Cobb In Focus Jan Feb 2022

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Wickham Financial & Insurance Services Helping clients thrive in retirement

LGE • Bilton Better Health • Businesses of the Year • ARS Mitigations • Studio Bungee

BIG LEAGUE BANKING Dansby banks on LGE. And with our High Rewards Checking Account, you can, too!

Member Since 2012 Federally insured by NCUA. Membership eligibility requirements apply. Terms and conditions apply to LGE’s High Rewards Checking. Failure to meet all conditions will result in no dividend paid.

City of Smyrna, 2800 King Street, Smyrna Ga 30080 / 770-434-6600

Contents Vol. XVIII, No. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022


Wickham Financial & Insurance Services Takes A Total Approach to Wealth Management Graham Wickham and his team continue more than 40 years of meeting financial and insurance service needs in Cobb.






Find out what’s going on throughout Cobb County with our news updates and calendar of events.

LGE Community Credit Union & Dansby Swanson share an affinity for helping others.


One woman’s weight loss journey takes her from client to coach.


The Cobb Chamber’s Area Councils and local business associations have selected their 2021 Citizens of the Year and Businesses/Members of the Year.

Connect with local leaders who strive to make Cobb County a better place.

When disaster strikes, ARS Mitigations Inc. goes to work in supporting businesses and families during tough times.


Studio Bungee is helping Cobb residents meet their fitness goals.


On the cover: Graham Wickham is guided by a simple but powerful business philosophy: Seek to understand, then to be understood. Photo: LaRuche Photo 2



What are your favorite simple pleasures?

foreSight COBB


New South Publishing Inc. President Larry Lebovitz Vice President John Hanna Publisher Jamie Ryan Account Executive Sherry Gasaway Editor Cory Sekine-Pettite Associate Editor Amy Meadows If there is one thing that last few years has taught us, it is that there are many things in life beyond our control. Virus outbreaks. Weather events. Political unrest and violence. We can predict these things to some degree, but we can’t stop them from happening. However, we can control how we respond. A positive attitude and a willingness to work through challenges are the only tools you need to get through almost anything that life throws your way. For example, Studio Bungee Owner, Christal McNair, worked through injuries and mobility issues with a new exercise regime — and founded a business along the way (page 29). Similarly, Beth Bilton transformed her own health concerns into a new lifestyle and business (page 10). And ARS Mitigations Owner, Rick Sands, started a business under the philosophy of helping others when disaster strikes (page 26), because he knows what it takes to help homeowners recover from severe fire or water damage. These impressive people are the embodiment of perseverance. They can teach us all how to bounce back from any challenge or experience for which we had not planned. But speaking of planning, if there is one thing for which we all should be preparing, it is our retirement. With the right help — say, from the folks in our cover feature on Wickham Financial & Insurance Services — you can live comfortably in your “golden years” with the knowledge that your money is working for you, and that you’ll no longer be working for money. If you have not yet set a New Year’s resolution, perhaps kickstarting your retirement plans is a good place to start. And as this year gets underway, I want to remind everyone that while we continue to fight through this pandemic, you can/should take more pleasure in the small things, which I discuss on page 32.

Photo by LaRuche Photo

Contact Cobb in Focus We want to hear from you! Share your story ideas and comments with our editor. Visit or send your suggestions to: or New South Publishing, Attn: Cory Sekine-Pettite 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210 Atlanta, GA 30350

Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta Contributors Lindsay Field Penticuff, Writer Jennifer Morrell, Writer LaRuche Photo, Photography Production Coordinator/Circulation Amy Fine Controller Marilyn Walker @cobbinfocus Cobb in Focus™ is published six times a year by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA, 30350. Direct all editorial queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 100. Direct all circulation queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 130. Direct all advertising queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 142. All information herein has been checked for accuracy to the best of the publisher’s ability. No responsibility is accepted for deletions, omissions, errors and/or inaccuracies. Material in this publication may not be reprinted without written permission from the publisher. Copyright 2022 by New South Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. For address changes, email




Sharper Focus Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in your community. Local UPS Store Operator Honored as Man of Influence

Credit Union of Georgia Opens Branch on Jiles Road in Kennesaw

Joseph Malbrough, who owns The UPS Store on Cobb Parkway in Smyrna, recently was recognized by the Atlanta Business League as one of the 2021 Men of Influence. The Men of Influence celebrate African American Men, their professional and entrepreneurial accomplishments, and their commitment to the citizenry of metro Atlanta. The award recognizes Malbrough for his leadership and volunteer service in the Cobb Business Community. “I am honored to have won this award,” said Malbrough. “I have worked hard not only to build my business, but also to be a responsible member of my community.”

This past October, Credit Union of Georgia opened a new branch on Jiles Road NW in Kennesaw. Credit Union of Georgia is excited to showcase their newest branch location with after-hours Smart ATMs with Teller Assist. “We have a great membership presence in this area and look forward to growing and expanding even more. This community is extremely important to the foundation of our Credit Union and we look forward to getting to know those who reside here even better,” said Amanda Arnold, VP of Marketing and Business Development.

Ser Familia Honored by Bank of America The Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative and Ser Familia have been named as the 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders® awardees for their work in the Atlanta community addressing these issues. Each organization receives a $200,000 grant over two years, comprehensive leadership training for the executive director, and an emerging leader on topics ranging from increasing financial sustainability, human capital management and strategic storytelling. “This incredible gift from Bank of America will allow us to continue to respond to the needs of our Latino families who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said Belisa Urbina, CEO, Ser Familia Inc.

Joyette Holmes Named Woman of the Year

Last October, former Cobb County DA Joyette Holmes was named the 2021 Woman of the Year by LiveSafe Resources for continuously demonstrating outstanding leadership in her personal and professional endeavors, and making a difference in the community. “LiveSafe Resources is proud to honor Joyette for her dedication and tireless efforts to better the community, while serving as an exemplary role model to young women,” said Jason Saliba, chair of LiveSafe’s board of directors.

Powder Springs Celebrates Downtown Mural Powder Springs residents and visitors have a new, welcoming sign in downtown on a wall outside Sweet Southern Coffee and Dessert at 4460 Marietta Street. Muralist John W. Christian painted the sign, which represents a sort of “homecoming” for the artist whose first business was located in downtown Powder Springs more than 30 years ago. Mayor Al Thurman and members of the City Council were on hand for the unveiling.

Literacy Week Inspires Local Students

This past fall, during Literacy Week, a program jointly run by Cobb EMC and Gas South organized events at 49 schools and reached more than 25,000 students. Now in its 11th year, Literacy Week has impacted more than 160,000 students in schools throughout Cobb, Paulding, Cherokee, Bartow, and Fulton counties. “Reading is vital to a successful education, and literacy supports successful STEM education,” said Mark Justice, director of education and community relations at Cobb EMC. “Literacy Week is a program that inspires thousands of local students and promotes lifelong reading habits.” 4



Recycling Program Helps Fund Affordable Housing

Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta partnered with Kennesaw-based aluminum products producer Novelis to encourage the local community to recycle more aluminum. Through this program, Novelis provided recycling bins for Habitat and its partner organizations. From June to December of last year, more than 320 pounds of aluminum cans were collected, resulting in a grant from Novelis to Habitat in the amount of $1,750. The organization will use the funds to help build more affordable housing.

Georgia Remembers Sen. Johnny Isakson Former Sen. Johnny Isakson passed away on December 19. He was 76. While the actual cause of death was not disclosed, Isakson had been dealing with multiple health issues the past few years, including Parkinson’s disease. “Former Senator Johnny Isakson was a hero to our Chamber and to our community, but also a hero for veterans, for education, and for small business owners,” the Cobb Chamber said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Georgia has lost a giant, one of its greatest statesmen and a servant leader dedicated to making his state and country better than he found it,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in a released statement.

Cobb 911 Restoration Garden to become a Sanctuary for the Unseen Heroes

The Cobb County Public Safety Foundation (CCPSF) currently is raising funds to redevelop the small CCPD Law Enforcement Memorial Garden into a sanctuary/retreat for Cobb’s 911 employees. For this area to provide a much-need therapeutic, nurturing atmosphere for these often-neglected first responders, the CCPSF needs your help. To learn more about the project and what is needed, please contact Sherry King at


Editor’s note: Due to evolving community needs, these events are subject to change or cancellation.

1/15 Pop-In For Family Fun Explore the Marietta Museum of History the third Saturday of the month with family fun activities. Cost per person is $5 and a family max at $20. More info:


Martin Luther King Day Celebration

The Acworth Parks, Recreation and Community Resource Department will host the 9th annual MLK Day Celebration and 11th Annual Day of Service on January 17. More info:


Trains, Trains, Trains!

The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History will host the 12th annual installment of its flagship event. Features include new train layouts, scales, and gauges. More info:

1/29 Cobb Chamber’s 80th Annual Dinner The Chamber’s big night is back! You are invited to a highly anticipated gala where officials recognize the dedication, leadership, and valued contributions of the county’s most engaged professionals. More info:

FEBRUARY 2/5-6 Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show Experience, learn, and maybe even bring home a new family pet at Jim R. Miller Park from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. More info:


GSO Jazz! At The Strand The Georgia Symphony presents the smooth sounds of jazz on the Marietta Square in an unforgettable evening. The concert begins at 8 p.m. More info:

2/19 Pop-In For Family Fun


The Atlanta Lyric Theatre Presents Beehive

Beehive celebrates the powerful female voices of the 1960’s, told from the perspective of six young women who come of age in this enigmatic decade. More info:


Georgia RV & Camper Show

Check out the largest RV show in the state with a selection of new motor homes, travel trailers, 5th wheels, toy haulers, and more at Cobb Galleria Centre. More info:

2/18-19 Great Backyard Bird Count Join Smith-Gilbert Gardens — and people from around the world — to watch, learn about, count. and celebrate birds. More info:

Explore the Marietta Museum of History the third Saturday of the month with family fun activities. Cost per person is $5 and a family max at $20. More info:


Polar Plunge

The 2022 Special Olympics Polar Plunge, hosted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run For Georgia, will take place at Acworth Beach at Cauble Park. The Polar Plunge is the largest fundraising effort benefiting Special Olympics. More info:


Beethoven at the Beach

Two composers separated by continents and time meet in this engaging performance. Amy Beach’s Symphony No. 2 incorporates music of England, Ireland, and Scotland into the first symphony written and published by an American woman composer. More info:





All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA

A Winning Partnership




LGE & Dansby Swanson share an affinity for helping others. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


n Nov. 2, 2021, The Atlanta Braves won Major League Baseball’s World Series for just the fourth time in the franchise’s history. And it’s the first championship trophy the team has brought to Truist Park in Cobb County, which the Braves have called home since 2017. While the final financial windfall for the county still is being tallied, there are some numbers that we do know. According to the nonprofit news service Capitol Beat, Cobb County took in at least $5 million each night that Truist Park hosted the World Series. The news service also reported that while the Cobb Chamber of Commerce didn’t have a predicted economic impact from the games, the Chamber said all the hotels in the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CID) were sold out for World Series. Additionally, a 2018 Georgia Tech economic impact study showed the Braves bring more than $18 million into the immediate area around Truist Park, an area that does not include the CID. So, one can easily imagine that the championship gave that number quite a bump. Of course, the team itself benefited — and will continue to benefit — from winning the championship through a share of ticket sales, merchandise, player bonuses, et cetera. Among those players, a few stood out during the sixth and final game of the Series. One of those men was Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who hit a homerun in Atlanta’s 7-0 victory in Houston. Swanson was born in Kennesaw and attended Marietta High School before playing college baseball for Vanderbilt University where his team won the College World Series in 2014 — and he was named Most Outstanding Player. Indeed, Swanson is an outstanding player on a team full of outstanding players and coaches. This fact alone makes him an attractive partner for corporations, but his

local ties mean even more to Marietta-based LGE Community Credit Union, which signed him to a multi-year endorsement deal early last year. For his part, Swanson already was quite familiar with LGE; he has been a member since 2012. “Although Dansby’s been part of the LGE family for many years, we’re excited to further that relationship in an official spokesperson capacity,” said LGE President and CEO, Chris Leggett. The credit union found Swanson to be the perfect fit as a spokesperson not only because of his success, but because of his strong alignment with LGE’s historical roots

and community values. Swanson grew up in Marietta, roughly three miles from LGE’s first headquarters and four miles away from the credit union’s first branch, which was located in the B-1 building basement of the Lockheed-Georgia Company plant.

Community ties In announcing the endorsement deal last year, Swanson said, “I’ve been a member since 2012, but I can remember LGE being a part of my life ever since I was little. Both of my grandfathers actually worked at Lockheed and then my mom did as well for




Business a few years. It is cool to see that family history come full circle with my new endorsement relationship with LGE and be a part of something my grandparents were also involved in. It is a great feeling to work with a brand that not only has ties to my family, but is one I’ve known my whole life and genuinely believe in.” To be certain, this isn’t just a monetary relationship. Both Swanson and LGE are passionate about impacting their community in a positive way. In fact, LGE is a notfor-profit, member-owned financial institution. Swanson said, “One reason I’m excited to be working with LGE is because they really care about the metro Atlanta community and are serious about giving back. I think it’s important to be serious about helping others and really making a difference because you never know what kind of impact that will have on someone’s life.” Among LGE’s community commitments is a decades-long program of assisting local children, homeless, abuse victims, and those that fall on hard times. Not only is there a monetary contribution, the credit union says, but LGE staff members volunteer more than 2,600 hours in the community annually. Additionally, the company partners with schools through its Partners in Education platform. Continued efforts show why LGE Community Credit Union remains to be a fabric of the community. Annually, the LGE Foundation leads a fundraising campaign with the goal of helping give back to the communities it serves. Proceeds raised from local events, as well as personal contributions given throughout the year, are matched by LGE and donated to local non-profit organizations (including SafePath, MUST Ministries and Calvary Childrens Home), families, or individuals

ing homage to LGE and Swanson’s shared Marietta roots. The credit union commissioned the portrait through its sponsorship of Chalktoberfest — a widely-attended event hosted annually by the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art. Artist Ivann Garc painted the portrait live over the two-day event on October 9 & 10, 2021. The portrait is one of four being displayed at the Marietta square for the next year. When asked about the painting, Swanson said, “The artist did a great job. I’m just so proud to be from Marietta and to have grown up here, and I’m honored that LGE chose to recognize my hometown roots in this way.” Artist Ivann Garc painting the Swanson mural.

in need. Since 2010, the LGE Foundation has given more than $1.45 million to local organizations. Swanson is co-founder of All Things Loyal, an apparel company that celebrates Atlanta culture and gives back to the community. Additionally, he is involved with Good Sports Inc., which supports America’s youth through sports, as well as the Cheatcode Foundation, which is leading a movement to empower communities to seek transformational healing and influence social change by providing access to effective mental health services to the most at-risk and underserved communities.

LGE honors Swanson with mural This past fall, LGE honored Swanson with a mural displayed in Marietta Square. The mural features a portrait of Swanson in a Marietta High School letterman jacket, pay-

An eventful couple of years In addition to its partnership with Swanson, LGE has had an eventful couple of years, pushing through the pandemic — as we all have — and relocating into a new headquarters. As Cobb In Focus reported last January, LGE is now occupying space in the Cumberland Center II complex off Cumberland Boulevard Southeast in the Cumberland area of Cobb County. “LGE had been headquartered at 430 Commerce Park [in Marietta] since 1981,” Leggett told this publication last year. “Back then, we had fewer than 40,000 members and fewer than 100 employees.” The credit union now serves more than 119,000 members from Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton, and Paulding counties, as well as Partner Groups companies and family members of existing LGE customers. There were a few reasons LGE leadership decided to relocate, but one of the top motives was that Cobb County expressed an interest in purchasing their old building.

About LGE Community Credit Union LGE Community Credit Union connects metro Atlanta to best-inclass financial products, expert advice, and personalized service. LGE serves all residents and businesses within Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton, and Paulding counties. Since 2010, LGE has given back over $1.45 million to local nonprofit organizations and individuals in need through the LGE Community Outreach Foundation. For more information about LGE, visit Federally insured by NCUA.




About Dansby Swanson Aggressive at the plate and a dynamic shortstop for the Atlanta Braves, Dansby Swanson has completely transformed the Atlanta Braves’ defense with his incredible speed, fielding ability, and unparalleled arm strength. In 2020, Swanson led the league in defensive runs saved and was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award. His work in the field is only matched by his tenacity at the plate and his ability to perform in clutch situations in the post-season. Selected with the first overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft, Swanson has ascended from a top prospect to a linchpin within the Braves’ lineup. Prior to his rise in the majors, Swanson led Vanderbilt to a College World Series victory in 2014 where he easily won the Most Outstanding Player award. Born and raised in Cobb County, Swanson pays homage to his hometown through his #AllThingsLoyal campaign, where he highlights the city’s local artists, themes, restaurants and milestones. Thoughtful, hard-working and approachable, Swanson has emerged as a leader in the clubhouse, ready to bring the Braves into a new era.

“We believed it presented an opportunity for LGE to secure a location that would better meet our future needs,” Leggett said. Carol Wagner, SVP and chief administrative officer with LGE, said the new location


occupies the entire 16th and 17th floors, in addition to part of the 15th floor, of Cumberland Center II. The space houses staff that support all facets of LGE operations. “We completely renovated the space prior


Media I 770-528-4545

to move-in to feature natural light viewable from all workstations, standing desk options for all workstations, and different options for working throughout the space, including nooks, hubs, and booths,” shared Wagner. n



A Unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.





Getting With The Program




One woman’s weight loss journey takes her from client to coach.

By Beth Bilton, Certified OPTAVIA Coach, Bilton Better Health LLC


t’s January and most people are looking ahead and setting goals for the new year. Some of the top resolutions: getting finances in order, losing weight, exercising more, eating healthy, and spending time with others. For me? Mine was always to lose weight and keep it off so I would feel better about myself, both physically and mentally. I thought that meant hitting the gym every day, trying to eat healthy and hoping the number on the scale would go down. I didn’t really have a plan or support, just more of a wish, thinking I should be able to do it on my own. However, according to a recent survey, 81 percent of U.S. adults value support from someone with similar experiences when creating healthy habits. In 2016, everything changed when I found OPTAVIA: an Optimal Health and Wellness Company that provided support while teaching me how to live a healthy lifestyle instead of just following the latest diet trend. I had a coach who walked alongside me, guiding, and supporting me — and most of all, providing accountability. We talked about what was important to me on my health journey and why achieving my goals really mattered to me. I said YES to learning healthy habits, losing weight (23 pounds), lowering my cholesterol levels, increasing my energy, sleeping better, and having more confidence in myself. *OPTAVIA provided everything that was previously missing in my life — healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy finances! I realized that I wanted to share my life changing experiences with others and so I became a Certified OPTAVIA Coach. Now I help clients look and feel their best. I also partner with others who want the opportunity to build their own OPTAVIA coaching business. With OPTAVIA, we focus on six “macro habits” that give us the freedom to create optimal health and wellbeing in our lives. Habits of Heathy Weight Management — Reaching and




Health maintaining a heathy weight is the most important gift you can give yourself and those you love and care about. Just a 10 percent reduction in your weight lowers your risk of disease by over 50 percent, and that risk continues to drop as you reduce your BMI (body mass index) below 25. 1. Habits of Healthy Eating and Hydration — Our structured eating plan teaches clients to have six, small meals per day (based on the low-glycemic index), eating every two to three hours and drinking a minimum of 64 ounces of water. (Hydration check! How much water have you had today? Grab a glass of water to drink while you read the magazine.) 2. Habits of Healthy Mind — Shows us how to create and maintain optimal health by organizing our lives around what matters most. 3. Habits of Healthy Sleep — The right amount of high-quality sleep (restful, restorative, and uninterrupted) is essential to health and wellbeing. Sleep is your body’s way of restoring organ function, stabilizing chemical imbalance, refreshing areas of the brain that control mood and behavior, and improving performance. 4. Habits of Healthy Movement — Increasing your activity level with exercise is

A supportive network of friends and family with similar health goals makes all the difference. If we can Beth Bilton consistently change our surroundings and optimize their conditions, we can help create and sustain our Habits of Health. essential to disease prevention and optimal health. Find a plan that is tailored to your current state of health, activity level, weight and that is something you will enjoy. 5. Habits of Healthy Surroundings — The world we live in has a tremendous influence on our behavior. We tend to make excuses and blame others when things go wrong. What many people don’t realize, however, is that we have power over our surroundings. A supportive network of friends and family with similar health goals makes all the difference. If we can consistently change our surroundings and

optimize their conditions, we can help create and sustain our Habits of Health. Our Optimal Health and Wellness Program is comprised of four components that all work together throughout your entire journey: Personal coaching, Habits of Health® Transformational System, Community support, and a healthy Nutrition Plan. I have found that the clients who embrace all four components have the greatest long-term success. When someone becomes a client, they will get me as their Personal OPTAVIA

In addition to having an OPTAVIA coach, you will find a Community of likeminded people who are all focused on creating better health and sharing their experiences.




Coach and I provide one-on-one personal support and mentorship. I guide my clients through the program, teaching them the habits of health as they begin to change their lifestyle. I link arms with them to support them through challenges and celebrate their successes. We offer the Habits of Health® Transformational System because it’s not just about improving your physical health. Mental wellbeing is key to achieving your physical health goals; you can’t have one without the other. This educational component is designed to help you plan, reach, and maintain your health goals. In addition to having an OPTAVIA coach, you will find a Community of likeminded people who are all focused on creating better health and sharing their experiences, WOW’s (Wins of the Week) as well as NSV (Non-Scale Victories), Client webinars, recipe pages, and a private support group. Our community is a place where you can find support, ask questions, and share triumphs. Our Nutrition Plan is easy to follow. You

CONTACT BETH: Beth Bilton Certified OPTAVIA Coach, Bilton Better Health LLC 404.271.4420

don’t have to count calories or macronutrients; it’s all done for you. Most people follow our Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan® where your body enters a gentle but efficient fat-burning state. Once you reach your goal weight, we show you how to thrive and live a healthy lifestyle. We offer other specific programs to target special needs, such as a Diabetes Plan, Nursing Mothers Plan, Seniors Plan, and a Teen Plan. If you are interested to see if OPTAVIA is your long-term solution, please reach out to me. I coach clients all over the country and would be honored to partner with you, your friends and family members and assist them to live a longer, healthier life.

About OPTAVIA Medifast, the parent Company of OPTAVIA, has been named one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies by Fortune Magazine for the third consecutive year and the only Health & Wellness Company on the list. Our program is unique in the health industry and fills a great need. Our clinically proven Comprehensive Program includes Accountability, Support, Community and Lifestyle/Behavioral Education to help individuals make sustainable, lifelong change. Average weight loss on the Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan® is 12 pounds. Clients are in weight loss, on average, for 12 weeks. n

A.G. Rhodes is embarking on a landmark effort. We are building a new home that will protect our most vulnerable seniors. One that will honor their dignity as they age. One that will strengthen our delivery of compassionate, person-directed care. One that will serve as a replicable model nationwide.

Learn more:




Cobb’s Citizens & Businesses of the Year T

he Cobb Chamber’s Area Councils and the local business associations have selected their 2021 Citizens of the Year and Businesses/ Members of the Year to honor those who have made our community a better place in which to live and work. The awards were announced late last year for the following communities:

Outstanding citizens The Acworth Citizen of the Year is Tia Amlett, principal of Barber Middle School. Amlett is in tune to the needs, struggles, and challenges that her staff and school families face, and she finds ways to keep those individuals uplifted. During the challenges of the past two years, she has remained a strong and steadfast advocate for teachers, students, and parents. Under Amlett’s leadership, Barber Middle School was named a Title 1 Reward School, a distinction that is earned by those schools that are ranked in the top 5 percent of Title 1 Schools in the state. In addition, the school also was awarded STEM School Certification by the Cobb County School District. Austell Citizen of the Year is Malcolm Lewis, pastor of Beacon of Light Ministries and owner of Cenacle Coffee Shop and Bestway Financial Services. After moving Beacon of Light Ministries to the area in 2008 and purchasing two buildings to open Cenacle Coffee Shop and Bestway Financial Services in 2015, Lewis has been instrumental in the revitalization efforts of downtown Austell. During the start of the pandemic, when many in the community were left hungry due to the shelter-in-place mandate, Lewis opened the Cenacle’s doors and offered hot meals to anyone in need. Passionate about education and entrepreneurism, Lewis is proposing to fund a private middle school in Austell. He was an Austell Business Association Board Member from 2016-2020 and has been a part of the Austell Community Collaborative since 2015. As a veteran, Lewis has helped celebrate and honor local veterans each year at the annual Veterans Day event held in Veterans Park. He has continuously contributed to the wellbeing of the Austell community through his servitude and giving spirit. East Cobb Citizen of the Year is Bob Ott. Former East Cobb District 2 Commissioner, Ott has been an active member of the East Cobb community for more than 10 years. From the East Cobb Civic Association to the Cobb Planning Commission, Ott strives to make 14



the citizens of Cobb feel as though they are connected to their government. In the wake of the pandemic, Ott was vigilant in helping small businesses stay open, working alongside SelectCobb to propose that $50 million of the county’s federal CARES Act funding would be dedicated to developing grants for small business owners. After stepping down from politics in late 2020, Ott has continued to stay active within East Cobb. He is a member of Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church and volunteer with Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts of America. Kennesaw Citizen of the Year is Jeff Drobney, city manager of Kennesaw, and a man of action that finds ways to make everything work to benefit those involved. Drobney has taken the City of Kennesaw to the next level in operations, staffing, technology, and economic growth. He has built an all-star team of professionals and created a succession plan to ensure the city is able to maintain exceptional professional services and continued strong economic growth. Over the course of 15 years, he has served as past president of the Kennesaw Business Association, executive director of the Southern Museum, agency director for Recreation and Culture, and past board member for Cobb Travel and Tourism. Involved in several areas within the city, Drobney has dedicated much of his career to serve and help improve the quality of Kennesaw and the wellbeing of its citizens. Mableton Citizen of the Year is Robin Meyer, chairwoman emeritus of the Mableton Improvement Coalition. Meyer is known as a crucial fixture within the Mableton community. She is a founding member of the Mableton Improvement Coalition and has served in numerous leadership roles, including chairwoman, president, secretary, and head of the Zoning Committee. Meyer has worked for more than 20 years to help in the redevelopment of the Mableton community. She has assisted countless residents with issues ranging from homelessness, code enforcement, traffic, litter, and more. Additionally, she has written several grant applications resulting in the historic preservation of local parks, as well as development of new parks, and continues to work with Cobb County Government and developers on zoning applications for the redevelopment of Mableton.

Marietta Citizen of the Year is Thomas Sherrer, Jr., co-owner and pharmacist in charge of Poole’s Pharmacy, which recently was profiled in Cobb In Focus. Sherrer is a trusted and respected member of the Marietta community, but it is during the pandemic that his compassion and dedication to Marietta and the school system became incredibly clear. As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine first became available, Sherrer called his customers, worked with their schedules, counseled hesitancy, and came up with a system so no vaccine would be wasted. Through Poole’s Pharmacy, Sherrer was ready and willing to ensure that all teachers and staff at Marietta City Schools (MCS) who were able and willing to get the vaccine were vaccinated. What began as an initial clinic for MCS staff would soon become an ongoing partnership of MCS vaccine events for staff, students, and members of the Marietta community. When children 12 and older were able to get the vaccine, he was right back at it — helping parents with the decision and getting back to the schools to help administer the dose. In a time where it is vital to keep our community safe and educated about their options, Sherrer has done everything he can to make sure his fellow citizens are informed and vaccinated. Smyrna Citizen of the Year is Lt. Louis Defense of the City of Smyrna Police Department. Defense began his law enforcement career in November of 2000, and today serves as the face of the Smyrna Police Department in his active role as the city’s public information officer/community liaison. He has served time in uniform patrol and most notably as the supervisor of the Community Relations Unit with Smyrna Police. At the beginning of the pandemic, Defense found an unmet need, realizing that our most at-risk populations could not be in public and thus could not pick up their basic life necessities such as food and medication. He began delivering groceries and medication to Smyrna’s at-risk populations and, due to the program’s popularity, expanded his reach into areas of unincorporated Cobb that bordered Smyrna. In the wake of tragic events across the country, Defense found himself again thinking outside of the box in finding ways to regain the public’s trust in law enforcement. He coordinated and instructed Smyrna PD’s inaugural Youth Police Academy where kids attended a one-week “police academy” where they learned about law enforcement and how to succeed in life. West Cobb Citizen of the Year is Christal McNair, owner of Studio Bungee fitness facilities (read more about McNair on page 29). She is the first to say yes to difficult tasks — whether it’s chairing a new committee with a non-profit, helping to navigate

challenging waters during a pandemic, or just pushing hard to get the word out about a cause she believes in. An active member of the Cobb Chamber, Cobb Executive Women, Marietta Business Association, West Cobb Business Association, and Kiwanis of Marietta, McNair shows her passion for the community through her involvement in each organization and acts of service to help her neighbors. In the wake of the pandemic, she helped many small businesses translate PPP and manage their financial plans. Her servitude, hard work ethic, and giving spirit make her a valuable contributor to the neighborhoods and communities of West Cobb.

Business association awards Acworth Business Association’s 2021 Business of the Year is EcoTech Services, which provides carpet cleaning, tile cleaning and upholstery cleaning services to the communities of Northwest Atlanta. The company has a long history of giving back to the community, including working with organizations such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Bert’s Big Adventure. Acworth Business Association’s 2021 Person of the Year is Mike Schroeder, owner of 1885 Grill Acworth. 1885 Grill is a Southern coastal restaurant that provides diners with a chance to escape their busy day and enjoy a meal-length vacation of the senses. You won’t find a more spacious or inviting restaurant setting in all of Acworth. Kennesaw Business Association’s Business of the Year is Copeland’s (Quinton Austin, Managing Partner). The management and staff at Copeland’s are known throughout the community because of their consistent and enthusiastic involvement within the business community and in Cobb in general. The KBA says Copeland’s is a wonderful place to take family and friends. They also provide food for many KBA lunches, and it’s always delicious! Kennesaw Business Association’s Member of the Year is Jenni Brown, Partner, Brown & Dutton Law Firm in Marietta. Brown is a natural leader and her clients describe her as compassionate, confident, and aggressive when necessary. She is known for her ability COBB



to openly communicate with her clients and explain a complex situation in a way that all clients understand what to expect throughout the litigation process. Brown is an active member of the Cobb Bar Association and State Bar of Georgia. She spends much of her free time volunteering in the community and with her church. Northeast Cobb Business Association’s 2021 Small Business of the Year is ARS Mitigations Inc. Founded in 1988, this Cobb County business is specially trained and certified to respond in the event of a disaster — fire or water — and they understand that time is precious and that your family needs a reliable restoration service. As owner Rick Sands tell us in this issue of Cobb In Focus (beginning on page 26), “Our mission is to provide service with guidance, support, and empathy at a time when our customers have experienced a loss to their home or business.” Regarding the award, Sands said: “I didn’t see it coming. I was honored and humbled, and very surprised. It never occurred to me, but it helped show that we are doing something right.” Marietta Business Association’s Members of the Year are Justin Arndt (Justin Arndt Media) and Bart Nunley (Elley). Justin Arndt Media provides photo and video services for brands and businesses in the Metro Atlanta area. Arndt is a former public information officer with the Powder Springs Police Department where he assisted with the Department with managing social media platforms (Facebook, Titter, and Instagram) and helped facilitate all community outreach programs, from neighborhood watch, business watch, youth programs, and special community events. Nunley is co-founder of Elley, which started out as a VoIP phone company, but quickly evolved into a full-service IT Managed Service Provider. The company’s individualized, serviceoriented approach has won over clients around the nation. Elley’s commitment to community includes assistance and partnerships with local churches, civic organizations, veterans and first responders groups, as well as historic preservation and land trust organizations. Marietta Business Association’s Business of the Year is Associated Credit Union (ACU), which for 90 years has been committed to providing exceptional service and a wide variety of competitive products and services to help its members achieve their financial 16



goals. ACU operates under a “people first” mindset, which means the needs of members and the needs of the community are always top of mind. The credit union’s mission is to offer members financial products that fulfill their needs, service that exceeds their expectations, and relationships that inspire their trust. Its 501(c)3 Foundation was established in 2009 and has since donated more than $850,000 in funds and contributions to local charities, including Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries; Quinn House; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Wilderness Works; Child Enrichment, Inc.; The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; and Susan G. Komen. West Cobb Business Association’s Member of the Year is Samantha Glass of All Print Marketing. Glass has been a member of WCBA since 2011 and during that time served in many volunteer roles with the association, including marketing director and government affairs director. Since her term as president in 2018, she has remained active and volunteered on the leadership team. In 2021, Glass founded the 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Jess Rousey Honoring Heroes Foundation, Inc., to support and give back to our first responder heroes. She organizes the annual WCBA Public Safety Appreciation Gala, which always is a hit with WCBA members and first responders alike. West Cobb Business Association’s Business of the Year is Mayes Ward-Dobbins in Powder Springs. This funeral home and crematory has been serving Cobb County since the 1920s. In 1983, Dobbins Funeral Home and Mayes Ward Funeral Home merged to form Mayes WardDobbins. Owner Terry Pendley has served as a licensed professional in the funeral profession for more than 43 years. Terry serves his community by being a member of the Marietta Rotary, Springville Masonic Lodge, Marietta Lions Club, Wellstar Foundation Board, Wellstar Hospice Board, and Chairman of the McEachern Trust Board for McEachern High School. Terry is past president of Marietta Country Club. They have a long history with years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Mayes Ward-Dobbins also was selected as the “Best of Cobb” by the MDJ for both 2020 and 2021. n

Special Section

Leaders of Cobb


ince its establishment more than 180 years ago, Cobb County has been defined by its people. Some of these individuals have made their mark by becoming pioneers of business, captains of industry and heads of state. And if you’re reading this, you likely know why Cobb is attractive to so many. It hosts exceptional schools, is within close reach to the world’s busiest airport, has all of the convenience of proximity to the

big city and is fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The list goes on, but it always comes back to the people who have built this county into what it is. On the following pages we have profiled individuals who are among Cobb’s premier leaders. We wanted to find out about their job, delve into their personal life, and gain some words of wisdom. And of course, we asked: Why have you picked Cobb County?




Leaders of Cobb Photo by LaRuche Photo

Finally, where my vision aligned with customer demand became Cortavo. I wanted to provide people with the very solution they wanted minus the all-too-common fear of using it. My colleagues and I strive to provide real IT solutions and support, versus just being another vendor to call. We also want to be present for IT planning, projects, investment and advice — not just when something breaks. Our passion is helping others like us succeed in an area where they might not be the most confident. Folks can focus on their business’ core competency while we focus our core competency on their business. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: It was really the commute that clinched it for me; it has highway access while feeling like suburbia in the same stroke.

Tom Lasswell

VP of IT at Cortavo by Aventis Systems

THE STORY: Originally, I’m from Los Angeles. How I got into what I do is an interesting story. When I was a kid, there was a movie called “Congo” that had a scene where people were running satellite video uplinks for video feeds to watch gorillas. That’s where my tech fascination really began. Eventually, I landed my first gig in IT at the age of 14 building computers for a small company near where I grew up. I later attended the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, learned the industry formally and launched my career in IT. I’ve held roles at CBS, CDW, and iVision. Eventually, I was hired at Aventis Systems, an IT hardware and software provider catering to small to mid-sized businesses. WHY I CREATED CORTAVO: Well, Aventis Systems is popular, but our customers also wanted intangible services like migration, on-site help, office IT services, training, and warranty support. A fully managed IT solution had taken shape in their minds. And for my part, I had an itch to reimagine IT support.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Transitioning from enterprise giants to small to mid-sized businesses puts me in contact with those very customers on a daily basis, and I feel like the relationships are stronger, work is valued, and so my team and I put in even more. In the end, I get to empower small businesses with the knowledge and resources they need to go to work every day and crush it. LEISURE TIME: From time to time, I ramble over to Glover Park, listen to live music and sample the local brewery. And it’s fun to just shoot the breeze in Marietta Square with my girlfriend, Shannon. BEST ADVICE: My advice to readers that might be looking for an IT resource is to be careful who you choose. Make sure you put forward the due diligence of asking the questions that are pertinent to your business such as: how can you help with increasing our productivity? What can you do to ensure my email doesn’t get hacked? What other services do you provide that come at an additional cost? On the pricing front, always be leery of low introductory rates, because a lot of essentials that weren’t mentioned on the front end might rebound as surprise add-ons. WHAT’S NEXT? We’re expanding our overall features to include more products that people use in their office. Namely, we’ll be adding CrowdStrike to secure another layer of defense to better protect our clients. Locally, we’ll be helping Cobb County small businesses gain a sound and scalable technology solution as we grow.

189 Cobb Pkwy N Suite B7, Marietta, GA 30062 • • 866-CORTAVO • 18



Leaders of Cobb

WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: My husband and I moved to Cobb in 2010 with our two young daughters. It was a two-fold decision. First and foremost was the quality of the schools in Cobb County. The second was being near my in-laws where my husband grew up in Cobb. I work here because this is home. I gotten to know people from being involved in the community and through various networking groups. And it is through those groups I try to find ways to give back to the community, which makes this a better place for everyone.

Photo by LaRuche Photo

THE STORY: In my former corporate life, I worked in Human Resources before moving into 401(k) management. Later on, I had a part-time job at a law firm where I kept their books, and realized I wanted to concentrate on bookkeeping full time. A chance encounter led me to become an early adopter of QuickBooks Online in “the cloud.” I specialize in individual lawyers and small law firms and find that experience is easily transferable to other service industries.

Kari Beebe

Owner, PAG Fiscal Services

and a boost in self-esteem that young girls often don’t get elsewhere. To get my competitive fix, I play as much ALTA tennis as I can year-round.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I am a ‘helper’ by nature. People know to call me if they need a ride to the doctor or assistance with a project. My bookkeeping and payroll company allows me to help small business owners in several ways. Managing the day-to-day transactions lets the owner focus on the “bigger picture.” To sum it up, I love it when my clients tell me I save them time while allowing them to sleep at night knowing everything is current and accurate.

BEST ADVICE: For new entrepreneurs, I suggest get your bookkeeping system set up as soon as you decide to establish your business. Many people wait too long and don’t capture all the startup expenses incurred. Additionally, make sure your system is set up correctly. Getting off on the wrong foot only creates a need to unravel things later. Established small businesses: if your books are feeling “undone,” find a professional to delegate to and free yourself up to do the work you are passionate about. As I tell my lawyers, I would never represent myself in a legal matter. Why would you do your own books?

LEISURE TIME: I enjoy the increasingly rare times when all of my family is together. Outside of family, I turned my lifelong love of basketball into a volunteer role on the board of East Marietta Basketball where I am the VP of the girl’s division. I want to get as many girls as possible out there playing because I believe that participation in youth sports provides confidence

WHAT’S NEXT? Adding new software to my technology stack that makes my client experience more user-friendly and enjoyable. It automates the less value-added tasks, which allows me to focus on issues that matter most to my clients. I am also adding profit strategies and advisory services for business owners. • COBB



Wickham Financial

Graham Wickham and his team continue more than 40 years of meeting financial and insurance service needs in Cobb. By Jennifer Morrell




& Insurance Services

Takes A Total Approach to Wealth Management

The Wickham team, pictured left to right and front to back: Iris Turner, Agent; Michael Beecher, Advisor/Agent; Jeremy Cronemeyer, Operations Manager; Debbie Alfonsi, Admin/Customer Support; Siley Vaia, Ops Mgr/ Commercial Customer Support; Susanne Wickham-Cook, Personal/ Commercial Lines Agent; Stacey Scott, Marketing and Client Relations; and Graham Wickham, President/CEO.


ickham Financial & Insurance Services is more than your typical firm offering a menu of generalized services. Forged by his parents before him, President and CEO Graham S. Wickham is a second-generation owner of Wickham Financial, and he continues the family’s proud tradition of serving others by offering insurance products. He has expanded the family of companies to include financial planning products and strategies to address broader financial needs. The Wickham family’s abiding approach to business and life is expressed in a simple, but powerful, business philosophy: Seek to understand, then to be understood.

“Many clients feel that in order to achieve goals, there is this complicated web of strategies. We help break things down into their simplest form, explaining complex financial matters in an easy-tounderstand way.” ­— Graham S. Wickham

For more than 40 years, the Wickham Financial & Insurance Services companies have been a part of the Marietta business community, serving the financial and insurance needs of thousands of individuals, families, and business owners. Most of Wickham’s 1,900 clients are in the state of Georgia, many in Cobb County. However, the firm does have clients nationwide. “What makes us unique is we’re broken up into teams of experts,” Wickham says. “So, when 22



a client enters or wants to speak to [an expert], whether it’s personal lines or commercial lines of insurance, financial, or legal, when they come through our door, they are being approached with a consultant attitude. Then, we can bridge off that and collaborate with the other teams that need to be involved to accomplish that client’s goals and objectives.” Wickham and his skilled team of 12 insurance and financial professionals work hard to develop trust and focus on helping clients understand that their goals are obtainable. “Many clients feel that in order to achieve goals, there is this complicated web of strategies,” he says. “We help break things down into their simplest form, explaining complex financial matters in an easyto-understand way.” Wickham Financial is an active and engrained part of the Cobb community. The company is a member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, where Graham is a member of the CEO Roundtable. The firm also is involved with the Marietta Business Association, the Smyrna Business Association, and Kiwanis. Wickham and his team support local charities, such as Center For Family Resources and MUST Ministries, here in Cobb County, and are proud sponsors of the Marietta Blue Devils. “In keeping with our philosophy of leadership through education, we host multi-day adult education classes with a focus on retirement planning at Marietta Community Schools and Chattahoochee Technical College,” Wickham adds.

Who Needs Financial Planning?

Wickham Financial & Insurance Services takes a detailed, customized approach to managing wealth for clients. Rather than a “ jacks of all trades and masters of none” company philosophy, Wickham follows a methodology of listening to their clients, more than speaking. This personalized approach to the financial services offered allows the team to focus on helping their clients solve any financial challenges they may face, now or in the future. Some may assume that financial planning is only for the affluent. Wickham asserts that people do not need to be wealthy to seek out financial planning and management. “It’s not a measure of wealth,” he says. “It’s about how much control they want over what they’ve worked so hard for. And who do they want it to go to when they can no longer make those decisions, either before they pass or after they pass away?” Financial planning also affords the

Wickham follows a methodology of listening to their clients, more than speaking. This personalized approach to the financial services offered allows the team to focus on helping their clients solve any financial challenges they may face, now or in the future. client an opportunity to thrive in retirement, if that is the goal and objective, instead of living in a minimal, basic way, he says.

5 Elements of Wealth Management What makes Wickham different from other financial planning firms is its Total Wealth Management approach. Not all financial advisors talk to their clients about legal matters or tax and accounting strategies, or about risk

management strategies from the standpoint of insurance, says Wickham. Many financial advisors choose to focus their conversations with their clients on opening accounts and making investments, and allocations of those investments, because that is their area of expertise. “What makes our firm stand out is that we do have a team of experts in each of the five areas of wealth management who can assist clients with not only their investments and retirement




planning, but their tax strategies, estate planning, and risk management or insurance needs, as well,” he says. “This is what we mean by a ‘Total Approach to Wealth Management.’ It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario, but a custom approach to each client’s needs. Those five elements (investments, tax strategies, retirement planning, estate planning, and risk management) encompass a comprehensive tactic to managing what is important to Wickham’s clients, looking at all aspects of their financial lives, through all the stages of their lives, from earning to distributing wealth to passing it on. In the earning stage, the client is working,

“It’s important when thinking about retirement planning to consider how much income you need, your expenses, your distributions, and the length of time you anticipate needing them.” ­— Graham S. Wickham

and his investments are growing. In the distributing stage, the client has retired and is distributing the investment money to himself. And in the final stage, the money and assets he has worked for is distributed to the people and things he cares about most, after he has passed away. Investing is about defining what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it growth? Is it income? Is it growth and income? Wickham also wants each client to think about how he wants to position those investments to bring the result needed to achieve a goal, 24



and for as long as is needed to achieve it. Growth essentially means the client is letting his assets increase in value without distribution. Income, however, is when the client may still want his assets to grow, but he also is looking to receive distributions at the same time. The next component in Total Wealth Management is tax strategies. While it is one’s legal obligation to pay taxes, there are strategies to ensure that one does not overpay taxes, keeping more of what you have worked so hard to achieve. A good, general first step is to look at tax exemptions, deductions, and any credits of which you can take advantage. Next, employer-sponsored retirement plans would be considered. Then one might look at opening individual retirement plans that are not through an employer, such as a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA. Retirement planning is the part of Total Wealth Management that requires thinking about that next stage of one’s life, Wickham says. Everyone has a unique vision of retirement. Without a clear vision, how can one plan for it? Wickham Financial always encourages its clients — and the attendees of its financial planning classes — to take a moment to sit back, close their eyes, and envision how their retirement looks for them. “It’s important when thinking about retirement planning to consider how much income you need, your expenses, your distributions, and the length of time you anticipate needing them,” Wickham says. “Prior to retiring, it never hurts to do a ‘trial run’ with a budget to inspect what you expect.” Wickham believes estate planning is one of the most important topics that clients need to think about when considering a wealth management plan. The client basically is stating how he wants what he has worked so hard for to be controlled and distributed while he’s alive, and after he has passed. Ensuring that beneficiaries on insurance policies and retirement accounts are accurate and up to date is a good example. The next step could be adding some additional legal documentation to clarify and customize the client’s wishes. A will is designed to document those wishes while the client is alive and goes into effect after he has passed. Trusts could be added to be even more definitive and restrictive regarding who receives a client’s assets and how and when they receive them. The final component that makes up Total Wealth Management is risk management. When thinking about risk management, remember that everything has risks. So, the client must define how much risk he is comfortable taking, compared to how much he wants to pass on to other resources. When thinking about risk and

investments (stocks and bonds), think about market risk, company risk, inflation risk, liquidity risk, opportunity risk, etc., Wickham says. “You need to define that risk and make sure you’re comfortable with it, based on your goals, objectives, and time horizon,” he says. “Another risk management mitigation tool is insurance. Insurance is meant to indemnify or make us whole. Whether it’s auto, homeowner’s, business coverage, life or health, you want to make sure that each of those policies accurately covers the loss you’re trying to mitigate. It’s essential to understand how much risk you are willing and capable of absorbing compared to how much you want to pass on.” n

Retirement Planning Classes Retirement Planning classes from Wickham Financial & Insurance Services are scheduled for Tuesdays, January 25 and February 1 and Saturdays, January 29 and February 4. They will take place at the Marietta Campus of Chattahoochee Technical College. Call 770.424.8711 for more information.

Wickham Financial Group, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser. This article is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Wickham Financial Group, Inc. and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Wickham Financial Group, Inc. unless a client service agreement is in place.

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In Your Community

When Disaster Strikes…




ARS Mitigations Inc. aims to support families and business owners during some of their toughest times. By Lindsay Field Penticuff


our hot water heater bursts. There’s been a terrible fire in your office breakroom. Rainfall after a storm has flooded your basement. What’s next? This is when Rick Sands and his team at ARS Mitigation Inc. in Marietta step in to help with their expert services. Founded in 1988, this Cobb County business is specially trained and certified to respond in the event of a disaster — fire or water — and they understand that time is precious and that your family needs a reliable restoration service. “Our mission is to provide service with guidance, support, and empathy at a time when our customers have experienced a loss to their home or business,” Sands says when sharing the ARS mission statement. “We understand that when you need our service, you are going through an emotional and trying event. Our aim is to assist you through the process with professional, quality service and care, and to bring you a solution.”

How it all started Just a few years after moving to the Atlanta area from Connecticut in 1984, Sands was looking for a profession that wouldn’t require a lot of relocating and travel. He worked with a business broker, who showed him several business-purchasing options to consider. “I really liked the idea of being self-employed,” Sands says. “Through my business broker, I learned about a guy who was selling a carpetcleaning business over in Doraville.” Sands was fortunate enough to be able to borrow money from his father-in-law to help start the business, and that’s when ARS was established. “I realized early on that you need to clean a whole lot of carpets to feed kids,” Sands says. “So, over the years, our business has evolved to where we are today.”

The carpet-cleaning business evolved into cleaning up water damage in the 1990s, because Sands says that the water extraction system they use to clean carpets is also the equipment used to remove water after a home is flooded, for example. Technology during this time also advanced. Approximately 20 years ago, they would simply touch a wall to try and determine if it was still wet, not knowing whether the insulation or anything else inside a wall may still be wet. “We left a lot of stuff wet, and not just ARS, but our industry as a whole,” Sands says. “So,

the industry in the ‘90s got really serious about the science of drying. We now use infrared tools that don’t necessarily show that a wall is wet by scanning it, but you’ll see the temperature change. Wet [walls or insulation] typically [are indicated by] a cooler temperature.” They also have meters that help the ARS team determine whether they need to investigate an incident even more when there’s flooding. Sands’ team participates in four-day training sessions to earn certifications in using this type of technology. In the early to mid-2000s, Sands learned while having conversations with insurance

“Fresh ingredients, great tasting sandwiches. Excellent customer service.” Offering Gluten Free and Vegetarian Hoagies 3595 Canton Rd #330, Marietta, GA 30066 Follow us on social media




In Your Community adjusters who referred his team’s services to clients that there was a need in fire restoration. “We started learning more about fire damage and how to clean smoke in a home,” Sands says. “Our industry started getting very good at using Fireline equipment and resources, and we learned that ultrasonics are a very effective way to clean items damaged by smoke.”

“The thing I’m proudest about is the people who work here. They have good hearts. Everyone here is hurting for the client.”

The packout process After a fire, Sands says the ARS team is tasked with cleaning a home or business, even in areas where the fire may not have caused direct damage, but soot has maybe lingered and settled in a space. This might include them cleaning baseboards in a nearby bedroom or wiping down tabletops in a dining room after a house fire, for example. At the same time, they also box up items that they and the homeowner or business owner believe are salvageable, and take them back to the ARS warehouse, where they are stored for clients. This is referred to as a “packout.” When ARS gets the call that a homeowner or business owner is ready to move back into a space — renovations after a kitchen fire are complete, for example — they will start the cleaning process using the Fireline series of equipment. The process is as follows: •  Station 1: They will carefully unpack all the soiled contents inside the boxes and place them in a metal tray. • Station 2: Each item is pre-rinsed, and/or prepped for the ultrasonic cleaning process. • Station 3: The tray is submerged in the ultrasonic cleaning machine, in which

—Rick Sands, Owner, ARS Mitigations Inc.

millions of bubbles, smaller than an air molecule, clean the contents thoroughly. •  Station 4: The tray of contents is then hand-rinsed. • Station 5: The tray will go through a turbo dryer tunnel to make sure everything is completely dry. •  Station 6: Someone will repack all of a homeowner’s or business owner’s contents into new, clean boxes.

“We also have an electrics cleaning station,” Sands says. “We can take a TV apart, because it has smoke inside it, and clean it. We can do the same with laptops, desktops, iPods, tablets.” ARS will then deliver and help a homeowner or business owner not only unpack the boxes of contents, but sort them throughout a home or business, per the request of the owner. Offering these three tiers of the business — water, fire and contents, or packout — ARS has helped homeowners and business owners through some of their toughest times. “Having your home flooded or a fire in your business is disruptive,” Sands adds. “You have 18 different questions, and you don’t know where to start. And if you have kids, their world is rocked, too. They want to know: Where are we moving? What’s going on?” That’s when the ARS team steps in with their Mitigations Inc. 20-plus employees and can offer decades of

“Our mission is to provide service with guidance, support, and empathy at a time when our customers have experienced a loss to their home or business.” —Rick Sands, Owner, ARS 28



experience to support residents and business owners across the Atlanta area. “The thing I’m proudest about is the people who work here. They have good hearts. Everyone here is hurting for the client. This is someone’s home, and all our people take that to heart. They are goodhearted people, and when we can go through and get people their stuff back, it’s huge.” And ARS was recently recognized for their hard work and dedication to the community, being recognized as the Northeast Cobb Business Association 2021 Small Business of the Year. “I didn’t see it coming. I was honored and humbled, and very surprised,” Sands says. “It never occurred to me, but it helped show that we are doing something right.” n

About ARS ARS Mitigations Inc. 960 Shallowford Road Kennesaw, GA 30144 770.516.4081 Video tour:

A rts & Recreation

Hanging Around At Studio Bungee It’s core, cardio, and fun all in one. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


fter three back surgeries and more than a decade of dealing with constant pain, physical therapy, and decreasing mobility, Christal McNair decided she had enough. She went searching for a way to stay healthy and active that wouldn’t also lead to more strain on her body, particularly her back. In her quest, she found bungee fitness. “After surfing on Facebook, I saw bungee fitness out of Canada and it appeared to be fun,” McNair wrote in a testimonial on her website. “I worried that I may not be able to do this type of activity with all my back issues, but I decided to see if there was somewhere I could go in Georgia to give this new exercise a try. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anywhere in Georgia, but was lucky to find the home of ASTRODURANCE Total Body Bungee System in Cape Coral, Florida.




A rts & Recreation

“The whole concept takes the weight off the joints so that you can do exercise without pounding and damaging your knees or your ankles, or your back. So, we can make it easier, or we can make it harder by changing the [bungee] cord resistance.” —Christal McNair, owner of Studio Bungee “I was able to do push-ups, burpees, and other exercises with no impact on my joints,” she continued. “I was sold immediately and felt energized and confident that [this] system could help others who are similar to me. I saw an opportunity to help not only myself, but others who have muscle issues, arthritis, pain or are rehabilitating for an injury, and that’s when Studio Bungee was formed.” McNair opened Studio Bungee ( in July 2018 with a license to use the ASTRO-DURANCE equipment and with a goal to help others who require low-impact exercise, as well as those who just want a unique workout experience. Cobb In Focus spoke with her




recently to learn more about her business. Her original studio was on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta, but McNair has since shifted focus and offers her bungee classes in other gyms around the area, including Gfit in Marietta (Dallas Hwy), Abb’s Muscle & Fitness Gym in Dallas (Village Walk), and new locations in Dalton and Rockmart that should be open in the first quarter of this year. She also partners with physical therapist and chiropractors to help those patients get their bodies back in shape. McNair and her team of fitness instructors offer workout classes daily for beginners and advanced bungee enthusiasts. Additionally, Studio Bungee provides other workouts, including

Ab Blaster, Yoga Tone, Suspension Training, and ZUMBA. Her goal, McNair says, is just to keep people moving. “It’s not choreographed,” she said. “I really let the fitness instructors look at what they need to do for that class group. It’s something different every time they come in, and it goes by pretty fast. So, we try to keep it fun, too, and we’re not always flying. …But that’s part of it. That’s the fun of it. People get to fly around a little bit, but it is a serious workout.” McNair added, “It’s a really cool concept that I’m in love with, obviously, but not just because it’s my business, but it helps everybody get stronger.”

What is bungee fitness? Bungee fitness was developed in Thailand and spread quickly around the globe as people learned that this low-impact workout involves cardio, strength training, and core fitness while minimizing impact on joints. Being attached to a bungee cord that is anchored to the ceiling takes weight and pressure off knees and ankles when incorporating moves such as lunges, squats, or jumping. Plus, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that your 30-minute bungee class just flies by (pun intended). Are workouts supposed to be this fun? “When you’re on the bungee, you’re holding yourself in a position most of the time — I call it a standing plank position — where you’re leaned out a little bit,” McNair said. “You’re engaging your core the entire time, and your glutes, to get a really strong workout, but also working every part of the body.” “The whole concept takes the weight off the joints so that you can do exercise without pounding and damaging your knees or your ankles, or your back,” McNair continued. “So, we can make it easier, or we can make it harder by changing the [bungee] cord resistance.” The bungee cord itself provides all the resistance you need, whatever your level of fitness. According to Studio Bungee, the system it uses is designed for any weight class and includes a harness that fits securely, yet comfortably to provide weightless training that helps to increase muscle tone, strengthen core muscles, and improve flexibility and balance. A 30-minute workout revs trainees to high cardio within 20 seconds, burns up to 1,200 calories, and leaves metabolism burning for 24 hours. And one need not be concerned with the comfort of the harness system, because Studio Bungee’s setup is much easier on the user than systems found in other gyms. “So, it’s not like you come in and it’s a one size fits all. We have luxury harnesses,” McNair said. “And that’s important because bungee is becoming more popular. But some setups have straps — like rock climbing straps. That’s what the harness looks like; it’s a rock-climbing harness. With ours, the ASTRODURANCE, it has a much more padding. So, when it wraps around the leg or it wraps around the waist, it doesn’t dig as bad as some other harnesses.”

“We keep the classes small so that we can coach to each person in the class and make sure they get a fullbody workout.”

they can do exercises and feel confident that they’re not going to fall down.”

Find a class

—Christal McNair, owner of Studio Bungee

Additionally, McNair said first-timers need not worry about falling; the bungee system will never let you hit the floor. The worst thing that could happen, she said, is that you end up sitting in the harness, perched above the floor and twisting around slowly until you regain your balance. “You’re not going to hit the floor,” she said. “[The bungee system] just gives them enough support that

Studio Bungee classes are currently available in Marietta at Gfit (2650 Dallas Hwy, Suite 220) and in Dallas at Abb’s Muscle & Fitness Gym (105 Village Walk, Suite 185). Class sizes typically are fewer than 10 people, so there’s plenty of room for participants to jump and bounce around without the fear of knocking into each other. Booking is as easy as visiting and following the prompts under the “Find A Class” menu item. First-time trainees should schedule an introductory class, which is just $15. Additionally, McNair offers several beginner packages to save guests money on future classes. There are group event packages as well, for those who want to schedule a class with friends and family for a birthday or other special occasion. “We keep all the classes small so that we can coach to each person in the class and make sure they get a full-body workout,” McNair said. n

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Final Focus

Simple Pleasures By Cory Sekine-Pettite


s I write this column, I’m sipping on a cup of hot chocolate and enjoying the simple pleasure of that winter treat. More and more, I’m finding ways to savor the small things — my morning coffee ritual, a hot shower (especially during winter mornings), an evening stroll through my neighborhood, et cetera — because pandemic life continues to be extremely stressful for most of us. So, to ease that stress and to maintain some perspective, I’m spending more time recognizing and appreciating the simple pleasures in life. I’m sure many of you are doing the same as we move into year three of the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether or not we’ve fallen ill ourselves, all of us have been affected by this pandemic. So, if you don’t find ways to manage the stress and to appreciate the better aspects of life, then you risk physical and mental harm from uncontrolled anxiety. Find small moments throughout your day where you can distract yourself, slow down, enjoy some time to yourself, and




relax. It’s an easier task than you may think — even for the busiest among us. As one author puts it on the School of Life website ( small-pleasures/), “the smallness of small pleasures isn’t really an assessment of how much they have to offer us: it is a reflection of how many good things the world unfairly neglects.” And it doesn’t take much effort to find the simple pleasures that bring you the most joy. Chances are, they are an everyday part of your routine, but they are slipping by unnoticed. For example, completing a task or an entire to-do list, the sound of rain tapping against a window, the unwavering loyalty and affection of your dog, holding the hand of your spouse or child, reading a good book, or listening to the calls and songs of the birds outside your home. All these things, and more, can become daily, simple pleasures that make your life just a little more enjoyable, less stressful, and improve your perspective. n

COUNT ON US TO POWER YOUR PRECIOUS MOMENTS At Cobb EMC, we take pride in powering some of life’s most precious moments, which is why we continuously work to improve our smart grid — a state-of-the-art system that allows us to restore outages fast and often times without sending a crew. Because of our smart grid, we’re ranked 1st in the nation for restoring outages quickly. This means you spend more time focused on the moments that matter most.

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