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The Partnership Atlanta Amanda Lucey’s strategy for success

SpringsFest in Powder Springs • Cobb Libraries Open • Vision Rehabilitation Services • Cobb EMC

Dansby banks on LGE.

Dansby Swanson Member Since 2012


Federally insured by NCUA.

We are alive with community spirit and a quality of life that is at once beau�ful, playful, fearless, unique and joyful. Smyrna has great courage, determina�on, flexibility and adap�bility, ac�vely seeking the “sweetest nectar” for our residents and businesses. We believe that seemingly small ideas and concepts o�en possess the greatest poten�al and power. Get to know our surprising and cap�va�ng quality of life, our diverse neighborhoods, our rich community spirit, our beau�ful streetscapes, our robust services, and so much more. Seek the good in life and the beauty in each day in Smyrna.

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

Contents Vol. XVII, No. 3 MAY/JUNE 2021


A ‘Partnership’ for Good


Amanda Lucey’s strategy for success comes down to staying hungry, being humble, and always hustling.


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


For more than 50 years, Austell-based Sweetwater Mission has worked to stabilize families by preventing hunger and homelessness.


SpringsFest is back this year in Powder Springs. Read about how it all came together.


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


The history of the Cobb County Public Library System and how it continues to thrive.


Local businesses and organizations award Cobb high school students’ scholarships.

30 IN YOUR COMMUNITY Cobb EMC reaffirms its commitment to clean energy.


Post-pandemic most wanted list.


Vision Rehabilitation Service connects individuals across northwest Georgia with vision impairment resources and tools.

On the cover: Amanda Lucey, CEO of The Partnership Atlanta, has overseen the busy, bustling, full-service marketing and digital communications agency since 2018. 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

As we go to press with this issue, the federal government is reporting that half the U.S. population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I count myself among those. That’s quite an impressive feat, and certainly well ahead of the Biden’s administration’s goal. But while officials work to vaccinate the remaining “vaccine hesitant” or “vaccine indifferent,” as they are being called, the rest of us see our days getting a little brighter — and it’s not just because of the wonderful spring weather. Many of us are beginning to return to our offices; we’re able now to visit with friends and family whom we haven’t seen in months; we’re feeling safer about visiting our favorite restaurants and shops; and we’re ready to enjoy the many festivals and other outdoor events returning to Cobb County this spring and summer. A number of these events are outlined for you on page 5. And if you’re curious as to what my post-pandemic priorities are, I wrote about them on page 32. But let’s not forget, while the experts say so-called “herd immunity” might not be an attainable goal (where most of the country is vaccinated and occurrences of COVID-19 decline significantly), the more people who are vaccinated, the better off we all will be. The benefits would be immense: better returns for small businesses and continued growth for economy; better health (physically and mentally) for the general public and less strain on our hospitals and long-term care facilities; and so much more. So if you know someone who is vaccine-hesitant, encourage them to get their shots. They would be doing everyone a service! And isn’t that the neighborly thing to do? Besides, who wants to indefinitely wear a mask every time we leave the house? No one does!

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 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. MUST Ministries’ Golf Tourney to be held May 17 MUST Ministries, which is celebrating 50 years of giving this year, will hold its annual golf tournament at the championship par 72 course at Woodmont Golf and Country Club. Set for Monday, May 17 with a 7:30 a.m. registration and 9 a.m. start, the event is now open for registration and sponsors. More info at mustministries.org.

Discovery Park at the Riverline Now Open The new Discovery Park at the Riverline in Mableton opened at the end of March. The 103acre passive park includes more than one mile of river frontage and a variety of well-preserved Civil War-era earthworks. A portion of the property has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and had deed restrictions which allow only its use as a historic park with passive recreation and interpretation.

Pratt Industries, Inc., America’s fifth-largest corrugated packaging company, has announced the opening of its new 409,000-square-foot facility at 7990 White Road in Austell. The new facility, called the Intermodal Logistics Center, is part of a 502,428-square-foot, $32.9-million investment being constructed by Taylor & Mathis.

Informed Delivery Can Help to Prevent Mail Theft

Although more publicized around the holidays, mail theft and porch piracy occurs year-round. One helpful tool to protect yourself is the US Post Office’s Informed Delivery program. Informed Delivery is a free notification feature that lets residential postal customers digitally preview their mail and manage their packages. Learn more and sign up for this at USPS.com.

Wellstar is one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For LGE Announces Endorsement from Dansby Swanson

LGE Community Credit Union announced recently that Atlanta Braves player Dansby Swanson will serve as a spokesperson through a multiyear endorsement. The endorsement comes as the next natural step in Swanson’s relationship with LGE, where he’s been a member since 2012. “Both of my grandfathers actually worked at Lockheed, and then my mom did as well for a few years. It is cool to see that family history come full-circle,” Swanson said.

Pratt Industries Announces Opening of New Austell Facility

In Fortune magazine’s annual list of great places to work, Wellstar has made the grade for the fourth time, ranking No. 90, in good company with only two other Georgia companies included in the ranking: PulteGroup (No. 75) and Alston & Bird (No. 97). Wellstar is among only nine healthcare companies on the list. “In a year of immeasurable challenges, our Wellstar team members and caregivers have remained focused on our mission to enhance the health and well-being of everyone we serve,” said Candice L. Saunders, Wellstar president and CEO. “Earning the 100 Best Companies to Work For award is a testament to their bravery and unwavering commitment to providing people-centric care for millions of Georgians.”

Property Owners Can Qualify for up to $20,000 for Facade Improvement Commercial property owners in Cobb can now use funding made available through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to assist them with making improvements to building frontages. By improving the appearance of building facades, the program serves to improve the economic viability of these areas, increase property values, enhance marketability of space within buildings and draw new businesses. Interested property owners may email econdev@cobbcounty.org for more information.

Join New and Growing Community Garden Keep Cobb Beautiful and Cobb PARKS staff have partnered to develop the new Fair Oaks Community Garden in Marietta. The garden’s mission is to promote food accessibility and neighborly fellowship by providing opportunities to work collaboratively, educating about sustainable gardening practices, and providing the space to grow healthy affordable food. Learn more at facebook.com/ FairOaksCommunityGarden.

Supply Drive Helped Osborne High School Students and Families

The Junior League of Cobb-Marietta (JLCM) recently wrapped up its third School Supply Drive, supporting The Nest at Osborne High School and providing much-needed items for students and families in need. “The Cobb County community really stepped up for this event,” said Erica Guffie, JLCM Gives Chair. “I couldn’t be prouder of our members, neighbors and friends who supported this incredible cause.” 4


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

3/8 – 5/31 Ready Set Graduate!

4/1 – 5/29

A virtual outdoor event from Communities In Schools, encouraging participants to get moving in May. Run, walk, or ride, and as you participate, shout out to your favorite grad on social media with #allinforkids. More info: cismcc.org/WP

Art Blooms

Art Blooms is a two-month exhibit that features select sculptures from Smith-Gilbert Gardens’ outdoor art collection, highlighted by thousands of daffodil blooms planted in unique patterns. More info: smithgilbertgardens.com

5/7 – 10/1 First Friday Concert Series From 6-9 p.m., the community is invited to stroll through the Historic Downtown Kennesaw and enjoy an evening of shopping, dining, and live music. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov/firstfriday-concert-series



Smoke on the Lake BBQ Festival

The North Cobb Rotary Club, City of Acworth, and the Georgia Barbecue Association partner each year to host the Smoke on the Lake BBQ Festival in Acworth. More info: acworth.org


Seafood Festival

The Bringing The Sea To Powder Springs seafood festival will be held at Thurman Springs Park. Free admission. More info: bringingtheseatothesprings.com

5/20 Spring Splash There will be food, drinks, and games at this networking & charity event for MUST Ministries at White Water Park on May 20. Admission is $20. More info: mariettabusiness.org

6/5 The Run for Wounded Heroes 5K

5/8 Swift-Cantrell Classic The Kennesaw Grand Prix series is the premier 5K race series in north Georgia. The six runs are part of the Fit City Kennesaw initiative. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

Sweetwater Mission’s annual Spring Chicken 5K supports the charitable org’s work with the homeless and under-privileged families. Registration is open until May 12. More info: springchickenrun.com

5/17 5/16 Community Plant Exchange Cherokee Golf Make plans to join fellow plant and garden enthusiasts for the first spring plant exchange on May 16 in Smyrna at 30 Geraldine Drive, SE. Bring a pest-free, healthy plant (or a few plants) you are willing to part with and swap it for a new plant.


Woodmont Golf and Country Club will host MUST Ministries’ annual Cherokee golf tournament. Registration is $175 per person. More info: mustministries.org


Open Mic Nights

Join the Kennesaw Art & Culture Commission every third Friday from April to September for Open Mic Nights, showcasing local artists at the Pedestrian Underpass in Downtown Kennesaw. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov




The Kennesaw Grand Prix series is the premier 5K race series in north Georgia. The six runs are part of the Fit City Kennesaw initiative. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

Spring Chicken 5k

The 6th annual NCBA 5K9 is a community-centered race hosted by the Northeast Cobb Business Association. Proceeds go toward purchasing a service dog for Cobb County students and residents. More info: northeastcobbba.com/events

6/13 Great Ambulance Chase The 1st Great Ambulance Chase 5k, presented by Piedmont Injury Law, is Sunday, June 13 in Kennesaw. Proceeds will benefit Healing Our Heroes and SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) Research. More info: piedmontinjurylaw.com.

Cobb Fourth of July Celebrations 7/3

Salute to America Concert & Fireworks City of Kennesaw, Depot Park 6-10 p.m.


4th In The Park City of Marietta, Glover Park 10 a.m.-Dark


4th of July Celebration and Fireworks City of Acworth, Cauble Park Begins at 4 p.m.


SpringsFest on the 4th City of Powder Springs, downtown noon-10 p.m. COBB

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Surfing in Cobb County... We Make It Easy!

Cobb In Focus magazine is now a partner with

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.

Mission Possible

Sweetwater Mission extends its outreach to help more families through the pandemic


or more than 50 years, Austellbased Sweetwater Mission has worked to stabilize families by preventing hunger and homelessness while transforming lives through education and employment opportunities. Since 1968, the organization has been committed to battle the effects of poverty head on, to stabilize families and help move them into a more abundant life. Through its food pantry, clothing donation program, and partnerships with the United Way Kids Home Initiative and other charities, Sweetwater Mission has strived to keep families fed and to assist with other needs so that these less fortunate people can stay in their homes. “Sweetwater Mission has maintained an excellent relationship with Cobb/Douglas/ Paulding residents, as well as businesses, churches, and Cobb County organizations,” says Executive Director Pat Soden. “Through their continued generosity and support over the years, we have been blessed to be able to grow the number of families we help every year.” Sweetwater Mission is comprised of a talented team that is more like family, says Development Director, Debbie Ginocchio, who is responsible for fund-raising and community outreach. Well-known Cobb County leader Dr. Frank Croker has been an active donor and supporter for 18 years and describes himself as “extremely honored and blessed being involved with Sweetwater Mission.” Dr. Croker happily voices his endorsement of the organization’s efforts “in helping those with needs in the community.” Another strong advocate of Sweetwater Mission is First Christian Church of Mableton, a financial supporter of the organization for more than 30 years. “We love how they meet the needs of those who require assistance in our South Cobb Community,” said Executive Minister Barry Smith. Of course, the pandemic placed incredible stress on all non-profits in Georgia; Sweetwater Mission certainly experienced its share. During the past 12 months under Soden’s leadership, the organization has refocused and aggressively increased its

outreach to the families-in-need in Cobb, Douglas, and Paulding Counties with reengineered existing programs and by developing new ways to serve. As a result, during 2020 Sweetwater was able to significantly expand programs of community support to help a record number of families. “The pandemic required us to ‘think outside the box,’ and working with our charitable partners, expanded our food supply, at no cost to Sweetwater, enabling us to create Meals On A Mission, which allows us to partner with Cobb Community Fleet run by Howard Koepke and Shari Martin,” Soden said. “We then partnered with Pastor Smith at First Christian, and Cobb Schools, to feed an additional 400 families per week and 1,000 children’s meals.” Sweetwater Mission has responded to pandemic guidelines in several key areas: “Express Line,” a drive-thru operation was created by converting the former food pantry. This allows families to remain in their cars while receiving much-needed

food, creating a safe zone for everyone. “Meals on a Mission,” a community outreach program that delivers food to families. Approximately 440 families per week are currently being served, and through a partnership with Cobb County Schools, the program also distributes more than 1,000 kids’ meals each week. Cobb ERA (Emergency Rental Assistance Program). Sweetwater Mission is one of five designated non-profit organizations in Cobb County to process applications for this federally-funded emergency rental assistance program. Education Center. This facility will become operational later this year to provide low-income residents of Cobb, Douglas, and Paulding Counties innovative ways to stabilize families by providing educational and employment opportunities. The facility will include a fully-equipped teaching kitchen capable of seating 40 people, a hospital room with educators from Wellstar teaching people to become Certified Nurse Assistants, classrooms for teaching financial literacy, nutrition, childhood testing, and a variety of other community uses. “We were overjoyed when we partnered in serving together during the pandemic of 2020 to provide food and spiritual assistance to several hundred families on a weekly basis, and we look forward to continuing working with Pat Soden and her dedicated team,” Smith says. To learn more about the organization and the way in which you can provide support, visit sweetwatermission.org. n

2019/2020 Financial Results •  SWM Equity position increased in 2020 by $431,248 (+ 38%) •  SWM’s cash position improved in 2020 by $145,084 (+105%) •  2019 net loss ($150,825) to 2020 net gain of $172,426 (+214%) • Adopted for the first time in the org’s history a coordinated accounting for administering In-Kind-Donations, which totaled $1,163,655 for 2020 2019/2020 Operating Results •  Households served increased from 23,114 to 26,404 (+ 15%) •  Family members served increased from 93,987 to 128,407 (+ 37%) • Total pounds of food distributed increased from 966,735 to 2,349,272 (+ 243%) COBB

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Ricketts Rhodes Events Perseveres Powder Springs event planner pushes through 2020 and sets sights on 2021 SpringsFest By Cory Sekine-Pettite


f there were a “word of the year” for business owners whose livelihoods outlasted 2020, it would be pivot. Think: moving to an online-only sales model; completing deals/contracts with PDFs instead of handshakes; or keeping your store open but limiting customers to appointment-only visits. Virtually every industry — every employer — had to alter their business models to continue operating or to reach new clientele. Of course, if your business depends on the willingness of people to gather in large numbers — restaurants and movie theaters, for example — then the past year also may have been as much about praying for your business to survive as it was about pivoting. Now imagine you’re an event planner. This was the tough reality facing Petergaye Rhodes, owner of Ricketts Rhodes Events in Powder Springs, whose company was just one year old when the pandemic forced a nationwide halt to all public gatherings. Just as her company was on the rise, having successfully organized the first-ever Powder Springs New Year’s Eve Gala and recreating that city’s annual SpringsFest into an Independence Day celebration (more on this event below), COVID-19 stopped Rhodes in her tracks. “As you can imagine, 2020 was a wash,” Rhodes said. So she thought, “we’ll pivot just like everyone else.” Rhodes told herself to just roll with the punches because this is life; it is unpredictable. She began hosting online events, such as virtual mixers for business professionals, all the while holding out hope that at least one of her in-person events still would happen last year. But one by one, she had to cancel everything, from SpringsFest in the summer to a fall singles retreat to the 2021 New



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Year’s Eve Gala. “So [COVID-19] significantly impacted my business,” Rhodes said. “But I’m thankful that we made it through, and that we still have the opportunity to get back to in-person events. The virtual events were cool, but nothing beats touching and feeling and chatting and laughing and being in person and connecting.” Personal connections are crucial to a business like Ricketts Rhodes Events — from finding clients to making sure event attendees are happy and entertained. In fact, it was her connections at city hall as a business owner and community organizer that thrust Rhodes into event management. She used to own a consignment shop in Powder Springs, and it was during this time that, in 2015, she and three other female business owners formed the Powder Springs Business Group (PSBG) to fill a need for an

organization that could share employers’ concerns and ideas directly with the city. The group quickly gained local prominence and today includes nine board members and more than 70 members. In 2017, the City of Powder Springs asked PSBG to take over managing its annual Business Expo event. PSBG decided to relocate the event to the town square, include residents, have kids activities and entertainment, and make it a fun day for the community. Thus, the Powder Springs Festival, now SpringsFest, was born. In 2017 and 2018, SpringsFest was held in the springtime. In 2019, Henry Lust (PSBG board member and Powder Springs City Council member) asked if PSBG would consider managing the city’s July 4 celebration, citing budget concerns. The PSBG board agreed and SpringsFest COBB

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Business was moved to July 4. “Since I successfully led the organization of the two previous SpringsFest events, and organized the PSBG monthly mixers and other events, I was asked to manage the July 4 event as well,” Rhodes said. Additionally, a PSBG board member suggested she start a business to manage events, and that’s when Ricketts Rhodes Events was created.

SpringsFest is back for 2021! For the 2021 SpringsFest, Rhodes said this is the first event that her company felt comfortable to execute safely since the pandemic began. The City of Powder Springs agreed. From the city’s perspective, Lust said it was extremely important to bring back. He said residents need events that are community oriented. “I know that our citizens are anxious to have an event they can enjoy,” he said. This festival celebrates our nation’s independence and welcomes residents from Powder Springs, Austell, Hiram, and other surrounding cities to Thurman Springs Park in Powder Springs. You may recall that this park and special event space opened just last year, but the city could not hold the planned opening celebration. However, folks now can safely gather in this gem of a public space in downtown Power Springs. The $3.7-million redevelopment is part of a larger plan to bring new business to the downtown area. The green space should attract new development and new shops, the city says. “As a child growing up in the Powder Springs community, I would have loved to have had a park like this to go to with my

Thurman Springs Park 10


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family and friends. It will be a popular place to relax and enjoy the downtown district for many years to come,” Powder Springs Parks Director Jeff Crowder told Cobb In Focus last year. So if you’ve yet to experience the park,

This festival celebrates our nation’s independence and welcomes residents from Powder Springs, Austell, Hiram, and other surrounding cities to Thurman Springs Park in Powder Springs.

SpringsFest would be the perfect opportunity. Starting at noon on the 4th, families can enjoy live music, games, face painting, crafts from local artisans, food trucks, a new beer and wine garden, and much more. Plus, admission is free. Of course, there will be fireworks, so get there early and enjoy the food and entertainment before staking out a prime spot to view the overhead show. And importantly, everyone can feel safe being there. “I think people have been a little bit nervous about, you know, the state of affairs of things. They’ve been reassured, however, to some extent by the fact that we now have the vaccine,” Rhodes said. “So as an organization, we put measures in place to ensure the safety of the public; we’re adding extra hand sanitizer machines and we will be spacing vendors more than we’ve done in the past. “We worked closely with the Powder Springs Police Department, with Public Safety, to ensure the community’s safety,” she continued. “But I think the difference this year is that we’ve taken on the personal efforts of ensuring that we’re thinking from every perspective how safe this can be, because we also have our families coming there, too.” Rhodes said that her company and the city went into planning for SpringsFest wanting the audience to walk away feeling like this festival is the best annual event in Powder Springs. “Our focus has always been about the experience while they’re there — the kids having fun, the parents being able to relax, having live entertainment that engages everyone, and just thinking about how we can engage the community.”

Event: City of Powder Springs July 4 celebration – SpringsFest! Date: Sunday, July 4, 2021 Time: noon - 10 p.m. Location: Thurman Springs Park – Home of the Hardy Family Amphitheater, 4485 Pineview Drive, Powder Springs

Petergaye Rhodes

People are feeling more comfortable and it’s possible to have this event and to have a safe event, she said, after attending another recent outdoor festival here in Cobb County. “People have been anxious, waiting, just to get out and feel even a semblance of what we knew was normal, you know, just to feel that again and to connect — reconnect — with their neighbors.” This is an important event for businesses as well, Rhodes added. “The economy has suffered. …So it was important to us to host this event, to bring all the small businesses and the large businesses so that we can really recharge the economy and get things going and get businesses going again,” she said. Speaking of vendors, events like SpringsFest can be crucial for supporting small businesses, Rhodes said, because for a small fee, a business can come to the event and they’re able to promote their products to a large audience. The vendor fees range from $100 to $400, depending on the business type and the location they choose. To get more information and to submit a vendor application, visit springsfest4th.com/vendor-application. Local businesses also are encouraged to reach out to Rhodes about sponsorship opportunities. As a sponsor, your brand will be advertised via social media, online, in print, and on radio (depending on the package). Your branding will get in front of local residents in Powder Springs, Austell, Hiram, Mableton, Smyrna, and other communities. For Diamond Level Sponsors and above, there’s a VIP Garden that

includes passes to an exclusive area at the front of the Hardy Family Amphitheater stage, with complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres. A unique benefit of all packages is the ongoing advertising, even after the event date. Visit rickettsrhodes.com, or call 404.954.2576, for more information. Part of the proceeds from the event benefit Powder Springs Youth Foundation. Raffle proceeds benefit Kiwanis Club of Greater South Cobb and Powder Springs Community Task Force. Rhodes would like to thank the following

sponsors, as well as the City of Powder Springs and the PSBG: Greystone Power; Croy Engineering; Norfolk Southern; Zaxby’s; Paran Homes; United Community Bank; Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers – Attorneys; and Farmers Insurance - Spencer Hardy Agency. Obviously, there’s a great deal more to celebrate this summer than just our nation’s independence. So consider attending what is sure to be a great time in Powder Springs this July 4th. Learn more about SpringsFest at springsfest4th.com. n


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A High Quality of Life, Despite Having Low Vision VRS connects individuals across northwest Georgia with vision impairment resources and tools

By Lindsay Field Penticuff


magine losing your sight and thinking you’ll never be able to read again, use your computer again, or drive again. It may sound unlikely, but individuals who are visually impaired — and for whom there’s no way of ever regaining their sight — face these challenges every single day. This is where Katherine “Kay” Eller and her team at Vision Rehabilitation Services (VRS) of Georgia Inc., come in with a helping hand and some incredible resources



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and tools for individuals who are visually impaired. VRS was founded 38 years ago in Smyrna by the late Sarah Frances Sentell Scott. While in her 40s, she began to lose her sight and had trouble finding accessible options for assistance, as the closest help was in downtown Atlanta. With support from friends and her church family, Scott established Cobb Services for the Blind, which is now known as VRS

and serves between 350 and 500 people annually from 34 counties across north/ northwest Georgia. “We train and assist individuals living with low vision or blindness so that they can function independently in all environments, from work, school, to home and in our community,” says Eller, who serves as executive director of VRS and was first introduced to the organization in 2006, when she helped raise money

pigmentosis, both degenerative eye diseases with vision loss occurring over time. “Another is diabetic retinopathy, which is when uncontrolled diabetes can impact someone’s vision,” says Eller. Because of this eye condition, VRS is planning to restart its Diabetes Education Program. This is a six-week curriculum in which they teach individuals how to eat correctly, to exercise, and how to manage their diabetes with low vision. Eller says their goal is to open the program up to anyone with diabetes in an effort to prevent diabetic retinopathy.

Maintaining your eye health

•  Orientation and mobility (O&M) •  Low Vision Evaluations • Personal adjustment to vision loss counseling (PAC) •  Support groups •  Job readiness training •  School support in 11 districts across Atlanta •  Services through Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) as a vendor •  Services through Project Independence, a vision program for those age 55 and older administered through GVRA

for the non-profit. “In order to receive our services, you have to have a condition that can’t be corrected with surgery or medication.” With support from VRS, individuals are learning how to do things differently, using what little vision they have left or without any sight. They offer: •  Vision rehabilitation therapy (VRT) •  Technology access training (TAT)

Through each of these programs, VRS is able to support individuals living with vision impairments in ways that these folks may not get help otherwise. The VRS team understands how frustrating it can be for someone to lose their sight, and they are on hand to offer an abundance of services to support a person’s greatest needs. Current clients range in age from 3 to 104, and some of the more common visual impairments among the clients are macular degeneration and retinitis

With May being Healthy Vision Month and June being Child Vision Awareness Month, there’s no better time than now to learn how to maintain your eye health. “One of the biggest things is eating healthy and managing your diabetes, because diabetic retinopathy is actually the number one disease causing blindness,” shares Eller. “Also, always wear sunglasses, and the earlier you start your children wearing sunglasses, the better. People don’t think about covering a baby’s eyes, but it’s important to block out the rays of the sun so that they don’t burn out retinas.” Eller also recommends following the 20/20/20 Rule. “Your eye is a muscle, and it’s a muscle that needs exercise and to relax, just like any other muscle,” she says, “so it’s highly suggested — because of the way we are constantly reading smartphones, tablets, and computers and the impact of blue light — that every 20 minutes, we look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.” It’s also important to make sure children are screened annually. Many pediatricians will perform an eye exam during your child’s annual checkups. Due to COVID-19, in-school screening won’t take place in the Cobb County School District during 2021-22, so parents are COBB

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Health encouraged to contact their local Lions Club for a vision screening event. If you can’t afford the eye exam and glasses, the club can help with costs in many cases. And if you’re already experiencing vision concerns, VRS offers low-vision exams at their Smyrna location twice a month, and they often travel, packing up the clinic and hitting locations across the area about once a quarter. One of their contracted doctors, who are specially trained in low vision, will evaluate clients to outline a proper training program. “There’s no dilating of the eyes or ‘poking around’ the eyes during low vision exams. They will identify proper devices, such as magnifiers, bioptic spectacles, glare-control glasses, suggest lighting, assistive technology, and other services to support our clients,” Eller says.

“Your eye is a muscle, and it’s a muscle that needs exercise and to relax, just like any other muscle.” — Kay Eller, Executive Director, VRS

they offer the visually impaired.” Her grandmother used a lighted device that she could attach to her books to help magnify the copy so that she could read. It made reading her Bible and mail much easier again. Because of the assistance Sunday’s grandmother received, she has continued to support VRS for nearly 30

It’s all about the people Since being established almost 40 years ago, VRS has meant so much to the individuals and families supported by the organization. For Lisa Sunday, VRS was the answer her family was searching for after her grandmother was diagnosed with macular degeneration. “Mrs. Scott used to come into the bank [where I work], and one day I told her about my grandmother having a hard time reading and asked if she had anything that could help her,” recalls Sunday, senior VP at CenterState Bank/ SouthState Bank in Smyrna. “That’s when we learned about some of the incredible tools

years now. “The thought of coping without your sight is just unimaginable to me,” Sunday adds. “I can’t fathom not having my sight. I think it’s so important for anyone who has a history or any eye issues to take care of your sight and take care of their vision as best as you can.” Jessica Wilson, a patient at VRS who was born with albinism and has been visually impaired for as long as she can remember, is incredibly grateful for the support she’s received through the years. “One of my goals was being able to drive,” she shares. “I wanted to carve out my own path in life and live as independently as possible.” Wilson received the educational assistance she needed through school programs and community resources for the visually impaired in metro Atlanta, but she was connected with VRS in 2008 and underwent a low-vision exam with one of their doctors. VRS developed a customized plan for Wilson with Joe Dora practical tools for independent living. They also fitted her for

VRS Fundraisers If someone loses their vision, they typically only receive minimal healthcare coverage to help pay for impairment support. This is why the annual fundraisers hosted by VRS are so important. 13th Annual Spooktacular Chase Event includes 5K, 10K, and Kids Creepy Crawl. When: Saturday, Oct. 23 Where: Thurman Springs Park, Powder Springs Register: https://tinyurl.com/2021spooktacularchase



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Inaugural Golf Tournament Visually impaired golfers from Georgia Blind Sports are partnering with VRS for the event. When: Monday, Sept. 27 Where: Pinetree Country Club, Kennesaw Register: https://birdease.com/vrsga

Is my child having vision problems? If you are concerned about your child’s vision, pay attention to whether he/she is: •  Moving closer to the TV. • Holding an iPad, cell phone, or devices close to their face. •  Leaning over schoolwork at the table or desk. • Leaving a mess after being asked to clean up (more than just being lazy, as it’s apparent they can’t see what was missed). • Rubbing their eyes a lot, especially pay attention to small children who can’t tell you what’s wrong. • Developing at the suggested rate for his age, according to research and developmental schedule from a pediatrician.

bioptic lenses, which are miniature telescopes mounted to the top of her eyeglasses. As a result, she was able to get her driver’s license, giving her more freedom than ever before. “VRS opened my eyes to what’s possible and have supported me all

along the way,” says Wilson. Joe Dora shares the same sentiment. The 95-year-old World War II veteran leaned on VRS after he was diagnosed with macular degeneration and relocated from Massachusetts to Georgia to be closer to family.

“Joe was referred to us through the VA,” Eller says, “and it was clear to us from the onset that he was eager to use all the technology we had to offer to help him adjust to vision loss.” Following his low-vision evaluation, Dora learned viewing techniques that he could immediately use to help him use the vision he had. Then, he met with VRS technology instructors who showed him how to stay connected with the world with his iPhone and iPad. And the purchase of a hand-held magnifier quickly enhanced his ability to read. But Dora didn’t stop there. He has installed and learned how to use mobile apps to help him with day-to-day living, such as finding online articles and tuning into his favorite radio stations broadcasting from Massachusetts. “You have to stay interested and engaged with life,” Dora adds. “You’ll find that there are tools and resources that will keep you active and involved. And VRS will help you find them.” n


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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 her job, delve into her personal life, and gain some words of wisdom. And of course, we asked: Why have you picked Cobb County?

Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb THE STORY: I grew up in a small town outside Austin, Texas. I graduated from St. Edwards University in 2007 and continued my education at Florida Coastal School of Law where I received my Juris Doctor as well as a certificate specializing in Family Law. After completing law school, I moved to Georgia, where I have been practicing since 2011. I come from a large family; I have five brothers! When I was in fifth grade, my parents divorced, and it was messy to say the least. I have had a passion for helping people as long as I can remember, and my goal is to assist clients in seeing past their current situation and to help them look to the future with a positive attitude. I’m honored to have been nominated as a Georgia Super Lawyer and Georgia Trend Legal Elite in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. I have focused on family law matters since 2011 and recently began mediating cases. I’m a firm believer that if people can work through the issues in dispute, their family will be much better off in the long run. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: I moved here with my husband, Nik, in 2010, and we immediately were drawn to how friendly and lively the area is. Cobb is full of fantastic schools and great businesses, all part of what makes this area such a fantastic place to raise a family and really put down roots. Being able to open a business here is part of that; contributing and taking action in what makes Cobb County great. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love that I work with an awesome team and we get to make a difference in people’s lives. We walk with our clients through the most difficult time of their lives, so they become like family. I always get to know them on a personal level and it has always been my mission to make sure they are cared for. I want clients to come out on the other side of their family law issue with a better quality of life, so I make sure I do everything in my power to ensure that happens. LEISURE TIME: I love being an active member of my community, so participating in events with my husband and two kids is something I really enjoy doing. Both of my kids are involved in sports, so going to their games is part of my routine. I also enjoy volunteering at my church, exercising,

Jenni Brown, Esq.

Founding Partner, Brown & Dutton Law Firm

and spending time outdoors at our home in Kennesaw! I’m also a member of the North Cobb Rotary, Kennesaw Business Association, Acworth Business Association, and YMCA Board of Directors. BEST ADVICE: Do everything you can to get involved with your community! Where you live is such a huge part of who you are, whether you realize it in this moment or not. Getting to know the people around you, serving, and improving your surroundings not only helps the people around you, but yourself and future generations as well. WHAT’S NEXT? Continuing to contribute to my community in a positive way and scaling our business. I want to keep developing my team personally and professionally, and making sure that we’re doing right by clients.

1395 S. Marietta Parkway, Building 700, St. 706, Marietta, GA 30067 • 770.422.4241 • gafamilylawyers.com COBB

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Photo by Julia Fenner, www.LeggyBird.com

A ‘Partnership’ for Good



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Amanda Lucey’s strategy for success comes down to staying hungry, being humble, and always hustling.

By Jennifer Morrell


manda Lucey is no stranger to hard work and dedication, or seeing those efforts pay off. As CEO of The Partnership Atlanta, Lucey has overseen the busy, bustling, full-service marketing and publisc relations agency — with clients ranging from the smallest startups and small businesses to Coca-Cola and MARTA — since 2018. But her start came in 2012 at her own kitchen table, when she created M3 Effect, which doubled its growth consistently for five years.


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Progress through passion

Photo by LaRuche Creative

Lucey grew from a consultancy to hiring eight employees, with no funding or financing — just grit, she says. “After merging two teams and two offices, I built out an office overlooking the Braves stadium at The Battery,” she says. “I believe in staying hungry, hustling, and being humble — the three H’s. While I’m proud of the 42-year legacy I’ve acquired, the kitchen table reminds me that the three H’s are vital to success.”

“At The Partnership, we believe the work we create should make a positive impact on the world we live in. A focus on health and wellness, sustainability, active lifestyle, real estate, and economic development helps us do just that.” 20


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What sort of person stands out in the world of communications, particularly in the digital landscape? Lucey is known as a communications professional who inspires others, whether she’s working in crisis management, facilitating focus groups or workshops, serving as a subject matter expert, or coaching C-level executives in media relations. She brings with her remarkable skillset an energy, enthusiasm, and excellence for storytelling that is contagious. Lucey drives The Partnership by adhering to three pillars of connectivity: agency, partner, and community. She realizes the importance of synergies in brand communication and storytelling in order to create meaningful belonging that transcends issues, crisis, and sales. Lucey says her foundation is built on the concept of purpose: Every life has a purpose, and to fulfill your calling is to lean in to your natural skills and soar. She finds purpose in her partners’ work, and excels in identifying meaning in all of her marketing and communications work, whether it’s healthcare or agriculture. As Atlanta’s oldest privately held agency, The Partnership and has been recognized for excellence by numerous organizations, including the American Advertising Federation’s Addys Awards, the Clio Awards, Communication Arts, EFFIE Worldwide (effectiveness in marketing awards), and U.S. Film Festival. Currently, the company employs 20 fulltime, part-time, and contracted staff. Its motto (and trademarked tagline) is simple: Partnership over Presentation. Lucey values partnerships and community, believing whole-heartedly in problemsolving and being a solid resource for her partners. What fuels her passion is living her work every day, from life as a mom to keynote speaking. Lucey subscribes to a concept known as The Art of Belonging ®. The modern desire to belong that has evolved in today’s digitally connected world which has led to companies’ needs for a true sense of brand belonging. With extensive marketing experience, including consulting roles with

What matters Lucey and The Partnership have focused efforts on several areas that, together, build meaningful communication. Branding and creating a strong brand identity are key to creating a belonging. The agency also offers web design and development, a creative team to help craft messaging, and digital services to include support, strategy, and planning. Other services from The Partnership are paid media placement that incorporates research and appropriate messaging, and modern-day public relations with analyzation for impact. The Partnership typically has between 20 and 25 partners of all sizes on its roster at any given time throughout the year. “At The Partnership, we believe the work we create should make a positive impact on the world we live in,” Lucey says. “A focus on health and wellness, sustainability, active lifestyle, real estate, and economic development helps us do just that.”

Photo by LaRuche Creative

the Georgia Department of Labor and DeKalb Economic Development Authority, Lucey has worked on several political campaigns and served as the marketing chair for various non-profit organizations. Her background includes service as the director of communications and public relations for the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, and executive roles with both the United States and United Kingdom governments. All of this experience (and more) has allowed Lucey to soar at the helm of The Partnership.

Lucey applauds an ability to face adversity and continue to innovate, work hard and not give up, which was the only way to go for most businesses. “I’ve seen business owners work harder than they ever have — with a smile on their face — and

Pivotal point Nothing has tested the strength and adaptability of America’s businesses as much as the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. Some companies didn’t survive, but many did, including The Partnership. “The pandemic has certainly tested our ability to communicate,” Lucey says. “It has brought innovation. It has brought communities closer together. We’ve seen businesses pivot like never before. Small businesses are the backbone of our nation, and their ability to pause, pivot, and plan is remarkable.”


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“I was so proud of my team for pulling together, problem-solving, and executing — remotely, I might add — while our office was closed and during a stressful time for so many. It was an example of true partnership and our values.”

Photo by LaRuche Creative

working together to be stronger on the other side. This has taught me that challenges will come, but we will always conquer them because of our perspective and positivity. Keep pushing, and eventually you’ll get to your destination.” Lucey believes that a crisis situation presents the opportunity to listen, ask questions, and act immediately. Pause, pivot, and plan. She also took the time to find out how the pandemic was impacting her partners’ businesses and made recommendations as a strategic partner developing crisis communications. “We changed our statements of work with



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many of our partners, and we paused on advertising efforts, trade show marketing, and digital marketing efforts in many cases,” she said. “We developed new plans and quickly developed messaging for our partners.” A perfect example of this was the Department of Agriculture “Milk on My Mind” initiative. The Partnership heard from the dairy farmers of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Agriculture that milk dumping was becoming a big challenge and public relations problem. “We quickly worked with partners like Dairy Farmers of America and Kroger to get milk donated instead of dumped,” she says. “We went to Augusta, Savannah, Atlanta, and Macon to donate over 24,000 half-gallons of milk to first responders and frontline healthcare workers. That entire campaign was pulled together in a few short weeks, and implemented and executed during a pandemic. “I was so proud of my team for pulling together, problem-solving, and executing — remotely, I might add — while our office was closed and during a stressful time for so many,” Lucey continued. “It was an example of true partnership and our values.” Within the business world, the main theme that resulted from the onset of the pandemic was to pivot. As The Partnership adapted in the face of the pandemic, Lucey encouraged her team to consider the power of pause. “We should pause before we pivot, pause before we respond, and pause before we act,” she says. “Whether it’s conference calls, phone calls, or Zoom, I stressed the importance of giving our colleagues a chance to communicate. Pause, and then respond. The goal was to make sure we were listening to each other. With so many distractions and the disadvantage of not being physically together, it’s even more important we feel heard.” As a team, The Partnership learned the significance of staying patient and being proactive during such a challenging time. As a result, Lucey said she and her staff grew as an agency.

Photo by LaRuche Creative

Educating the public The Partnership educated all of its partners on the stages of COVID-19. In the case with the dairy industry, Lucey and her team created information graphics and educational videos to help consumers understand the supply chain challenges and why milk was being dumped. An overall education about reacting to the pandemic was at hand as well. “We worked in healthcare to explain why physical distancing and wearing a mask was so critical,” she said. “We developed campaigns about wearing a mask. We worked with small businesses to help navigate the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and how to solve the changing landscape of digital. It’s been an honor to work with so many leaders to help them navigate these challenging times, and to help them evolve their brand at the same time.” The methods, frequency, and message of communications had to be adjusted for many businesses, and The Partnership helped companies to do that successfully. Lucey’s goal was to lead with empathy at all times, and to help businesses understand that messaging planned in 2019 for the year 2020 might have no longer been appropriate. As of late, The Partnership has developed communications with their healthcare partners around the COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s an important message to share that getting vaccinated not only protects yourself, but your community as well,” says Lucey.

“Whether it’s conference calls, phone calls, or Zoom, I stressed the importance of giving our colleagues a chance to communicate. Pause, and then respond.”

Meanwhile, The Partnership is in growth mode, and Lucey wants to continue that growth. “The future is about evolving and adapting,” she says. “The world is getting smaller, and we will see increased challenges from a business perspective. It is important to evolve and adapt as we grow in the Atlanta market.” n

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Libraries Are A ‘Gateway For A High Quality Of Life’ The history of the Cobb County Public Library System and how it continues to thrive By Lindsay Field Penticuff


elieve it or not, libraries in Cobb County date back to the late 1800s. The earliest record is 1865 of the Young Man’s Debating and Library Association organized in Marietta, which became the Young Men’s Literary Association in 1874, says Helen Poyer, director of the Cobb County Public Library System. Other partnerships and organizations were formed through 1957, when the Cobb County-Marietta Public



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Library Board organized, assuming responsibility for the library program in Cobb and incorporating the library established by the Board of Education. “The first meeting of Cobb County Library Board was held Thursday, July 25, 1957, at the Trio Restaurant in Marietta,” shares Poyer. Renamed the Cobb County Public Library System in 1969, there are now 15 locations throughout the county, and Poyer’s team

welcomes more than 1.8 million visitors a year, with in-person program attendance at about 175,000 annually. “Cobb library staff and supporters are delivering programs and resources where people are,” Poyer adds. “Cobb libraries are destinations and spaces we share with neighbors.” This includes outdoor amphitheaters at the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center in Marietta and the North Cobb Regional Library in Kennesaw; the plaza at the

North Cobb Regional Library

Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center

Charles D. Switzer Library in Marietta; and even parking lots and other library spaces are the stages for community fairs, arts programs, and much more. “Cobb librarians and library workers strive for growing community connections at the libraries and beyond,” says Poyer.

The proof is in the programming Cobb libraries offer an abundance of programs for the community. For example, there are story times for babies, toddlers, tweens, teens and adults in which patrons can discuss books and visit with authors — virtually and in person. “Cobb library’s Summer Reading Program (SRP) is always a highlight of the year for all ages, too,” Poyer says. “In fact, we hosted hundreds of

in-person SRP events each of the past years before the COVID-19 pandemic.” For 2021, library staff is continuing to develop the SRP under the national theme of “Tales and Tales,” in which they will focus on animals and stories. Innovative programming also includes Storywalks for all ages. This features signs along paths at the libraries and across the community to help promote reading, health and wellness, and community engagement. “We also have workforce development programs like Girls Who Code, and other programs designed to expand the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce pipeline across Cobb, especially for our underrepresented groups,” says Poyer. And seniors in Cobb also are benefiting from programs. Poyer says they offer the Senior Wellness Series of East Cobb Library, which includes virtual and in-person classes that focus on movement, dancing, and more. One of the more unique programs offered through the Cobb system is the Library PASS Program. It provides

library accounts for Cobb County and Marietta City students, and opens yearround access to the robust digital resources offered by the library on education, business, science, history, and a range of other topics. “The Cobb Library Bookmobile also brings library programs and books to communities with limited access to libraries throughout Cobb,” says Poyer.

Reaching library patrons during a pandemic Like businesses, school systems, faith communities and others across the United States, Cobb’s library locations closed to the public last March amid the COVID19 pandemic and state and local shelterin-place orders. “However, Cobb library operations never fully closed, with digital services remaining operational throughout the pandemic to give library patrons access to online resources and online reference questions services,” says Poyer. In the weeks ahead of the March 2020 closures, library officials worked with county colleagues in developing plans for health and safety protocols. This allowed them to put in place curbside services for grab-and-go and pick-up services for library customers to check out books and other items at Cobb libraries, even as the library facilities were closed to the public. “Following a series of phases of library operations, the library staff is carefully implementing library hours COBB

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Education and operations to move closer to the regular, normal, pre-pandemic status,” adds Poyer. At the time of print, Cobb libraries are back open on Monday through Saturday at nine library locations, with plans from library administrators to open the remaining locations in the coming weeks. Switzer Library, which is undergoing major renovations, is currently scheduled to reopen mid-summer. Construction, which began in 2019 and is funded by a Georgia Public Library Capital Outlay Grant and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), includes a complete reconfiguration of the interior space, an outdoor plaza, and new roof. It will create adult and teen makerspaces, a dedicated teen space, and a larger Georgia Room for genealogy and local history.

Supporting Cobb libraries Established in 2003 by civic-minded citizens aspiring to grow the Cobb Public Library System and led by the Cobb Library Foundation Board, the Cobb County Public Library Foundation Inc. is focused on fundraising, volunteering, and active participating to promote education, literacy, growth and activity, and help improve the quality of life throughout Cobb. “The Foundation ‘fills in the gaps’ where funds are not available,” says Sandra Morris, executive assistant to the Cobb Library Foundation. “In addition to providing funds for programs like Girls Who Code, Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS), PrimeTime and the Summer Reading Program, the Foundation has helped fund special areas like the patio and creative studio at the North Cobb Regional Library, provided materials and funded the lift and wrap for the bookmobile.”

Make a connection Website: cobbcounty.org/library Phone: 770.528.2320 Email: contactus@cobbcat.org Hours of operation vary at each library location.



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Cobb Library Foundation Board of Directors

The board is made up of 11 community leaders who share their time, talent, and treasure to ensure that Cobb libraries have the financial resources to provide the very best materials and services.

Dr. Gilles LaMarche, President, Life University Chuck Papandrea, Vice President and Treasurer, Price Waterhouse Cooper Becca Duval McIntyre, Secretary, LGE Community Credit Union Abby Shiffman, President, Cobb Library Board of Trustees Jim Ney, Board Member, Holt Ney Zatcoff & Wasserman, LLP Carol Ney, Board Member, Volunteer Stephen Hughes, Board Member Joe Murphy, Attorney, Miles Mediation Connie Taylor, Cobb County Superior Court Clerk Mark Justice, Director of Education & Community Relations, Cobb EMC Nona Lacy, Board Member, Volunteer

One of the largest fundraisers for the Foundation is an annual gala, in addition to hosting Booked for Lunch and Booked for the Evening events. The next gala is scheduled for 2022. Through naming rights and donations from other organizations, the Foundation also has provided the library system with funds to renovate and furnish the Vinings Children’s Area. “Our libraries need the support of our community,” Morris says. “COVID-19 tested us in unimaginable ways, and the outcome is clear: Our libraries are essential. Our libraries have provided hotspots, electronic materials, online classes and story times, and a variety of other resources in this time of need.” However, it goes without saying that the system’s needs go beyond that of online resources. “Our physical libraries allow people access to classes, computers, teen centers, green screens, recording studios, creative spaces, and conference/community rooms for business and other meetings,” Morris adds. “They also allow people of every age to congregate and socialize. Our libraries continue to evolve with the needs of our community. Libraries today are safe, resource-rich community centers with limitless opportunities.” Poyer couldn’t agree more. “The library is a gateway for a high quality of life by providing resources … promoting connections and well-being throughout the county,” she concludes. n

2021 GOAL Awards Virtual Presentation The Governor’s Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL Award) was presented on April 15 and recognizes outstanding technical college students across Georgia, equipping them to be advocates for technical education throughout the state. Every April the Cobb Chamber honors Chattahoochee Technical College’s finalists and winner, who then go on to represent the college at the State GOAL Competition. This year, the event was held virtually. Congratulations to the 2021 GOAL winner, Dustin Ferguson, a student in the Chattahoochee Tech Associate of Science in Nursing program.

Get social with Book’n It Building Conversation and Community Through the Love of Books


fter spending 20-plus years working in real estate, Kim Burgett wanted to pursue a career and take advantage of an opportunity that allowed her to follow her true passions. With a degree in English, she took a stab at teaching for a few years, then set her sights on becoming a media specialist — known to many of us as a school librarian. Burgett earned her master’s in media and instructional technology at the University of West Georgia, then took a job as a paraprofessional in a Cobb County school library. “After almost four years, I let my school know that I would not be returning the following year,” Burgett says. “Within a week or two of that decision, I had an epiphany in the middle of the night: Food trucks are all the rage, why not a book truck?” Burgett thought it might be a great idea to have a low-cost mobile bookstore with a flexible schedule versus a physical building

where she sells books. Calling her mobile bookstore “Book’n It,” Burgett participated in food truck nights and was welcomed regularly to the Marietta Artisan Market on Saturdays. “The rest is history!” she shares joyfully. “Since then, I’ve popped up at breweries, coffee shops, and festivals. I even upgraded from tables and a tent in my first year to a mobile trailer that is not only functional but eye-catching.” As a result, she often has repeat customers and a strong client base that looks for her on the weekends. “We offer a small selection of current, new books — think New York Times bestsellers — and a rolling cart of fairly current and popular used books,” says Burgett. And sales have gone well, drawing in well over 1,000 customers in the first two years of business. She even found success during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The community

has been great,” Burgett adds. “With the ‘shop local’ movement, I now have many customers who contact me directly to place orders. And I find that when I approach a business to ‘pop up,’ the response from the proprietor is usually that they love books, and they’d love to have me.” n

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Did You Know? Local businesses offer many scholarships for Cobb students


ocal businesses award thousands of dollars in scholarships every year to Cobb County students. Presented here is a condensed list of what’s available from local companies and business associations. While some of these awards already have been distributed this year, take note for your students who are graduating next year. Also, be sure to consult with your school counselors for additional scholarship opportunities. Cobb EMC – Cobb EMC will award $85,500 in scholarships this year. It is the largest amount of money the electric co-op has ever awarded in a single year. The scholarships break down as follows: A total of $14,500 is being awarded to six students in amounts ranging from $500 to $4,000 for the George Ford Scholarship. A single student has earned the $1,000 Walter Harrison Scholarship. And 14 deserving students each will receive $5,000 from the Cobb EMC Community Foundation Scholarship program. Visit cobbemc.com for more info. This year’s Cobb EMC scholars are as follows: George Ford Scholarship: •  Pierce Rossman - $4,000 •  David Latting - $3,500 •  Ishaan Chaubey - $3,000 •  Danielle Gonsoulin - $3,000 •  Harrison Fish - $500 •  Chris Porch - $500 Walter Harrison Scholarship: •  Noah Fornuto - $1,000 Credit Union of Georgia – This company offers many scholarships each year through partnerships with other

Credit Union of Georgia



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organizations such as the West Cobb Business Association (WCBA) and the Marietta Schools Foundation (MSF). For instance, CUofGA awarded $500 in April to a deserving student at the WCBA Annual Scholarship Luncheon. Its partnership with MFS awards $1,000 to a chosen student each year in an essay contest (reflecting “How #DoYouCU making a difference?”). The company also recently donated over $1,100 as a Featured Supporter of Kell High School this year. And a perk to being a member of CUofGA is having access to its Scholarship Search Tool Powered by SallieMae. Learn more at cuofga.org. East Cobb Lions Club – The East Cobb Lions Club gives six, $1,000 scholarships to deserving high school students each year. The students must be graduating from Lassiter, Pope, Walton, Sprayberry, Wheeler, or Kell high schools, and they must be planning to attend a Georgia college or technical school. The students are heavily “graded” on their community involvement and service to others. Additional credit is given for curriculum, honors, awards, and GPA. This year’s recipients will be announced in May. Learn more at eastcobblions.club. Kennesaw Business Association – Each year, the KBA and its members award multiple scholarships to local high school students, with honors for academics, sports, community service, and more. At a mid-April luncheon this year, KBA members and guests celebrated the following students as they prepare for college and beyond: •  Kevin Jabbari Athletic Scholarship — Trevor Lovett •  Rene Dollar Future Business Leader Scholarship (North Cobb High School) — Oluwatito Omoteso •  Mayor Scholarship (KMHS) — Avery Watson •  Dr. Frank Boone Community Scholarship (KMHS) — Destiny Kluck •  JRM Character Scholarship (KMHS) — Claire Hiett •  Mark Barre Visual Arts Scholarship — NeLayna Edwards

•  Marlon Longacre Heart of a Champion Scholarship — Zari Massay •  RJ Patel International Magnet Student Scholarship (North Cobb High School) — Kayleigh Everhart •  Ron Cochran Spirit Scholarship — David Hutchins •  Sue Picardi Math & Science Magnet Scholarship (KMHS) — Isabelle Day •  Olivia Smathers Performing Arts Scholarship — Bailey Cerio •  Sue Gunderman Servant Leader Scholarship (KMHS) — Ayusha Prasad •  Paul Chastain Citizen Scholarship (North Cobb Christian School) — Nate Watson •  Ron Sumpter Trailblazer Scholarship (Harrison) — Michaela Duncan •  Michael Everhart Communications Scholarship — Catherine Boff •  Terry Chandler Takin’ Care of Business Scholarship — Kendall Grace Wilkes •  Derek Easterling Scholarship — Louis-Haslan Dorsinvil •  Wally Zimmerman Vocational/ Engineering Computer Science Scholarship — Jacob Lee LGE Community Credit Union – LGE offers a $5,000 scholarship to one deserving student in each of the counties it serves: Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton, and Paulding. The application process is rather unique and simple; students need only fill out a brief form online and submit a 60-second video explaining how they align with their community. This year’s recipients will be notified in mid-May. Meanwhile, students interested in applying for next year’s scholarships can learn more at lgeccu. org/about/scholarships.html. South Cobb Business Association – The SCBA developed its scholarship program five years ago to provide scholarships to students at South Cobb and Pebblebrook high schools. Each year, one student from each school is awarded $500 to assist with their college tuition. This year’s honorees will be notified on May 24. Learn more at sc-ba.org. The Powder Springs Business Group – The PSBG will award two, $500 scholarships this year to graduating seniors from McEachern and Hill Grove high schools. Candidates must be committed to a Technical College System of Georgia School. Application deadline is May 14. Learn more at psbusinessgroup.com.

Gisselle Rodriguez

Smyrna Business Association – The SBA offers two, annual scholarship programs, which this year were awarded in April. The more general Smyrna Business Association Scholarships were awarded to three graduating high school seniors this year to help pay for their college tuition. Those students are Michael Hermann (Campbell High School), Gisselle Rodriguez (Osborne High School), and Leila Somerville (Campbell High School). The A. Max Bacon Leadership Award is given to a Campbell High School senior who shows outstanding commitment and service to their school and community. This year’s recipient is Taylor Daxe. Learn more at smyrnabusiness.org.

Leila Somerville

Taylor Daxe

The West Cobb Business Association – The WCBA has offered the When Character Beats Adversity scholarships annually since 2005. The theme is unique in that these scholarships go to students who are facing overwhelming adversity, whether that be life-threating illness, homelessness, or other circumstances; yet, despite the

Jennifer Rakestraw/JARPhotography

Michael Hermann

The West Cobb Business Association

odds, they continue to achieve their academic goals. This year, six students were honored: Stephanie Anokam (McEachern, NeoProcession Scholarship), Trinity Raven Schmuck (Hillgrove, The Chastain Scholarship), Robert Brook (Hillgrove, Byrd Insurance Scholarship), Caroline Dennehy (Harrison, Rod & Heather Bazarsky Scholarship), Anne Dennehy (Harrison, E Dennis AC/Mollohan Real Estate Scholarship), and Fisher Paulsen (Allatoona, Mayes Ward-Dobbins/Professional Partners Scholarship). Funds are raised to support the scholarship program by WCBA members and other sponsors. Additionally, in 2017, the WCBA adopted a resolution to create the Honorary Diane Vehar Scholarship. Vehar served for many years as director on the WCBA education committee. She is an inspiration in her dedication to the program and the students. This year, Hunter Paulsen from Allatoona High School was honored. Learn more at westcobbbusiness.com. Congratulations to all of these students for staying focused and maintaining academic excellence during such an unusual and trying year. n

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In Your Community

It’s Getting Easier To Be Green

Cobb EMC reaffirms clean energy goals By Cory Sekine-Pettite


head of Earth Day in April, Cobb EMC reaffirmed its commitment to its clean energy goals, and it reminded members that by 2030 the electric cooperative would reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent and double up on its renewable energy portfolio with a 200-percent increase. “With Earth Day approaching, it is the perfect time to express to our members and community that we are passionate about a greener future while keeping our electric rates low and reliability high,” said Interim President and CEO of Cobb EMC, Kevan Espy, in a released state-



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ment. “Furthermore, we are confident that we can achieve our renewable energy goals without passing any additional costs on to our valuable members.” Intrigued to find out more, Cobb In Focus followed up with the member-owned utility to see how far along it is in achieving its goals, what the future looks like for clean energy in Georgia, and more. So far, Cobb EMC is well on its way to producing cleaner energy, having already installed rooftop solar panels on campus, and completing a Solar Flower Garden and battery storage facility. Additionally,

later this year its utility-scale solar project will be completed. Further, in 2022, Cobb EMC will be among the few cooperatives in the nation that will incorporate microgrid technology. The system will allow the co-op to operate autonomously if the need arises by furnishing a continuous supply of power to the cooperative during any extended outages, which strengthens power grid resilience for faster response and recovery. “The microgrid is an evolving technology that will complement our existing solar and battery system to help create this autonomy,” said Manish Murudkar, director of DER

(distributed energy resource) Strategy. “Our goal is to build a model for future microgrid projects, and increase the quality and resiliency of our power system.” “Our clean energy goals were based on Cobb EMC’s commitment to keep our rates low while providing a sustainable future,” adds Tim Jarrell, Cobb EMC VP, Power Supply & DER Strategy. “This required us to look closely at our long-term resource needs, existing lifecycle of the resources we are subscribed with our G&T [generation and transmission] along with our external power contracts. Our goals were developed to be realistic and not just hype. We were very diligent in modeling our long-term energy needs with the increase in renewable resources. Cobb EMC is already in a good position to meet any future state or federal mandates considering our current energy portfolio.”

According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the nation’s electric co-ops, which serve about 42 million people across the country, have nearly tripled their renewable energy capacity over the last 10 years. The group reports that co-ops have deployed enough wind and solar capacity to serve nearly 2.7 million homes, and that they will continue to rely on a diverse energy mix to ensure a reliable, affordable, and responsible electricity supply that meets the needs of their consumer-members. The best way to a cleaner future is through multiple sources of energy production, Jarrell continued. He said that while solar has the greatest potential of meeting clean energy goals, wind power can’t be ignored “if taller turbines are considered, which provide more electricity output and better economies of scale. Also, other technologies shouldn’t be ruled out that have potential such as hydrogen renewable energy.” The co-op’s members understand the need for cleaner energy production, and Jarrell reports they are on board for change. “Some of our members have expressed their desire for utilities to work toward a sustainable future and gratitude for what Cobb EMC has already done towards a clean energy future,” he said. “The majority of Cobb EMC members place low rates and reliability as their top priority from their cooperative. Cobb EMC can be a leader in all three of these areas.” For example, in the co-op’s “Green Energy for a Penny” program, members can choose to help support a clean energy future for just a 1¢ per kWh charge. The program allows members to purchase renewable energy credits from Cobb EMC and support solar farms right here in Georgia. Currently, about 100 members have joined the program. Learn more at cobbemc.com/green. The organization also has become a local leader when it comes to planning for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure. Cobb EMC is active in supporting EV adoption. The cooperative provides an EV loaner program for members, it offers EV charging rebates for residential and commercial members, it hosts EV seminars that bring together members and industry experts, and it works with Green Power EMC (a renewable energy

program consisting of 38 co-ops throughout Georgia) on larger initiatives while working with other organizations such as the EV Club of the South. “Cobb EMC is staying abreast of state, regional, and national initiatives and funding that may be available to expand EV charging networks,” Jarrell said. “We have worked with other organizations to provide additional chargers in the Cobb EMC service territory and discussion with other cooperatives about a larger network. Most of Cobb EMC’s members charge at their residence, so [our] goals are to support both residential charging, EV adoption, and an expanding EV charging network.” n

So far, Cobb EMC is well on its way to producing cleaner energy, having already installed rooftop solar panels on campus, and completing a Solar Flower Garden and battery storage facility. COBB

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Final Focus

Post-Pandemic Most-Wanted

By Cory Sekine-Pettite


’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, and I’m sure many of you have as well. I’ve started a mental checklist of the things I want to do and the people I want to see once I’m fully vaccinated and it is relatively safe for me to be around others without a mask. In no particular order, I’d like to see my parents (they live in another state), hang out with my closest friends, dine in at my favorite restaurants (takeout and delivery have lost their luster), take in a Braves game and a Rugby ATL match, and pamper myself at my favorite spa. Of course, some travel is on the list as well, but I’m not in a rush because that takes extensive planning. Marketers, researchers, sociologists,



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journalists, and other professionals are asking Americans what they most look forward to doing once they consider it safe to get back to “normal,” whatever that means to them. Social media experts are monitoring this subject as well, collecting data on people’s desires to move on from the pandemic. For example, social media consultants at Kantar have determined the 12 most-anticipated activities postCOVID, and they seem pretty much in line with my desires. They are as follows: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Beauty therapy Eat out/go to cinema Night out/drink with friends Live events/music/outdoor venue Stay home/quarantine

6. Get outdoors/enjoy nature 7. Go shopping 8. Travel 9. Watch/play sports 10. See loved ones/friends/family 11. Go back to work 12. Go to gym So what’s on your post-pandemic mostwanted list? We’re just about to hit the summer months when Americans typically vacation. Many of our local festivals and other spring/summer events have returned. And there’s a palpable sense of calm and — dare I say it — a real feeling of contentment regarding the future. It’s something that most of us haven’t felt for far too long. n

Visit the Solar Flower Garden Come for the experience, stay for the picnic. Our unique garden features solar flowers that produce clean energy, so our community can learn about the power of sustainability. The Solar Flower Garden offers educational opportunities, events and EV charging, and admission is free! Visit cobbemc.com/garden for more information, hours of operation and directions. The Solar Flower Garden is brought to you in part by our friends at Gas South.

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Profile for New South Publishing

Cobb In Focus May/June 2021  

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