers.


n early July 2020, Coweta County School System officials evaluated what steps would be needed to reopen schools in August. For ten weeks, through the end of the 2020 school year, Coweta teachers established virtual connections with their students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic after Superintendent Steve Barker closed schools on Thursday, March 12, after weeks of consulting with state and local emergency management and health professionals. One day later, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ordered all schools closed beginning the following Monday. 48

“I honestly thought that we might be out of school for a quarantine period of a couple of weeks, and then we would be back,” said Evan Horton, who succeeded Barker following his retirement at the end of May. As days turned into weeks, it became clear that pandemic closures in Georgia - and across the nation - would persist. “Our focus immediately turned into how to help our students finish the year successfully academically. That was the ultimate goal,” said Horton. “Teachers immediately pivoted to try to find ways to provide instruction for our students. Our employees did the very best that Spring / Summer 2021

they could in tough circumstances. I am so proud of the way that they continued to advocate for our students and provide them with what they needed even though we couldn’t physically be together during that time.” Once the school year officially concluded, the focus redirected to a return to class in August. System personnel began the arduous task of moving all K-12 curriculum to an online format - later known as Coweta’s Empower program. This would allow instructors to teach virtually, as needed. “But the goal was to go back to the classroom,” said Horton. Horton conferred with local officials and system staff to meet this goal, including school system head nurse Shannon-Hendrix Caplinger. It was Caplinger’s first year in the position and her 24th year as a nurse. “I can’t remember another experience remotely like this,” said Caplinger. As the school system thoroughly discussed what the new school year would look like, “the biggest issue [the system] faced is that we didn’t have guidance” from health authorities. Community transmission of COVID following its initial surge in March and April abated and was considered “low to moderate.” But, by the end of June and the beginning of July, the second surge of COVID returned levels to “moderate to high” transmission. “It had grown significantly as we were planning, and the little guidance available addressed low to moderate community transmission,” reported Caplinger. The school system began to develop its draft plan to return to school by working with local health and emergency authorities and the Georgia Department of Public Health, District 4. The system submitted the plan to DPH for review and approval. The proposal included social distancing, water fill stations, signage, face masks, limited visitation, increased hygiene and cleaning, health screening procedures, and contact tracing, as well as a strong school nursing plan. The start date of August 13 was set - remote learning at first - followed by the goal of returning to in-person learning by September 8, when DPH predicted the summer surge in cases would decline. Employees would come back first to train in the plan, followed by students. “I felt that we needed to take a measured approach and learn from the experiences of some other districts for the first couple of weeks so that we could ensure the appropriate processes were in place to provide the best opportunity to reopen and stay open,” said Horton. He recommended that schools open in August virtually, with a phased plan to return on September 8; parents who wished for their students to remain virtual could opt out of a return to in-person classes. Complex at times, contact tracing efforts presented new challenges. As the third - and most significant - local surge in COVID transmission occurred November through February, five schools had to move to virtual instruction temporarily when quarantines from contact tracing removed personnel from in-school operations. “We needed more people,” said Caplinger. “Contract nurses were hired to work as contact tracers and support the principals and their staff because school nurses needed to stay school nurses.” Because of required symptom screenings and other preventive modifications, there was a greater load on school personnel. Teachers, Spring / Summer 2021

Thank you for believing in our mission and Abby’s legacy. Your support SAVES LIVES & SHARES SMILES

2021 5K Rainbow Run and Family Fun Day

JULY 24, 24, 2021 Greenville St. Park, Downtown Newnan 7 am onsite registration with the 5K Rainbow Run beginning at 8:00 am In-person or virtual as an Angel Runner and everyone will receive t-shirts (out of our local area will be shipped). Registration available at or Every April, we celebrate Abby’s exuberant life at the colorful Rainbow Run & Family Fun Day. This is a day that reflects Abby’s fun loving spirit and desire to bring people together. Our only fundraising event is held each April. April is a month of awareness for organ donation and distracted driving. Two topics that are very important to Abby’s Angels Foundation’s mission. Keeping with Abby’s love of friendship and shopping for school supplies 52 Abby’s Closets have been gifted to schools providing inspiration and support through school supplies in Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Carroll Counties, 4 in WV, also Angel’s House and Our House in Auburn, AL. Kindness Week is celebrated for a week in February in each school who have an Abby’s Closet sharing the beauty of the simple act of being kind. The TVOC (Teen Vehicle Operations Course) is held in Coweta County monthly training hundreds of young drivers each year. AAF offsets the cost of the class by sponsoring each month. Approx. 500 + teen drivers have been skillfully trained since 2014. Approx. $31,000 in college scholarships have been awarded to students locally. The foundation of these scholarships is our safe driving mission and how each recipient will continue to share our #1Life1Choice safe driving message. A partnership began in the fall of 2019 with Atlanta based Kate’s Club providing much needed free grief services to children/ teens in our community. Kate’s Club Coweta meets the third Sunday of each month in a safe, comforting and healing atmosphere. These services are made possible through a grant generously awarded by the Newnan Junior Service League. Abby gave the Gift of Life through organ donation Christmas Day 2012 at the tender age of 9 years old. We strive to share the importance and hope of organ donation. For more information or to register as an organ donor visit or All proceeds support the growing and evolving work of Abby’s Angels Foundation in our community. Psalm 91:11 IG: abbysangelsfoundation FB: Abbys Angels Foundation


recent years. It was also an improvement over Coweta’s previous “exemplary” score of 357 earned during its 2016 accreditation visit. Cognia review and re-accreditation results arrived in mid-March. At about the same time, Newnan High School Principal Dr. Chase Puckett enthusiastically announced to his staff the completion of all repairs to the high school’s auditorium, severely damaged during a storm several months before in October. The school system also held its second successful vaccination pod on Friday, March 19, vaccinating hundreds of school personnel. All of this good news was just one week before a massive tornado coursed through Coweta County and the city of Newnan. “I arrived at the Emergency Operations Center at 12:45 a.m. on March 26,” said Evan Horton. “As the morning progressed, it became clear that our community had taken a direct hit. As daylight approached, Coweta County School System Director of Safety and Operations Ken Kesselring and I headed toward Newnan High School. I will never forget driving across the bridge on LaGrange Street right after sunrise on that day.” mainly, had to spend much of the year on a dual-track system - teaching both their in-school students and their virtual students. The system kept classes together as students moved to and from virtual instruction during the pandemic, some because of quarantine, but placed considerably higher workloads on classroom personnel to meet the needs of their students, regardless of where they were. “It was difficult on everyone,” said Horton. “But it worked. I am so proud that we were able to reopen in September. Our employees were awesome, and we were able to safely provide in-person instruction for our students from that point on.” Though it seemed even to school system employees that COVID had swallowed the year since March 2020, the system had managed to move forward on several other initiatives, large and small. The school board moved forward on constructing the county’s seventh middle school - Blake Bass, opening 2021 - to relieve overcrowding at several area schools. The renovation and expansion of Northgate High School began to modernize facilities and ease overcrowding at East Coweta High by 2022. And, of course, Evan Horton was selected in early March to succeed Steve Barker as Superintendent beginning June 1, 2020.

Chase Puckett said the scene at the school was heartbreaking. Every one of the campus’s 13 buildings and the surrounding facilities had suffered damage, much of it significant. Virtually every tree on campus uprooted. Roofs were gone, HVAC units dislodged, windows broken, brick parapets tumbled, and hallways flooded. Damaged or destroyed homes stretched for miles southwest and northeast surrounding Newnan High - down Smokey Road, across LaGrange Street neighborhoods, downtown around East Broad, and through the county towards Canongate and Tyrone. “Before the storm, there had been a sense on campus that we were getting back to normal,” said Puckett. “When I walked through the halls on Friday morning, I knew it was going to be very difficult to tell the staff that we weren’t coming back to campus.” A few blocks away, Atkinson’s roof was severely damaged and the interior water-logged; repairs would require months of work. Ben Tarleton had much the same sense as Puckett. “By March, we were excited about the vaccination rate. We hadn’t had any outbreaks (at

The school system had also moved forward with a planned accreditation renewal in the winter of 2021. Led by Assistant Superintendent Vince Bass, the fiveyear accreditation by the Cognia organization would review all aspects of school system operations, including student learning, leadership capacity, strategic planning, continuous improvement, resource management, and the fiscal responsibility of the district. In March 2021, the review team awarded the school system high marks based on their review, school visits, and community interviews. Coweta Schools received a level “4” (highest rating) in 28 of the 31 Cognia standards and a “3” in the three remaining areas. Overall, Coweta Schools received an “Index of Education Quality” score of 364 (out of 400 maximum), well above Cognia’s average national score of 280 awarded to school systems in 50

NHS Principal Dr. Chase Puckett observes the damage to the school after the tornado. Photo : John Spike, Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

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Atkinson) since early February,” he said. “I thought — I’m about to have to tell them they won’t get closure for two years in a row.” The entire school system remained closed the week after the tornado because of ongoing power outages, closed roads, and the sheer amount of emergency services required across the county. Many teachers, school personnel, and students shifted their energies to joining emergency relief efforts in the affected areas, handing out water, food, and blankets, and helping clear yards and homes. Schools would generally not reopen until April 12. Relief came for Atkinson’s students in an unexpected way when West Georgia Technical College - which partners with the school system at the Central Educational center and in other projects - donated portions of its Turkey Creek Road Newnan campus for temporary classrom space. A temporary cafeteria was erected on-site, and teachers and students moved in. Students received “Atkinson Goes to College” t-shirts when their classes reopened on April 14.

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“It was unexpected and a major lift for our students and teachers,” said Tarleton. For Newnan High’s more extensive staff and student body, the logistics of finishing the school year were more complex. “First, I was concerned about staff and students,” said Puckett. “I asked my staff to make two-way contact with everyone, with every single household, to check on them, reach out to every single student and find out if they were okay and what they needed.” “Then we had to set about recreating everything,” he said. With just 10 weeks of school to go, “we had to start over again.” By the time the tornado struck, about 70 percent of Newnan High’s student body had attended regular face-to-face classes. “During COVID, we keep hearing about the loss of actual learning in virtual settings,” said Puckett. “That’s a big concern, but it’s also about fostering a sense of community. How do we keep kids engaged and nurtured? How do we keep the relationships intact? How do we get the kids to stay with us?” “We have wrap-around services designed for that, but we had to reinvent them for this situation,” said Puckett. “You have to address Maslow’s Hierarchy — kids without homes or food can’t learn. So we reached out and inverted our partnerships with Elevate (Coweta Students), Backpack Buddies, and the Foundation Church to meet students’ needs. We had a lot of community partnerships in place, and, in many ways, we were perfectly situated to deal with it; we just didn’t know it was coming.” Teachers couldn’t return to the campus to retrieve belongings at first, let alone teach from the classroom or offices. Instead, the staff set up virtual classes from home - again - or in spare rooms in schools and system offices across the county. The school’s counseling office began working from a makeshift office in lead counselor Pam Lewis’ home. Puckett and the school system also worried about their seniors in particular - not just making sure they graduated on time but also that they’d be appropriately honored. “Last year, students didn’t get to tell their teachers goodbye or have any of the end-of-year events. Prom, graduation — all that was ripped away.”


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High school principals met and agreed to hold local proms with outdoor ventilation. Northgate and East Coweta had events in a hangar at the Newnan airport. Newnan High’s prom was at the Newnan and Nixon Centres.

space, would allow 10th through 12th graders to return to the NHS Campus in August. A temporary campus at the Central Educational Center would house 9th graders until more permanent classroom space is repaired and restored at the Newnan High campus.

Accelerated repairs to the stadium and surrounding fields at Newnan High School resulted in more positive news for seniors. A cleanup of the baseball field provided a place for the senior picnic, and graduation was successfully held on May 27 in Drake Stadium at 5:00 p.m to account for stadium lighting still damaged from the storm.

“We were able to finish this school year with everyone knowing what the plan is for next year,” said Puckett.

“I knew the strength of our staff,” said Puckett. “They turned overnight into virtual teachers. I knew they were up for this. I knew they’d be okay. All I had to do was support them.” The response from the people of Newnan and Coweta County also deserves credit, said Puckett and Tarleton. “It’s not the building; it’s the community and the relationships,” said Puckett. “And you do it because of the kids; they’re worth it. As exhausting as it can be, when you see that graduate and hear that mom cheering, and see that look on the student’s face — it’s worth it.”

As the pieces began to fall into place for Atkinson and Newnan High, Horton says he began to realize that “we had been perfectly prepared for the circumstance that we found ourselves in. The tornado would do just what COVID had done for our community and our school system. It would help us to bond closer together.”

“Students and staff responded to the tornado with so much strength and determination,” said Horton. “I am so proud of the way they responded. They could have wilted, but they refused to do so. They focused on what matters each other.”

“It’s about the kids,” said Tarleton. “My kids go to this system. I graduated from this system. You do what you have to do because of them.” “The tornado was a real punch in the gut for a lot of us,” said Horton. “It hurt because I knew that our students and staff earned the opportunity to finish the year with confidence after all that they had endured because of COVID. They didn’t get any closure on the 2019-2020 school year. They deserved that chance. I did not want the tornado to take that opportunity away again.” As graduation plans moved forward for all three high schools, it became clear that work on Atkinson would be completed well before a new school year began in August 2021. Work on Newnan High, it was equally clear, would take longer, but three buildings at the interior of the campus could be repaired over the summer months. The school system worked with engineers and their insurers to prioritize a work plan that, coupled with temporary classroom 52

Spring / Summer 2021

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A model that has garnered international attention, CEC represents a joint venture among business and industry, the Coweta County School System, and West Georgia Technical College. CEC’s unique blend of academic and technical courses prepares local youth with real-world knowledge and experience to become productive 21st century citizens and key contributors to a rapidly changing local economy.

Learn more about the innovation of CEC at MISSION: Ensure competitive talent for current and future careers

160 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. • Newnan, Georgia • (678) 423-2009 •

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6 Jefferson Pkwy Ste A Newnan, GA 30263

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Spring / Summer 2021

#NewnanStrong COMMUNITY GROUPS ORGANIZE Written by W. Winston Skinner Photos from Facebook tagged with #NewnanStrong



hey say that every cloud has a silver lining. If that is true, then the outpouring of help that residents offered one another following the March tornado would surely be one. Coweta citizens jumped into action as they always seem to do – cleaning up debris, distributing food, and volunteering with projects to help families. Community organizations and non-profits also helped in a variety of ways. Some held fundraisers to support recovery efforts; others made their facilities available as drop-off locations for supplies.


Spring / Summer 2021



The storm brought the neighborly aspect of Coweta County to the surface, with many people acting individually. But, churches, clubs, and other organizations also quickly activated, coordinating several outreach events and projects: MARCH 26 The Newnan Tornado Recovery Support Facebook page launched, enabling people to share information easily. The Newnan Strong page also facilitated connections between helpers and people needing help. MARCH 26 The Newnan-Coweta Humane Society provided needs for pets following the storm. LATE MARCH The Coweta Veterans Club and American Legion Post 2667 offered clothing, diapers, sanitizer, and other items. The club also provided internet access and charging stations for phones. APRIL 1 Westside Baptist Church hosted a free barbecue for frontline workers and volunteers, as well as individuals affected by the tornado. The event included a phone charging station and gifts for youngsters from the Easter Bunny. APRIL 3 The Coweta County NAACP joined with churches to help residents of the Chalk Level community. A food truck offered hot food, and residents received gift cards, wipes, toiletries, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and water. Participating churches were Cascade UMC, China Grove Baptist, Elizabeth Baptist, Jones Hill Chapel UMC, Mt. Vernon First Baptist, Newnan Chapel UMC, Newnan Presbyterian, Smith Chapel UMC of Pine Mountain, and St. Smyrna Baptist. APRIL 11 Phi Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha joined several other organizations to distribute needed items at St. Smyrna Baptist Church. APRIL 17 Area In Need Missionary House and partners held a giveaway at 600 Celebrate Life. Several social and fraternal organizations distributed clothing, household items, toiletries, and 1,300 USDA food boxes. APRIL 23 Holy Zion Center of Deliverance on Temple Avenue provided a free outdoor meal. APRIL 24 & MAY 22 Jehovah Jireh Deliverance Ministries on Smith Road distributed food.



APRIL 28 Royal Baptist Church held “Disaster Relief for the Soul.” Following a pizza dinner, a program explored theological questions about God’s presence in times of crisis. Christian counselors answered queries and provided referrals to mental health services. 56


Spring / Summer 2021



EARLY MAY Sisters for Society held a men’s clothing drive. MAY 1 Healing Nations Community Resource Center from Atlanta handed out toiletry bags at Westside Baptist Church. MAY 2 “Newnan Strong,” a tornado relief concert, was held at the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater in Peachtree City on May 2. Featured performers included Ed Roland of Collective Soul, Kevin Kinney of Drivin N Cryin, John Driskell Hopkins of the Zac Brown Band, Michelle Malone and Doug Kees, Diane Durrett, Caroline Aiken with MosesMo of Mother’s Finest, and Vintage Vixens. MAY 2 Gathering Church, Foundation Church, and Southwest Christian Church volunteers built sheds at four homes. MAY 5 Local mental health professional Dr. Tom Freeman presented a program on mental health issues for people impacted by the tornado at Central Baptist Church. MAY 8 Downtown hosted the Newnan Strong Music and Arts Tornado Relief Benefit at several locations. Visual artists and musical talent took part, and the event included a silent auction table. Proceeds went to Hope Global Initiative Tornado Relief. MAY 10 Unveiling Word Ministries on Frank Cook Road distributed food boxes. MAY 13 Big Mama Ministries and Westside Baptist Church distributed free meals and supplies to people impacted by the tornado and first responders and volunteers. MAY 15 Newnan Chapel UMC held a drive-in outreach, offering food boxes, diapers, toiletries, paper goods, sheets and pillows, cleaning supplies, water, Gatorade, and pet food. MAY 22 M’s Perfection Outreach and D-N-A Construction sponsored a Newnan Connects Family Fun Day and Networking Event at the First Avenue Park. In addition to networking, the event offered various games, face painting, and a bounce house. Spring / Summer 2021


MAY 28 For 24 hours, Newnan Tornado Online Art offered 61 paintings by 55 artists from across the globe. JUNE 26 Newnan native Alan Jackson headlined a concert, “Where I Come From,” at the Coweta County Fairgrounds, with proceeds going to the Coweta Community Foundation’s Tornado Relief Fund. Also performing were multi-platinum entertainer Chris Young, singersongwriter-producer Caylee Hammack, and two other Newnan natives – singer-songwriter Adam Wright and country artist Brian Wright.

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LET THE FUN BEGIN! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiwanians

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were unable to host a county fair in 2020. But for 2021, not only is the fair back, there are a few surprises lined up to delight fairgoers of all ages.


New this year is a nightly parade at dusk that kicks off a disco dance party at the performance stage field near the entrance. Attendees can enjoy the pulsing beats of today’s top hits, with dancers leading the fun. See artist demonstrations, a Selena impersonator, local singers, blacksmithing, and much more.

From September 16 to 26, the midway will light up the night with various rides and attractions, while the food court will include tasty offerings from many local outfits. The county 4-H also will be out in full force with local livestock and farming demonstrations and displays.



Spring / Summer 2021

Recalling past years and reminiscing about the fair, former Kiwanis fair committee chair and retired Newnan High School principal Allyn Bell recounted many fond memories of people coming together to enjoy fall fun while supporting the community. Bell remembers, “4-H had a big play in the fair with pigs, chickens, and they auctioned off the cattle. The students showing such livestock often got way above market price, and it was a big thing agriculturally for many years.” The Kiwanis Club gives a free ticket for admission to every Coweta County student. They are also continuing the tradition of hosting special needs students on opening day. Throughout the fair week, people come from all corners of the county to see livestock, poultry, demonstrations, and much more at the fairgrounds, hailed as one of the state’s best fair facilities and midways. Proceeds netting $200,000 are routinely put back into the community each year when Kiwanis offers it to dozens of local non-profits.

U N I T E D S TAT E S • C A N A D A • M E X IC O

“It takes a lot of manpower to put on the fair. The very next day, they start planning the next one,” says Bell. He adds, “They have so much fun it doesn’t feel like work.”

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UAL REPORT MEMBER EVENTS & PROGRAMMING January 16th Business After Hours Presented by Profile by Sanford January 24th Power Networking Burns Brunch with Ayrshire Chamber, Scotland January 31st Business Women’s Wellness Lunch presented by Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing February 5th Annual State of the Chamber Luncheon presented by Georgia Power February 13th Business-After-Hours Presented by Preston Mill Apartments

Annual State of the Chamber Luncheon

February 25th Coffee Call presented by Waffle House February 26th Member Connect presented by Jersey Mikes March 5th Business-After-Hours Presented by Healthy Life Chiropractic September 3rd State of the Community Luncheon, Education, presented by NuLink | WOW! September 22nd The Breakfast Club at The Claiborne September 23rd Business Women’s Alliance Women of Prosperity Luncheon presented by Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing October/November Business Women’s Wellness Walks presented by Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing


35th Annual Golf Classic

October 7th 35th Annual Golf Classic presented by Piedmont Newnan and Buffalo Rock October 27th The Breakfast Club at The Claiborne November 19th Newnan-Coweta Bowling Adventure presented by Junction Lanes Family Entertainment Center December 2nd State of Community Luncheon: Public Safety and Criminal Justice, presented by NuLink | WOW! December 9th Business Women’s Alliance Holiday Mixer presented by Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing Spring / Summer 2021

2020 NEW OR REENGAGING MEMBERS 2 Beards & A Bar, DBA 714 A-1 Glass, Inc Allstate - The Kendricks Agency Arbor Terrace - Peachtree City Atlanta Communications Experts Aviation Enterprises, LLC AW Vanguard Benetrend Advisors LLC Biz-Agility Consulting Firm Blue Fern Brickhouse Self Storage Brookdale Newnan BuckheadFMV LLC Cable Lay, Inc. Cambridge House Enrichment Center Candlewood Suites CareSource Chick-fil-A Poplar Road COA Consulting, LLC Coggin Travels Coggin, Inc. Confluent Enterprises dba Physical Therapy @ Walmart Health Corporate Dropouts Unite Cory Cook LLC Coweta County Democratic Party Coweta FCA Creekside at White Oak Apartments Cultivate, Inc. DPC Services E.L. Johnston, Inc. Effectv Emily’s Skincare & Spa Estella Connally Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers Falcon Design Consultants Frenchies Modern Nail Care of Newnan


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2020 RIBBON CUTTINGS JANUARY 10 / Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen JANUARY 30 / Turin Pest Control FEBRUARY 28 / Customized College Planning DECEMBER 11 / Physical Therapy at Walmart DECEMBER 16 /



Blue Fern DECEMBER 21 / Water Tree Newnan


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“The Newnan Coweta Chamber was accessible despite a global pandemic to me as a small business owner with many resources virtually. I was very impressed with how quickly they made the transition!”

Renee Horton, Agent, American Family Insurance | Renee Horton Agency, LLC


Geico Newnan / Miles Jackson Insurance, Inc. Georgia Primary Bank Healthy Vibe Heart and Vascular Care of Georgia HIS PLUMBER INC Home Helpers JM Discount Clothing JP Baker Construction Kyle Kahn Studios Law Office of Johnny Phillips Mallaghan (GA), Inc. Mitchell Contracting and Sales MSA Business Technology Newnan Family Medicine Associates, PC Newnan Views Townhomes Paige Me Marketing & Events Palmetto Park Senior Living Community Partnered Resources Peach-State Advanced Cardiac & Endovascular - PACE Pearl Business Consulting, LLC Premier Accounting and Tax LLC Primary Residential Mortgage Inc. Publix Super Markets Store 786 Rich Graphics Inc. Scott Walker Heating and Air Senoia Enterprises, Inc. Silver Penny Financial Planning Peachtree City Snap Fitness Newnan Southern Vein Care Specialty Tool & Die, Inc. Summergrove Community Association SunCrest Home Health The Claiborne at Newnan Lakes The Farmhouse TwoRivers ITAD Solutions Virus Control Services Water Tree Newnan Alkaline Water Market Wicked Roly Poly Sandwiches WoodSpring Suites/Atlanta Newnan Yeager Road Community Resource Center

Spring / Summer 2021

WHAT A TRULY AMAZING EXPERIENCE IT HAS BEEN TO BE A PART OF THE CHAMBER FOR MY THIRD TIME Yes! Three times. When we first started Southern Vein Care, we joined the Newnan Coweta Chamber, and with the great people in the community and local businesses, we were able to grow our vein center. In 2011 Piedmont Healthcare came to Newnan, and the Papp Clinic, along with Southern Vein Care, merged to become part of Piedmont Healthcare. In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and a lot of business took a significant loss. Piedmont Healthcare and Dr. Craddock, founder of Southern Vein Care, decided that it would be best for the employees and vein center to part ways and for Southern Vein Care to become independent. In June 2020, we embarked upon a scary journey in keeping a small medical practice open. The first call I made was to the Chamber to establish the vein center as a new member.

I knew from experience that reestablishing Southern Vein Care with the Chamber would help give me the connections and support needed to help drive our small business through the pandemic. As soon as I made the call, Colleen and Parker were there to help and answer questions. The Chamber has helped companies large and small in our area during a very uncertain time. For example, they established the “We Love Local” campaign to help drive business and encourage our community to shop locally. They reached out through numerous phone calls and emails, personally checking on each member and offering any wisdom that they may have. Being a part of the Chamber also allowed members to reach out and lean on each other during trying times.

I knew that I wanted to be a part of watching our community grow and helping support the businesses as they open. The ribbon cutting was hosted with masks and social distancing, but you still felt the warm invitation from each Chamber member who was there to lend their support and kind words. The Newnan- Coweta Chamber has helped many businesses and the community throughout the pandemic. Businesses both large and small need each other, and the Chamber helps build those connections. Southern Vein Care will be forever grateful to them and our community for supporting and believing in us. NIQUE KIGHT, PRACTICE MANAGER, SOUTHERN VEIN CARE

As soon as it was safe, the Chamber started doing ribbon cuttings, and

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS ― Beginning at the onset of the pandemic, the Chamber committed to providing the leadership and resources our members and community need during challenging times. We continue to advocate and champion economic recovery efforts via a Task Force encompassing all industry sectors, especially those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While 2021 presents a thoughtful reorganization of the effort, the Task Force will continue to focus on thinking and acting regionally and working to be intentionally inclusive. We appreciate those who shared their time, efforts, and energy in launching the first phase of the initiative.


Spring / Summer 2021

CHAIR / Phil Trickery, PWT Advisory Services

IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR Dr. Tonya Whitlock, West

CHAIR-ELECT Jeff Phillips, Newnan

Georgia Technical College


TREASURER / VICE CHAIR Samantha Brazie, World Class Chamber, Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing

Candice Boothby, President & CEO Newnan-Coweta Chamber

Jeff Treadwell, Advocacy & Public Policy, Buffalo Rock

Garnet Reynolds, Vice Chair, Community Prosperity, Truist

Renee Horton, Mike Robertson, Vice Chair, Member Vice Chair, Talent Development Engagement, American Family Insurance

Piedmont Newnan

Coweta County School System (Ex-Officio)

Dr. Evan Horton, Coweta County School System (Ex-Officio)

Jay Boren,

Shawn Bright,

John Davidson,

Mike Fitzpatrick,

Micael Fouts

Coweta County Water & Sewage Authority

Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital

McKoon Funeral Home & Crematory

Mike Fitzpatrick Ford

Coweta County Administrator (Ex-Officio)

John Hall,

Dr. Bob Heaberlin,

David Keller

David Macdonald,

Andy Miller,

Craig Ogletree,

United Bank

University of West Georgia, Newnan

E.G.O. North America, Inc.

Ashley Park Bayer Properties


Georgia Power

Chellie Phillips,

Cleatus Phillips,

Sharon Rogers,

Jonathan Watkins,

Trae Westmoreland,

City of Newnan (Ex-Officio)

Newnan GNC

Mark Whitlock,

Cowetta-Fayette EMC

Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Coweta County Development Authority, (Ex-Officio)

Central Educational Center (Ex-Officio)

Spring / Summer 2021

Dr. Steve Barker,



Launched resource site


Launched Connecting Coweta Community Facebook Group 1,945 MEMBERS | +/- 160 POSTS /MO.


Launched Pandemic Response Resilience and Recovert Task Force


Launched Advancing Coweta Resilience and Recovery Resource Site “The pandemic tested all of us and made us change the way we go about day-to-day business. The NewnanCoweta Chamber was no different. A member of the Hospitality Alliance, I saw firsthand that our Chamber leaders weren’t going to let this stop their momentum. State of the Community luncheons, for example, were moved to outside venues, with members either sitting outside the car or tuning into a local radio station to participate in the program. The Chamber reworked its courtyard to host outdoor monthly networking gatherings as well. And the Ambassadors met weekly on Zoom, discussing what we could do as volunteers to provide a sense of normalcy. The Chamber was most concerned about the members, since visibility was limited due to distancing requirements and restrictions. Watching how hard the staff at the Chamber has worked to shift its normal, well-run programs, to accommodate the pandemic has been incredible. Without a doubt it has been great to participate and work with the Newnan-Coweta Chamber to continue its legacy of bringing local business across “Prosperity’s Front Door”!

Scott Sinkler, Account Manager, Standard Office Systems


Spring / Summer 2021


Vicki Kaiser

David Keller

ADVANCING COWETA COMMITTEE MEMBERS BUSINESS SUCCESS Sharon Rogers, GNC Newnan Cory Cook-Anderson, Cory Cook, LLC CHAMBER TOMORROW Jeff Phillips, Newnan Utilities Samantha Brazie, Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY Anissa Patton, Office of the Child Advocate Attorney Joe Crain III, Crain Oil POLICY AND REGULATORY Cleatus Phillips, City of Newnan Craig Ogletree, Georgia Power REHIRING AND RETRAINING Mark Whitlock, Central Educational Center Larry Alford, Georgia Institute of Technology


RESILIENCY Scott Chahalis, Blickle Mike Robertson, Piedmont Newnan Hospital

2C Jackson Street Newnan, Ga. 30263


ENHANCED INVESTORS ALLIANCE A VISION OF PROSPERITY Join the Newnan-Coweta Chamber’s growing list of more than 50 key stakeholders who serve as part of our Enhanced Investors Alliance! Help us identify and create solutions that shape economic prosperity and quality of life. Being an Enhanced Investor provides local businesses immediate, high-profile exposure and recognition throughout the Coweta community. Customers, policymakers, and the community at large recognize Enhanced Investors as powerful community leaders.

Participation in the Enhanced Investors Alliance will provide access to: · Private dinners and luncheons with government and business leaders · Private tours of leading industries · Insider briefings from high-level stakeholders and key decision makers · Public recognition at events · Complimentary entry into exclusive Chamber events

Start the Conversation To learn more about the Chamber’s Enhanced Investment opportunities, contact Susan Kraut, Vice President of Strategy and Operations, at 470-865-3718 or via email at





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Abby’s Angels Foundation......................................................... 49 AllSpine Laser and Surgery Center...........................................18 American Family Insurance | Renee Horton.............................2 Bershire Hathaway Home Services | Joy Brown Barnes......71 Buffalo Rock.................................................................................60 C.M.I.T. Solutions......................................................................... 28 Cancer Treatment Centers of America................................... 53 Central Educational Center...................................................... 54 Champion Cleaning Systems....................................................21 Contemporary Catering............................................................. 63 Cornerstone Commercial Contractors / Newnan Views....31 Coweta Community Foundation.......................................46-47 Coweta-Fayette EMC....................................................................7 Downtown Sign Shop................................................................ 67 E.G.O. North America................................................................. 59 Edward Jones.............................................................................. 54 Encompass Health and Rehabilitation...................................... 8 Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers...................................... 27 Georgia Bone & Joint................................................................. 23 Georgia Military College.............................................................51 Georgia Power............................................................................. 26 Green for Life Environmental................................................... 32 Honda of Newnan..........................................................................3 Insignia of Newnan..................................................................... 62 Jersey Mike’s Subs...................................................................... 59 Kemp’s Dalton West Flooring....................................................18 Kimble’s Food by Design........................................................... 66 Lynn Smith, State House of Representatives..........................13 Monster Tree Service.................................................................. 24 Newnan Utilities.......................................................................... 24 Nissan of Newnan....................................................................... 35 Odyssey Charter School............................................................ 34 PhySlim.......................................................................................... 57 Progressive Heating, Air and Pumbing......................................5 Promenade at Newnan Crossing............................................. 70 Raw Body Essentials................................................................... 64 RCH Construction, Inc................................................................41 Resource Manufacturing........................................................... 72 Roly Poly Sandwiches.................................................................15 SouthTowne.................................................................................... 9 Strategic Claims Consultants..............................................36-37 Sweetwater Veterinary Hospital............................................... 42 The Heritage School................................................................... 45 The Southern Credit Union....................................................... 64 The Venue at Murphy Lane....................................................... 32 Timberwolf Axe Throwing......................................................... 44 United Bank.................................................................................. 43 Wesley Woods of Newnan.........................................................17



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Profile for The Newnan-Coweta Chamber

THRIVE | Issue 11 | Summer 2021  

When we set out to publish a business quarterly nearly two years ago, our intentions were simple – to establish a print publication that wou...

THRIVE | Issue 11 | Summer 2021  

When we set out to publish a business quarterly nearly two years ago, our intentions were simple – to establish a print publication that wou...

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