Cobb In Focus May June 2024

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MAY/JUNE 2024 Chattahoochee Tech • Austell Youth Innovation Center • A.G. Rhodes • Keep Smyrna Beautiful • Wellstar and CITA CROFT & Associates Building communities and making a difference
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We are a well-rounded community alive with community spirit, a touch of urban chic and plenty of down-home natural charm.

Nestled among lush trees, you’ll feel at home in our diverse neighborhoods. Residents and visitors enjoy access to indoor and outdoor amenities, from boating on the Chattahoochee, to biking, walking, or running along our trails, watching baseball at the Battery, or catching good vibes in our downtown.

VISIT US AT SMYRNAGA.GOV @CityofSmyrnaGA @SmyrnaNews @CityofSmyrnaGA
• P a r k s • Library • Outstan d i ng Services • Comm u n i t y • CITY OF


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

How Chattahoochee Tech’s Brewing and Aviation programs are helping drive Cobb’s economic engine.

Unity breeds hope as the Austell Youth Innovation Center creates a


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


Started in 1904, A.G. Rhodes now serves more than 1,100 residents each year at its three nursing home communities.

Keep Smyrna Beautiful is commemorating four decades of service to the City of Smyrna.

Wellstar supports developing future healthcare professionals at Cobb Innovation

The micromanagement trend.

Vol. XX, No. 3 MAY/JUNE 2024 Contents
On the cover: CROFT & Associates CEO Jim Croft, RA, NCARB (right); and President Mark Jackson, PE, AIA.
Photo: LaRuche Photo
news updates and calendar of events.
Math for area kids. 16 HEALTH
learning path of Science,
Technology Academy.
FEATURE CROFT & Associates
difference. 20 2 MAY/JUNE 2024
communities and making a

If there’s a common theme among our features this month, it’s that we have found individuals and organizations dedicated to serving the community and making people’s lives better. We already know our county is the best place to live in metro Atlanta, but it’s inspiring knowing these folks are working toward making Cobb even better.

CROFT & Associates (our cover feature) are literally building a better community by designing such projects as the Cobb Veterans Memorial Park and local schools, but the firm’s corporate culture is noteworthy as well. Turn to page 20 for a deep dive into how CROFT makes a difference for its staff and for the county.

We also highlight Chattahoochee Tech’s Brewing and Aviation programs (p.6). These two industries have a strong presence here, so Chattahoochee Tech is working to ensure there’s a pipeline of educated, qualified employees to keep local distilleries, breweries, and aviation maintenance companies in business while attracting new companies to relocate to Cobb County.

Speaking of creating learning paths, the Austell Youth Innovation Center develops youth programming that provides additional STEAM learning pathways for kids with four, targeted initiatives: youth development, mentoring, parent engagement, and cross-sector collaboration. Read about this incredible program beginning on page 10.

At the other end of the spectrum, we spotlight A.G. Rhodes and its ongoing mission to care for our older population (p.26). The nonprofit now serves more than 1,100 residents each year at its three nursing home communities, and it continues to expand and improve its facilities to meet its residents’ needs.

Finally, we also recognize the 40th anniversary of Keep Smyrna Beautiful (KSB) and Wellstar’s work with the Cobb Innovation Technology Academy (CITA). KSB isn’t just a recycling proponent. The organization inspires us all to make sure our communities are clean, green, and beautiful (see p.30). Meanwhile, the CITA/Wellstar program (p.16) addresses the shortage of healthcare workers by showing high school students how rewarding these careers can be.

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by LaRuche Photo
MAY/JUNE 2024 3

S harper Focus

Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta ReStore in Smyrna Celebrates Eight Years in Business

Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta ReStore in Smyrna recently celebrated eight years in business as well as expansion of weekly store hours to Tuesday through Saturday. The ReStore receives generous donations from major retailers and the public, and offers furniture, rugs, fixtures, décor, building supplies and more at a fraction of retail prices. One hundred percent of profits go toward helping deserving families in our community achieve financial stability through homeownership.

Local Student Wins Cobb Water System’s Photo Contest

Congratulations to the winner of Cobb Water System’s annual high school photography contest from District 2, Samuel Moore. He was among the 10 students who were winners of the 2024 waterSmart contest. All the winning photos are on display through May 23 at the Mable House Arts Center. Each student was awarded a cash prize and the winning entries were made into note cards distributed throughout Cobb. The waterSmart contest is designed to bring awareness to the importance of water conservation. Congratulations to all the student winners. View the photos at

Cobb EMC Awards $28,000 to Local Educators

Cobb EMC recently awarded more than $28,000 in mini-grants to 61 elementary, middle, and high school teachers across the electric cooperative’s five-county service area. These mini-grants will fund a variety of experiential and active learning projects including career prep, STEM, community gardens, art, music expansions, and more.

“Cobb EMC is excited to support the aspirations of community educators and students,” said Mark Justice, senior manager of education and community relations at Cobb EMC.

“Thanks to mini-grants, teachers are able to enhance classroom opportunities, which strengthens curiosity and creativity.”

Credit Union of Georgia VP Named Volunteer of the Year

Recognized for her exceptional dedication to community enrichment, Amanda Arnold, vice president of marketing and business development at Credit Union of Georgia, has been named Volunteer of the Year for Hayes Elementary School. From spearheading fundraising campaigns, to engaging with students and parents alike, Amanda’s volunteerism and passion for enriching the educational experience has left an indelible mark on the school. “The teachers and staff at this school have become some of my closest friends. It’s truly an honor to support them in small ways. I’m beyond thankful to be recognized for this prestigious award,” Arnold said.

Drew Raessler Receives Silver Eagle Award

Cobb Department of Transportation Director, Drew Raessler, is this year’s recipient of the 2023 Silver Eagle Award. Family members and DOT officials joined him to celebrate the honor at an event this past March. The annual honor recognizes a member of county management who demonstrates teamwork and outstanding leadership. During his time with Cobb, Raessler led the construction of critical roadway projects for the Braves stadium, oversaw the completion of the 2050 Comprehensive Plan, and delivered numerous transportation improvements through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program.

Cobb Launches BOSS Young Professionals Paid Work Experience Program

Cobb County recently launched a new program that offers invaluable work experience opportunities for young individuals. The BOSS Young Professionals Paid Work Experience Program was made possible through funding from Cobb County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. By participating in this program, youth can gain essential skills, develop professional networks, and earn while they learn. For more information, visit programs-services.

Chattahoochee Tech Earns Top 10 Military Spouse Friendly School Designation

Atlanta United Unveils Expansion Plans for Cobb Facility

Atlanta United unveiled plans to expand and transform Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta, highlighted by a two-story, 20,000-square-foot development that will include numerous additions and improvements for player health and well-being, a state-of-the-art content production studio, and dedicated space for its Academy and front office associates. The $23-million project gets underway this summer. Learn more at

Deane Bonner Recognized for Civil Rights Work

The Cobb Board of Commissioners recently honored Cobb NAACP’s Deane Bonner with a proclamation celebrating her as the Marietta Daily Journal’s Citizen of the Year. Her tireless dedication to advancing civil rights and social justice has left an indelible mark on our community. Her unwavering commitment to equality and empowerment serves as a shining example for us all.

Chattahoochee Technical College has been rated as one of the nation’s top 2024-2025 Military Spouse Friendly Schools. This ranking represents the college’s ability to provide top-quality, post-secondary educational experiences for spouses of military service members. “Chattahoochee Tech is honored to receive this distinction,” said Chattahoochee Tech Veteran Services Coordinator, Michael Payne. “We are firmly committed to providing the academic, career, and mentoring resources needed by our military students, veterans and their families.” The Chattahoochee Tech student community typically includes 300 military family members each semester, according to Payne, along with 300 students who are active military or veterans.

a snapshot of what’s going on in your
4 MAY/JUNE 2024
Michael Payne

4/20 – 5/19

Brews & Bites Festival


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

Savor the spirits of spring during the annual Brews & Bites festival at Six Flags Over Georgia, returning weekends through May 19. More info:


M2R TrailFest

M2R TrailFest is a public arts festival featuring the debut of numerous art installations in Downtown Marietta along portions of the Mountain to River Trail and in public parks. More info:

5/17 – 7/19

Outdoor Movie Series

The City of Kennesaw’s free Outdoor Movie Series will kick off on May 17 at Swift-Cantrell Park. More info:

5/18, 6/15

Blanket Concert Series

Relax and enjoy live, free music at Smyrna’s Blanket Concert Series from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. with no registration required. More info:

Summer Sun Run 5K

The second race in the 2024 Kennesaw Grand Prix 5K series. The entry fee of $35 includes a race t-shirt. More info:

5/3 – 10/4

First Friday Concert Series

From 7-9:30 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:


5/7 – 9/24

Food Truck


Join your fellow foodies at Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna from 5-9 p.m. for the best Food Truck event series around! More info:

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:


Bringing The Sea To The Springs

This annual seafood festival in Powder Springs brings great food and fun for the entire family to Thurman Springs Park. More info:

5/23 – 7/25

Family to Park Day

Come out to Thurman Springs Park in Powder Springs for family fun and movie! More info:



Smyrna June Concert

Come to downtown Smyrna for a great night of music featuring The Geek Squad and Casper & the 911 Band. Admission is free. More info:

5/19, 6/2

Music in the Park Concert Series

The Friends of East Cobb Park’s free concert series, presented by Wellstar Health Systems. More info:


Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in military service for the United States

Musical Theater Boot Camp

For kids in the sixth through nineth grades, this theater boot camp at The Strand is the place to hone their performing skills. More info


Classic Car Cruise

Acworth will host a Classic Car Cruise in Downtown Acworth from 3-7 p.m. at Logan Farm Park. More info:

4th Celebration
Cobb Fourth of July Celebrations Juneteenth Celebrations 6/14 Austell Midnight Train Threadmill Mall Complex, Austell 7-11 p.m. 6/15 Concert on the Green City of Acworth, Logan Farm Park 5-10 p.m.
Park All day
7/3 Salute to America Concert & Fireworks City of Kennesaw, Depot Park 6-10 p.m. 7/4 4th In The Park City of Marietta, Glover Park 10 a.m.-9 p.m. 7/4 4th of July Celebration and Fireworks City of Acworth, Cauble Park Begins at 5:30 p.m. 7/4 July
City of Powder Springs, downtown 6-10 p.m.
6/22 Juneteenth Celebration City of Powder Springs, Thurman Springs
MAY/JUNE 2024 5

Building For The Future

How Chattahoochee Tech’s Brewing and Aviation programs are helping drive Cobb’s economic engine.

This past December, the first graduating class of Chattahoochee Tech’s Brewing and Fermentation Production Technology program were presented diplomas, helping the school solidify its decision to create the first-of-its kind college program for Georgia students looking for careers in the craft brewing world.

And if you think that’s a lot of firsts, Lead Instructor Steve Anderson welcomes the kudos. Available to students 21 and over, the Brewing and Fermentation program opened in the fall 2022 semester at the college’s North Metro Campus as the only two-year or four-year college in the state to offer a brewing program. The curriculum, which includes a three-barrel brewing lab, a semi-automated canning machine, and

lab equipment for quality control analysis, is tailored to fill the notable skills gap in the local brewing industry by offering comprehensive, hands-on training in the art and science of brewing.

Crafting a new career resource

The Brewing and Fermentation Production Technology curriculum joins many other programs at Chattahoochee Tech as academic pathways that are helping build the Cobb business community. Jason Tanner, Chattahoochee Tech’s Executive VP for Instruction, Academic Affairs, said the proximity of the programs to Cobb County provide individuals and businesses easy access to afford-

B usiness
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Something new is brewing in Chattahoochee Tech’s Brewing and Fermentation Production Technology program.

able, high-quality facilities and faculty dedicated to these growing industries.

“Our hope is that we are always a part of the Chamber of Commerce and regional economic development plans,” Tanner said. “We provide low-cost training solutions and spaces to industries ready to relocate to Cobb or expand in Cobb. We offer access to two-year post-secondary education to the families of those working at these industries as well, helping to increase incentives to industry to stay and grow locally.”

Take the craft beer scene, a business landscape that continues to enhance the local hospitality and entertainment sectors, stimulate small business growth, and contribute to community development across the country. Here in Cobb, Chattahoochee Tech is working closely with local breweries like Red Hare Brewing and Distilling, Glover Park, Schoolhouse Brewing, Atlanta Hard Cider, Horned Owl, Round Trip, and Artisan Ales to help provide students real-world experience through internships, guest lectures, and practical training that apply their learning in actual brewery settings.

With more than 20 breweries, wineries, and distilleries (and growing) calling Cobb home, it is easy to see why the Chattahoochee Tech program continues to be an economic driver for the community. Steve Anderson, Lead Instructor, Brewing & Fermentation Production at Chattahoochee Tech’s North Metro Campus, said graduates from the program are well-prepared to enter the workforce, bringing

innovation and expertise to existing breweries or even starting their own brewing operations. “We are still a new program, but the students who were looking for jobs in the industry were able to quickly gain employment, both from local breweries or the location that they were interning at,” he said. “One student who wanted to move to Wyoming was able to secure a brewing job at Snake River Brewing within days of graduation.”

As the instructor for the Brewing and Fermentation Production Technology program, Anderson is helping teach everything necessary to become a professional, touching on everything from the basics such as brewing science and fermentation, and progress, to creating and designing recipes, executing them, and testing the finished product.

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The Aviation curriculum is designed to train students for high-demand careers in repair, service, and maintenance.

B usiness

“Having worked in the professional brewing field for the past decade, following several years in the homebrewing industry, brewing has always been a passion of mine,” Anderson said. “I envisioned teaching brewing and nurturing new brewers, but there was never a program in the area. Fortunately, Chattahoochee Tech decided to step up.”

Anderson said the ideal student for the program is someone deeply passionate about beer, eager to learn new skills, and keen to pursue a brewing career. That’s why the labs offer a unique experience, featuring a fully functional brewery equipped with everything found in a standard craft brewery, including fermenters, pilot systems, and a small canning line. “We ensure students are fully prepared from day one,” he says.

The Brewing program, which features a mix of students who want to either work in a brewery or eventually own one, is designed to add an influx of skilled labor and future new businesses supporting the growth of the local craft industry. It also serves as a core tenet of Chattahoochee Tech’s mission to contribute to its economic diversification and vitality.

Synergy with the community

A closer look at the program’s structure provides a glimpse into how the Brewing program is strategically melding detailed coursework on fermentation science, brewery equipment operations, and quality control

“We provide low-cost training solutions and spaces to industries ready to relocate to Cobb or expand in Cobb. We offer access to twoyear post-secondary education to the families of those working at these industries as well, helping to increase incentives to industry to stay and grow locally.”
– Jason Tanner, Chattahoochee Tech Executive VP for Instruction, Academic Affairs

with marketing and management aspects within the brewing context. The synergy with the community rests in the fact that the curriculum is developed in consultation with local industry professionals to ensure that the training remains relevant to the needs of the breweries in Cobb County and beyond.

“Such partnerships not only enrich our students’ education but also strengthen ties with the local business community, creating a pipeline of skilled workers ready to contribute to the industry,” Anderson says. “We are committed to staying current with industry trends and technological advancements by working closely with our advisory committee to

ensure what we are teaching and training will directly benefit the local industry.”

The Brewing Advisory committee also provides feedback on what new technology and equipment the program should focus on bringing into the program in the future. “I, along with the college, actively engage with the brewing community through professional associations like the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, Georgia Chapter MBAA [Master Brewers Association of the Americas], industry conferences, and our local brewery partnerships,” Anderson said. “This engagement ensures that our curriculum and teaching methods are up-to-date, providing students

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The Brewing and Fermentation curriculum is tailored to fill the notable skills gap in the local brewing industry.

with a cutting-edge education that aligns with the latest industry practices.”

While Chattahoochee Tech does not currently have any major expansions planned for the Brewing and Fermentation Production Technology program, it is planning to offer industry training using its facilities, which would be separate from the Associate degree and diploma options. “We have a beautiful brewery area that could be a great spot for the local industry to take advantage of,” Anderson said. “This would continue to strengthen our local brewery partnerships.”

Up, up, and away…

On the other side of the college’s community-centric program offerings is its Aviation curriculum, bolstered by the recently completed Chattahoochee Tech Aviation Training Academy. The three-story, 55,000-plus squarefoot facility at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport includes a 12,000-square-foot hangar along with instructional labs, classrooms, and a technical library. The facility also eventually will include an administrative wing to provide for a testing lab and college faculty offices.

The Aviation curriculum is designed to train students for high-demand careers in repair, service, and the maintenance of airframe components and powerplant systems and components. The Aircraft Structural Technology diploma program, which began this spring, will prepare students for careers in aircraft structure manufacture and repair. The program emphasizes a combination of aircraft structural theory and the practical application necessary for successful employment. Courses will include aircraft blueprint

reading, structural fundamentals, aerodynamics, and aircraft metallurgy. Currently, students can receive a diploma in Aircraft Structural Technology diploma, and Technical Certificates of Credit in areas such as Aircraft Upholstery and Trim, Avionics Bench Technician, Airframe Certificate (pending FAA and SACSCOC Approval) and Power

Plant Certificate (pending FAA and SACSCOC Approval).

Strategically similar to the Brewing program, the Aviation curriculum includes an advisory committee, which is composed of experts in the field, those who would employ graduates and those invested in growing these specific industries. The committee helps inform Chattahoochee Tech’s thinking about curriculum, equipment utilized, and provides internship opportunities. Currently, Chattahoochee Tech students are learning on-site with some of its aviation partners.

“We have been so excited to see the excitement of anything related to this field,” Tanner said. “Georgia has a chance to lead and do more in Aviation, so Chattahoochee Tech wants to be a part of that.”

Chattahoochee Tech’s Brewing and Aviation programs are not just about education; they’re engines of economic growth for the local business community, creating real-life snapshots of the skills, knowledge, and situations needed to succeed. By helping cultivate the workforces, the college is building a bridge to the future, giving the next generation the tools needed to fuel the industries. n

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Aviation Training Academy

Innovating Our Youth

Unity breeds hope as the Austell Youth Innovation Center creates a learning path of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math for area kids.

Chances are that most educators you know are passionate about their jobs. Teaching is a calling for many, rather than just a job. For Pamela Dingle, education has taken her down several roads that have allowed her to make a difference, forging paths for area youths.

As a former director of federal programs in the Cobb County School District, Dingle was perfectly positioned to become the program director of what is now the Austell Youth Innovation Center (AYIC).

“I began participating in the Austell Community Collaboration when assigned to engage the community as a part of my role in Cobb County,” Dingle says. “The collaboration became a passion and love as one of my skills is being a connector. Even more important, it became an urgency for me to see more innovation in learning that would reach underserved communities and offer a pathway to more opportunities than they thought imaginable. Why not imagine and experience the same opportunities as their more resourced peers?”

Dingle left her role with the Cobb County School District and became an independent consultant. Her work in the Austell community began in 2017. She was joined in her efforts by Pastor John Bailey, a long-time champion and partner of the AYIC, not only committing resources, but also sharing his experience in youth ministry with a focus on literacy development. Pastor Bailey regularly visits the center and encourages the work happening there.

The AYIC came about through a multisector collaboration of the Austell Community Collaborative (ACC), a parent nonprofit arm devoted to helping the Austell

community thrive. The original collaboration was initiated by Lin Harrison, John Bailey, Malcom Lewis, and Joel Rodriguez, faith-based leaders in the community, and consisted of the City of Austell government leaders, churches in the community, Austell

schools, Sweetwater Mission, and other community leaders.

The goal always has been to positively impact the Austell community through youth programming that helps to shape the narrative of area kids. Four targeted initiatives to

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Austell Youth Innovation Center (AYIC)
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AYIC programming concentrates on STEAM learning.

reach these outcomes consist of youth development, mentoring, parent engagement, and cross-sector collaboration.

The AYIC currently employs Yolanda Shackelford as facility director. Shackelford is responsible for the day-to-day execution of the center. As program director, Dingle works behind the scenes, developing programming, making community connections, seeking resources, and much more. The center is only limited by the size of its current facility and serves between 140 to 200 youths per year.

“We initiated after-school tutoring; however, we have been limited in executing this service until we are able to acquire a 12- to 15-passenger van,” Dingle says. “We will then serve 40 youths in after-school programming from elementary and middle schools. We could not execute our programming without youth leaders from South Cobb High School.

About 20 youth counselors per year volunteer with fundraising, outreach, and youth services.”

It takes a village

To be sure, the participation and support of community business leaders is imperative to the success of the center. Travis Reeves, owner of Kids Next Code, has been an educator and strong supporter of the center and STEAM learning that is provided there. Back in 2020, Dingle approached Reeves with an opportunity to bring his coding program to the center. Planning ensued through the fall of 2020, but originally, the planning was STEM-based.

Reeves observed the need for and benefits of STEAM learning, which included coding, engineering, game design, cybersecurity, and robotics. He asserts that STEAM learning is critical to the Cobb community, since a digi-

“When the AYIC is thriving, we see programming from kindergarten through 12th grade in multiple areas and at multiple sites, expanding as much as possible to surrounding communities.”
– AYIC Program Director Pamela Dingle

tally based society is reality for students.

“Local business owners have been involved in facilitating workshops during our camps,” Reeves says, “by assisting students with their hands-on projects, speaking to them about their day-to-day activities as a business owner, and volunteering their services to participate in student competitions and project evaluations.”

Why STEAM learning? AYIC’s forwardthinking leaders and program directors see the overwhelming value of a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) learning track and believe it to be crucial for Cobb County. Regarding economic development, Cobb can develop a skilled workforce ready to fill jobs and create new businesses.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills can provide a basis for successful, future elected leaders in government, business, non-profits, and volunteer boards as well.

STEAM learning also can ensure that the Cobb community can compete in a globally competitive market. Businesses of all sizes believe in the center and its cause.

“Donations for the Austell Youth Innovation Center were made by Austell Gas System, because we believe in setting our future leaders up for success to flourish within the community,” says Justin Isbell, CEO and general manager, Austell Gas System. “The youth of our community is the future of our community, and that, in itself, is worth the investment.”

In addition to the unwavering support of Cobb business leaders is that of local

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AYIC Environmental Camp
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About 20 youth counselors per year volunteer to assist with AYIC programs.

government officials. After the AYIC was created, support streamed in from all facets of the Cobb community. Mayor Ollie Clemons, Jr., picked up the torch from former Mayor Joe Jerkins, and lit a fire toward positive programming opportunities for area youths.

“Government leaders in supporting programs like the AYIC help develop the critical thinking, social and emotional wellbeing, and problem-solving skills that will be necessary to take on the complex problems we are facing not only today, but what students will face in the future.”
–Austell Mayor Ollie Clemons, Jr.

Darrell Weaver, city of Austell, Director of Community Affairs, is a readily accessible supporter as well active board member, offering innovative ideas, fostering supportive connections, and rolling up his sleeves to help with the pursuit of funding.

“Education has always been important to me, so as a leader of the city of Austell, I have been involved since the inception of the AYIC,” says Mayor Clemons. “Government leaders in supporting programs like the AYIC help develop the critical thinking,

MAY/JUNE 2024 13

social and emotional wellbeing, and problemsolving skills that will be necessary to take on the complex problems we are facing not only today, but what students will face in the future.”

Mayor Clemons says these include environmental concerns, affordable housing, socioeconomic disparities and the digital divide, mental health, homelessness, and managing conflict when opinions are varied. Students from South Cobb High not only demonstrate community involvement for college applications, but also act as role models for younger students in the camps.

Another enthusiastic champion of the AYIC is Cobb County Commissioner Monique Sheffield, who is connecting with the Atlanta Braves organization to bring on even more support. “It is a privilege for me to provide support to the Austell Youth Innovation Center,” Sheffield says. “The AYIC has proven to be a vital investment in our community’s future by focusing on empowering our youth and sharpening their young minds to become future leaders. It showcases the commitment to nurturing resilience and fostering growth in the next generation.”

The city of Austell has partnered with the AYIC to provide a facility and additional resources that have enabled the sustainability of programming. Funding sources of the AYIC have included camp revenue, grants, in-kind donations, fundraisers, and charitable contributions.

Full STEAM ahead

STEAM learning is vital to the sustainability of our world, says Dingle. Camps offered by the AYIC allow youths to learn to protect and support the environment, create businesses and market them, safely navigate and work in the world of technology, and use the arts to promote goodwill. All STEAM camps require campers to design solutions to realworld problems.

“When the AYIC is thriving, we see programming from kindergarten through 12th grade in multiple areas and at multiple sites, expanding as much as possible

to surrounding communities,” Dingle says. “Eventually, we will have facilities that allow us to expand our reach. We will get campers out into the community, sharing what they have learned and participating in community projects that contribute to the improvement of the world in which they live. We plan to initiate parent programming next, focusing on personal health and emotional wellness.”

The AYIC also wants to partner with initiatives through local colleges and universities as well as Sweetwater Mission to help parents who didn’t have these opportunities get exposure and awareness. This would entail fitness

and yoga classes, where the AYIC would help parents understand their roles in the development of their children, instructional classes to help them improve their own skills, and connections with organizations that can help with overall wellness. Dingle wants for the AYIC to be a place where wraparound services can occur.

How you can help

The AYIC invites readers to visit austellyouthinnvovationcenter. com to learn more about the center’s programming. If you desire to give back to the Cobb community and its future, you can do so by being approved as a volunteer, making donations, or just spreading the word about the great things happening within the city of Austell.

“We want to get the word out about our exciting camps that will be offered this summer, including TV/Film, Environmental and Culinary Arts, AI & Cybersecurity, AI & Engineering, and Art,” Dingle says.

Clearly, the AYIC has impacted the community by providing better opportunities for youths. When a community comes together and partners with schools to strengthen student engagement and academic success, amazing things can happen. n

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AYIC First Responders Camp
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Wellstar Supports Developing Future Healthcare Professionals at Cobb Innovation Technology Academy

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, the U.S. healthcare system was dealing with a major shortage of workers, especially nurses. According to the American Hospital Association, “Shortages of healthcare workers in all roles will persist well beyond the pandemic given today’s highly competitive labor market.” To help meet this need, the Cobb County School District and Wellstar Health System are introducing high school students to healthcare careers through the

healthcare pathway at the Cobb Innovation Technology Academy (CITA).

CITA is an innovative Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program inside the Cobb County School District (CCSD). Wellstar Health System and Wellstar Foundation recently awarded Cobb Schools Foundation a $2-million grant to expand CITA over the next five years. The CITA program is a beacon of opportunity for students seeking hands-on learning experiences and career prospects in healthcare

through district, post-secondary, and industry partnerships.

“This program seeks to inspire, educate, and nurture the next generation of healthcare professionals,” said David Jones, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Wellstar. “We’re thrilled with the opportunity to help enhance the education of our community’s students and offer them rewarding career pathways.”

Cobb students will have direct access to healthcare professionals from Wellstar who

H ealth
16 MAY/JUNE 2024

the quality of education we provide our students in Cobb.”

According to CITA, the Wellstar Healthcare Pathway Program represents a significant milestone in the pursuit of excellence in healthcare education. Through this collaboration, the Cobb County School District and Wellstar are working together to build a strong pipeline of skilled healthcare workers equipped to meet the evolving demands of the community.

Together, we will help transform today’s students into tomorrow’s healthcare professionals and leaders,” said Cobb Schools Board Chair Brad Wheeler.

About Wellstar and the Wellstar Foundation

Wellstar provides access to compassionate, high-quality care that meets each person’s unique health needs through its: 11 hospitals; 325+ medical office locations; 11 cancer centers; 91 rehabilitation centers; 35 imaging centers; 18 urgent care locations; 5 health parks; 3 hospice facilities, and one retirement village. As a nonprofit health system, Wellstar reinvests in preventative care and wellness programs and serves our community as one of the largest providers of uncompensated care in Georgia. To learn more, visit

will make their classroom experience more practical and prepare them for their realworld jobs. All CCSD students can apply for the opportunity to enroll in CITA. Once enrolled, the Cobb students will be able to:

• Participate in the new Wellstar Healthcare Pathway Program.

• Access cutting-edge equipment and technology.

• Engage with Wellstar clinical team members and professionals before they graduate from high school.

• Apply for two $2,500 college scholarships funded by Wellstar.

“The Wellstar Healthcare Pathways Program will offer students exposure to training and potential job opportunities,” said Tiffany Barney, Director, CITA. “The Cobb Schools Foundation appreciates this investment in students who will go on to have careers in healthcare. It will further enhance

The program is more than a financial investment in the community, CITA says; it is a commitment to providing students with career pathways and filling the community’s need for healthcare workers. By providing the latest equipment and technology, Cobb students will be better prepared to navigate challenges and innovations in the healthcare sector. Additionally, Wellstar caregivers will help bring these healthcare learnings and experiences to life for Cobb students by providing invaluable insights and mentorship throughout the program.

Investing in students who will become the future of our healthcare workforce aligns with Wellstar’s mission to deliver personalized care that considers each individual’s unique life story. Wellstar believes in a similar approach when it comes to supporting and nurturing its staff. They have created a culture that encourages personal fulfillment for employees, empowering them to pursue their specific career goals and well-being. This commitment to staff development and personal growth is extended to the community through partnerships like the Wellstar Healthcare Pathway Program.

“The Healthcare Pathway at CITA is another example of the innovative opportunities we provide Cobb students. We are thankful that Wellstar has joined our team to prepare students for success after graduation.

Through corporate and community partnerships, the Wellstar Foundation fuels innovation and action to address the vital needs of diverse communities in Georgia. As the philanthropic arm to Wellstar Health System, the Foundation is transforming healthcare by enhancing health equity, innovation and technology, behavioral health, and workforce development. Every dollar donated funds the mission and initiatives addressing the most pressing healthcare needs in Georgia. To learn more, visit

About Cobb County School District

The Cobb County School District is the second-largest school system in Georgia and the 23rd-largest in the nation. It serves 106,358 students with 112 schools, including 66 elementary schools, 26 middle schools, 17 high schools, one charter school, one special education center, and one adult education center.

The District’s mission is One Team, One Goal: Student Success, and it frequently adds organizations like the Wellstar Foundation to its team to enhance educational experiences and prepare students for successful futures.

About Cobb Schools Foundation

The Cobb Schools Foundation ( is the philanthropic arm of the Cobb County School District, with a collaborative mission to take student success to new heights. Achieving these goals takes a tremendous team that includes leadership, teachers, social workers, many other staff, and our community! n

MAY/JUNE 2024 17

Leaders of Cobb

Since its establishment more than 180 years ago, Cobb County has been defined by its people.

Some of these individuals have made their mark by becoming pioneers of business, captains of industry and heads of state.

And if you’re reading this, you likely know why Cobb is attractive to so many. It hosts exceptional schools, is within close reach to the world’s busiest airport, has all of the convenience of proximity to the

big city and is fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The list goes on, but it always comes back to the people who have built this county into what it is.

On the following 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?

Special Section
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THE STORY: I was born in New York. My father was in the Army, so we moved often. Our family settled in Birmingham, Alabama, where I would graduate high school. Following my father and grandfather’s legacy, I joined the Army in 1982, serving for 26 years and retiring in 2008. I served as a Combat Infantryman, with three overseas tours, including combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Throughout my military career, I continued my education, completing a bachelor’s degree in Public Management from Austin Peay State University, a master’s in Public Administration from Kennesaw State University, and a law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law. After law school I served as a prosecutor in the Cobb Judicial Circuit, and was honored to be elected District Attorney in 2020.


D. Broady Jr. District Attorney, Cobb Judicial Circuit

WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: I fell in love with Cobb County the first time I visited in 2007. Our county has the best of everything: great job opportunities, a well-respected judicial community, and the perfect life/work balance. Also, Cobb offers the convenience of having a big city nearby, its own identity, rich in culture, performing arts, and of course the Atlanta Braves.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? As the District Attorney I have had the opportunity to implement programs which, have enhanced public safety in our community. My team of prosecutors focus on bringing those who commit violent crimes to justice, including securing a conviction for the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery. At the same time my restorative justice initiatives are providing treatment based resolutions to nonviolent offenders who are suffering from addiction and mental illness, as well as serving Veterans who find themselves facing criminal charges. My office has received national recognition for the service we provide to the victims of crime, including opening the first Family Advocacy Center in the state. In addition, through a partnership with the Georgia Justice Project, we have cleared the criminal records for thousands of community members.

LEISURE TIME: I love spending quality time with my gorgeous wife and daughters. We enjoy exploring all that Cobb has to offer. As a family, we are active in Zion Baptist Church,

facilitating a small group Bible study and working with the marriage ministry. I enjoy working with our youth. I consider my personal mission to help every child be the best they can be.

BEST ADVICE: Be the example you want your children to be. Our behavior is a model for our children. For our sons, the way we treat women, especially their mother, is the way they will treat their future significant others. For our daughters, we are the man that one day she will bring home to meet us. Just imagine how much better our world would be if we could eliminate childhood trauma.

WHAT’S NEXT? I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given to initiate programs such as the Alternative Resolution Court and the opening of the Family Advocacy Center. None of these accomplishments could have occurred however without the support and collaboration with our law enforcement and community partners. My vision has just begun; however, there is more work to be done in continuing to make Cobb County the safest in the metro area. Once re-elected, I will continue to focus on reducing recidivism, creating a reentry center for offenders, and providing victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, and child abuse the services and support they need. I will continue to focus on making our criminal justice system both equal and equitable. I am grateful for the men and women of the District Attorney’s Office and those who support our work. With your vote we will continue to make Cobb the best example of what Community is.

Leaders of Cobb
Photo by LaRuche Photo
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CROFT & Associates

Building communities and making a difference

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CEO Jim Croft, RA, NCARB (right); and President Mark Jackson, PE, AIA, next to the firm’s wall which displays employees’ professional accomplishments.
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Standing inside the expansive, 13,000-squarefoot headquarters of the multi-building campus of CROFT & Associates, one may find it difficult to imagine the award-winning architecture firm’s modest beginnings. Behind the company’s present-day success, however, is the steadfast dedication and unwavering faith of its founder, Jim Croft, who also never imagined this would be his reality.

Despite having known much of his life that he’d wanted to be an architect, starting his own business wasn’t necessarily a part of his vision. According to Jim, God had other plans.

The genesis of Jim’s story can be traced back to his childhood in Albany, Georgia. At the young age of 12, in his seventh-grade industrial arts class, Jim first discovered his passion for what would later become

“My long-term goal is for CROFT to be 100-percent employee-owned. It’s what I refer to as ‘Plan A.’ I wanted to create a place of opportunity for thousands of people for generations to come.”
–Jim Croft

his life’s work. “It seemed to be a new language that I understood but had not yet been taught,” Jim said. “My teacher, Barry Nunley, must’ve recognized it in me because he began taking his own personal time to create assignments that would push me. Finally, one day, he told me I should become an architect. I believe that was the first time I’d heard the word ‘architect’ and it somehow sounded exactly right for me. He encouraged me to go home and ask my parents to purchase a set of drafting tools for me out of a catalog he had. This was the spring of 1972. I still have every piece of that original set of tools!”

From there, Jim was locked in. Further nurtured by his school drafting teacher and mentor, Charles Tyner, he would go on to obtain his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from Georgia Tech before quickly making a name for himself in the industry. However, about 20 years into his career, the path he thought was clearly laid out for him began to shift.

“I would say entrepreneurship chose me,” Jim said. “Owning my own company was never on my radar, but I would say my faith guided me here. And I’m glad I trusted God in his direction because it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. CROFT was born out of obedience and I have just maintained that posture daily.”

Jim truly began building from the bottom, first operating out of the basement of his home, taking one ordered step at a time to build what is now one of the top players in the architecture industry in Georgia and beyond. “All I knew to do was show up every day and give my best effort,” said Jim, whose reputation in the industry and the community helped drive the company’s steady growth in its earliest days. But as the company grew, Jim realized he would need support managing the day-to-day operations if he wanted to remain involved in the aspects he loved the most: creating and designing. Jim then received the answer to another prayer by the name of Mark Jackson.

Mark and his firm had been a client of CROFT. Over their years, Mark and Jim developed a great respect for each other. The evolution into partnership seemed to fall into place at the right time. Mark has now been with CROFT for nearly 17 years and in 2023 was promoted from chief operating officer to president, serving alongside Jim as CEO.

They lead with effortless coordination, supported by a leadership team of 10. Four of those executives have been named shareholders: Anthony Iorillo, Jeff Morgan, Kip Stokes, and Stacey Chapman. These shareholders represent the second generation of CROFT employees with a stake in the company — an achievement of which Jim is particularly proud. “I’ve always known that CROFT is bigger than just me,” he said. “Every individual on our leadership

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CROFT & Associates CEO Jim Croft.

team has contributed to the growth we’re experiencing today, and I don’t take that for granted. My long-term goal is for CROFT to be 100-percent employee-owned. It’s what I refer to as ‘Plan A.’ I wanted to create a place of opportunity for thousands of people for generations to come.”

People First, Always

This approach, you could say, is what has made CROFT the success it is today. Jim’s people-centric style has become the foundation of its culture, which extends beyond the boundaries of the company, influencing how CROFT serves its clients and its community. “Culture is the most important thing,” Mark said. “Anyone in our building will tell you that and I do believe it’s what sets us apart. Our core values — ‘doing the right thing,’ ‘taking ownership,’ and ‘passion for excellence’ — drive our work daily, as well as the belief that we can trust one another. We recognize that some days will be difficult and demanding, but we firmly believe that with trust, no circumstance is insurmountable”

This culture has fostered an engaged, dedicated team. It also supports employee growth. “Right person, right seat,” Mark says often, which is a motto CROFT has followed to ensure every member of its now 95-person staff feels supported and is operating at the pinnacle of their talents, gifts, and interests. This has all amounted to CROFT having consistent year-over-year growth. In its 20 years as an organization, it has grown in its service offerings, clients, geography, staff size, and revenue. CROFT’s projects currently extend across 42 states, the British Virgin Islands, and abroad. In the past five years in particular, CROFT has tripled its revenue and expanded its offices into four new markets: Denver (2021), Charlotte

(2022), Savannah (2023), and most recently Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (2024). “When you really trust your people and are committed to their individual success as much as you are the company’s, the alignment can be transformative,” Jim said. “Many of our major strategic moves have been influenced by our employees and where they saw opportunity for their personal growth as well as the company’s.”

Earl Smith, a CROFT vice president, had a desire to relocate to North Carolina, which led to CROFT’s Charlotte expansion. A strategic hire in Colorado presented an opportunity for CROFT to be closer to its National Park Services projects. Soon after, CROFT’s Vice President of Engineering, Vincent Mazzei, followed and the Denver office was opened. The third satellite location came to be after the wife of senior designer Eric Pettingill received a job offer in Savannah. To support Eric and his family, CROFT proposed a relocation, entrusting him with the responsibility of establishing a presence on the coast. “All three are now leading the efforts in

“CROFT is a forward-thinking organization that understands the significance of cultivating an environment that encourages the professional growth of its female workforce.”
– Mark Jackson, President
The CROFT “second generation”: Anthony Iorillo, SVP Director of Architecture; Jeff Morgan, Director of Operations; Stacey Chapman, SVP Principal of Corporate Strategy; and Kip Stokes, COO.
MAY/JUNE 2024 23
Jim Croft designed a beautiful monument for the Cobb Veterans Memorial.

these markets, growing CROFT and growing their own capabilities in the process,” added Jim.

CROFT’s diverse client base, spanning market sectors such as education, ecclesiastical, local and federal government, mission-critical, industrial, commercial, and residential, have contributed to professional growth opportunities for employees. This variety also has played a part in CROFT’s resilience and longevity during challenging times.

For instance, during the 2009 recession, when many architectural firms faced setbacks, CROFT’s ability to design mission-critical data centers, schools, restaurants, churches, and military facilities allowed them to double their revenue in the subsequent two years. Similarly, during the 2020 pandemic, CROFT weathered the storm and maintained stability.

Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

CROFT’s passion for excellence has inherently made innovation a central part of its company’s business model as well. Never satisfied with doing things simply because that’s how they’ve always been done, leadership shares with pride their practice of challenging themselves daily to think outside the box. Jim has instilled in the organizational ethos that architecture is about serving other people’s

needs by finding solutions. This dedication to finding the best possible solution for their clients’, partners’, and employees’ needs has created a culture that breeds creativity and ingenuity.

For example, CROFT evolved its services and practices to seamlessly help bridge the design and construction phases of a project. To achieve this, CROFT expanded its hiring pool to include professionals with construction backgrounds. This proficiency helps them efficiently guide their designs through the entire build process and has become a defining characteristic of CROFT. Senior Vice President, Stacey Chapman, took an innovative approach in her focus on employee engagement and development. In 2020, she spearheaded the development of CROFT Cares, and in 2023 she launched CROFT LeadHERship.

CROFT Cares was launched just before the pandemic as the company’s corporate philanthropy program and leverages the passion and talents of its employees to create real benefit for individuals in need. CROFT had always prioritized giving back to the community, but the formalization of its efforts has increased engagement and local impact. Since 2020, CROFT has invested more than $1 million back into local communities and 5,000-plus volunteer hours on average annually. Of the 50-plus charitable organizations supported, more than half were selected by CROFT employees.

The success of CROFT Cares was followed by the emergence of CROFT LeadHERship, a program designed to empower women within the organization and to connect them with influential leaders in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry and the community at large. From its first introduction, it was met with huge support. “We are fortunate to be surrounded by allies who want to see the women in our organization succeed and have a seat at the table,” said Stacey, who leads the effort alongside associate Anna Adams. “CROFT is a forward-thinking organization that understands the significance of cultivating an environment that encourages the professional growth of its female workforce,” added Mark. The program has not only made a difference on the women within the program but has also contributed to a broader cultural shift within the organization.

Each of the CROFT partners, in fact, have embraced innovation as a key aspect of the culture. Their contributions have in turn significantly influenced the vitality and sustainability of the organization. Kip Stokes, who also holds the position of chief operating officer, developed and runs weekly leadership training sessions for project managers to help prepare the next generation of CROFT leaders. Anthony Iorillo, out of his passion for improving the client experience, established a standard

This wall of caricatures represents the employees and fun culture at CROFT.
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CROFT & Associates’ people-centric style has become the foundation of its culture.

of architectural quality through his design and documentation work. Jeff Morgan’s influence on processes helped to improve the clarity and visibility of the company’s health, enhancing the management team’s effectiveness and its ability to project growth and plan strategically.

All these initiatives have contributed to the company’s reputation, exemplified by its recent accolades. Annually, since 2020, CROFT has been selected as a “Best Places to Work” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The Chronicle also has recognized CROFT as one of Atlanta’s top 25 largest architecture firms. In 2021, the Cobb Chamber named the firm “Small Business of the Year.” CROFT also is consistently included on Zweig’s “Hot Firm List,” an annual ranking of AEC firms who have shown marked growth.

But despite the awards and honors, Jim has a much simpler take on how he measures the success of his company in its milestone year. “I’m most proud of building a business that has benefited the lives of many. It’s rewarding to know that each day, under the name of CROFT, this company is growing individuals, supporting families, and building communities. My desire is always to be a good steward of the blessings God has given me and use them to bless others. I’m proud of the individuals who’ve grown with our company from its earliest days. I’m proud of the schools we’ve designed that are now providing students with a quality education. I’m proud of the fire stations we envisioned that house the heroes who save lives daily. I’m proud that as a company we are able to live by our values and make a difference in our communities.” n

Workforce Ready.

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core values — ‘doing the right thing,’ ‘taking ownership,’ and ‘passion for excellence’ — drive our work daily, as well as the belief that we can trust one another.”
MAY/JUNE 2024 25

Giving Elders ‘Hope for Aging’

Started in 1904, A.G. Rhodes now serves more than 1,100 residents each year at its three nursing home communities.

At A.G. Rhodes, where they serve elders between ages 61 (the youngest) all the way up to 108 (the oldest), they are dedicated to helping make a positive difference in the lives of the area’s senior population.

“We want to be that avatar, the one who is setting the pace and standard for nursing home care,” says A.G. Rhodes CEO Deke Cateau.

As one of Georgia’s first nursing homes and now one of metro Atlanta’s oldest nonprofit organizations, A.G. Rhodes serves more than 1,100 residents each year at its three locations in Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb counties.

And operating a nonprofit nursing home model is quite unique. “It’s a for-profit and chain-dominated business,” says Cateau, who has been with A.G. Rhodes for 15 years, “but

what sets us apart even from the few other nonprofit nursing homes in Georgia is the clientele we serve.”

“All of our homes are dually certified — Medicaid and Medicare — and if you come into one of A.G. Rhodes’ homes, you would not be able to tell who is paying privately or who is receiving Medicaid. We believe in providing the exact same standard of services,” says Cateau.

S enior Living
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Renovated outdoor courtyard

July 17 marks the 120th anniversary of the nursing home community first opening its doors in Grant Park, serving some of the area’s most vulnerable people, many of whom were uninsured, underinsured, and underserved. Cobb’s location in Marietta opened in 1992 and the Wesley Woods location opened near Emory University Hospital in 1997.

Expanding A.G. Rhodes Cobb

In 2021, A.G. Rhodes relaunched the Legacy of Care Campaign, eventually raising $37.5 million for the project through a combination of public and private funding, along with internal funding, to help underwrite a new skilled nursing and memory care community, as well as transform double-occupancy rooms into single-resident rooms and upgrade the existing community.

Throughout the pandemic, Cateau says

In early 2020 — just before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic — A.G. Rhodes launched a fundraising campaign to help expand and upgrade their Cobb location. “When the pandemic hit, we made the decision to suspend the campaign,” Cateau says. “Most of the nonprofit community in Atlanta started to turn their focuses on where they could make the biggest impact during the pandemic, with homelessness [and] hunger issues we have in the state.”

they realized even more so the importance and need for elders in their nursing home communities to live in single-occupancy rooms. “[The pandemic] highlighted the physical limitations of nursing homes in the traditional nursing home model, and that was the reason COVID-19 spread like wildfire, because of congregate living and the shared spaces,” he adds.

But even before the pandemic started, Cateau says residents and families were requesting private rooms. And so many are excited to now have their own spaces for sleeping, resting, and spending time with families and friends when they come to visit.

“They’ve been watching the process all

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Garden space at new A.G. Rhodes facility.
“At the end of the day, we think [the A.G. Rhodes Cobb expansion is] going to make a difference for the elder population, and not just locally or regionally, but across the nation.”
–Deke Cateau, CEO, A.G. Rhodes

along,” says Jovonne Harvey, Administrator at A.G. Rhodes Cobb. “From the first tree being knocked down to the beautiful building going up, there’s so much anticipation about that and moving forward.”

The new setup also has allowed A.G. Rhodes to create small neighborhoods among residents, in which 12 elders live in a household. “With this new setup, even if there was an outbreak, they’d still have that family — those 12 in their household — who they’d be able to congregate with,” Harvey says.

“One of the most important things about this Cobb project is that it was designed to be a replicable model that other nursing homes can take and use, and that’s always been our mission,” Cateau adds. “At the end of the day, we think it’s going to make a difference for the elder population, and not just locally or regionally, but across the nation.”

Benefits of expanding

The expansion at Cobb was completed in May, a nearly two-year construction period. A.G. Rhodes will continue to serve up to 130 residents in this nursing home, with every room now being private.

“With this expansion, we will be able to fully utilize our certificate of need and do so in a much more dignified, humane way in offering private rooms to everyone,” Cateau says. “In the existing building, we’ll convert all of those shared occupancy rooms into private rooms. That will leave 58 private rooms in the existing building and the additional 72 [in the new building], which are designed for people living with dementia.”

Harvey adds that the transition plan after the move, which they are calling Cobb 2.0 Live, will allow the team at least six weeks

S enior Living
Photo by LaRuche Photo The new A.G. Rhodes building. New dining facility
28 MAY/JUNE 2024
Household kitchen

to make the transition, with gaps in between so they can learn from any issues throughout the move. “Our first set of elders will move into the first floor, and we’ll allow that group and those families to share what part of the process was great and what we could work on getting better,” she says. “This is new to all of us, and we want to make it as smooth as possible for our elders and their families.”

The expansion also will allow A.G. Rhodes Cobb to continue to offer its person-directed model of care, in which they personalize programming and opportunities to accommodate the needs and wants of their residents. “It’s not been a simple task — it’s a journey,”

Cateau says, “but with that, we’ve found three or four programs that have been tremendously successful, including our Horticultural Therapy Program and Music Therapy Program, and we have programs through uses of technology that we are able to do a lot.”

Honoring their legacy

Earlier this year, A.G. Rhodes was honored by the Georgia Senate with a resolution commemorating the organization’s 120th anniversary.

“We represent a legacy of care that is huge and telling in Georgia,” Cateau says, “and I think the honor we received through that

“I feel an abundance of pride being a part of it, and I know that all of our employee care partners feel that same pride.”
–Sonya Williams, Director of Culture and Life Enrichment, A.G. Rhodes

About A.G. Rhodes


Phone: 877.918.6413

A.G. Rhodes Atlanta 350 Blvd. SE Atlanta, GA 30312


A.G. Rhodes Cobb 900 Wylie Road SE Marietta, GA 30067


A.G. Rhodes Wesley Woods 1819 Clifton Road NE Atlanta, GA 30329


resolution represents that what we are doing is making a huge difference, and it’s being felt by thousands of families each year across Georgia. That’s the legacy of why we are still here and proudly doing that.”

Harvey, who has been with A.G. Rhodes for 12 years, agrees. “It’s an honor to work here. There’s something special about A.G. Rhodes … there’s something special about what we provide and what we deliver every day. Sometimes you shy away from aging, but we are able to give our elders hope for aging, and it’s something positive, something optimistic, and something to look forward to.”

“I feel an abundance of pride being a part of it, and I know that all of our employee care partners feel that same pride,” adds Sonya Williams, Director of Culture and Life Enrichment at A.G. Rhodes, who joined the nonprofit nine years ago. “I feel like the people who have the boots on the ground, whether you’ve been here one day or 20 years, we come here, we show up and we do our best. And it shows, because we have elders who are very happy to be here and excited every day about what’s going on. … It’s like magic, and to be a part of it is just an extreme pride.” n

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Household living room in new building.

I n Your Community

Keep Smyrna Beautiful Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Inspiring the community to be clean, green, and beautiful.

This year, Keep Smyrna Beautiful (KSB) is commemorating four decades of service to the City of Smyrna. For 40 years, city employees, KSB staff, and local volunteers have worked diligently on cleanup projects, recycling programs, creating green spaces, planting trees, and more.

Keep Smyrna Beautiful was started in 1984 as Smyrna Clean and Beautiful, Inc. through a Smyrna ordinance. Today, the organization functions as a hybrid model that includes the nonprofit Keep Smyrna Beautiful, Inc., and the Department of Environmental Services, a city department.

“At milestone years, it’s good to reflect on the people and work that got the organization to this point,” says KSB Board Chair Phyllis Owens. “We also want to look forward and dream about new ways to achieve our mission to inspire our community to be clean, green, and beautiful.”

The nonprofit, whose motto is “To inspire our community to be clean, green, and beautiful,” certainly has been successful at its mission. In 1989, Smyrna Clean and Beautiful was instrumental in the opening of the Smyrna Recycling Center. Originally located on Smyrna Hill Drive, the center was only open three days a week to accept newspaper, aluminum, and glass. Now on a larger plot at 3475 Lake Drive, the center is open five days a week and accepts a wide range of materials, including paint and electronics.

Keep Smyrna Beautiful is funded by the

revenue from the Smyrna Recycling Center, donations, grants, and event sponsorships.

Just to give you an idea of how much waste KSB volunteers collect, here are a few key numbers from 2023:

• 21,498 – total pounds of litter collected

• 28,760 – pounds of paper diverted from the landfill

• 5,125 – Christmas trees chipped at annual event

Another well-known project of KSB, the jonquil bulb sale, was awarded national

recognition from Keep America Beautiful when it was known as the “The Great Jonquil Gold Rush,” in the 1980s. Now a fall staple, the annual sale distributes more than 12,000 jonquil bulbs to city residents each year. Additional KSB initiatives include Adopt-a-Mile, School Grants, environmental education in Smyrna schools, and the Sensory Garden. Among its other state and national awards are the following:

• Keep America Beautiful: 2022 Innovation Award: Partnerships, President’s Circle (2003-2022), Sustained Excellence:

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(2015-2019), First Place: National Affiliate (2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2015-2019), Second Place: National Affiliate (2001, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012)

• Keep Georgia Beautiful: Governor’s Circle (2016-2022), First Place: State Affiliate (1997-2010, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2019, Second Place: State Affiliate (2018)

“Change starts by knowing your options and understanding the impacts a person’s choice makes on their community and environment,” says Owens. “I want KSB to be an opportunity to partner with those who want to improve our community and more largely our environment.”

Smyrna Recycling Center

Though it had modest beginnings in 1989 with only a small space to collect newspapers, aluminum cans, and glass, the Smyrna Recycling Center has grown to not only accept more materials, but it also provides educational programming.

Today the Smyrna Recycling Center accepts more than two dozen different items, including electronics, paint, and more. Anyone is free to bring their materials to the center. You don’t have to be a Smyrna resident, and fees apply only for paint, TVs, and computer monitors. Except for holidays, the center is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On the third Friday of every month, the

Help KSB Celebrate

You can help Keep Smyrna Beautiful celebrate its 40th anniversary in a multitude of ways, including helping the nonprofit raise $40,000.

• Support the $40 for 40 campaign. KSB is asking that its volunteers, supporters, and other residents make a contribution of $40 in support of this milestone anniversary. If just two percent of the population of Smyrna donated, the organization can reach its goal!

• Sponsor the Smyrna Garden Tour. KSB’s annual fundraiser, which takes place each May 4, is a self-guided tour of five Smyrna-area gardens.

• Purchase a 40th-anniversary yard sign. This is a great way to spread the word about how important it is to keep Smyrna clean, green, and beautiful. Signs are $15, and proceeds go to support KSB programs. You can purchase signs at the Smyrna Recycling Center during open hours.

• Wear your support. Order one of KSB’s 40th anniversary T-shirts from Bonfire. This helps create awareness of its mission and any profit goes to support KSB programs.

• Volunteer with KSB. The nonprofit always is seeking volunteers to adopt miles, participate in one-time cleanups, represent them at community events, and more!

Complete details on these programs are available at

center offers a tour from 9-10 a.m., led by the current Recycling Center Coordinator Jerod Stewart. “The tour gave a great mix of very practical how-to-recycle information as well as big-picture info about what happens to the items after they’re collected,” shared a recent

Volunteer Picnic and Awards

In April, more than 100 Keep Smyrna Beautiful volunteers hit the streets to pick up litter. They included more than a dozen Adopt-A-Mile groups and Community Cleanup volunteers. Afterward, volunteers met up at Tolleson Park for a Great American Cleanup volunteer appreciation picnic. To recognize KSB’s milestone 40th anniversary, the organization took the opportunity to recognize individuals and groups for their outstanding contribution to KSB in the last year.

2023 Most Litter Picked Up Award – Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

2023 Rookie of the Year (Group) – KEH Camera

2023 Community Partner Award – Jonquil Garden Club (for their work in the Sensory Garden)

2023 Most Hours Volunteered – David Martin

tour participant. “I loved going behind the scenes, and I feel it was immensely helpful to understanding the recycling process, locally in Smyrna and beyond.” Register here for an upcoming tour via KSB’s website, n

2023 Most Hours Volunteered – Lee Holden

2023 Most Hours Volunteered – Stephanie Earhart

2023 Rookie of the Year (Individual) – Jenny Anderson

2023 Ready-for-Anything Award – Maria Shiung

Lifetime Achievement Volunteer Award (Individual) – Jim Simpson

Lifetime Achievement Volunteer Award (Group) – Smyrna Optimist Club

MAY/JUNE 2024 31

The Micromanagement Trend

Most journalists are curious, inquisitive people which means we read a lot. I’m a voracious consumer of news and thus, I subscribe to many newsletters and other publications. Sometimes, among the variety of news outlets, a pattern emerges. Lately, I’ve noticed a great deal of coverage regarding micromanaging, which the MerriamWebster Dictionary defines as “to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.” Of course, the term isn’t new, but perhaps the practice of micromanaging — and the resulting employee dissatisfaction — has increased of late as the American workforce returned to offices following the pandemic.

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No one wants to be micromanaged, yet there are many people who try to micromanage others. In psychological terms, experts say this dichotomy results from people trying to reconnect with employees at the lower levels of an organization, and/or to counter feelings of isolation. I think some micromanagers also have control issues, so they can’t relax and just let coworkers do their jobs. Regardless of the reasons, a micromanagement culture at work can have many harmful effects.

According to the developers of Breathe, an HR software company based in the United Kingdom, micromanagement is one of the worst, most damaging and morale-sapping ways of managing people. It can seriously affect productivity, employee retention and ultimately, damage people’s health. These human resources professionals say a manager’s job is to provide guidance and support. Their role is to facilitate a healthy environment where employees can perform at their best — reaching their potential by having true autonomy in their roles and building their confidence. Unfortunately, micromanagers achieve exactly the opposite.

Business leaders who focus on creating open, positive workplace cultures — much like we see with CROFT in this issue’s cover feature — where people feel supported and appreciated, with their achievements recognized by their peers and managers, create an environment where it should be impossible for micromanagers to thrive. Thus, micromanaging is one way that a so-called toxic workplace culture can develop. There are a multitude of expert-derived ways to deal with and/or prevent micromanagement, so as I delve deeper into this topic, perhaps I can offer the best options in a future issue of the magazine. Meanwhile, if you’ve had to deal with this, what approaches did you take? n

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32 MAY/JUNE 2024
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