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SafePath & Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia and First Lady Marty Kemp

Present Your Way to Success • Tax Tips • Artportunity Knocks • Mental Health

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Contents Vol. XVII, No. 2 MARCH/APRIL 2021


A Powerful Team


Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp, SafePath, and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia have teamed up to fight sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking.







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

CPA Andrea Lockhart provides tax tips for business owners navigating through the pandemic.

David Doerrier helps business owners learn the public speaking and presentation skills required for modern executives.


The pandemic is taking a toll on people’s mental health and pushing the topic into a much-needed national conversation.

Ty Woods is preserving the arts for community children and endeavoring to keep the content clean and positive.

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

Honoring those who have made our community a better place in which to live and work.


Learn all about an initiative by the Marietta Arts Council to elevate the arts throughout all 23 square miles of the City of Marietta.


The benefits of napping.

On the cover: From left to right: Jinger Robins, CEO and Founder, SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center; Aleks Jagiella-Litts, CEO and General Counsel, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia; and Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp. Photo: LaRuche Creative



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foreSight COBB


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

On a recent Saturday in February, my wife and I took our first road trip since going on voluntary “lockdown” about one year ago. Since last March, we’ve only left the house to buy groceries, to get take-out from our favorite restaurants and coffee shops, or to see our dentist/doctors. Like many of you, we’ve lived an almost agoraphobic existence, avoiding as many crowds as possible. Our brief sojourn to Athens — to see a couple of business-owner friends — took only half a day, but was completely renewing. It was a chilly day, but the weather was otherwise pleasant. It felt great to be outside, to feel the sun’s rays on our faces, and to visit a place that wasn’t within a few miles of our home. It was even great to be driving again on Georgia’s busy highways. My point is that our mental health was boosted by this little (still safe and socially distant) trip. Collectively, we’ve all suffered a major mental blow during the pandemic. After all, we’ve never been through anything like this (only the 1918 flu pandemic compares). The actual effects on our mental well-being vary, but common stress reactions have been restless nights, mood swings, depression, and worse. And how we’ve all coped with the stress differs as well. To learn more about mental health issues caused by the pandemic, see our article on page 12. For my part, I haven’t slept well for about 12 months, but I think I’ve maintained a positive attitude and generally looked to the future, where we’re all vaccinated and back to our normal lives. Of course, one way to deal with a restless night is to take a nap the next day. Learn more on page 32.

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 Lindsay Field Penticuff, Writer Katherine Michalak, Writer Jennifer Morrell, Writer LaRuche Creative, Photography 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 2021 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.

Lisa Cupid Joins CobbMarietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority Lisa Cupid, chairwoman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, has joined the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority. Cupid becomes a member of the Authority by virtue of her elected position. The Authority owns and operates the Cobb Galleria Centre, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, ArtsBridge Foundation, and Galleria Specialty Shops and is governed by seven members, appointed to seven posts.

Georgia Trade School Donates Metal Furniture to the Cobb County Fire Training Center Students in Georgia Trade School CWI Scott McKneely’s class recently donated scrap materials and fabricated metal furniture to The Cobb Fire Department. The Department will use this furniture in their burn building while conducting live fire burns. Previously, Cobb Fire had used combustible furniture which had to be removed from the burn building during live fires to stay compliant with latest standards. This allows the Department to add more realism during training.

Cobb Galleria Centre Hires New Marketing Director The Cobb Galleria Centre and Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre welcomes John Hill as director of sales & marketing. In his new role, Hill will provide strategic leadership and execution of the company’s sales and marketing efforts. Hill comes to the Centre from the Renaissance Waverly Hotel, where he was director of hotel sales for eight years. He previously held director of sales and marketing positions at the Emory Conference Center Hotel and the JW Marriott in New Orleans. 4


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Foundation Raising Funds for Veterans Memorial The Cobb Veterans Memorial Foundation is raising funds for the new Cobb County Veterans Memorial, a project planned as a park adjacent to the Cobb Civic Center and Aquatics Center. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Memorial Day 2021. Learn more and make a donation at cobbveteransmemorial.com.

Smyrna’s Brian Marcos Named Chief Fire Officer of The Year Smyrna’s Deputy Fire Chief Brian Marcos has been named the 2020 Chief Fire Officer of the Year by the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs (GAFC). The GAFC represents more than 700 fire chiefs throughout the state of Georgia and is comprised of career, combination, and volunteer chiefs whose common goal is bettering the fire service and its service delivery to the citizens of Georgia.

KSU Breaks Ground on New Residence Hall Kennesaw State University is building a new dormitory that will house more than 500 students. Scheduled to open for the Fall 2022 semester, the new residence hall will be built on the south end of the Kennesaw Campus, adjacent to the existing Austin Residence Complex. “We see evidence every year that students who live on campus, particularly first-year students, tend to transition to college life more effectively,” said KSU President Pamela Whitten.

Mount Paran Christian Breaks Ground on New Murray Innovation Center On February 5, Mount Paran Christian School celebrated the culmination of a years-long capital campaign with a “virtual” groundbreaking for the new Murray Innovation Center. The building, named after a lead gift from the Stuart and Eulene Murray Foundation, is a much-needed 23,000-plus-square-foot expansion of the current Dozier Hall high school, originally built to house just 250 students.

See A Problem, Help Report It With A Click Cobb residents have a new direct line of communication for reporting nonemergency, qualityof-life concerns to Cobb DOT and Parks staff. The new reporting tool and mobile app, SeeClickFix, will replace the YourGov application and the “Submit a Parks Service Request” form currently used by citizens. Learn more at seeclickfix.com.

Chicken Salad Chick Moves HQ to Vinings Chicken Salad Chick, the nation’s only Southern-inspired, fast-casual chicken salad restaurant concept, is relocating to Cobb County this spring. The company’s new office will be located in Vinings at the Overlook II building — across from its Vinings restaurant — housing the leadership team of approximately 40 current and new employees.

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

2/17 - 4/5

Black History Month Art Exhibit Celebrating Black History Month: Family, Community, an Uplifting South Cobb Arts Alliance Art Exhibit is on display at the Rooted Trading Company in Powder Springs. More info: southcobbarts.org

3/13 3/13 Daddy Daughter Date Night Women’s History Acworth will host a Daddy Daughter Date Night at Tanyard Creek Overlook on March 13 from 6-8 p.m. Event is open to all girls up to 14 years of age with their dad or adult male chaperone. More info: acworth.org

Month Celebration The Southern Museum commemorates Women’s History Month in March. Visitors can explore the role women played in the Civil War and locomotive history. On March 13, the Museum will have an allday celebration. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

3/1-31 Bubbles & Brews During the entire month, craft beverage enthusiasts can travel to 17 different breweries, distilleries, and meaderies in Cobb and sample each location’s unique beverages. More info: bubblesandbrews.com


Pop-in for Family Fun Come and explore the Marietta Museum of History on the 3rd Saturday of the month with family fun activities. More info: mariettahistory.org

3/26 Acworth Egg Hunt The City of Acworth and Freedom Church invite your family to participate in the return of the Acworth Egg Hunt. More info: acworth.org



Drive-Thru Bunny Breakfast Feel safe bringing your children to this Easter event from the comfort of your vehicle! Drive-up to the Ben Robertson Community Center and grab breakfast to go and an Egg Hunt Home Kit. Advance purchase ($5) is required. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

A Sense of Adventure: Egg Hunt Bring the young ones to Adams Park in Kennesaw for this outdoors, socially distanced Easter egg hunt. The event begins at 3 p.m. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

APRIL 4/3 Easter Egg Hunt Smith-Gilbert Gardens will host an Easter egg hunt on April 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Advance tickets required. More info: smithgilbertgardens.com


Acworth Art Fest Acworth’s Main Street in downtown becomes the perfect art-buyers destination with booths from over 50 whimsical and talented artisans from around the country. More info: splashfestivals.com

4/16-17 Georgia Pinners Conference See “Pinterest come to life” at Cobb Galleria in April with 200+ vendors with all sorts of DIY materials for sale and make-and-take opportunities, plus hundreds of DIY classes. More info: ga.pinnersconference.com


45th Annual Big Shanty Festival This annual event features one-of-a-kind and homemade crafts, as well as food vendors and kids’ activities in downtown Kennesaw. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

4/23 Annual Plant Sale Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw will hold its annual plant sale on April 23 from 8 a.m. until noon. More info: smithgilbertgardens.com COBB

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No matter where you are, you can now access up-to-date information about what’s going on around the county. With local news, events calendars and the latest issue of Cobb In Focus, you can be instantly connected to your community. For advertising opportunities in Cobb In Focus magazine and these Cobb County websites, contact Jamie Ryan at 770-650-1102, ext. 142 or jamie@cobbinfocus.com.

Tips For Small Business Owners During COVID-19 By Andrea Lockhart, CPA, the CEO and founder of Advisory CPA Group


egardless of where a business is on their spectrum of operations during the pandemic, there still is much discussion to be had about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed by Congress in March 2020. There now are six COVID-19 Relief Options for small businesses to consider: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), Express Bridge Loans, SBA Debt Relief, Shuttered Venue Operators Grants, and Targeted EIDL Advance. One of the most popular options, the PPP has gone through several revisions. One major change to the initial eligibility requirements is publicly traded companies are now prohibited from receiving PPP funds. Congress also earmarked $25 billion for employers with 10 or fewer employees in the second round of funding. This program provides funds for businesses to cover payroll, mortgage interest, utilities, and COVID supplies. Businesses that have exhausted their initial funds may qualify to participate in the “second draw.” Owners must show they have experienced a 25-percent decrease in gross receipts for any quarter in 2020 compared to 2019 and have fewer than 300 employees. New PPP applicants do not have to show a decrease in gross receipts. Some small businesses did not participate in the first round of funding due to lack of established banking relationships with an institution that participated in the program. Since many larger banks are not accepting new PPP loan applications, new applicants should consider using local community banks.

There also are online resources available such as Fundera, Kabbage, Lendio, Lendistry, and PayPal who do not require that you have a current business relationship with them to apply. The EIDL is another lifeline to businesses that received PPP funding, but still need additional operating capital, or businesses that did not qualify for the PPP. These loans are now capped at $150,000 with attractive terms that consist of repayment deferral for 12 months, 3.5 percent interest (2.5 percent for non-profits), and 30-year maturity. The Express Bridge Loans and SBA Debt Relief are programs available to business that had an existing relationship with the SBA prior to COVID-19. The Express Bridge Loan allows eligible businesses to quickly access up to $25,000 while they wait on decisions and disbursement form other funding sources. The SBA Debt Relief automatically pays six monthly installments on eligible existing loans. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grants program was signed into law in December 2020. This program has earmarked $15 billion in grants for shuttered venues such as live performing arts organizations, museums, zoos, aquariums, and movie theaters. The venue must have been operational as of Feb. 29, 2020 and not have received PPP funds after Dec. 27,, 2020. As of this writing, the SBA has not finalized the eligibility requirements. Therefore, venues considering the second draw PPP might delay applying to determine if the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is a better option. Grant amounts will

equal 45 percent of 2019 gross earned revenue or $10 million, whichever is less for businesses in operation on Jan. 1, 2019. For businesses that started after Jan. 1, 2019, the grant amount will equal the average monthly gross earned revenue during 2019 multiplied by six months or $10 million, whichever is less. We suggest signing up for SBA’s newsletter (sba.gov/ updates) to stay informed. The Targeted EIDL Advance was recently signed into law as well and is only available to prior EIDL applicants, some of whom received a loan, but not an advance or a reduced advance amount. This program will make advance funds up to $10,000 available to applicants in low-income communities who previously received a smaller advance or no advance at all due to lack of funding. Applicants do not need to re-apply; the SBA will contact eligible applicants. All applicants interested in COVID-19 Relief Options are urged to do so as soon as possible. Some funding options expire Mar. 31, 2021 or when funds have been exhausted, whichever comes first. Currently, there is no specific guidance on accounting for PPP loans and forgiveness under generally accepted accounting principles. For now, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is recommending accounting for the loan proceeds as debt. Under this same guidance, the forgiveness of PPP loans should be accounted for as a gain on extinguishment of debt. Normally, a cancellation of debt might give rise to a taxable event, but the CARES Act specifically states PPP loans are excluded from taxable income. Business owners should enlist their CPA or accountant to ensure these entries are properly recorded. Contact us at andrea@advisorycpas. com, or schedule a phone consultation at calendly.com/advisorycpas for assistance with any of these options and accounting advice. n


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It’s All In The


By Katherine Michalak


rom Air Force service to radio DJ to acting to learning specialist and annual turns as a professional Santa, David Doerrier has many stories to tell — and experiences that speak volumes. However, he’d rather get others talking. It’s his priority to teach people the most effective strategy for communicating information to an audience. As a retired USAF Air Transportation Specialist, Doerrier spent a decade on active duty and almost 20 years in the reserves when he was invited to be an instructor with the USAFR Transportation Proficiency Center at Cobb County’s Dobbins ARB, thus began his career in training and development.



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His aptitude for teaching and instructional design led him to opportunities to work with a variety of organizations, sharing his talent for presentation along the way. In 2018, Doerrier established Present Your Way To Success, his private consulting business, to focus on the training elements most fulfilling for him. “I started this company because I really love doing this. I really enjoy seeing people get through various communication challenges and find the best method for them,” he professes. “Public speaking is difficult. I love seeing people tackle anxiety and conquer these fears … and find resources that help them engage with people, and

facilitator, Doerrier developed a comprehensive analysis to identify areas of potential growth and then produce a customized program to address specific goals. Over the last year or so, there’s been a distinctive shift as clients transition to virtual formats and adjust to new demands. “Yes, [people are] struggling with the shift, [learning] to use meeting time efficiently, to take ownership of the call. It’s teaching them engagement,” he qualifies, “engagement principles must be applied.” And, that engagement results by clearly delivering information to a receptive audience.

Now You’re Talking

I enjoy the interaction myself.” He recognizes and appreciates his own strengths as a mentor in this arena. “I’m good at evaluating people. I have a knack for it, for giving feedback in a gentle manner that gets through constructively, moving past the ego and the embarrassment.” At the outset, his first core group of clients received the bulk of their training via in-person classes or workshops. Doerrier started out using a familiar hands-on approach, refined by his years as a corporate trainer, actor and instructional designer. “Speaking, using presentation techniques, incorporating technology — they needed help with all of that,” he recalls. As an expert

People often freeze at the very notion of speaking before a group. “There’s an innate sense of vulnerability that comes with public speaking or presenting,” Doerrier confirms, “[and] because of that vulnerability, the task is often the source of fear or anxiety.” Such trepidation is to be expected and is all completely normal. In fact, as a seasoned professional, Doerrier believes firmly, “If you’re not nervous before such a task, then there’s something wrong. The trick is to turn that nervousness into excitement and anticipation, abandoning the panic.” For many, speech training ended with a high school or college class, which may not have fully encompassed the far-reaching opportunities accorded by modern communication infrastructure. And even the best skills need tweaking for different audiences or formats. Clients regularly fret to Doerrier that they don’t even know where to start, and he acknowledges that being an COBB

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Business expert on a topic doesn’t eliminate anxiety when planning a presentation. Often, subject matter experts (SMEs) overwhelm themselves and their audiences by attempting to convey too much information at one time. “Being a SME, does not automatically make you an expert presenter. Talking or telling ain’t training or selling,” cautions Doerrier. Hiring a coach for a few sessions, a tutorial, or a full block of programming provides insight into the benefit of enhanced engagement as well as an unbiased opinion for quality feedback.

“Public speaking is difficult. I love seeing people tackle anxiety and conquer these fears … and find resources that help them engage with people, and I enjoy the interaction myself.” —David Doerrier

Know Your ABCs Doerrier designs training programs that guide clients toward the discovery of an effective communication style befitting a variety of projects and presentations. His methods help people see how they can pull together information and distill it down into key objectives so that an audience remembers a few central points. “Start with your conclusion,” he counsels. “What’s your point? Identify that and work backward from there.” To build further framework, Doerrier instructs speakers to outline using their ABC’s — Agenda, Belief, and Core Communication. Agenda: Ultimately, giving a presentation involves reporting facts, research, data, details, or opinions to an interested audience. Doerrier endorses adopting a method from journalism to form an agenda as the Who/What/When/Where/Why/How in this context: •  Who = Audience •  What = Content •  When = Schedule

•  Where = Venue •  Why = Purpose/Mission •  How = Format Belief: Unsurprisingly, the self-confidence of the speaker plays a distinctive role in the success of the overall presentation. After years of working with various clients, Doerrier notes that inherent beliefs about our abilities tend to surface in public speaking. “To be nervous is normal,” he reiterates. “Change your mindset to positive self-talk and accept that mistakes are OK. Your contribution is valued and necessary; you always have something to offer. The audience wants you to succeed. You have unique knowledge or perspective on the subject matter at hand. But don’t try to wing it, no matter what your familiarity with the topic might be. Preparation always benefits both the speaker and the audience.” Core Communication Skill: Here’s

All meetings, no matter what the format, present an opportunity for valuable communication that can only be accomplished through meaningful engagement among all parties present. 10


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where active experience, core competencies, and good training influence a speaker. A presentation must be engaging to be relevant, meaning there must be a sense of connection to and attention by the audience. The successful speaker creates an emotional experience for the audience so that they absorb the value of the information presented. To facilitate strong engagement, Doerrier trains clients to focus on sensory measures: • Eyes – Scan the audience regularly just as you would in a personal conversation. Eye contact projects credibility. – On video conferences, look directly into the camera in order to transmit a direct gaze across the screen. It’s alright to occasionally look away, as long as you are still focused on the meeting with the same level of attention shown in-person. • Non-verbal – A striking 93 percent of information is conveyed by non-verbal cues, so what you do with your body language matters more than what you say! – Make sure your appearance matches the messaging you plan to convey. – Assume a confident gait as you move in front of your audience, and strong poise when standing. – Use contextual gesturing to accompany your speech, emphatic motions for illustrating some concepts and more casual gestures for conversational tone. – Be mindful of the audience response

through their non-verbal communication. – During video conferences, be conscious of your background as a potential source of distraction and credibility. Do you sit near a window with a glare or view of commotion from a busy street? Are mirrors or lamps bouncing light around the room? Does a cluttered space behind you divert viewer attention away from your words? • Breath – Work through nerves before you start; shallow breathing from the upper chest can lead to big problems. – Stretch down into the diaphragm for deep breaths and keep your body relaxed. • Voice – Project your voice out for all to hear and enunciate clearly. – Practice natural vocal variety; you want to present and converse, not recite or read.

– Allow for authentic pauses to set a natural pace; employ extended pauses for emphasis. – A sk questions out to the audience, giving them around 5-10 seconds for consideration and response. • Listening – A s part of planning, consider various scenarios to be prepared and flexible. – Heed the audience behavior for immediate, real-time feedback. – Respond readily to questions, including non-verbal prompts that indicate confusion. – Read the room!

Virtually Exhausted? “Let’s schedule a video conference?” Once a dynamic statement showcasing the convenience of advanced technology, that phrase currently looms as a somewhat vexing harbinger of stressful time spent glued to ubiquitous screens. From kindergarten kids to mega-moguls, people now depend on that video connection as

a viable resource for face-to-face meeting. Most were thrust into this conferencing mechanism without much preparation, and the learning curve impacts relationship-building with those on the other side of the monitor or phone or tablet. Doerrier proclaims part of his overall professional mission as a mandate to alleviate the video conferencing drudgery that results from poor speaking and presentation skills. “Put me out of business,” he challenges, “by ridding the world of ‘Zoom fatigue’ and speakers that are not able to connect with their audience. Learn how to use the virtual platform; most companies offer free online training. Practice with some friends, coworkers, family, et cetera.” For the best results, approach video conferencing with the same level of preparation and attention as other types of presentations, and maximize all functions of the technology. All meetings, no matter what the format, present an opportunity for valuable communication that can only be accomplished through meaningful engagement among all parties present. n

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The ‘Other’ Pandemic Dr. Ganielle Hooper of Axis Hope, LLC in Marietta talks about the anxiety issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how she is treating those problems in her patients.

By Cory Sekine-Pettite


ou don’t need a doctor to tell you that the past year or so has been incredibly stressful for everyone. Whether or not you’ve actually dealt with COVID-19 directly, you most certainly have had to deal with the repercussions — particularly when it comes to your mental state. The uncertainty surrounding



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the virus itself, the economic impact of the pandemic, and the political crises borne out of an unparalleled healthcare disaster all have contributed to an additional national emergency concerning our mental health. According to an American Psychological Association poll from last November (as reported in February 2021 in The New

York Times), 74 percent of the psychologists who responded said they were seeing more patients with anxiety disorders compared with before the pandemic, and 60 percent said they were seeing more patients with depressive disorders. Nearly 30 percent said they were seeing more patients overall. The poll did not ask doctors if they had turned

“A lot of times, people just don’t know where to turn; they don’t know access is available, and they think that they’re the only ones dealing with it. So once we get the word out about it, talk about mental health more and educate the population about treatment for mental health, we can begin the healing process.” ­— Dr. Ganielle Hooper of Axis Hope, LLC

seen through online video visits, whereas before the pandemic, Hooper saw just 20 percent of her patients in this manner. There are exceptions, however, such as young children, who are more successfully treated with in-person visits or therapy sessions. It’s not all doom and gloom. The pandemic-induced lockdown and social distancing has improved the mental states of a small group of people — those who are otherwise stressed in social situations. Dr. Hooper said some of her patients have, in fact, flourished during the pandemic. “I’ve seen actually seen a ‘handful’ of kids who have thrived in this environment because they, for example, may have social anxiety. So they’re very happy with staying home and being with mom and dad, and not having to raise their hand in a classroom,” she said. “They are thriving. I’ve even had some patients who have done so well being in the home setting that they’ve asked to come off medication.”

Long-term impact When a majority of our population is vaccinated against COVID-19 and the pandemic is declared over, for many of us the mental health issues will remain — at least to some degree. “I think there’s going to be some scarring from the pandemic, and there will be a lot of uncertainty,” Hooper said. “There’s going to be a lot of hesitation for some people; they won’t believe it’s truly cleared or truly over. So you’re still going to have those who will remain in isolation. You’re going to have some long-term

impacts from these kids being isolated and these kids having lack of human connection and socialization for a year. We’re going to see the impact of that down the road.” We will see some gaps in recovery from this, Hooper said, and it could take years. “Although we may not need to wear masks, or require the social distancing and the hand sanitizer, we’re going to need another three to five years to fully recover from this,” she said. “…It’s going to be a difficult but a worthy transition once we’re out of this pandemic.” Photo by LaRuche Creative

away patients due to overwhelming demand. What’s worse, a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (bit.ly/37HHLcf) finds that 12 percent of adults surveyed seriously considered suicide in the prior month while 29.6 percent reported COVID-19-related trauma and stressor-related disorder symptoms. Additionally, 33 percent of the 5,186 respondents in the study reported anxiety or depression symptoms, and more than 15 percent reported increased substance use. So, while we may not need a doctor to tell us that we are stressed, many of us could use the guidance and treatment of healthcare professionals to treat our current state of mind. As such, Cobb In Focus reached out to Dr. Ganielle Hooper of Axis Hope, LLC in Marietta to talk about the anxiety issues caused by the pandemic and how she is treating those problems in her patients. Dr. Hooper is dual certified as a pediatric nurse practitioner and mental health specialist. She treats both children and adults in her practice. “The practice has grown tremendously in 2020, directly related to COVID,” Hooper said. “…We’re treating the same disorders, but just an increase of them [in terms of number of patients seen.]” For the most part, Hooper said she sees patients who are dealing with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, many of whom say their symptoms began or worsened during 2020. She said her practice sees approximately 50 patients per week, up from about 30 patients per week prior to the pandemic. For the most part, Hooper is seeing her patients through online visits, a practice known as telemedicine. Since the pandemic, she says about 80 percent of patients are

You are not alone While some people may be happier in isolation, most of us are not so enthused and we likely knew this pre-pandemic. But when asked what COVID-19 may have taught us about ourselves, Hooper said it has taught us to better appreciate our family and friends. “I think most importantly, I would love for people to learn that they are not alone in their struggles,” she said. “What I’ve seen is that people think ‘I’m the only one suffering; I’m the only one going through anxiety. I’m the only one who’s drinking every night. I’m the only one who can’t pay my bills.’ And if they could just understand that everyone is going through struggles, everyone is having issues. …It’s just a matter of how they choose to deal with it.” “So I want people to take that away from this whole pandemic — you don’t have to suffer alone, because there are people dealing with the same thing out there, and there’s help for it, Hooper continued. “A lot COBB

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Health of times, people just don’t know where to turn; they don’t know access is available, and they think that they’re the only ones dealing with it. So once we get the word out about it, talk about mental health more and educate the population about treatment for mental health, we can begin the healing process.”

Self-care and coping skills Treatment doesn’t begin and end at the doctor’s office. There are steps one can take to reduce stress and ease anxiety. Self-

care is crucial for both our mental health and physical wellbeing. Exercise, a regular sleep schedule, proper nutrition, and finding ways to relax (hobbies, nature walks, spending time with family and friends, etc.) are all proven, key self-care techniques. Hooper, who juggles her practice, her family, her military duties in the Air National Guard, and part-time teaching gigs at Kennesaw State University and Emory University says that for her own selfcare she finds downtime is crucial to pre-

paring herself mentally for her patients. “If I’m burned out, I can’t give anything to my patients,” she said. Hooper also schedules lunch dates with other therapists as a way to not only relax, but to check in with her colleagues and they, in turn, can check in on her. “That gives me some downtime where I can kind of network and speak with others,” she said. Learning to relax is vital, but it won’t make all of our anxiety and stress disappear. We also must acquire coping skills to

Mind Your Mind The Cobb Collaborative, a provider of support, training, and organizational development services, has launched the Mind Your Mind mental health campaign to proactively address the need for mental health support, particularly as the burdens of COVID-19 continue to affect families across the region. “Mental illness affects one in five of us, yet so many people are hesitant to get help or are unaware of the resources available to them. Mind Your Mind aims to empower the community by providing access to helpful information and perspectives, “ says Cobb Collaborative Executive Director Irene Barton. “We are striving to take away the barriers to care with diverse opportunities accessible by the computer or in person and at no cost to the participant.” A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported that nearly half of the U.S. population states that the pandemic is adversely affecting their mental health. Forty-five percent of adults stated the crisis had “negatively” impacted their psyche, and 19 percent stated it has had a “major” impact on their mental health. Models using data trends from past national emergencies reflect that the continued increase in the jobless rate will likely result in increased suicides, overdose deaths, and substance abuse relapse. School educators, social workers, and psychiatrists and counselors are fearful for children who live in homes affected by mental health — without seeing them at school each day, they cannot monitor the wellbeing of children. The initiative includes online content and resources, professional-level trainings, documentary film screenings, and panel discussions about sensitive topics including anxiety, stress, and trauma. The campaign started with support from Cobb & Douglas Public Health through its Community Health



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Improvement Plan. Today, the campaign is made possible through a grant from the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation, Northside Hospital Foundation, and Cobb & Douglas Public Health. This year, the initiative has taken an intentional focus to also include suicide prevention and awareness within its programming. The Cobb Collaborative has developed a strategy to convene community members, organizations, and systems to become traumainformed, to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and to point individuals in the direction of appropriate support. Included in this initiative are multiple training events, a Suicide Prevention Toolkit and webpage of resources, and a communications strategy to leverage awareness and prevent suicide attempts. The Cobb Collaborative is the local partner for the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, bringing together more than 3,000 local and state organizations in all 159 counties across Georgia who work toward measurably better outcomes for the state’s children, families, and communities. The Collaborative joins them and Resilient Georgia, a statewide agency dedicated to healing adversity and promoting resiliency in children and families through the prevention and early intervention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) with trauma-informed care. Barton serves as a member of their Education Committee and is incorporating their trauma-informed framework in the offerings included in Mind Your Mind. All trainings, panel discussions, film screenings, and online resources are offered at no cost to the community. For information and calendar listings for upcoming events or other programs at the Cobb Collaborative, visit cobbcollaborative.org

manage our mental health. “We are born with very minimal coping skills. So the skills that we learn as a child, as adolescents, are what we pick up from our environment, and experiences,” Hooper said. “And that may be either healthy or unhealthy. But we can learn the effective coping skills through therapy and specifically cognitive behavioral therapy.” According to the American Psychological Association (APA), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. Techniques and treatments may vary by therapist, but CBT places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists, the APA says. Through exercises in the session as well as “homework” exercises outside of sessions, patients/clients are helped to develop coping skills, whereby they can learn to change their own thinking, problematic emotions, and behavior.

Therapists emphasize what is going on in the person’s current life, rather than what has led up to their difficulties. A certain amount of information about one’s history is needed, but the focus is primarily on moving forward in time to develop more effective ways of coping with life. So when you’re having a lot of anxiety or you’re feeling anxious or having a panic attack, Hooper says you can pull these mental tools out your “bag” and say, “Oh, she taught me how to manage this.”

Ask for help Any time that you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and stress, Hooper stresses that it is OK to ask for help. There is no shame in seeking the advice of professionals. “There’s a lot of stigma still associated with mental health. And I think the more we talk about it, the more we can normalize it and then people can begin helping others,” she said.

Additional resources • Psychology Today magazine (psychologytoday.com/us/groups) maintains a list of

Axis Hope 2551 Roswell Road, Suite 420, Marietta, GA 30062 For appointments: 678.503.8629 https://axishope.care

providers that can be filtered by location, type of insurance covered, specialty or other criteria. •  The federal government has a website (findtreatment.gov) where you can search for facilities that treat substance use disorders, addiction, and mental illness. •  There are many national organizations that offer resources on support groups in your area, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org), the National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org), Alcoholics Anonymous (aa.org), or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (dbsalliance.org). •  If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). n


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A.G. Rhodes serves more than 1,100 seniors each year in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties. Visit www.agrhodes.org for more information.


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A Powerful Team

A trifecta unfolded to help rid Georgia of the ever-growing number of sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking cases.

From left to right: Aleks Jagiella-Litts, CEO and General Counsel, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia; Det. Clint Monahan, Special Victims Unit, Cobb County PD; Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp; Sgt. Hunter Llewellyn, Special Victims Unit, Cobb County PD; and Lt. Matt Brown, Special Victims Unit, Cobb County PD. 16


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By Lindsay Field Penticuff


“I was at a groundbreaking for the Receiving Hope Center, which is a residential intake center for trafficked youth in Georgia, when I met Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp and started talking to her about the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia (CACGA),” recalls Aleks Jagiella-Litts, CEO and General Counsel for CACGA


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All photos by LaRuche Creative

t all started by happenstance.



“We can help change the trajectory for these children, which can have a ripple effect that can go on for generations.” —Aleks Jagiella-Litts, CEO and General Counsel, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia With 52 centers spanning across Georgia, Jagiella-Litts was confident that the CACGA could play an integral role in supporting the First Lady’s initiative, as children who are victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking are also victims of child abuse. “No one takes better care of children in these situations than interventional specialists, detectives and health care staffs that work across the state in our children’s advocacy centers,” JagiellaLitts says. “Our centers have the specialists who can walk through these cases all along the way with children, and we can help change the trajectory for these children, which can have a ripple effect that can go on for generations.”

Why human trafficking? While attending a press conference at Atlantic Station in early 2019 for her husband, First Lady Kemp saw 72 school buses lined up in the street outside the event. “It represented 3,600 chil-

Left to right: Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp; Sgt. Hunter Llewellyn, Cobb County PD; and Lt. Matt Brown, Cobb County PD. 18


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dren who are taken into human trafficking in a single year in Georgia,” she recalls learning that day. After campaigning for more than two years with her husband, First Lady Kemp wanted to know why she hadn’t heard this statistic before. “I wanted to know why we weren’t talking about it, and after I started learning about it, I figured out why people aren’t talking more about it — because it’s so difficult to talk about — but we are going to talk about it now.” In February of 2019, First Lady Kemp formed the Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education (GRACE) Commission, which was created to combat the threat of human trafficking in Georgia. “Sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking is everywhere,” she says. “It’s not just in metro Atlanta, and it’s not just in poverty-stricken areas. It gives nobody a hall pass and affects everybody. We just need to be able to talk about it so that our kids are aware of it, and so that we can help protect our vulnerable.” In order to support First Lady Kemp’s push to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Georgia, CACGA helped create the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Response Team. Launched in October 2020, the team is a multiyear project administered by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and funded in part by an $800,000 grant from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Office for Victims of Crime. The CSEC Response Team is designed to improve the lives and overall outcomes for child and youth victims of human trafficking, child sex trafficking, and other sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes. “We formed the GRACE Commission so that Gov. Brian Kemp and I could bring all the experts to the table, and we learned through the creation of the CSEC Response Team that there have been experts who have been working on this for decades all along,” says First Lady Kemp. “I’m humbled and honored to be associated with so many great people who are working so hard. I’m just here to support them.” Jagiella-Litts says that Georgia is lucky to have our CSEC Response Ream, as well as support from First Lady Kemp and the state, because programs like this are not available in some states. “People are often afraid to talk about this, because it’s a very secretive topic,” she adds. “But we protect the perpetrators by keeping it in the dark, and you can’t eradicate something you can’t see or isn’t being talked about.”

A snapshot of CSEC Response Team referrals received since Oct. 1, 2020: Total number of referrals........ 181 Active cases............................ 138 Closed cases............................. 40 Hotline calls............................. 103 Web referrals........................... 171 (overlap with Hotline for many)

SafePath stepped up to serve Before launching the CSEC Response Team, Jagiella-Litts reviewed state data to help identify regions that are considered “hot spots” for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Three of the hot pots are in the Atlanta area, including Cobb County, and a fourth is in middle Georgia. Each hot spot received a $40,000 grant to help support their response to CSEC in their regions.

Left to right: Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp; Sgt. Hunter Llewellyn, Cobb County PD; Aleks Jagiella-Litts; and SafePath’s Jinger Robins.

“I was one of the first people Aleks reached out to,” says Jinger Robins, CEO and founder of Marietta-based SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center, which serves children and families in Cobb County and surrounding areas. “She asked if we’d be willing to take on this challenge as one of the core regions with higher


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Left to right: Aleks Jagiella-Litts, Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp, and SafePath’s Krystina Bush, Intervention Support Associate.

It’s time to open your eyes The internet is so prevalent these days, especially with the pandemic, so it’s even more important for parents, teachers, and caregivers to keep a watchful eye on the changing behaviors of young people. “A lot of parents are handing an iPad over to their child and asking them to entertain themselves while they work,” Jagiella-Litts says. “That child could get on an app and you think it’s just a game, but people are able to communicate through those games. And it’s not just strangers, it’s people children may know. There are also young ladies and men who are selling naked pictures of themselves on the internet.” Things to watch out for may include children who suddenly have a cell phone or extra cash — when the child doesn’t have a job and won’t really say where the money comes from — or if they notice the child has a tattoo, as it’s illegal for children under 18 to get tattoos in Georgia, even with parental consent. “There are a lot of parents who are exploiting their own children to pay rent, make a car payment, pay grocery bills,” Jagiella-Litts adds. “You can’t do anything about something you don’t see, but if people in Cobb County would just open their eyes and look, they would see it.” To learn more about how to identify the signs of sexual exploitation of children or human trafficking, visit youtube.com/embed/uaXBIqF9wc?rel=0. The Georgia Department of Administrative Services worked with First Lady Kemp to create a 30-minute training video. “It equips you with the tools to know what to look for, because once you learn how to identify it, you can’t help but want to do something about it,” First Lady Kemp said.

“I figured out why people aren’t talking more about it — because it’s so difficult to talk about — but we are going to talk about it now.” —Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp numbers, and I didn’t even stop for a second to think about it. I knew we wanted to say, ‘yes.’” SafePath is one of the strongest children’s advocacy centers in the state, says Jagiella-Litts. “Jinger has a phenomenal intervention team. They are on every training we provide, and they are always

Left to right: Aleks Jagiella-Litts, Det. Clint Monahan, Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp, and SafePath’s Gail Garland, Director of Intervention.



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“That is huge, because it shows that Cobb’s commitment to protecting children has grown to the next level.” —Jinger Robins, CEO and Founder, SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center

First Lady Kemp, the GRACE Commission, and the CSEC Response SafePath’s Lindsey Cheatham, Advocate, Sgt. Hunter Team, SafePath is now able to better Llewellyn, and Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp. identify and serve children who are victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. there and want to know how they can do better to “This partnership makes Cobb an even a betserve the kids across our state.” ter place to live,” Robins adds. “We are offering Upon learning about the CSEC Response an ‘out’ for these children, and we are offering Team and how children’s advocacy centers the services it takes to protect our children would support First Lady Kemp’s initiative, — not just from a basic level, but from all the Robins recalled a child abuse case her team intricate levels that get involved with children responded to 15 years ago. “The parents were who are sexually exploited and victims of trafhaving their teenage daughter engage in sexual ficking. That is huge, because it shows that behavior with the owner of their trailer for Cobb’s commitment to protecting children has their rent,” Robins recalls. “Looking back, grown to the next level.” we’ve had a number of cases like that, but they And First Lady Kemp is extremely appreciawere never identified as sexual exploitation or tive for the work of Robins, SafePath, and other human trafficking.” children’s advocacy centers across the state that They have also realized that runaways aren’t are working diligently to combat this issue. always runaways. “Through a different lens “Thank you for putting a louder voice on this,” of human trafficking and child exploitation, she concludes. “Everybody deserves a good life. we are trying to figure out who or what those These kids don’t deserve to lose their childhood. children may have been running away from We are going to fight for them — every single or to,” adds Robins. And with support from day — until we can get this out of our state.” n

Helpful resources Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Hotline: 1-866-NHTGA LOCAL AND STATE WEBSITES: GRACE Commission: gov.georgia.gov/first-lady/ grace-commission Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia: cacga.org SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center: safepath.org First Lady and GRACE Commissions Human Trafficking Awareness training video: youtube.com/embed/uaXBI-qF9wc?rel=0


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When Artportunity Knocks

One organization ramps up meal provision during COVID-19, while keeping arts and opportunity in place for kids. 22


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By Jennifer Morrell


t was back in 2007 when Ty and Chris Woods decided to make a real difference in their community. What began with 40 kids in a small apartment for Bible study and camaraderie has evolved into Atlanta-based Artportunity Knocks. As executive director, Ty Woods wanted to preserve the arts for community children and strive to keep the content clean and positive. Artportunity Knocks’ mission is to empower youths to make constructive and smart choices, while increasing opportunities in the arts, education, community service, and bridging cultures. Ty and her spouse, Chris, co-founded and operate the organization together. Artportunity Knocks consists of four program categories: The Arts offers more than 12 forms of art in one place. Education is designed to use creativity to open the minds of the learner. Healthy Kids is a program that addresses the “whole child,” to include meeting physiological and social-emotional development. Professional Development teaches teachers how to incorporate the arts into their Common Core curriculum.

Making a difference Woods stresses the importance of afterschool programs, with Artportunity Knocks Afterschool supporting more than just arts education. “We support the whole child,

providing physiological, social, emotional, cognitive and academic support through the entire year,” Ty says. “Our afterschool programs can provide a significant return on investment, with every $1 invested saving at least $3 through increasing each youth’s earning potential. This improves their performance at school and reduces crime, teen pregnancy and juvenile delinquency rates.” In particular, Woods drives home the overwhelming benefits of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) programs to children’s educational opportunities. Reduced school and life success among low-income students has often been associated with reduced access to arts education. This limits opportunities to build socioemotional skills, including an understanding that skill results from practice, failure and recovery, in addition to natural talent. “We believe that STEAM is central to academic success, and so if an education that does not feature the opportunity to develop, create, and explore, then their academic skills will not be well rounded,” she says. “At Artportunity Knocks, we provide consistent opportunities for students to develop into productive members of society through the access we give them to learn STEAM education.” Woods adds that young people who are


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Education considered “at risk” due to poverty may lack the experiences and opportunities that might foster socioemotional learning. These include sustained relationships with trusted adults outside of their families; quality, informal learning situations; experiences that consistently challenge them to excel; and safe environments for exploration. “To no fault of their own, [at risk young people] may also lack opportunities to develop the ability to manage behavior and make effective decisions, strategies to form and maintain a positive self-concept, and the capacity to interact productively and positively with others,” she said. “These things may happen in certain contexts like family discussions, team sports or classroom interactions, but research shows that the arts provide a unique context for this type of

learning to happen.” The organization is funded through program fees, government grants, government contracts, corporate grants, individual donations, and family foundation grants. Since inception, Artportunity Knocks has served about 100,000 children, 3,000 of whom were helped in 2020. The organization employed 26 employees and 22 contractors in 2020 as well, showing significant job provision.

Reacting and adjusting to COVID-19 Like most businesses and organizations,

Artportunity Knocks had to rethink how to meet community needs as the COVID-19 pandemic set in. “We made a strong pivot during 2020 to meet the needs of the community and to save the organizaTy Woods tion from closing,” Ty said. To answer the call, four new programs were created. Learning Pods supports synchronous learners in a safe, small-group setting while the Online Academy gives access to arts education to students across the state of Georgia. STEAM n’ Meals, a partnership with the Department of Early Care and Learning (Bright from the Start), was able to deliver bags of meals loaded with an arts kit activity,

Two million dollars. That’s the fundraising goal Tyler Driver, the executive director of The Extension, has for 2021. Part of the residential recovery program’s new Capital Campaign, these dollars will go toward the work the nonprofit does with homeless people who suffer from addiction. This includes continuing the construction of an expansion of the organization’s Marietta campus (featuring 38 new beds) and supplying program participants with the emotional, medical, and financial support (including paying their first month’s rent upon graduating) needed to complete their residency. The only way to attain what Driver calls “the single most ambitious [fundraising] undertaking in [The Extension’s] history,” however, is through the power of community — and if the events of the last year taught us anything, it’s the importance of staying connected and looking after one another. “Our work is critical and must endure even in this time of community stress,” Driver says. The Extension, he notes, functions to work toward solutions, rather than simply alleviate problems. This solution-oriented approach aligns perfectly with the goals and values of another Atlanta-based organization. Enter AssuranceAmerica, the 22-year-old insurance company co-founded by Executive Chairman Guy Millner, Bud Stumbaugh, and CEO Joe Skruck. The company, which first partnered with The Extension in 2018, is “a big part of [the] solution,” Driver says. “They already know what I want the whole community to know: The Extension is not where homeless, addicted men and women end up. It’s where they start up.” Two years ago, AssuranceAmerica helped The Extension with a $50,000 24


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Margie Erdoes Photography

The Power of Community Wins Again donation. This year, the company wanted to do more. Recently, it presented The Extension with a $100,000 check. “I’ve been blown away by the sheer amount From left to right: AssuranceAmerica of work The Extension has CFO Daniel Scruggs; Skip Harper, been able to do,” says chairman of the board at The Extension; and Renee McCormick, Daniel Scruggs, senior VP The Extension’s director of community and CFO of relations. AssuranceAmerica. “We couldn’t be happier that our company has been able to give back in this manner.” The donation goes toward funding the general operating and off-site housing costs. In addition, AssuranceAmerica has promised to match every dollar raised by The Extension, up to $1 million, for the nonprofit’s Capital Campaign. The company’s charitable actions don’t stop there. The organization also gives 5 percent of its annual pre-tax earnings to The Extension and two other organizations that help the homeless: Atlanta’s City of Refuge and New Beginnings of Tampa, Florida. “This is very important to us as individuals and as a company,” Skruck said. “We are extremely grateful and proud that we’re able to help in this way, and we hope to encourage those in the community who have the means to give as well. Let’s reach that $2 million mark together.” If you’d like to learn more about the program or donate to The Extension’s “Capital Campaign,” please contact tylerdriver@theextension.org or visit theextension.org.

so that kids would have something to create during the stay-at-home order. Beatknocks Conferences consist of a series of workshops hosted by music industry professionals in the music production and engineering field, whereby participants learn new and unique creative music processes. As it turns out, COVID-19 and the lessons it brought resulted in positive outcomes. “We did everything differently, from teaching online, to creating virtual events,” Woods said. “What we learned is that we are resilient!” Feeding more than 3,400 children during the pandemic — totaling roughly 84,000 meals from April through December — was an amazing achievement. “It started as a conversation with a parent who was concerned that they would not have enough food, since the kids were going to be home all day,” Ty said. “Then we saw the advertisement that the state was looking for providers to serve food during the pandemic and that they had funding to assist. I felt that it was a way to not only keep people working, but send meals to

of Cobb’ or a ‘taste of Atlanta’ without leaving their homes! We plan on expanding this opportunity to other restaurants and would like to expand this across the state,” Woods said.

Looking ahead

the ones who need it the most.” Artportunity Knocks spoke to several restaurants that were using their last reserves to feed essential workers for free, so Woods seized on the opportunity to partner with a local small restaurant and pay them to cook a fresh meal for her students as well. It was truly a win-win. The students were able to learn about a local restaurant, and the restaurant was able to stay open. “We saw the opportunity to expand this into a program that will not only help small restaurants, but give families the ability to try a ‘taste

Earn College And High School Credit At The Same Time

The future holds incredible promise for Artportunity Knocks. Moving into 2021, Woods plans to roll out a full and comprehensive series of courses that students can take in Georgia and globally. “We want to curate tailormade experiences that are unique to Artportunity Knocks,” Ty says. “We also plan on passing this organization on to the community at large, becoming not just a financial supporter, but an ambassador and ongoing advisor to the future leaders of this organization.” Woods said she and Chris have built a legacy, in that the organization has already defeated so many odds — including defeating the onset of a pandemic. “That just means this organization is here to stay, and the community will not let it fail,” she concluded. n


The Dual Enrollment Program allows eligible high school students the opportunity to maximize their education and career training by taking courses that earn college and high school credit at the same time! A Unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.

www.ChattahoocheeTech.edu/deadmissions I 770-528-4545 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 Photo by LaRuche Creative

THE STORY: My childhood growing up in Florida was rough. We struggled financially, moved frequently, and experienced a lot of instability. I did know at a young age that I wanted to be a Marine and serve our country. Instead of enlisting in the service, I found myself with legal issues at the young age of 17. I dropped out of high school and started working in construction; my high school football coach was not okay with this decision. He found me on a job site and encouraged me to return to school. He made arrangements for me to take night classes and ultimately, I graduated on time. This was the first step in turning my life around. I overcame my background and previous mistakes, moved to Atlanta in 1992 and started my career in construction. Shortly after, I met my soulmate and life partner, Dana, and we were married in 1993. This is when everything changed as I embarked on my journey in the automotive business, first working in sales for the Ed Voyles Automotive Group (where I’m still employed as a General Manager) and then as business owner. I started Open Roads Complete RV in 2014. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: I met the love of my life, Dana, in Cobb County in 1992. We fell in love with the Cobb County community and decided it was the perfect place to start our lives together and raise our family.

Drew Tutton

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I believe I have a servant’s heart when it comes to helping people in any way possible. I truly believe that my success in business and my personal life comes from the true desire to help others. I have always lead by example and have taught my management team to do the same. To be a leader, I analyze how things can be improved and push my managers and employees toward a better vision. I work to make their vision a reality while putting people first. Being a motivator isn’t always enough; leaders must be able to find common ground to truly be successful. I believe that empathy, humility, and diversity are the keys to strong leadership. LEISURE TIME: I love spending time with my wife, son, daughter, son-in-law, six grandsons and granddaughter on my farm in Waleska, Georgia. I am blessed when it comes to family; everything that I do is for them.

Owner & Founder, Open Roads Complete RV

BEST ADVICE: For me, I put God first, followed by family and supporting our community. I am involved with many boards/ chambers, including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Operation Appreciation, Kennesaw State University, Chattahoochee Technical College, and First Baptist Church of Woodstock. WHAT’S NEXT? In February 2020, I partnered with the Voyles family (first partnership outside of their family) in acquiring Voyles Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as opening our first restaurant (September 2020), Siete Tacos & Tequila. I am looking for continued growth in the automotive and RV industries in 2021, with acquiring more dealerships, while continuing to be a leader in serving our community.

316 Northpoint Pkwy., Acworth, GA 30102 • 678.973.4726 • openroads.us COBB

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Cobb’s Citizens & Businesses of the Year T

he Cobb Chamber’s Area Councils and the local business associations have selected their 2020 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 Acworth Citizen of the Year: Janet Paulsen, a speaker and advocate for domestic violence, is an engaged and active member of the Acworth Community who shows her passion for defending the defenseless in everything she does. On the night of Nov. 5, 2015, Paulsen’s then-husband attempted to kill her by shooting her six times. The shooting left her in critical condition, with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her right leg. After years of invasive surgeries and grueling physical therapy, she began working as a domestic violence advocate and public speaker. She fought to close a loophole in state law that allowed some domestic violence perpetrators to keep their firearms, a provision that could have prevented her attack. She has spoken at many engagements on domestic violence, including the liveSAFE Resources Domestic Violence Candlelight Vigil in 2017, and in 2020 was appointed by Governor Kemp to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. “Janet Paulsen’s survival story and her

In front: Janet Paulsen, 2020 Acworth Citizen of the Year; Second Row (L-R): John Loud, 2020 Cobb Chamber Chairman; Sharon Mason, President and CEO of the Cobb Chamber; Janet’s two sons; District 1 Commissioner, Keli Gambrill; Tommy Allegood, Mayor of Acworth. 28


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work to prevent domestic violence is truly inspiring,” says Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber. “She displays such bravery and commitment to ending domestic violence and she has made a lasting positive impact on her community.” East Cobb Citizen of the Year: Mitch Rhoden, president & CEO of Futren Hospitality, has been named East Cobb Citizen of the Year for his years of community service and stepping up to support his community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Rhoden spearheaded Operation Meal Plan, a small business and non-profit support initiative created to provide food to those in need, help local restaurants keep their workers employed, and provide a vehicle for citizens to help Mitch Rhoden each other. Supported through a community-backed fund, local restaurants received orders in increments of 25 meals, which they delivered to non-profit organizations around Cobb who serve meals as part of their missions. The restaurants were paid at unit cost from Operation Meal Plan. Through Operation Meal Plan, restaurants were able to keep their workers employed and Cobb’s local non-profits were able to provide food to those in need. “Mitch Rhoden has been an outstanding leader for our community for more than 20 years,” said Mason. “In addition to leading a small business and chairing many key initiatives and organizations over the years, for 2020 in particular, Mitch has been a champion for helping our non-profits and small businesses stay afloat.” Kennesaw Citizen of the Year: Cris EatonWelsh, owner of Eaton Chiropractic, is a crucial fixture within the Kennesaw community. From sitting on the city council to founding the Swift Kids Running Club and the Kennesaw Grand Prix Race Series,

Left to right: John Loud, 2020 Cobb Chamber Chairman; District 1 Commissioner, Keli Gambrill; Cris EatonWelsh, Kennesaw Citizen of the Year; Sharon Mason, President and CEO of the Cobb Chamber; Derek Easterling, Mayor of Kennesaw.

Eaton-Welsh is passionate about promoting a healthy, happy and productive community. She was heavily involved in the fundraising efforts for Swift Cantrell Park, including championing its skate park, and served on the Cobb2020 Steering Committee to promote health in the county. “Our community is lucky to have Cris Eaton-Welsh,” says Mason. “Cris is an outstanding community leader for Kennesaw. She has served on the city council, on many non-profit boards, and she works tirelessly to make Kennesaw a vibrant place to live, work and play.” Marietta Citizen of the Year: Lisa Crossman, deputy director/director of public health with Cobb & Douglas Public Health, is the 2020 Marietta Citizen of the Year because of her tireless advocacy within the Cobb community. Crossman has personally served on the front lines, fighting COVID-19 from the very start. Through long hours and stressful circumstances, she has remained dedicated to keeping her community safe and healthy. At the beginning of the pandemic, she reached out to the nonprofit agencies in the area to answer questions and offer expert advice on how to meet the needs of those they serve. She set up a hotline, prioritized Lisa Crossman their team members

for testing, and served as a resource to help them craft policies and procedures to continue safe and healthy operations. As testing became more challenging, she crafted a partnership with Metro Atlanta Ambulance to offer on-site testing at area non-profits for clients and staff. Beyond her 2020 achievements, Crossman has been heavily involved in her community, including chairing and sitting on PTA groups, health committees and family planning organizations, among others. She has been heavily involved with Leadership Cobb, as well as pro-business organizations, heart health and child health councils, and the Cobb Chamber’s annual membership campaign.

Acworth Business Association’s 2020 Person of the Year is Becky Cross of the Northwest YMCA. The association said Cross has been a huge part of providing meals and other vital needs to 141,000 people.

West Cobb Citizen of the Year: Mary Chatman, executive VP and president of Wellstar Health System’s Kennestone and Windy Hill Hospitals, has spearheaded the fight against COVID-19 throughout Cobb and Northwest Atlanta. On a daily basis, she displays effective leadership, fiscal management, program development, quality improvement, and interdisciplinary collaboration — all crucial to Wellstar Health System’s organized fight against COVID-19. “Mary Chatman is a deserving recipient of the West Cobb Citizen of the Year award,” said Mason. “She is serving on the front lines for Cobb, fighting COVID-19, and working with local leaders to help us through the pandemic challenges this year.” Along with her work in healthcare, Chatman is deeply involved in Cobb County’s community life. She has volunteered with Girls Inc. and BUY Cobb, and serves on many local, state and national boards, including the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Georgia Hospital Association.

John Wittenberg; last year’s recipient, Butch Carter; and ECBA service award winner Jim Harris.

Business association awards Acworth Business Association’s 2020 Business of the Year is the Acworth Police Department. The association said the Acworth PD navigated the un-chartered and sometimes choppy waters of this year with professionalism and steadiness. They continue to serve through a community-oriented philosophy, and not just a policy.

East Cobb Business Association’s 2020 East Cobb Business Person of the Year, is Jon Wittenberg, owner of Minuteman Press of Sandy Springs.

Cobb Chamber’s 2020 Small Business of the Year is Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique of Marietta. Partners Lester Crowell Jr., Marian Crowell, and Joseph Tony Lacey have been operating this spa and salon for 46 years with a motto of “Be Your Best You.” They also host an annual “Angels of Life” event, which has raised awareness and $560,000 over the past nine years for The Georgia Transplant Foundation, an organization near and dear to managing partner Lester Crowell, whose own two heart transplants have given him new life and determination.

of producing large, public events was put on hold. Northeast Cobb Business Association’s 2020 Business Person of the Year is Andrew Graham, owner of Graham Heating and Plumbing. Graham’s impressive community record and quality of work are unsurpassed, the association says.

Michael Jensen (left), the 2020 and 2021 NCBA President, with Andrew Graham of Graham Heating and Plumbing, the NCBA Business Person of the Year.

West Cobb Business Association’s Member of the Year is Kathy Winiarczyk. She is the business development officer at Credit Union of Georgia. Winiarczyk has been involved with WCBA for the past several Kathy Winiarczyk years and has volunteered in multiple roles on the leadership team. She will be stepping into the role of president for WCBA in 2021.

Kennesaw Business Association’s Business of the Year is the Kennesaw Police Department for their unwavering community support during an unprecedented year.

West Cobb Business Association’s Business of the Year is ALL Print Marketing. ALL Print Marketing & Media Solutions is dedicated to delivering the highest quality products at the most affordable prices while providing an unsurpassed customer service experience. Their team has more than 40 years of experience in the industry and offers custom graphic design, dynamic print materials, banners and signage, as well as branding and marketing solutions. Members of WCBA since 2011, Samantha and Donnie Glass have served in many volunteer and leadership roles within the association. n

Kennesaw Business Association’s Member of the Year is JRM Management, which continues to support communities throughout Cobb County in new and innovative ways when its traditional business model

Editor’s note: Some local business associations were unable to celebrate and honor their members during 2020 due to the pandemic. We hope that this year, all of the organizations will have events and individuals to applaud.

Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique


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Arts & Recreation

HADLEY(s) Photography

Project 23Square By Cory Sekine-Pettite


o characterize the City of Marietta as art-friendly would be an understatement. Residents and visitors alike are blessed with a plethora of performing arts centers, galleries, museums, public art displays, and annual arts celebrations. One outstanding example is Project 23Square, which was started by the Marietta Arts Council in 2018 to elevate the arts throughout all 23 square miles of the city. The Marietta Arts Council is a volunteer-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the artistic and cultural landscape of the City of Marietta through advocacy, education, and public art. The impetus for Project 23Square began with the inaugural M2R TrailFest, which introduced a mural tour, sculpture garden, mile-long fence gallery, and numerous performances stretching along two miles of the downtown Marietta urban walking and



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biking trail known as the Mountain to River Trail. The Marietta Arts Council works with community leaders, the Marietta City Council, and representatives from each of the Wards of the City to identify appropriate areas for activation and installation. A dozen murals are currently on display, as well as two public art installations along the M2R Trail: The Bridge of Hope and The Bridge of Heroes. Additionally, the “Keys to the City” initiative features pianos painted by local artists. “The arts are such a crucial part of the fabric of Marietta. We are fortunate to have a rich and diverse offering of visual arts, performing arts, and cultural arts in our city,” said Marietta Arts Council President Bonnie Buckner Reavis. “The Marietta Arts Council works diligently to engage the public with installations and immersive experiences that showcase the city’s assets and its people. We are thrilled to hear that so many

visitors are drawn to Marietta because of the work we have been involved with. With only a few years under our belt, we are excited about what our continued efforts will bring to the Marietta art scene.”

The M2R Fence Gallery The M2R Fence Gallery is a curated installation, which debuted trackside in downtown Marietta last May. Currently on view in Aviation Park in Town Center until Mar. 14, 2021, the exhibition then will travel to Smyrna where it will be on display until April 19. The 2020 M2R Fence Gallery features more than 100 works of fine art and photography from over 50 artists, ranging from student artists to working artists. Images of the artwork have been printed on 30” x 40” weather-safe panels, thanks to the gallery’s production partner, MaxVision. Among the fine art and

photography on display is the M2R TrailFest, a colleca special exhibition from tion of outdoor sculptures photographer Justin Hadley is installed throughout city called “6 Feet From Friends: parks and common areas. A series of portraits taken The sculptures remain availduring the time of isolaable for public viewing for tion.” Capturing images of 60 days. Several local artists conversations from six feet have been part of previous away in a way that depicts sculpture tours and “Free how the human eye sees Art Scavenger Hunts” dura scene, Hadley says this ing M2R TrailFest. Bronze, M2R Fence Gallery project is about connecting wood, and steel sculptures — and reconnecting — and have been displayed in Atherhelping each other understand what we colored Lucite panels are affixed to the ton Square and outside local churches. are going through at once, together, and structure in a stunning display, utilizing And in 2019, Atlanta-based artist Catlanta alone. It is about getting to know people the colors associated with our first respond- designed and created 20 pieces of free art better and setting the precedent for how ers and healthcare heroes: red (fire), blue that he placed along the trail so that festiwe can remain better friends when we are (police), and purple (healthcare workers). val attendees could take home their own allowed to gather together again. Bridge of Hope — This pedestrian bridge memento from the day. Perhaps you were Among the paintings on display are crosses the North 120 Loop at The Brumby lucky enough to find one! works by Anne Dosso, Bill Needs, Cristina Lofts. Multiple jewel-colored Lucite panels As you can see, there’s a great deal of Montesinos, Helen Hamerton, Judy Cooper, here also offer a glimmering spectacle. arts and culture to be found in and around Ronnie Offen, and more. Student submis- As light passes through the panels, those Marietta, and much of it can be seen outsions are on view as well. traversing the bridge will experience a doors where we are relatively safe and stained glass effect. Suspended overhead, socially distanced (as long as we are masked, Murals white doves made of recycled plastic evoke of course). So get out there this spring. If you have spent any time at all in down- a sense of hope, and have been dedicated Explore Marietta. Walk the Mountain to town Marietta, then you’ve likely seen some to the Marietta High School Graduating River Trail. Get some exercise and breath of the murals painted on many of the Class of 2020. some fresh air. It’s a safe bet that we all need area’s historic buildings. While some of Sculpture Tour — Each May, as part of more of this in our lives. n the murals are hard to miss — the colorful “Marietta” painting alongside the railroad tracks and trail at Thaicoon Restaurant — others are worth finding, such as the “MayRetta” mural outside Two Birds Taphouse or Garden Art Poles honoring essential workers on the COVID-19 front lines the “Pétanque in the Twilight” at Douceur have been “planted” in Kennesaw’s Swift-Cantrell Park. de France café and bakery. The Kennesaw Art & Culture Commission (KACC) partnered with Currently, there are 12 murals scattered Kennesaw Parks & Recreation, and local artists to create five, colorful and throughout downtown Marietta as part of eye-catching garden art poles. Each art pole is uniquely painted on a 4’ to 8’ Project 23Square. You can explore the area tall 4”x4” wood post designed to thank essential workers and celebrate how yourself to see if you can spot them all, or the community has come together during the COVID-19 pandemic. you can visit the Marietta Arts Council’s “Art keeps us connected and strengthens our community. It is so website (mariettaartscouncil.com) to see important, especially in times of crisis,” said the murals and pinpoint their locations. On Madelyn Orochena, KACC chair and project the site, you also can learn about each of the lead. “We are grateful for the strong artists who painted these beautiful works partnership with the City of Kennesaw and, and read about the inspiration behind each especially, Kennesaw Parks & Recreation, mural. For example, did you know that for their support and commitment to bring Craig Stanley, the artist behind the “Marietta” wall at Thaicoon, has designed sets this project together.” and backgrounds for several TV programs The poles are prototypes for a larger and films? planned KACC initiative in partnership with

Art Poles at Swift-Cantrell Park

Other installations Bridge of Heroes — This pedestrian bridge crosses the South 120 Loop near the intersection at Powder Springs Street. Multi-

the City of Kennesaw and Kennesaw Parks & Recreation Department for additional garden art poles to be planted around the city.


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Final Focus

Take A Nap By Cory Sekine-Pettite


erhaps you haven’t heard the great news: Naps are the new coffee break. Under this “new normal” in which we’re all living — where we all are more stressed, we mostly work from home, and none of us are sleeping well — medical professionals are touting the health benefits of the good, old midday snooze. They say that taking a few moments in your day to recharge can do more than just reduce fatigue. It can elevate your mood, improve productivity, and make it easier to learn and retain information. For example, Sara Mednick, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California at Irvine, told The Washington Post (“Nap time is the new coffee break. Here’s how to make the most of it,” Feb. 1, 2021) that nappers perform as well on a pattern-recognition task as people who have slept overnight. She added that research shows naps enhance creative



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problem-solving, and that they can boost and restore brain power. Further, a study published in General Psychiatry and reported on by CNN this year says adults ages 60 and older who took afternoon naps showed signs of better mental agility compared to those who didn’t nap. Sleeping behaviors can be affected by a multitude of factors, Dr. David Neubauer, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told CNN. Daily routines, medication use, environmental factors, lifestyle choices and sleep disorders can all play a role in how frequently someone takes a nap. But just because you already nap regularly or sometimes find that you could use a good catnap, it doesn’t mean that you have a disorder. So if you think you could benefit from a periodic “coffee

break,” experts say a so-called “power nap” of about 20 minutes is ideal. Anything beyond that could leave you groggy for the rest of your work day — because you slept too long and too deeply — and disrupt your sleep later that night. Don’t doze too late in the day (beyond 3 p.m.), because this could affect your rest at night. Also, make sure you are lying down in a cool, dark room. Trying to recline on your couch just won’t do. And don’t forget to set an alarm! Who knows if this napping trend will continue, so if you can, take advantage. It could make you happier and healthier. Of course, nothing beats getting a consistent, seven-plus hours of sleep every night, but for many of us, that simply isn’t a reality. And for some, a daytime nap can be a hinderance to getting a good night’s sleep, especially if your afternoon siesta is lengthy. Figure out what works best for you. n

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Cobb In Focus March April 2021  

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