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ACWORTH’S Revitalization:

A city on the rise

Economic Forecast for Cobb • Cobb Schools Power Through Pandemic • Senior Communities Step Up


Because pediatrics doesn’t stop at age 12. Whether your child is learning to walk or learning to drive, their growing bodies need special care. Children’s has unparalleled expertise because we only treat kids and teens. No condition is so small that it should be treated by an adult doctor. No matter their age, take your child to the specialists at Children’s. Visit choa.org to learn more. ©2020 Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dr. Regina Robbins

Wellstar Pediatrician

SAFEHEALTHY KIDCARE As a Wellstar pediatrician, I live to help children thrive. I tell my little patients not to feel scared of my personal protective equipment. Just like their favorite superheroes, I also wear a costume and mask when saving lives and keeping the community safe. And children age 2 and older get to be superheroes too, by wearing masks and fighting crime (aka keeping infection at bay). Our 70 pediatric providers in our 26 pediatric ambulatory locations, six pediatric emergency departments and dedicated pediatric center care for children all over Atlanta. At Wellstar, we manage well checks and emergencies safely, with separate areas for COVID-19 patients. We are keeping kids healthy amid COVID-19, and we are here to care for yours. wellstar.org/safecare


Contents Vol. XVI, No. 4 JULY/AUGUST 2020


Growing Up Acworth


With a revitalization of downtown and rethinking of land use, Acworth is experiencing growth in the business, restaurant, and craft beer landscapes.


Find out what’s going on throughout Cobb County with our news updates.


Cobb In Focus reached out to leaders in our community whom we thought could provide informed perspectives as our economy reopens.


Cobb’s educational systems have risen to the occasion to meet an unprecedented challenge and reveal a resolute fortitude.


Senior centers have been hard hit in the coronavirus era. But there’s good news just around the corner.





This article explores the important steps local healthcare providers are taking to ensure the care you need is a safe experience.

Connect with a local leader who strives to make Cobb County a better place.

The Cobb Community Foundation’s latest initiative strives to assist Cobb’s non-profits in their food distribution efforts.

Summer has officially begun, and if predictions are correct, this year will be one of the hottest summers on record.

On the cover: Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood; Malinda Howe (center), chairperson, Acworth Tourism Bureau Authority; and Kim Wigington, chairperson, Acworth Downtown Development Authority. Photo: LaRuche Creative



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foreSight COBB


New South Publishing Inc. President Larry Lebovitz Vice President John Hanna Publisher Jamie Ryan Account Executives Sherry Gasaway Ginger Roberts Editor Cory Sekine-Pettite

Are you still self-isolating? I am. I haven’t become a hermit; I do actually leave my house on occasion — mostly to buy groceries or to support my favorite, local restaurants and coffee shops. But I’m talking about take-out only. I haven’t yet decided it is safe for me to dine in, or to visit crowded places like shopping centers. Yes, the state has “reopened,” and many signs point to an economic recovery (a subject I tackle on page 8), but I’m just not ready to engage with the public en masse. I know that many of you are ready, particularly if you are a business owner. And I don’t want to dissuade you, but I would encourage you to be mindful of the CDC-recommended six-foot gap, to wash your hands frequently, and to wear a mask. We’re not yet out of the woods in terms of COVID-19 spreading. However, masks can keep us all safer. According to the latest guidelines, everyone who comes in close contact with others in crowded or close quarters, such as on a bus or in a store, should wear a cloth mask composed of at least three different layers of material. I also would urge you to go ahead and make those doctor’s appointments you have been postponing. As we report on page 12, most of us have avoided going to hospitals and clinics for fear of catching COVID-19. This avoidance has cost healthcare providers hundreds of millions of dollars and many jobs. If you need medical attention — even routine care — schedule that visit. I already have been to the dentist for the cleaning I missed in the spring. Trust me, your provider will be diligent about your health and safety. Believe me, I never thought I would be spending this much time at home, avoiding the slim chance of catching a potentially fatal virus. Thankfully, all of my family and friends have avoided COVID-19 as well. Unfortunately, many Americans weren’t so lucky. I hope that very soon, I will be reading about an effective vaccine.

Photo by LaRuche Creative

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

Associate Editor Amy Meadows Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta Contributors Haisten Willis, Writer Christy Rosell, Writer Katherine Michalak, Writer Jennifer Morrell, Writer Jessica Johnson, Photographer Production Coordinator/Circulation Amy Fine Controller Marilyn Walker cobbinfocus.com @cobbinfocus facebook.com/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 2020 by New South Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.

For address changes, email afine@cobbinfocus.com.


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Sharper Focus Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in your community. LGE Community Credit Union Recognized Credit Union of Georgia for 2019 Marketing Efforts Awards Scholarship to

Marietta High School Student

The Credit Union of Georgia recently awarded Alexander Scheid with the Credit Union of Georgia Scholarship in connection with the Marietta Schools Foundation. Alexander was selected for his essay on “How #DoYouCU Making a Difference?” along with his impressive résumé. Alexander received raving recommendations from his teachers, possessed great grades throughout his high school career, but what stuck out most was his desire to help others. “I have always found joy in helping those who truly need it,” he wrote in his essay. With a desire to help others, he has decided to pursue a career in physical therapy.

Cobb Police Department Takes Stand Against Racism and Brutality In a recent statement, the Cobb County Police Department said it takes a firm position against all forms of racism and brutality. The chief, officers, and command staff take their oath very seriously, the statement read. “We hold firm to that calling to serve each and every member of the community with the utmost respect. And we stand behind our words with our daily actions as we serve ALL of Cobb County.”

West Cobb Business Association Aids Community During Pandemic Recently, in an effort to continue its support of the community during the COVID-19 crisis, the West Cobb Business Association’s (WCBA) public safety committee delivered lunch to local front line heroes at Cobb County Police Precinct Five, Cobb Fire and Rescue Station 23, and Powder Springs Police Departments. Additionally, in May, WCBA partnered with Sandra Cook at Catered Southern Events to help feed those in need through an outreach effort with MUST Ministries. 6


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LGE Community Credit Union was recently honored with two Credit Union National Association (CUNA) 2020 Diamond Awards, which recognize outstanding marketing and business development achievements in the credit union industry. LGE received awards in the “Video (Non-Commercial) – Single” and “Website” categories.

UCB to Expand Headquarters in Smyrna Belgian-based pharmaceutical firm UCB plans to invest $47.5 million to expand its U.S. headquarters campus in Smyrna, bringing 100 new high-paying jobs to Cobb County. “UCB’s long-term commitment to creating jobs and promoting growth within Cobb County and the City of Smyrna should be commended,” said Dana Johnson, executive director of SelectCobb. “The jobs they are creating are high-quality jobs that will have incredible financial impact on Smyrna and the surrounding areas — and keep Cobb County Georgia’s number one business destination.”

Cobb EMC Opens Innovative Solar Garden On June 12, Cobb EMC and Gas South celebrated the official opening of a new and innovative Solar Garden on the Cobb EMC corporate campus along Highway 41 in Marietta. The 6,000-square-foot garden showcases three, 16-foot tall “Smartflowers,” which are part of a larger solar project to supply renewable energy to the power grid. Read more at cobbinfocus. com/category/business.

Pictured L to R: Cobb EMC VP of Power Supply & Planning Tim Jarrell, Cobb EMC President & CEO Peter Heintzelman, and Gas South President & CEO Kevin Greiner. Photo Credit: Pamela Dabrowa Photography

LGE Community Credit Union Continues to Support Community LGE Community Credit Union recently completed several initiatives to support the community amid the pandemic. • Lunches for Local Heroes — LGE delivered more than 500 lunches to four local hospitals across the counties it serves. • LGE Employees Host Food Drive — Employees organized an internal food drive to support MUST Ministries in Marietta, Warehouse of Hope in Douglasville, and North Fulton Community Charities in Roswell. • Surprises for Scholarship Winners — LGE worked with the school districts and principals to make a special surprise visit for each student. –General Scholarship Winner ($3,000): Anthony Minella, Milton High School –Cobb County School District Winner ($5,000): Samuel Luong, Wheeler High School –Cherokee County School District Winner ($5,000): Alanis Broussard, Woodstock High School –Marietta City Schools Winner ($5,000): Kyle Brown, Marietta High School

Cobb Passes Resolutions to Continue Fight Against Racism and Prejudice In June, the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a resolution condemning racism, in the wake of tragic incidents in this country, and reaffirming its commitment to provide an environment that supports civil rights for all. The board also adopted a resolution in support of a state Hate Crimes Bill that addresses crimes involving bias, hate, bigotry or prejudice. The unanimous decision encourages the Cobb legislative delegation to continue working closely with the state legislature in adopting the bill.

The Home Depot Foundation Awards $200,000 Grant to Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta The Home Depot Foundation has awarded Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta a $200,000 grant to provide a minimum of 15 critical home repairs for Veterans in Cobb, Douglas, and Paulding counties. “The Home Depot Foundation shares our passion to ensure local veterans live in safe, warm and dry shelter,” said Jessica Gill, CEO, Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta.


ONE TEAM. ONE GOAL. STUDENT SUCCESS. Students being able to learn from a Cobb County teacher, from inside or outside of the classroom, is more important than ever before. The Cobb Teaching and Learning System (CTLS) provides teachers with access to real-time understanding of what students know, saves teachers time, and allows parents to know more about their children while communicating with teachers...all in ONE place. www.co b bc t ls .co m


Getting Back To Normal Local officials and businesspeople provide insight into our economic recovery

Edited By Cory Sekine-Pettite


any of us pay little attention to the ebbs and flows of the U.S. economy. Frankly, it can be difficult to understand, and even more difficult to predict. These days, however, you may be paying closer attention since the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an economic decline at a pace that never has been recorded. Thus, you may have read that many economists are hopeful as they see a recovery happening sooner than projected. Consumer spending is up. The housing industry remains strong. And manufacturing activity is on the upswing. So that’s nationally, but what about locally? As the State of Georgia emerges from the pandemic lockdown and businesses here try to return to some semblance of normal, residents and business owners will be looking for guidance on how the local economy is improving and what our economic future looks like. Therefore, Cobb In Focus reached out to leaders in our community whom we thought could provide informed perspectives as our economy reopens.



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Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton, said he is seeing his city’s resilience and generosity shine through during these tough economic times, and he noted that since the city’s finances are well-managed, Smyrna will endure the crisis well. “I’m always optimistic, but I also realize there’s no script for this; there’s no crystal ball. We just went through our budget process for the next fiscal year, and it’s truthfully a little bit of a guessing game. Nobody knows what’s ahead of us. …So we budgeted very conservatively, with 20- to 25-percent cuts. …Thankfully, we had a lot of years of fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of taxpayer money, so we’re in a good position to deal with a time like this. …I’m hopeful. Good things come out of bad situations, and I think one of the good things that has come to the forefront here in this city is the generous spirit this community has.” Mayor Norton is referring to Support Smyrna, a program launched with the assistance of the Smyrna Public Safety Foundation and other civic organizations to provide food assistance to those in need

during the pandemic. Residents have been contributing to a fund that provides grocery store gift cards to those in need. As of press time, the mayor said the community has donated nearly $200,000. Learn how you can assist at smyrnaga.gov. Daniel M. Cummings, economic development manager, Department of Development Services, City of Marietta, said his city is fortunate to have a diverse economy, which somewhat diminished the overall economic impact the virus has forced upon other local economies. However, he is cautious about overstating any potential recovery predictions. “What we saw during COVID-19 was a number of new projects hitting pause with many adopting a “wait and see” mindset. Despite this, Marietta has continued to have strong activity. Our permitting has not seen a decline, with residential being particularly strong. We have had a number of recent rezonings, and our staff also has been working with a number of project inquiries looking for space across different

sectors. These are all positive indicators that we hope to see continue to move forward. As our retail and restaurants have reopened, there has been a lot of enthusiasm from the community which has been great to see. The Marietta business community has a lot of people rooting for its success. Our team has been working with our partners to connect our businesses to the available resources and provide support to help get them back on track.” Holly Quinlan, president/CEO of Cobb Travel & Tourism, said recovery will not happen overnight for tourism in Cobb, but she’s optimistic that through new programs and an emphasis on health and safety, the tourism economy will bounce back. “The industry of tourism has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism is an economic engine and the number-one industry in Cobb. The return of tourism will be critical to our community’s economic recovery. “Cobb is already seeing some attractions reopen, restaurants offering more dining options, and youth sports being played.

Daniel M. Cummings

Derek Norton

These are all positive signs, but we still have a long path ahead to restart and re-energize all of Cobb’s tourism entities. “As Cobb Travel & Tourism (CT&T) implements a recovery strategy for Cobb’s tourism community, we will focus on how to communicate safety for residents and visitors, while also positioning our hotels, attractions, restaurants, and venues for success. Safety has always been a priority, but now it will be even more important to clearly communicate the industry’s efforts. Additionally, CT&T will be intentional about packaging tourism experiences for all comfort levels, offering options throughout the county. “Recovery is not an overnight process for any industry, especially tourism, but it will happen as we all work together to

Holly Quinlan

Sharon Mason

provide the best experience for residents and visitors alike.” Sharon Mason, president/CEO, Cobb Chamber, said the Chamber already is seeing signs of recovery in Cobb and its own recovery taskforce has been focused solely on helping local businesses find assistance to keep their people employed. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely difficult for so many businesses and individuals, but we are seeing signs of recovery. The Cobb Chamber has been focused on working with all of our government and community partners to stimulate economic recovery through providing resources, advocacy, and support throughout this crisis and we’ll continue to do

Putting more money in your pocket since 1951. As hard as you work for your paycheck, you need it to work for you. That’s why LGE was created almost 70 years ago: to help our members keep more money in their pockets. Unlike a bank who exists to serve its shareholders, we exist to serve you. We have all the products and conveniences of a bank, but with better rates and lower fees. Many things in life are uncertain, but your banking doesn’t have to be one of them.

Membership eligibility required. Federally insured by NCUA. LGEccu.org • 770-424-0060


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Business that. So far, more than 10,000 Cobb-based companies across many industries received PPP (Payroll Protection Program) through the CARES Act and this has helped these companies to get back to business. “With the small business grant opportunity through Cobb County Government and SelectCobb, we will be able to help many more small businesses in Cobb weather this storm and retain their workforce. Our economic recovery taskforce has been focused on seeking more grant opportunities as well as helping businesses reopen safely, and many more businesses have been opening more recently. Also, with Georgia as the number-one state to do business, we are projected to recover faster than other states. In fact, our SelectCobb team has seen a significant increase in companies considering relocating to Cobb from another state since the pandemic began. With new companies bringing jobs and investment to Cobb, we will recover much faster.” Roger Tutterow, KSU professor of economics and director of the Econometric Center in KSU’s Coles College of Business, says that forecasting our economic outlook with the uncertainty of Covid-19 can be challenging, but offers this insight. “It is clear that both output and employment numbers were decimated in the second quarter. The general consensus is that the economy should be forming a bottom. However, the strength of the recovery

Roger Tutterow

Trey Sanders

is contingent on infection rates falling, government restrictions moderating and increased consumer confidence. The risk of a second round of infections is still a real possibility. And it is still uncertain how businesses behave as fiscal stimulus fades.” Trey Sanders, regional president, Brasfield & Gorrie, said lessons learned in the economic crisis of 2008-09 helped the construction firm better weather the current crisis. “The balance of 2020 can be summed up as a time of proceeding with caution. Because construction was deemed an essential business, we are fortunate that our work continued, which allowed us to keep our people busy, particularly with the large number of major projects we already had underway. Currently, we are still seeing large commercial office and hospitality projects proceed, despite the short-term changes in behavior that have challenged those sectors. The current climate feels markedly different than 2008 to 2009, and lessons that were learned in that time have put many in a better position financially to weather the current challenges than the recession a decade ago.”

Brian Albrecht

Cynthia T. Reichard

Brian Albrecht, president/CEO, Credit Union of Georgia, said his industry doesn’t expect to see a impact from the virus until later this year, but that his company is well positioned to endure. “We, like most individuals and businesses are cautiously optimistic about the reopening of our economy. Every day on the way to work, I see more and more cars on the road, which is a good sign. Credit Unions are considered an essential business, and while the way we have engaged with our members has changed, we never closed. We have been here, eagerly serving our local communities during this uncertain time and like most Credit Unions, we offered payment deferrals and other assistance to our members. Given the steps we have taken to support our members and communities, we do not expect to experience the adverse financial impact of the coronavirus until later in 2020. “While we are well positioned to weather the storm, we are currently anticipating that it will be early 2021 before we have a true idea of the financial impact, and we are expecting mid-year 2021 to be a positive turning point. We hope we are wrong and the economy is in much better

Financial agencies confirm Cobb County’s AAA rating for 24th straight year


Financial rating firm Fitch Ratings recently confirmed Cobb County’s status as a “AAA” rated county for the 24th straight year. This represents the highest rating possible for the B county’s financial outlook. Other OB rating agencies have indicated they will also follow suit. The Fitch Ratings analysts cited Cobb County’s history of conservative budgeting and proactive measures in the face of an uncertain economic future






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caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “The county is well-positioned to withstand the current period of economic weakness due to its sound reserves and superior inherent budget flexibility,” the agency said in a news release. “The fact that we had our AAA rating reaffirmed during the most challenging economic time in a dozen years shows the fiscal soundness of the county,” Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce said. “It is a tribute to our staff, the board and our work with the community to make sure we continue to show diversity in our county’s economic base.”

Peter Heinzelman

Tracy Rathbone Styf

shape than the economists are predicting by year-end, but I think this recovery is going to take some time. The Credit Union Industry is healthy, but with any recession there will be some challenges. The pandemic has led to lower interest rates and we are likely to remain in this low rate environment for a relatively long period of time, which will lead to lower margins. Lower margins coupled with the potential for increased loan losses and non-performing assets will lead to a few Credit Unions being stressed. However, Credit Union of Georgia and the Credit Union Industry are both on solid financial footing and we look forward to seeing our members face to face once again.” Cynthia T. Reichard, executive vice president, Arylessence, said that her company, which designs fragrances and flavors for many consumer brands, has been able to keep its staff employed. But she knows that many smaller companies have been less fortunate. However, with continued local, state, and federal support, Reichard sees recovery on the horizon for Cobb County and beyond. “Arylessence is proud to have kept our employees not only safe and protected, but productive and employed during this difficult time. We recognize the challenges businesses have faced varies from industry to industry and we empathize with the small businesses and sectors in our community that have taken a harder hit during the pandemic. We believe with an attentive focus on CDC safety guidelines, diligence with heightened workplace hygiene practices, and with a united spirit, our county and state will begin to experience positive economic improvements in the near term. The strategic support at the state, local, and federal levels currently offered to help businesses get back on their feet definitely gives us an edge in comparison to global competitors, and we have additional confidence that

locally Cobb County will see an improving business environment — particularly as we move further into 2021. With that said, we believe it will take several years to get back to pre-pandemic levels and a continued focus on initiatives supporting business is critical to this recovery.” Peter Heintzelman, president/CEO of Cobb EMC, believes 2021 will bring with it a strong economic recovery. “While uncertainty is the economic word of the balance of 2020, I am mildly optimistic of a strongly trending recovery. Despite the record length of the most recent economic expansion, most economists prior to COVID-19 could find few structural faults causing an impending recession, and the smart ones pointed to an outside event as the main risk (i.e. trade war) and they were right for reasons most did not foresee. Many of those fundamentals such as housing and spending are showing resiliency, interest rates are lower, and I believe we can get people back to work more quickly than in an economically-caused recession. We

will be challenged throughout 2020 with uncertainty and perhaps a fall COVID-19 second wave, but I believe 2021 will be a strong recovery year.” Tracy Rathbone Styf, executive director, Town Center CID, see the value in how corporations have adapted to a remote workforce. “We’ve learned from remote working how to be flexible and creative, not just in our communication style, but in project coordination. We collaborate with several organizations to drive change in our communities and now we know that our progress doesn’t have to be slowed down by physical limitations. I think as the economy opens back up, we will see the application of remote work concepts help us develop more efficient, safer, and enjoyable environments. Additionally, infrastructure projects have been very efficient because of fewer vehicles on the roads. Now that people are seeing the benefits of flexible meetings and workfrom-home lifestyles, it’s possible that construction will be able to complete projects quicker in the future.” n

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How Local Health Providers Are Making Healthcare Safe By Christy Rosell


ome people are moving forward with life post-quarantine. Others remain fearful of exposing themselves to the virus, shunning even the thing that can help them stay healthy and have a great quality of life: medical care. An extensive, worldwide survey1 published in the European Heart Journal found that the number of patients who sought care for heart attacks dropped by more than 50 percent in the early months of the pandemic. Another large study2 found that



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vaccination interruption could put 80 million babies at risk of getting deadly diseases like measles and polio. While these are global findings, Georgia healthcare providers are seeing the same unfortunate trends. Halfway into this year of pandemic-related changes that have turned lives upside down, it’s easy to understand why many of us are tired of “corona-talk.” But we need to talk about staying healthy. This article will explore the important steps local healthcare providers are taking to ensure

the care you need is a safe experience, whether it’s emergency or preventative care, surgery or even aesthetic procedures, which are in surprising demand thanks to the growing popularity of virtual meetings.

Care for children shouldn’t wait “I always say that parents know their kids best and can tell when something is wrong,” said Dan Salinas, M.D., who serves as the chief medical officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

age, from babies to teens, especially as we approach flu season this fall.” He added that immunizations and physicals need to be up-to-date to meet school requirements as kids return to school. And, for any scheduled or emergent visits across Children’s facilities, safety measures including health screenings, masks, online check-in, and dedicated “clean teams” are in place. Only one caregiver is allowed with each patient during a visit to reduce the number of people inside the facilities. Floor decals in high-traffic areas help everyone stand six feet apart. “It’s been encouraging to hear our families say how comfortable and safe they have felt at Children’s during recent visits,” Dr. Salinas said. Like most health providers, Children’s now offers virtual appointments. More information is available at choa.org/virtualvisit.

Visit your physician’s office safely — or virtually

He credits families with continuing to seek medical care for serious conditions or injuries during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he’s concerned about a decline in important preventive care such as immunizations, annual checkups, and sports physicals. “My biggest piece of advice to parents right now regarding general care is don’t delay vaccinations, well-child visits, or sports physicals,” he said. “To help curb outbreaks of vaccinepreventable diseases, it’s so important to stay on schedule with shots for kids of any

“Thankfully, our office has remained open through this pandemic,” said Christina Powers, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Medical Associates of North Georgia, a Northside network provider. Precautions to protect patients and staff include limiting people in the waiting room, temperature checks for both patients and employees, and mandatory mask-wearing. “It is important to stay as healthy as possible and continue to be compliant with all of your medications and doctors’ visits to prevent your immune system from becoming weak,” she said. For patients at high risk, Powers and her colleagues can meet with them through a virtual portal or by phone. “This has been especially helpful with our sick visits,” she said. “We can still see and evaluate them and direct them to drive-up testing, call in medication for them, or direct them to the ER if warranted. This is all done in the comfort of their home.” She also finds it important to address patients’ mental health concerns that may relate to the pandemic. “Taking care of ‘all of you’ is a number-one priority for me as a doctor,” she said. “If there are gaps in your mental, physical or spiritual health, it can manifest in unhealthy ways. We try as physicians to identify the problems and get people to feel their best. So,

if any of these aspects seem unbalanced, it might be worth talking to your doctor about it.”

Safety first in emergency departments and surgery centers “What we have seen across the country and at Wellstar Health System is a 40-50 percent decrease in Emergency Department visits, and that includes patients experiencing stroke, heart attacks, and who need emergency surgeries,” said Vik Reddy, M.D., chief medical officer for Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. “I’m worried about people delaying care and having worse outcomes.” Essentially, if patients who stay home survive, they could experience heart failure or permanent disability. “Delaying treatment may result in an irreversible condition that can have a more dramatic impact on your health than catching COVID-19,” Dr. Reddy said. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp began reopening the state in April, Wellstar was among local health systems that reopened

Caring for caregivers Caregivers working in this stressful healthcare environment during a pandemic may struggle with stress and anxiety. To ease some of the burden on their frontline workers, Northside team members can attend a virtual support group called “Face COVID.” Human Resources offers stress management tips and provides “Monday motivation” to help employees stay positive. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta offers its team daily support meetings, one-on-one staff support and visits with Lotus, a dog who provides pet therapy to patients. Among Wellstar’s employee programs, it has established a COVID-19 Caregiver & Workforce Helpline and implemented a crisis care program that helps employees with child, elder and pet care. COBB

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Health access to time-sensitive, essential surgeries for medical issues that will cause problems if left unchecked, such as the removal of lesions or polyps in the colon, or symptomatic gall stones or hernias. William Mayfield, M.D., chief surgical

officer for Wellstar Health System said patients who need these types of surgeries will likely not set foot in the hospital for the procedure. Wellstar moved outpatient procedures to ambulatory surgery centers such as Wellstar East Cobb Health

Park and Wellstar Vinings Health Park. “There has been a tremendous amount of work on new processes and policies to ensure the safety of our facilities,” Dr. Mayfield said. “Wellstar has taken significant precautions to prevent the spread of

Med Team Tips to Live Your Best *Some of these quotes have been edited for brevity.

Christina Powers, M.D

Dr. Dan Salinas

Seth A. Yellin, M.D

1.  Stay optimistic and stay connected. “You have to remain optimistic. We as individuals have overcome many obstacles. Maximize the benefits of being with your family and kids, of not running around to every basketball game. Stay in touch with family and friends with video.” – William Mayfield, M.D., chief surgical officer for Wellstar Health System 2. Exercise. “Stay fit and active. You don’t need more than a 5x5 foot area for exercise.” — Seth A. Yellin, M.D., Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery, Laser & Aesthetics Center 3.  Reach for the crayons (they’re not just for kids). “Try creative coping strategies such as coloring, drawing or painting, playing an instrument or even breaking out some Play-Doh.” — Dr. Dan Salinas, Chief Medical Officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta 4.  Sleep well. “Sleep deprivation can negatively affect your immune system. Making sure we have a good sleep environment and prioritizing time to sleep will help us stay healthy in the long run.” — Christina Powers, M.D., Medical Associates of North Georgia, Northside network provider 5.  Maintain a balanced diet. “The quarantine 15 is a real thing. People tend to gravitate to unhealthy food choices (junk food, alcohol) to deal with anxiety. A well-balanced meal can make people feel better emotionally and physically rather than binging on chocolate or alcohol.” — Christina Powers, M.D., Medical Associates of North Georgia, Northside network provider 6.  Try something new. “This is a good time to do something you’ve always wanted to do.” — Seth A. Yellin, M.D., Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery, Laser & Aesthetics Center 14


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Vik Reddy, M.D.

William Mayfield, M.D

7.  Control what you can control. “It has not been uncommon to feel a loss of control because of so many external factors. I have tried to focus on the things that I can control — being present with my family, taking care of myself and contributing to the overall health of the community by observing shelter-in-place orders, social distancing recommendations, masking in public and handwashing.” — Dr. Dan Salinas, Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta 8.  Socialize responsibly. “I had some friends in the back yard where we sat in lawn chairs apart. We all brought our own beverage and sat in-person for an hour. You need to have moments where you’re staying safe and balancing social interaction. We rely on that. Even my young kids, they thrive on their peers. We are not robots.” — Vik Reddy, M.D., chief medical officer for Wellstar Kennestone Hospital 9.  Help someone. “Helping others has always been stress relieving for me, I think that is a main reason why I became a physician!” — Christina Powers, M.D., Medical Associates of North Georgia, Northside network provider 10.  Call your doctor. 11.  “Notify your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns that your child may be exhibiting significant anxiety or sadness/depression.” — Dr. Dan Salinas, Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta 12.  “If anxiety and depression is becoming a problem, do not hesitate to contact your primary care physician. We are here to help!” — Christina Powers, M.D., Medical Associates of North Georgia, Northside network provider

COVID-19 and protect our patients and team members.” Some precautions include testing surgery patients for COVID-19 several days before surgery. The system has also ramped up telehealth, with an estimated 50,000 virtual visits between late March and end of May. “Your doctor comes to you, wherever you are,” Dr. Mayfield said. “Patients that I have interviewed by video love the fact they don’t have to come in. Virtual visits are a huge patient satisfier.”

The surprising demand of facial procedures Seth A. Yellin, M.D., F.A.C.S. is founder and director of Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery, Laser & Aesthetics Center. One of the many treatments he is well-known for is Injecta-Lift, which reshapes the face with injectable fillers to improve facial symmetry and self-confidence. He also performs surgical rejuvenation such as facelifts, blepharoplasty (cosmetic eyelid surgery) and rhinoplasty. When his office closed in the early

weeks of the state shut-down, he offered new patient consultations using a HIPAAcompliant virtual platform and launched a weekly, hour-long webinar series to discuss various facial aesthetic procedures. He also launched a new skincare website with a home delivery option (MariettaDermSkincare.com) so patients could access skincare products. “Maintaining healthy habits such as skincare during times of stress helps to create a sense of normalcy,” he said. When the office reopened, Dr. Yellin and a reduced support staff saw patients two days per week. They adopted practices such as floor markings to encourage physical distancing, enhanced disinfection, asking patients to wait in their cars instead of the waiting room and increasing the amount of time for appointments to reduce overlapping patients. There was higher patient demand than he expected. A friend of Dr. Yellin’s was less surprised, saying, “‘All my colleagues are commenting on how bad they look on Zoom. In reality, we’re in this weird circumstance

where people stare at each other’s faces for longer than we normally would.’” During the shutdown, no employees were terminated and furloughed hourly employees received bonuses. In June, the full staff returned along with three newly hired team members. “The emotional impact of looking and feeling good is part of self-care,” he said. “It’s an important part of what we should be doing during this crazy time we’re in.” n

Resources 1) 2020, May 29. “STEMI admissions during COVID-19: An ESC survey on ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) admissions during the pandemic.” Retrieved from European Society of Cardiology: www.escardio.org/ Education/COVID-19-and-Cardiology/escsurvey-on-stemi-admissions-during-covid-19 2) Hoffman, Jan. 2020, May 22. “Polio and Measles Could Surge After Disruption of Vaccine Programs.” Retrieved from The New York Times: www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/health/ coronavirus-polio-measles-immunizations.html

During these challenging times, A.G. Rhodes continues to deliver compassionate care to our community’s seniors. Learn how you can help:

www.agrhodes.org/ways-to-help COBB

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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



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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 page we have profiled an individual who is among Cobb’s premier leaders. We wanted to find out about his job, delve into his personal life and gain some words of wisdom. And of course, we asked: Why have you picked Cobb County?

Leaders of Cobb THE STORY: I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and grew up in New York and New Jersey. In 1975, I moved to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Architecture. After working for various architectural firms in Brunswick and Atlanta, I took a job managing construction for a real estate developer and realized construction is what I loved. In 1988, I started an interior construction division for Ridgeway Development in Smyrna, where I met my wife, Ann. In 1993, I started my own construction firm, Smith Todd Company, which I still operate today. In 2018, I was appointed to the Planning Commission by Commissioner Ott and served until this past spring. I also serve the county on the Transit Advisory Board and as vice chairman of the Neighborhood Safety Commission. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: I moved to Smyrna in 1988 and have never considered leaving Cobb County. Ann and I were married in 1994 and moved to East Cobb after our son, Michael, was born. Our daughter, Marie, soon followed. Because of the schools, our church (Mt. Bethel UMC), the wonderful neighbors and neighborhoods, and first-class public services, we realized there is no better place to live, work, play, and raise a family than Cobb County.

Andy Smith

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love the people I work with. Most of my clients and the subcontractors I work with have been together practically since I started the company. I have worked for two clients, David’s Bridal and GM (regional office), longer than any of their current employees. What I am most grateful for is the freedom running my own company has given me to be involved in the community. Through Mt. Bethel UMC, I have volunteered on over 20 Habitat homes, in most cases as crew leader or project manager. I’ve led our church’s Handy Helpers and Disaster Response ministries, meeting many wonderful people along the way while serving local organizations including Hope Center, Cobb Street Ministries, Dobbins Chapel, OK for Youth, Wellspring Living, Brumby Elementary, and Boy Scouts, to name a few. These opportunities have given me a deep understanding of our community. LEISURE TIME: I do many of the same things as I do for work. I enjoy repairing and building things. I have been leading our church’s annual lawn mower tune-up

President, Smith Todd Company Candidate, Cobb County Commission, District 2

for the past 11 years. Through the Handy Helpers, I have volunteered time most weeks, on projects from simple repairs to building ramps and decks, and even installing an elevator. For fun, I’ve coached 43 youth league teams and enjoy bowling, playing softball, and golf. BEST ADVICE: Get involved in your community. Discover the joy that comes from serving others. Spend time with good people doing good works. Many of my best friends I’ve met through volunteer projects and my work with the county. WHAT’S NEXT? I hope to continue serving the community through public service. I have long admired our current Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott, and the positive impact he’s had on the community through his dedication and service to the District. I hope to continue his good work as the next Cobb County Commissioner in District 2.

743 Stoneview Ct., Marietta, GA 30068 • 678.878.1132 • andyforcobb.com COBB

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High Marks During Hard Times

By Katherine Michalak


arly this spring, COVID-19 news reports waylaid the entire country as various statistics trickled into the public domain. The onslaught of data soon alerted school systems about the severity of the illness and the potential for spreading amongst students. At



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first, the threat of a coronavirus outbreak seemed somewhat nebulous with serious cases clustered overseas, but education professionals watched scientific models intently and heeded early warnings. Here in Cobb County, an educational system known for outstanding commitment to the entire

community, rose to the occasion to meet an unprecedented challenge and reveal a resolute fortitude.

Taking Notes The initial intimation of health concerns in schools elicited a theoretical approach that

could be similar to that taken for extreme weather emergencies — a short physical break from the classroom while students continued with assignments and projects already in progress. But soon, it was apparent that facing a full-blown pandemic called for an entirely unique protocol. “Everything about this situation is complicated and serious,” confirms Cobb County School Superintendent Chris Ragsdale. “The most important [aspect] has been keeping every plan, scenario, and conversation based on student needs, not based on adult pressures. Our team was definitely prepared to keep students at the center of our response and that is the most important part. Certainly, none of us were really prepared for a public health pandemic to shut down school buildings overnight.” The idea of tertiary exposure through global transportation lines presented early concerns as administrators considered the wider context of local schools. Honey Brannon, director of communications and marketing for Smyrna’s Whitefield Academy recalls that just before their spring break in early March, they’d heard about the

“Our teachers, school leaders, staff, and district leaders did everything they possibly could to meet the needs of students and families which changed, literally overnight. And they continue to do so,” — Chris Ragsdale, Cobb County School Superintendent

increasing threat abroad. “We were thinking about the travel aspect and organized a team within the school to brainstorm about the possible impact,” she said. “Prior to returning back from spring break was our first communication with the extended school community.” Evaluation of available at-home resources for students pushed forward as an immediate consideration in transitioning curriculum out of the classroom. Jen Brock, executive director of communications for Marietta City Schools, pointed out that

because it’s a smaller school district with a network of eight elementary schools feeding into one sixth-grade academy, one middle and one high school, they’ve been able to maintain good contact with students after quickly addressing their families’ access to technology. “Online learning is only as good as the ability to communicate with the kid,” Brock said. “Our most immediate challenge was getting kids online — laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones. Comcast started to supply free service, but we worried about how to get families set up.”


Be A




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Education Study Skills Despite the initial difficulties, schools promptly shifted into high gear, finding solutions to these new problems, getting creative with versatile approaches to instruction, and addressing an unprecedented catalogue of out-of-classroom needs as families quarantined together. “Our teachers, school leaders, staff, and district leaders did everything they possibly could to meet the needs of students and families which changed, literally overnight. And they continue to do so,” explains Ragsdale. “I have been incredibly thankful to see our entire community rally … [Cobb Schools Foundation] raised over $200,000 for devices for students who did not have one at home. …Our community has helped serve over 300,000 meals for students whose primary food source is a school building. In a way most communities cannot say, our schools are the backbone of our community and our community is the backbone of our schools.” Brock agrees, “When our doors close, our kitchens close, and a hungry child cannot learn. We sent meals out on our buses with the bus drivers, delivering almost 250,000 meals to the regular bus stops. Parents were happy to get food, but the kids were excited to wave at their bus driver! We also put hotspots on a handful of buses which could then travel to certain spots [for students to use] … Bus drivers could answer questions about how to log on correctly and answer other questions.”

Progress Reports Maintaining connection with students presented a potential setback when following safe-distancing guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus, yet remained a crucial element of effective education. These education professionals cleared that hurdle time and again with novel methods for reaching their pupils. “Teachers and faculty, and even principals, have been calling around and making sure that kids were okay,” Brock said. “The ever-changing guidelines seem daunting. We’re really listening to input, and polling staff, faculty, parents, and kids to get honest answers about what works and what doesn’t.” Superintendent Ragsdale expressed praise 20


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had heard of COVID-19 and before school buildings in Cobb County were closed, we had begun implementing an education model which is less concerned with grades and formulas and more concerned with what parents care about — knowing what your student knows and supporting what they do not. We have been committed to supporting the transition from ‘education’ to ‘learning.’ As a big part of our COVID19 response, we are more committed than ever to learning, which is less concerned with where and how, and more with if students are learning and what we are doing to support learning.” Whitefield third grader, Hayley Brannon, conducts a small group learning session from her home. “Some kids did very well and some didn’t, which forces all of us to address whether we shift a paradigm of educafor enthusiastic educators: “There are so tion,” Brock added. “It’s showing us that many, I do not want to highlight one without there are many ways to use technology in a being able to highlight them all. There is a positive way, as well as to value human connew story of a teacher impacting the lives of nection/conversation. School is often the our students every day on our social media one constant for the student and now that’s feeds and on our website. Just last month, changed. As we prioritize the education of over 7,000,000 people saw or read a story our children and the safety of our commuabout how Cobb teachers get creative and nity, we ask parents for partnership, trust, inspire students.” and grace — we will do the best we can with At Whitefield, a faith-based, covenant what we know, while fully admitting that we Christian school, establishing a way to imple- don’t have all the answers.” ment a spiritual platform ranked preemiWhitefield acknowledges that the situanently. Brannon lauds the extensive school tion affects how the school moves forward involvement, which achieved that goal far academically. Administrators plan to use beyond what they hoped. “Everyone rallies this experience to examine what works around a focus of training the students in for individual students. “Because we are a an uplifting way,” she said. “Teachers give private school that runs PreK-12, we see the morning devotionals through Zoom and issues and have the unique opportunities Google Classroom, a daily email sends a to see the various impacts even within the friendly face with inspiration/motivation to same family,” Brannon contends. “Our new keep everyone going, our Whitefield Com- lower-school building is scheduled to open munity Journal reaches out to our entire this fall and we hope to celebrate that within community — faculty, board, staff, students, these new parameters.” parents, grandparents, teachers, alumni — posting stories from individuals.” Final Lessons Teachable moments surged in torrents durHomework ing these difficult times, but Cobb educaNecessity has long been the mother of tors view the deluge as a fount from which invention, and the educational alternatives students will sip for years to come. “A big explored during this health crisis preview a lesson in this,” says Brock, “is that we don’t possible lead to long-term shifts in instruc- always know what’s going to happen and we tion. When educational support teams need to be agile.” assess measures taken at this juncture, they Ragsdale agrees, “I think students have also gauge future strategies for evolving already shown they have learned the lesson learning models. Ragsdale clarifies the we all talked about before the pandemic County’s position saying: “Before anyone and that is resilience. It is important to

learn, but it is more important to be ready and able to use what you know in a world which is rapidly changing … a lesson many adults take a lifetime to learn.” Brannon repeats the message that her school has been able to convey about the unconditional nature of personal faith: “Even without being able to gather together as a physical group, we’ve sent out loving care to the community — all with the focus of our faith in Jesus Christ. Most of our community knew this, because that is why they chose Whitefield, but they weren’t aware how deep it ran and how fully we would be able to offer that.”

Class Dismissed As we look to the immediate future with hope for a return to a routine, Cobb students and teachers encourage us all with their irrepressible spirit. Our “new normal’ can be glimpsed through the positivity of dedicated professionals and enterprising youth ready to turn an unexpected predicament into a promising new perspective. n

Campbell High School’s Sakshi Joshi Wins ‘A. Max Bacon Award’ Campbell High School student Sakshi Joshi has won the A. Max Bacon Award for student leadership. The award, named in honor of former Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, was presented to Joshi for exhibiting leadership and a love of community. “We are excited to present this award to a lady who served in roles for Mayor pro-team for Smyrna Youth Council and a committee chair for Student Government Association,” said Georgia Sangster, financial consultant with Stone & Birch Consulting, and a member of the award nominating committee. “She worked with students across Cobb County in order to learn more about the government that leads this city, its departments, and met with many local leaders. Upon COVID-19, and seeing the impact on the community, the members of Smyrna Youth Council worked to contact local businesses about their available resources. Max Bacon cares deeply for his local business and Smyrna’s ever-growing ambition, which is why Sakshi Joshi has earned her award as someone who demonstrates the spirit of leadership as Max Bacon.”

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Growing Up

Acworth With a revitalization of downtown and rethinking of land use, Acworth is experiencing growth in the business, restaurant, and craft beer landscapes.

By Jennifer Morrell


or the last several years, the development taking place in Acworth has been intentional and by design. Mayor Tommy Allegood, the Acworth Board of Aldermen, and the city’s staff had a clear vision of creating connectivity and extending the town’s existing

downtown area toward Logan Farm Park. The purpose is to allow for more development and private investment; a newer downtown already is taking shape. New infrastructure includes a pedestrian overpass, Depot Park History Center, new public parking areas, redeveloped roads to create better traffic flow, and a roundabout.



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Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood with Kim Wigington (center), chairperson, Acworth Downtown Development Authority; and Malinda Howe, chairperson, Acworth Tourism Bureau Authority. Photos: LaRuche Creative


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Kim Watt, tourism director and assistant director, Acworth Parks, Recreation and Community Resource Department, says Acworth’s city website visits have increased an average of 30 percent each year. “When speaking to many of our local businesses, their clientele continues to grow from areas that have heard about Acworth through marketing, events held, or simple word of mouth,” Watt says. “Acworth has become a dining destination over the years, with multiple chef-driven restaurants within our community. Lake Acworth is also a huge tourist draw as the lake is restricted to non-motorized boating. It makes it the perfect location for kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards.” Depot Park History Center opened in the fall of 2019 and is a free, digital history center that provides information rich in Acworth history. Visitors can hear oral stories from many long-time residents. A clear game changer has been the flurry of restaurants that continues to make Acworth a dining destination. Watt says foodies are always looking for a new and different experience, and Acworth brings in restaurants that satisfy those requests. Along with the onslaught of new restaurants are new businesses affiliated with the craft beer movement. “Many people choose a community to visit based on what breweries and tap rooms they can explore, along with restaurants,” Watt says. “We’re excited about the addition of two new businesses coming to Acworth to fulfill this niche, 1885, Red Top Brewhouse, and TapTown.”

Revitalization Acworth’s redevelopment of its downtown area began in the late-1990s, when a plan and focus on the revitalization of the Historic Downtown Commercial Business District was created. “Over the next 20 years, city leadership invested millions of dollars, primarily through SPLOST, in infrastructure, streetscape, and parking in the Historic Downtown,” said Jeff Chase, city of Acworth downtown development director. “Following the successful revitalization of Historic Downtown, the focus has turned to the city’s new Parkside District. The completion of the 14-acre Logan Farm Park Expansion and the 44,000-squarefoot Acworth Community Center has made 24


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Parkside a desirable location for new businesses. A [new] mixed-use development will include office, retail, and residential space.” Acworth’s city team has implemented a vision to revitalize the downtown area to attract business investment and tourism through improvements to Main Street, Cherokee Street, Dallas Street, Academy Street, Carnes Street, Senator Russell Avenue, Southside, School Street, and Taylor Street. “The city has attracted many businesses, restaurants, and new residential developments by building 500 parking places, preserving 140 acres of dedicated greenspace parks, implementing silent railroad crossings, and connecting our downtown with a pedestrian bridge over our railroad,” says Alex Almodóvar, assistant to the city manager. “In 2016, the city opened the expanded Logan Farm Park on Cherokee

Street with walking trails, 140 acres of contiguous green space, a picnic shelter, and a huge playground. Since September 2017, the city has completed the next phases of the downtown redevelopment.” Those next phases include the realignment of Lemon Street, a new left-turn lane on Main Street at Lemon, a four-story pedestrian overpass over the railroad tracks, construction of a new public parking lot, conversion of the small public parking lot at Main and Lemon into a park with a replica train depot/history center, renovation of

a historic house into an Arts Center, and construction of the new Community Center. The public investment committed by the city of Acworth is helping spur private investment as well. “This 15-year journey is the city’s vision to build a great quality of life through the transformation, redevelopment, and extraordinary expansion of our downtown historic district,” Almodóvar says. Acworth has three distinct business districts, each with its own growth and evolution patterns. The districts are located at the two Interstate 75 exits to the city, located in the downtown historic district and the Cobb Parkway/Highway 41 commercial shopping/dining district. The Interstate 75 district has many opportunities for mixed-use residential, business, and hotel redevelopment. The downtown historic business district will continue to attract new business and growth, because

of neighborhood-friendly restaurants and boutique shopping. The Cobb Parkway/ Highway 41 district is a four-mile shopping/ dining corridor that has attracted national retailers. Opportunities for commercial growth, health services, and corporate home locations are plentiful. “The quality of life that Acworth offers through our schools, churches, volunteer and recreational opportunities, combined with the public investment and business friendly attitude, makes Acworth very welcoming to new businesses as well as those businesses who might be looking to relocate,” says Chase. “Downtown Acworth offers a feeling of community and sense of place that many people are looking for today. Walkability and a variety of shops and restaurants create an unique atmosphere that is hard to replicate at strip malls and stand-alone stores or restaurants.” Almodóvar says Acworth has always been

a recruiter and viable partner for economic development. The economic development team is comprised of representatives from Community Development; Parks, Recreation and Community Resources; and Power and Public Works. “This team has the expansive perspective, experience, and track record in attracting and recruiting new businesses and investments into the community,” he says. “We own our own power utility — Acworth Power — and have a partnership with the Electric Cities of Georgia and their Location Georgia division. The economic development team also works hard to create and maintain relationships with other neighboring resources at local and state levels.”

Funding Chase says Acworth has used many successful funding mechanisms over the years to bring redevelopment to downtown. In 2007, investors purchased and renovated a 10,000-square-foot building adjacent to the two-block Historic District that once housed a grocery store. “The building had no historic significance and was in bad shape,” Chase says. “They invested more than $2 million dollars toward acquisition and rehabilitation, and were able to accomplish this through the assistance of the Acworth Downtown Development Authority acting as a mechanism to apply for and receive loan funds through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund and the Georgia Cities Revolving Loan Fund.” The two, $250,000, low-interest loans gave a tremendous boost to the efforts of those local businessmen. Today, the COBB

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building houses Lacey Drug Co. and the Emory Physicians Group. Acworth evaluates the needs of each opportunity individually and will work with each prospect individually, says Almodóvar. “Incentives may be offered that can range from discounted permitting costs and specialized power rates to discounted business license fees or other unique possibilities,” he says. “The economic development team also will work to pair the prospective business with any local, state and/or federal programs.”

Open for Business “My partners and I chose Acworth to open TapTown because of the economic potential created by the revitalization efforts and vision from Mayor Tommy Allegood and the city council,” says Bill Dunk, owner of TapTown Taste Emporium and Eatery, a fast-casual restaurant concept with more than 100 self-pour craft beers, wines, ciders, champagnes, and craft sodas. Set to open in early-2021, TapTown also will have a two-story coffee cafe overlooking Logan



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support for those willing to invest in their city. It makes life so much easier when you have their full support.”

A Bright Future

Farm Park. “We wanted to open our first TapTown in a city that promotes community, and Acworth certainly fits that bill.” It is important that business owners and entrepreneurs invest in the growth and development of Acworth. “It starts with the local government,” says Rob Hankinson, owner of Red Top Brewhouse, a two-story brewhouse and separate brewery with an attended bar, two automated beer walls, and high-end pub grub and specialty dishes. “Other cities we looked at had limited to no interest in a brew pub or brewery. While some city governments remain skeptical about new ventures, Acworth actively promotes and offers continued

With a unique and historic downtown, two lakes, four beaches, and a large number of trails and amount of greenspace, Acworth is a destination for anyone interested in outdoor activities, capped off with a great meal and delicious craft brew. “I feel that the city of Acworth will have a large growth spurt in the next three to five years, and this growth will significantly impact the local businesses and community,” says Dunk. “Acworth will become a destination city that people don’t drive through to get somewhere else; they will drive to Acworth to be somewhere.” “The Acworth redevelopment story is about a city that has become the most dynamic growth story in the region,” he says. “Our vision for the future is filled with quality growth, employment opportunities, housing diversity, and recreational and cultural experiences.” n

Senior Living

Living Well Senior centers have been hard hit in the coronavirus era. But there’s good news just around the corner.

By Haisten Willis


he last several months have been unbelievably difficult for just about everyone in Cobb County, the United States, and the world. Still, no community has faced a tougher situation than seniors, particularly those in senior living communities. Already at risk of isolation and chronic disease, residents of senior living communities from coast to coast have found themselves in hot spots for COVID-19 since midMarch. But there’s so much more to senior living, with many recoveries and many great things taking place, almost always outside the spotlight, each and every day of the year.


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Senior Living “It has absolutely been a difficult time for our residents, especially when they haven’t been able to see their families. To a large extent, they have been socially isolated since mid-March,” says Deke Cateau, CEO at A.G. Rhodes, which operates two facilities in Atlanta and one in Marietta. “We’ve found that our residents have been great. They’ve been troopers. They know what’s going on in society, they understand the steps we are taking for their protection. While it’s sad, a lot of them understand the reality.” Cobb County’s senior living facilities have scrambled to adjust to the coronavirus and its accompanying restrictions on human contact, yet maintain a healthy environment for the vast majority of residents, keeping them in touch with friends and family via electronic means and continuing to provide a range of activities either virtually or at distance. “We’ve made a lot of adjustments, and

one of the biggest has been through Skype calls, FaceTime calls, and using electronic devices to assist,” says Cateau. “That way, residents are able to see their loved ones and family members. In the homes themselves, we’ve been able to move some programming online while ensuring social distancing.” Staff members also have stepped up in a major way to continue caring for residents, even while finding themselves at some risk of contracting the disease. At A.G. Rhodes’ Marietta facility, activities director Sonya Williams oversees events designed to empower the seniors living there with a well-rounded quality of life. “We’re focused on simple pleasures and the wants and needs of the elders,” she says. “We also focus on resolving some of the bigger issues in homes like this, such as loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.” One resident who seems to easily avoid all three of the aforementioned issues is

“We shifted many of our staff to operate Meals on Wheels. We were not operating our centers. And that’s how we got through [the shutdown], using staff to fill in for volunteers.” — Jatunn Gibson, Cobb County’s director of senior services.



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Merle Houston, a former college librarian and three-year resident at A.G. Rhodes in Marietta. Houston not only attends activities, either virtually or in person, she encourages her fellow seniors to do so as well. “My family thinks I’m sitting here holding my hands. Believe me, we stay busy,” she says. “I thought that everybody would be wanting to jump up and down and do something, but that’s not the case. Sonya has to provide for a lot of different personalities. Those who want to do things will do it, and those who don’t will tell you they do not want to do it!”” A personal favorite for Houston is A.G. Rhodes’ Music Therapist, John Abel, who sings for residents while playing a guitar. He takes requests and it’s hard to find a song he can’t play. Lately, Abel even does so while sporting an N95 mask, which again displays his talents but also serves as a grim reminder of the times. While many seniors around the nation have succumbed to the coronavirus, many more have recovered than passed away. Cateau says some of the most joyful calls are those made to family members when a resident recovers, especially when they begin testing negative for the disease. Aside from COVID-19, the other big national news of late has been protests against police brutality and in favor of diversity and racial equality. Cateau, who is black and leads a majority black staff, stresses the importance of having this conversation with residents and staff. Especially the listening part. “More than half of our residents are African American, and the vast majority of our staff are as well,” says Cateau. “We are trying to be there to support them and allow and encourage conversations around that between staff and residents. We do what we can as an organization to let them know how much we care for them, and how we will do our best to try to move against some of these obvious inequities in society.” Though it does not house any residents, the Cobb County government needed to make major adjustments to its senior services once coronavirus took hold. Some of its programs shut down.

“We’ve made a lot of adjustments, and one of the biggest has been through Skype calls, FaceTime calls, and using electronic devices to assist.” — Deke Cateau, A.G. Rhodes CEO

Others, most notably Meals on Wheels, were needed more than ever. With seniors stuck at home and volunteers, some of whom were seniors themselves, unable to help, county staff were recruited to step up and provide meals across the county. “We shifted many of our staff to operate Meals on Wheels,” says Jatunn Gibson, Cobb County’s director of senior services. “We were not operating our centers. And that’s how we got through [the shutdown], using staff to fill in for volunteers.” Other adjustments were made in order to reduce contact. For example, recipients got the same amount of food in total, but in larger shipments that came less frequently than before. Transportation was the other area the county focused on. Buses picked up seniors who needed to get to, for example, critical medical appointments. Even this was more difficult than before because they needed to be transported individually. Lastly, much of Cobb County’s programming was offered online for those with internet access. The county is now slowly and cautiously reintroducing volunteers to senior services. Another entity that provides non-resident senior services is Aloha to Aging, a nonprofit founded 11 years ago by Dawn Reed. Aloha to Aging provides education, wellness, support groups, and an adult day care at Mount Bethel United

Methodist Church in East Cobb and at Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in West Cobb. Aloha to Aging pivoted quickly when COVID-19 hit, offering Zoom programming as early as March 18. Reed says the seniors who have been able to adjust to online programming have done much better than those who haven’t. “Being able to laugh and talk with them, sing and cut up with them, is so important,” says Reed. “One thing we say is, ‘if you haven’t laughed five times in the time we’ve been together, we haven’t done our job.’” Aloha also aims to help younger people understand the challenges that come with aging. The organization hosts “scenarios” where they may put earplugs in a participant’s ear, or Vaseline on their glasses, and have them try to perform everyday tasks like preparing pills for a vacation. Reed says it helps people relate better and communicate better with their senior friends and loved ones. “I don’t think we give seniors enough credit,” says Reed. “They’re more resilient than most adults today. They have seen and been through so much, their grandparents or parents went through the Great Depression or World War II. They’re a lot more resilient than we give them credit for.” At Presbyterian Village, a senior living facility with nearly 300 residents in

Austell, one of the biggest changes that took place after March was a vast expansion of the in-house broadcast, known as PVTV. “Monday through Thursday, we have a chaplain and a staff member host the show. I’m on it every Wednesday, answering questions the residents have for us,” says Ken Rhudy, executive director of Presbyterian Village. “We also broadcast different exercise classes on PVTV. That allows our residents to exercise in their homes comfortably and safely.” PVTV features local artists and musicians as well, even hosting a “virtual Grand Ole Opry” in which Rhudy played Roy Clark and Gwen Hardy, COO of Presbyterian Homes of Georgia, played Minnie Pearl. Presbyterian Village also makes hundreds of calls a week to residents and family members, keeping them up to date on everything that is going on. As of early June, more than 18,000 phone calls had been made. Starting in July, Presbyterian Village hopes to slowly, and very carefully, begin reintroducing visitors to its Austell homes. “We are starting our phase one plan for reopening,” says Rhudy. “We’re being extremely careful with this. There are so many factors out here and the virus has not gone away. But we do have a reopening plan, and starting sometime in July we’ll start having limited visits on campus again.” n COBB

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In Your Community

Cobb Community Foundation Announces Cobb Community Food Fleet By Cory Sekine-Pettite


hese times certainly are unprecedented, and it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the virusrelated news. But if you look and listen, there are bright spots, particularly when it comes to charity. In the toughest of times, people are quick to come together to help the less fortunate. One local organization that’s always there for the people of Cobb is the Cobb Community Foundation (CCF). Since the pandemic began, the people at CCF have resolved to help in any way they can. For example, the CCF recently announced an initiative bringing together Noonday Association, Athena Farms, the Atlanta Braves, Ryder Trucks, S.A. White Oil Company, Mobilized Fuels, and numerous Cobb County non-profits who are working together to ensure that lack of storage space does not hinder Cobb non-profits’ food



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distribution efforts to those in need. The Cobb Community Food Fleet began as an idea in mid-March when CCF contacted the United Way of Metro Atlanta – NW Region and Cobb Collaborative to assist in pulling together a group of non-profit, school district, and county government leaders to share the challenges each group and their constituencies were facing, make known the resources each group had available, and determine the best path forward to meet the needs in Cobb County. One of the many outcomes resulting from this group’s efforts is that in an environment where more than 100,000

Cobb residents have lost their jobs — more than half of them being in the lowest paying industries — Cobb’s non-profits are providing boxes of food to more than 5,000 families each week. “Many of these organizations did not know that each other existed,” said Howard Koepka of Noonday, who coordinates the communications among 20-plus separate organizations distributing food in Cobb County, ranging from MUST Ministries to the two school systems to Cobb Senior Services to smaller organizations such as H.O.P.E. Family Resource Center in Mableton. “Now, they not only are aware of each other, they are eliminating duplications of services, identifying and serving areas unserved, and literally sharing food, box trucks, and other resources to make sure that everyone in Cobb County has access to food, regardless of

whether or not they can pay for it.” One of the greatest challenges facing these organizations is limited access to large quantities of food as a result of the disruption to the supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic, CCF reports. However, the USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box Program has created an abundance of certain foods, primarily produce, which Cobb’s food providers want to take full advantage of. The issue, according to Koepka, is storage. “Produce needs to be refrigerated, and no single organization has enough space to accommodate the … three thousand boxes that are now coming in each week from Athena Farms.” Athena Farms, located in Forest Park, is one of more than 40 contractors in the Southeast region that was awarded funds from the USDA to distribute food boxes. Jessica Brantley, director of purchasing for Athena Farms, explained why they reached out to CCF. “We really liked that they are working to help resource non-profit food providers serving Cobb, so working through them is helping to feed much more than just the clients of a single organization.” “While at least some of the immediate food shortage challenges have been resolved, we had to resolve the storage issue if food was going to make its way to those who need it,” said Shari Martin, president and CEO of Cobb Community Foundation. “Our mission statement includes the phrase, connecting donors who care with causes that matter.” She continued, “The Atlanta Braves stepped up to provide the refrigeration space that avails all of Cobb’s non-profit food providers of the produce coming in, at a time when members of our community need it most.” The one remaining need, however, was to be able to accommodate the scarcest item of all right now: meat. Poultry, pork, beef, and fish all require a freezer, and the Atlanta Braves’ storage space was already full. What was not full, however, was their loading dock. Enter Kim Gresh, owner of S.A. White Oil Company and CCF board member. “So many of our customers want to help right now, so we reached out to one that we knew would want to be involved.” Enter Huddle House and one of their vendors Ryder Trucks. Ryder has made available a 53-foot freezer container and trailer, which Huddle House transported to the stadium. Alongside was Mobilized

Fuels, S.A. White’s sister company, that will provide the diesel fuel needed to keep the freezer running between now and the end of August. Over these next two months, Noonday will be coordinating the logistics of food delivery by Athena Farms and other providers and the subsequent Tyler Holley of Atlanta Braves Foundation pick-up by five of the larger food non-profits: MUST Ministries, Storehouse Ministries, Reflections of Trinity, Sweetwater Mission, Cobb Board of Commissioners’ grant of $1 and Family Life Restoration Center. These million for food last month,” noted Marorganizations will be picking up food not tin, “these organizations will be able to for their clients, but also for other smaller purchase additional food needed in bulk.” non-profit food providers. The involvement Martin says this will allow the non-profits of the for-profit community, the non-profit greater access and preferred pricing. “And community, and even the local and Federal thanks to these great partners, we’ll have a governments to provide, store and deliver place to store it.” food throughout Cobb made Cobb ComFrozen meat and canned and dry goods munity Food Fleet the ideal name for the remain in demand, and Martin and her initiative. team are on the hunt. “This is just another In the meantime, CCF continues to opportunity to connect donors who care identify resources, financial and other- with causes that matter.” For more informawise, to help feed Cobb. “Thanks to the tion, visit cobbfoundation.org. n

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Final Focus

Don’t Sweat The Heat

By Cory Sekine-Pettite


ummer has officially begun, and if predictions are correct, this year will be one of the hottest summers on record. Of course, in the South we’re used to heat and humidity; we all have our ways of coping, but you don’t have to let these summer days drain your bank account from astronomical utility bills. According to Energy Star, the government-backed program that helps us all protect the environment and save money, the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of this going to cooling and heating costs. The energy used in the average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car. Yes, you can help yourself with so-called cooling bed sheets and desktop or ceiling fans. But the bigger/better ways to keep yourself and your home cool — and to save



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money on your utility bills — is to check the following items in your home: 1. Embrace Energy-Efficient Windows — Industry officials agree that you replace the windows in your home every 15-20 years. Look for the Energy Star label when buying new windows — it means the windows meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2. Seal the Deal — Check for air leaks around your windows and electrical outlets, or gaps around pipes and wires. Many of these areas can be filled with caulk or special coverings. Additionally, ensure weatherstripping around windows and doors is secure and in good condition. 3. Cover and Close — Close window blinds and drapes to keep sunlight from coming in, especially on southern-facing windows. Additionally, make sure you close your windows when the air conditioner is on. Closed

windows will keep the cool air trapped inside and will prevent the air conditioner from working too hard. 4. Don’t Forget the Filter — Check your air filter frequently: once a month in the summer and winter, when it is used heavily. A dirty filter will slow down airflow and make the system work harder to keep you cool. 5. Turn Up the Thermostat — Turn up the thermostat while you’re not at home (or set it as high as is comfortable when you are home) to lower your utility bills. Programmable or smart thermostats work best. 6. Simple Tasks; Big Savings — Air-dry your clothes instead of using the dryer. Keep the fireplace closed so the cool air doesn’t escape. If you can, limit the use of your oven to keep your house from getting too hot.  n For more information, visit energystar.gov.

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Cobb In Focus magazine July August 2020