Cobb In Focus November December 2022

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Shepherd’s Men

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 Cumberland Diamond Exchange • GRACEPOINT School • CLifeFit • Wiley Creek Duck Preserve • The Reserve at Bells Ferry
Lifting up our warriors in need


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6 SHARPER FOCUS Find out what’s going on throughout Cobb County with our news updates and calendar of events. 8 BUSINESS After 40 years in business, Cumberland Diamond Exchange continues to give back to Cobb. 12 EDUCATION GRACEPOINT School celebrates 10 years of meeting the needs of students with dyslexia. 18 HEALTH Crystal Duke with CLifeFit helps clients maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle. 27 VETERANS DAY EVENTS IN COBB 28 ARTS AND RECREATION Wiley Creek Duck Preserve is a beautiful property in Waleska, Georgia for hunting as well as weddings. 30 IN YOUR COMMUNITY The Reserve at Bells Ferry combines the character of a small town with the convenience of city living. 32 FINAL FOCUS Our unwanted gadgets can pose extensive environmental harm. Vol. XVIII, No. 6 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 Contents On the cover: Left to Right: Shepherd’s Men members Walter Marques, retired veteran, U.S. Marine Corps; and James Peterson, retired U.S. Army veteran with Travis Ellis, co-founder, Shepherd’s Men for a run in honor of veterans who have paid the ultimate price for our country’s freedom. Photo courtesy of Shepherd’s Men FEATURE Raising Awareness And Funds For Service Men And Women Shepherd’s Men has raised nearly $8 million for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. 22 4 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022

At some point during the production of this issue, it struck me just how much I can relate to the topics and people we cover. From military service and veterans issues to outdoors pur suits and fitness concerns, as I read through and edited this issue’s articles, I found myself thinking “I have been through this,” or “I know people who live with this,” and “This is a cause I’ve supported,” et cetera.

For our cover feature, we present to you the story of Shepherd’s Men and how/why they raise funding to help injured veterans. I come from a long line of military servicemen, so this cause and other issues concerning our veterans is of great importance to me. Similarly, my twin brother (an Army veteran and current Army Reservist) is a hunting enthusiast, so he gave me a quick tutorial on how duck hunting works and the licensing required before I interviewed Peggy Lewallen from Wiley Creek Duck Preserve in Waleska. Peggy’s beautiful property makes me want to pay her a visit, and who knows, I could be joining my brother on a duck hunt soon!

This issue also contains a profile of Cumberland Diamond Exchange (CDE), which recently celebrated 40 years of business. The owners of this Cobb landmark have made charitable giving and community involvement a cornerstone of their operation. I live close to CDE, and like owner Mark Jacobson, I have watched Smyrna grow and change over the last few decades. The growth has been extraordinary — for both the city and CDE.

Finally, in our health feature, we profile certified fitness instructor and health coach Crystal Duke who offers advice on how to strive for progress in our overall health rather than perfection. She has sage advice for all of us because everyone can identify with strug gles to get and stay healthy.

I hope you enjoy these features, as well as the other articles herein. Have a great Thanksgiving and a wonderful Hanukkah or Christmas.

Contact Cobb in Focus

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

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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 advertis ing 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. Mate rial in this publication may not be reprinted without written permission from the pub lisher. Copyright 2022 by New South Publish ing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.

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harper Focus

Cobb Library System Teams Up with Kanopy

The Cobb Library system is offering streaming movies and TV shows using Kanopy on any of your devices. You don’t need to buy any special hardware or pay for a streaming service. You can get it all for free with your library card.

Credit Union of Georgia Recognized as an Outstanding Partner in Education

Credit Union of Georgia and Business Development Officer, Kathy Winiarczyk, have been named Outstanding Partners in Education by Marietta High School for providing educational opportunities, donations, and financial services to the school and the community. Teaching students about financial principals at Marietta High School’s Summer EXCELerate Camp, participating in Career Expos, providing breakfast for faculty and staff, and providing financial donations is just some of the ways Credit Union of Georgia gives back. Learn more at

Dansby Swanson Portrait Donated to MHS

Last year, LGE Community Credit Union honored Atlanta Braves player and LGE spokesperson Dansby Swanson with a mural painted by artist Ivann Garc during the 2021 Chalktoberfest event. Now, that portrait — which has spent the past year on display in Marietta Square — is hanging in the halls of Marietta High School as a donation from LGE. Swanson is a 2012 graduate of the school.

New GBI Director Sworn In

Michael “Mike” Register has been sworn in as the new Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Before being appointed to lead the GBI, he served as assistant chief of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office where he oversaw community engagement, uniform field operations, and internal affairs. “Mike has a strong track record of strengthening public safety and protecting Georgia’s communities,” said Gov. Brian Kemp.

Cobb Marks 25 Years of AAA Ratings

Cobb County is celebrating a significant milestone. Cobb has now received a AAA rating for 25 consecutive years from the Fitch Group, Moody’s, and S&P Global Ratings — considered the “Big Three” agencies. The milestone marks not just an accomplishment for the county’s finance team, but CFO Bill Volckmann says it benefits all Cobb residents. “The AAA rating means a lower cost of borrowing, easier market access, the strong reputation of the business community, and strong county management,” Volckmann said.

Town Center CID Announces Townie Awards Winners

Town Center Community Improvement District (CID) hosted its 25th Anniversary and first annual State of the District event in October in Kennesaw. The celebration ended with the inaugural Townie Awards, which honor leaders in the community that have been a part of Town Center Community’s rich history and have made significant contributions to Town Center’s success. This year’s winners are: Community Champion – Jim Croy, Croy Engineering; Commercial Champion – Andy Eichenblatt, Print Graphics; and Town Center Champion – JoAnn Birrell, Cobb County District 3 Commissioner.

Credit Union of Georgia Participates in MUST Dance

Credit Union of Georgia’s Marketing Specialist, Farrah Dale, was one of the six participants in MUST Ministries’ annual “Dancing with the Stars” event this past August. This event is held at Piedmont Church in Marietta to help raise money to support the mission and values of MUST Ministries. This year’s dance raised more than $100,000. “MUST does so much good for individuals, families, and children in our communities. We are happy to support this nonprofit and we are proud of Farrah for ‘stepping’ up and supporting not only MUST’s mission and values, but the mission and values of the Credit Union,” said Brian Albrecht, President/CEO.

Cumberland CID Launches Non-Profit

Cumberland CID has launched its first community 501(c)(3) organization ( One Cumberland will help bolster the work of the Cumberland CID by enhancing and broadening its reach, funding, and impact. “Now one of Cobb’s most diverse areas, Cumberland is home to over 30,000 residents and 3,300 businesses. One Cumberland will embrace this growth and engage our diversity to further establish Cumberland as a place where people want to live, work, and visit,” said One Cumberland Board Chair Rob Garcia.

Cobb Chamber Names Mike Plant its 2024 Chairman

The Cobb Chamber’s Board of Directors has named Mike Plant, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Atlanta Braves Development Company, as its 2024 Chairman of the Board.

Plant will start his term as Chairman in January 2024. “I am so honored to serve as the Chamber’s 2024 Chairman and have the opportunity to work with the Chamber’s leadership team, in partnership with the Board of Directors to continue advancing the organization’s mission and strategic focus to create healthy conditions for Cobb’s businesses,” said Plant.

a snapshot of what’s going on in your community.
Pictured L-R: Chad Koenig, Secret Holland, Jon Ingram, Melissa Cantrell, Rob Garcia, Barry Teague, Chris McCoy, Michele Swann, and Holly Quinlan.


Mistletoe Market

The Junior League of Cobb-Marietta will hold its annual Mistletoe Market at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta. More info:


Kennesaw Grand Prix 5K

Help make a healthier Kennesaw on a mostly flat asphalt course through downtown Kennesaw. More info:


Gobble Jog

Help raise money for MUST Ministries’ 20th annual Gobble Jog by participating in a 10K, 5K, 1K, or a Tot Trot. More info:

11/11 – 12/26

Festival of Trees

Enjoy beautifully decorated trees and find out how to support local nonprofits at Town Center at Cobb. More info:


Autism Speaks Georgia 5K

Running with Autism Speaks in Piedmont Park will provide you an exciting, memorable, and fulfilling experience where you can help enhance lives today while accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow. More info:


Coming Home for the Holidays

This is Smyrna’s annual holiday kick-off party. The Big Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony happens with Santa and lots of holiday festivities to enjoy. More info:



Acworth Turkey Chase

The 14th annual Acworth Turkey Chase is an exhilarating 5K run and 2K walk through Historic Downtown Acworth and along the shores of beautiful Lake Acworth. More info:

11/19 – 1/1/23

Six Flags Holiday in the Park

Get the holiday magic started. More than 1 million LED lights and dozens of Christmas trees will create the perfect, magical atmosphere. More info:

*See page 27 for info on local Veterans Day events.


Christmas Tree Lighting

The City of Marietta’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting returns! Kick off this holiday season with Santa’s arrival to the square. Plus, there’s an Ugly Sweater Parade! More info:


Christmas House

The 37th SCAA Christmas House Art and Craft Market juried event is planned to be held at the Ford Center in Powder Springs. More info:


Santa’s Arrival in Acworth

The City of Acworth welcomes Santa Claus to downtown on Friday around 5:30 p.m. More info:


Golden Eagle Luncheon

Join more than 1,000 of the Atlanta Area’s top business and community leaders as they celebrate the Boy Scouts of America and pledge to support its future. More info:


Christmas Golf Cart Parade

Join Acworth for its second annual Christmas Golf Cart Parade! Participation is free, but registration is required. More info:


The Marietta Pilgrimage

For the 36th annual Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Home Tour, get a glimpse inside private homes located in the Kennesaw Avenue Local Historic District. More info:


Smyrna Handmade Holiday Market

Shop for locally made holiday arts and crafts at Brawner Hall and Reed House in Smyrna. More info:


Smyrna Wondrous Winter Cleanup

Join your neighbors and friends to gift Smyrna with clean streets and good cheer. More info:


Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting

The Powder Springs Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting begins at 6:30 p.m. in downtown Powder Springs. More info:


A Day With Santa

Santa’s arrival in Kennesaw begins at 2 p.m. with a Main Street parade featuring decorated floats, vintage cars, and costumed characters. More info:


Christmas in Acworth

Join Santa for photos in Downtown Acworth! Festivities begin at 1 p.m. More info:


Sensory Friendly Afternoon

Join the Southern Museum for a Sensory Friendly Afternoon from 2-5 p.m. They welcome visitors with Autism Spectrum Disorder, sensory processing issues, or special needs to explore the museum at their own pace. More info:

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

A Community Gem

After 40 years in business, Cumberland Diamond Exchange continues to give back to Cobb.

B usiness

We all know the market ing tagline “A Diamond is Forever.” It’s creation in 1947 catapulted our mod ern love affair with these precious stones and created the modern engagement ring. The human infatuation with diamonds can be traced back to the first century AD Romans, historians say, but as the Industrial Age’s technology and resulting affluence meant more people could afford to own diamonds and other luxury jewelry items, demand rose dramatically.

It may seem like a simple equation to say that people love jewelry and fine jew elry is expensive; therefore, it’s obviously easy to operate a jewelry store in America. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, a diamond may last forever, but there’s no guarantee that a business selling diamonds and other jewels will last just as long. So, to say that running a business — any business — for 40 years is a great accomplishment is an incred ible understatement. But Cumberland Diamond Exchange has done just that. This family-run business, which opened its doors in 1982, is a Smyrna landmark and attracts customers from all over the state. Thus, the City of Smyrna recently commemorated Cumberland Diamond Exchange with a special Day of Proclama tion ceremony on Oct. 3, 2022.

Cobb In Focus reached out to owners/ operators Mark and Rhonda Jacobson to talk about this remarkable achievement as well as to learn about the company’s history.

The shop sits near the corner of Spring Road and Cumberland Boulevard where the Jacobsons have watched their business grow — and Smyrna along with it. In the 1980s, Smyrna was a small town few folks outside of Cobb County even knew about. In 1988, National Geographic infamously referred to Smyrna as “redneck town.” But today, Smyrna is an economic powerhouse with an award-winning downtown devel opment and one of the hottest real estate markets in the state.

“Who would have thought the Atlanta Braves would build a stadium a block away from our store? I’ve been able to witness

what some people called a sleepy town [blos som] into one of the most desirable cities in the metro area to live, especially young millennials as downtown Smyrna and The Battery Atlanta has provided them with a premier entertainment venue,” Mark says. “When we purchased our current building in 1999, we could have never imagined we would be in the heart in the entertainment district of Cobb County. With the Atlanta Braves and The Battery, it’s like having a resort at the end of Spring Road for all to enjoy!

Mark moved to the area in the 1970s and started an advertising agency before working as the in-house marketer for a local

jewelry store. Enamored more with the jewelry business than with advertising, he and his brother, Wayne, later opened Cum berland Diamond Exchange. A few years later, Rhonda Akins was among the staff additions as the business blossomed. She is credited with early innovations in the com pany’s business plan and with becoming the store’s first Graduate Gemologist. She’s also credited with stealing Mark’s heart; the couple were married in 1985. Mark and Rhonda now operate the business.

The store started out small at about 1,200 square feet but has since grown to almost 5,000 square feet. Though the store’s appearance may have changed, its mission

“Cumberland Diamond Exchange is not a jewelry business; it is a people business. We repeatedly claim that the solitary reason we are still in business today is due to our investment made in people and community. Nothing more and nothing less.”
—Mark Jacobson

hasn’t. Cumberland Diamond Exchange has been “Passionately engaging relation ships since 1982.” And the owners know that their biggest asset is their reputation.

The Jacobsons say that their core prin ciples of treating customers like family and serving the community are the two, main reasons their business has thrived for four decades. The couple take pride in their well-regarded, handcrafted jewelry, supe rior customer service, and notable achieve ments. But they are most proud of the relationships formed over the years with the community. “[We] had a big dream in 1982 — even when it was just me and my brother and a 1,200-square-foot storefront — and the result is a community filled with people with better lives because of Cumberland Diamond Exchange and our philosophy of service,” Mark says.

Yes, the company has sold millions of jewels and bobbles, Mark says. Yes, its sales have exponentially grown beyond his wildest dreams in 40 years. Yes, the company’s team of employees now tops 15. And yes, Cumberland Diamond Exchange has received numerous industry accolades as professionals of fine jewelry. “But this is not how Rhonda and I as co-owners define success,” Mark adds. “For us, success is measured by the relationships developed and the positive impact made on people. And, therefore, Cumberland Diamond Exchange is not a jewelry business; it is a people business. We repeatedly claim that the solitary reason we are still in business today is due to our investment made in

people and community. Nothing more and nothing less.”

This love for their community often is reciprocated. For example, during the height of the pandemic, when shops across the country were closed and many never reopened, Cumberland Diamond Exchange’s clientele continued to support the business. “During the uncertainty of sus taining our business during the pandemic, the community support that was given to us validated that we were valued in the com munity,” Mark says. “Although we would partially open, clients and friends purchased gift cards and ordered merchandise over the phone and online. We feel truly blessed to be part of such an amazing county.”

Clearly, Mark and Rhonda’s passion for giving is appreciated and respected through out Cobb. But Mark gives all credit for these endeavors to his life partner and business partner, Rhonda. “If you ever met my wife and partner, Rhonda, you would know who has the heart of gold for philanthropy,” he

says. “Her favorite phrase is ‘If you have been blessed, you should bless others.’ As a business leader in the community, we feel it’s our civic obligation to help non-profits to be successful in their mission. Creating jewelry to help raise money and awareness for our non-profit partners has also been a blessing for us personally.”

So, where do the Jacobsons give of their time and money? The list is as impres sive and varied as their store’s merchan dise. Cumberland Diamond Exchange supports more than 40 charitable orga nizations and non-profits, including the Smyrna Public Safety Foundation, Safe Path Children’s Advocacy Center, the Cobb Library Foundation, and Shep herd’s Men. Take a look:

• Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Scot tish Rite) (supported in the 1990s)

• Wellstar Foundation (supported since 2009; board member 2013-2016)

• LiveSafe Resources (supported since 2010; board member 2015-2021; board chairperson 2018-2019; recipient of 2014 Women of Achievement)

• SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center (supported since 2011; recipient of 2019 Crystal Gavel Community Service Award; board member, chairperson of the board)

• Shepherd’s Men (supported since 2014)

• Cufflinks + Charms for Charity (signa ture program since 2010; custom-designed jewelry for resale and recognition for chari table organizations)

• Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center (2007 Inaugural Grand Opening, Advisory Board, Gala Host Committee & Patron – 2007-2012)

• Cobb Library Foundation (supported since 2017)

• Smyrna Public Safety Foundation (sup ported since 2017)

B usiness
“As a business leader in the community, we feel it’s our civic obligation to help nonprofits to be successful in their mission. Creating jewelry to help raise money and awareness for our non-profit partners has also been a blessing for us personally.”
—Mark Jacobson
Mark and Rhonda Jacobson (center) following the City of Smyrna Special Day of Proclamation ceremony.

“Simply put: We lead with the belief that it’s our obligation to be an active, force-changing part of this community,” Mark says. “It’s the lives we’ve touched and improved because of our unwavering dedication to this principle that truly defines our forty-year success.”

Jinger Robins, MA, Chief Exec utive Officer of SafePath Chil dren’s Advocacy Center describes the company as an essential part ner in her efforts to combat child abuse. “For over 10 years, Cumberland Dia mond Exchange has been the sparkle in the eyes of so many children,” she says. “CDE’s support of our organization has allowed us to provide essential services to thousands of children who have been abused. The volunteer support and financial donations, along with their social media support of our program has been like a hidden jewel to our vision in Cobb County to create a community free of child abuse.”

Of course, the Jacobsons are not chas ing accolades or attention. They’re simply

doing what they think will best help the community in which they live, work, and employ. The fact that so many others take notice is a testament to Cumberland Dia mond Exchange’s impact. Here are but a few of the business’s recent honors:

• 2014 Sam Olens Business Community Service Award (finalist)

• 2015 Cobb County Small Business of the Year (2013 + 2014 finalist)

• 2016 Southeastern United States, Jeweler of the Year

• 2017 Smyrna Citizen of the Year:

Rhonda Jacobson (presented by Cobb Chamber of Commerce)

• Best of Cobb 2017 (pre sented by Cobb Life Magazine)

• Top 5% of independent, specialty jewelers in the United States based on revenue (2000’s to current)

Mark says he would be remiss if he didn’t give credit to his team of employees. He said he is fortunate to have quality people in key leadership roles. “Prentice Johnson, our general manager, and Rich ard Rahim, our inventory manager, have been with us for almost two decades. Clay Haddon, our shop manager, has been with us for ten years, and our daughter and marketing manager, Melissa Jacob son Bishop, has been with us since … birth,” he notes.

Cumberland Diamond Exchange might be a family-owned and operated fine jew elry store (with the third generation just born this past July), but it is a success as a people business, Mark says. n

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GRACEPOINT School Turns 10 Years Strong

A school designed to meet the specific needs of students with dyslexia, GRACEPOINT School continues to grow and evolve.

E ducation

In 2012, GRACEPOINT School met the call of area children diagnosed with dys lexia, and 10 years later, it is growing and going strong. Thanks to the determina tion of two Marietta mothers, Molly Holm and Angie Strack, who were searching for an option for their second-grade dyslexic boys, GRACEPOINT opened its doors.

“These moms knew their sons were strug gling in school and desperately wanted to help them,” says Susan Spruill, Director of Marketing and Communication for GRA CEPOINT. “After much research, they dis covered there were very few educational opportunities available specifically for dys lexic learners in the Atlanta area [so they] decided to create a school for their children.”

To be sure, the pioneering work of start ing a school seemed quite overwhelming. With the guidance of Brenda Fitzgerald, executive director of the Georgia Educa tional Training Agency, the school initially opened with four students.

Addressing a need

According to the International Dyslexia Association, as many as one out of five stu dents live with dyslexia. Dyslexic students often struggle while their condition goes undiagnosed. Often, they can be labeled as low achievers and considered unmotivated. Confidence can begin to fade as these

students try to keep up; some even stop trying altogether. The need for a special ized school in Cobb County was evident to GRACEPOINT’s founders.

For acceptance into the school, a student must have a diagnosis of dyslexia. The school’s admissions process is extremely thorough, allowing the team to assure the needs of each individual student are best met in accordance with his or her unique learning profile. Applicants come from both public and private schools and have varying levels of academic skills.

The school employs 50 full- and part-time people and is funded through yearly tuition. Spruill says needs-based tuition assistance is available and is received by about 20 percent of GRACEPOINT students. The school’s instructional program is one of only 19 accredited programs in the nation through the Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitio ners and Educators.

Making a difference

The lasting effects of attendance at GRACEPOINT are abundant. Entire fami lies, not just students, are impacted in a posi tive way. “When Ayla was in fourth grade, it broke my heart to watch her struggle to say the alphabet,” says Lynn Huckabey, a GRACEPOINT parent. “It broke my heart to watch her crying under her bed because

she dreaded school so much. She knew she was different, but she didn’t know why. Never in a million years could I have imag ined the joy our family would come to know because of GRACEPOINT.”

Huckabey says Ayla is now a junior in high school, and her frustrations caused by dys lexia are a distant memory. She has grown from a hesitant, defeated fourth grader who felt she couldn’t do anything right, into a kind and confident student eager to challenge herself. “Because of the love, patience, grace and support she received at GRACEPOINT, my Ayla is eager to con quer the world,” Huckabey says. “Because of GRACEPOINT, I have every confidence she can. I will be forever grateful.”

An academy accreditation

As an accredited program, their teachers are led by the Director of Instructional Leadership, Kendra Lashley. “When stu dents first arrive at GRACEPOINT, they tell stories of defeat, frustration, and being filled with anxiety,” Lashley says. “The Orton-Gillingham teaching method pro vides an explicit, systematic and multisen sory approach to learning, which allows our students to meet their academic goals successfully.”

GRACEPOINT’s Orton-Gillingham read ing groups are formed at the beginning


of the year but remain fluid. An under standing that each student’s progress will vary exists as teachers continue to moni tor, assess, and adjust reading groups as needed. The groups serve a variety of read ing levels, from basic skills, such as sound/ symbol correspondence, to more advanced word attack skills.

Teachers compose daily lessons that are prescriptive and diagnostic, yet structured in a way that meets the needs of the students at various levels. Each Orton-Gillingham les son consists of association drills, the spelling of both phonetic and non-phonetic words, dictation, oral reading, and syllabication.

GRACEPOINT School has created a unique program that increases students’ understanding of “morphology.” Morphol ogy is the study of words, their meanings, and how words are built. Morphemes are the smallest unit of meaning — bases, pre fixes and suffixes. One common strength of the dyslexic learner is the ability to see these patterns, or morphemes, in words. Mor phology and Orton-Gillingham are inter twined from the beginning of the reme diation process, and continue to advanced morphology classes.

Cofounder Angie Strack is the Director of Morphology, and she created special char acters to introduce morphology to a school wide audience. GRACEPOINT’s morpho logical initiative empowers, enriches, and equips its students to attack vocabulary. This tactic strengthens reading comprehension and helps in the development of a deeper understanding of word meaning.

“GRACEPOINT School recognizes that

students are fearfully and wonderfully made differently by God for His plan, His pur pose, and His story,” says Joy Wood, Head of School. “Our mission is to equip dyslexic students with the skills needed to develop into independent and confident learners through sequential, systematic, and multi sensory instruction. Our goal is to instill in each child a lifelong desire for growing in wisdom and gaining knowledge of the Lord, so that each may fulfill God’s purposes and bring glory to Him.”

Campus life School leadership understands that dyslexia is not a disability, but a learning differ ence. The school identifies and exploits students’ strengths, viewing dyslexia as a gift

to embrace and celebrate, and remediating academic weaknesses. These approaches help to foster self-confidence and self-advo cacy skills, while creating positive work hab its and study skills.

“At the heart of GRACEPOINT School is its desire to grow servant leaders and service to the Christian faith,” Spruill says. “In addition to school-wide gatherings for pledge and prayer and a weekly chapel, the students participate in a ‘House’ pro gram. Each student is assigned to one of four Houses, where individuals across grade levels work together and learn from each other. The House program promotes lead ership, school spirit, and comradery.”

10 years strong

GRACEPOINT is now celebrating its 10th anniversary with an enrollment of 132 students in grades 1 through 8. After 10 years of remediating dyslexic learn ers, the school is now seeing its alumni become high school graduates. In the last three years, GRACEPOINT alumni have begun their college careers at Kennesaw State University, Georgia College, Texas A&M, Life University, University of North Georgia, and the University of West Georgia among others.

“GRACEPOINT gave me the foundation to excel, showing me that dyslexia can be a good thing,” says Jake Lashley, GRACE POINT alumni and junior at Kennesaw State University. “There are advantages to dyslexia; my thought process is different

E ducation
One on one instruction.
Practicing cursive 14 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022

from my friends’. At times, it can feel like a stumbling block, but with the tools I learned at GRACEPOINT, I now have something special in my corner.”

Strack expresses her deep gratitude toward the community for 10 years of sup port. “I am so grateful for the love and

support of the community that allowed us to start this amazing school, equipping dyslexic learners with the tools needed to succeed in our world,” she says. “Over the past 10 years, I have had the privilege of see ing so many lives changed. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds!”

Going forward

The GRACEPOINT Board of Directors and Administration have been actively pursu ing a new property over the last two years. Wood says the team has long recognized the limited potential for growth and the need for more space for current students at the Piedmont location. After an exhaus tive search, GRACEPOINT purchased the MUST Ministries building, located at 1407 Cobb Parkway, in April 2022. Renovations are scheduled to take place in 2023, with plans to officially open the new location for the 2023-2024 school year.

“As with the renovation of the building at Piedmont Church, we look forward to seeing our community come together to transform the MUST Ministries building into a school,” Wood says. “We want to build an exceptional school, one that brings out the brilliance of the dyslexic learner, while restoring hope to students and their families. We are genuinely grateful to all the individuals, families, and foundations who make this school possible.” n

The Right Course for You Spotlight Video Business Technology Program A Unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution. Apply Now Spring Semester Priority Application Deadline November 18 I 770-528-4545 Partnering with GRACEPOINT GRACEPOINT School leadership believes it is an economic reality that the literacy rate is directly correlated to the economic strength of a community. It is a behavioral reality that fostering selfless service and genuine love of one another builds the social fabric of a community. GRACEPOINT School serves Cobb County as the only immersive school for dyslexic students. The school’s focus is on two key areas: building literacy through an Orton-Gillingham accredited multi-sensory instructional program, and developing a passion and appreciation for Christian values of servant leadership and love of neighbor in its students. The support of Cobb County community businesses is important to the growth and development of the school and a continuation of the services provided to students. For more information, contact administration at 678.709.6634.  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 15

Cobb Teachers of the Year

The Cobb Chamber recently celebrated the 33rd year of Give Our Schools a Hand (GOSH). A salute to education in Cobb County, GOSH events bring educators, students, parents, businesses, and community leaders together to honor education through three distinctive events: the Handprint Unveiling Ceremony (Oct. 6), and the Teacher of the Year Breakfast and Pep Rally (Oct. 25).

The two honored teachers this year — Marietta City Schools (MCS) Teacher of the Year, Joshua Dempsey, and Cobb County School District Teacher of the Year, Jenifer Mitacek from Argyle Elementary School (AES), left their handprint legacies on the Teacher Walk of Honor, located on the Marietta Square.

Dempsey has served as the Audio-Video Technology and Film teacher at Marietta High School (MHS) for the past four years. In his Broadcast News class, students create and run a news broadcast called the “Blue Devil News” that is edited and produced every day and played for the entire school. Dempsey is a strong advocate for his students and works with community partners to help his students gain real-world experience. Some of these projects included live-streaming

MCS Board Meetings during the COVID-19 shutdown for families, producing live-streams and videos for community events like Veterans Day and MHS graduation, and creating and producing multiple promotional videos for Marietta organizations and schools.

Mitacek is a second-grade teacher

at AES. Mitacek has been an elementary educator for nine years with experience in teaching first, second, and third grade. During her time at AES, she has been the site liaison and coach for the Argyle Girls on the Run team, started the afterschool enrichment STEM club, and organized a schoolwide effort to send letters to military members during the holiday season. Mitacek also has been involved in several district-level committees for the Cobb County School District such as the priority standards committee, mathematics standards revision committee, and is a graduate of the Cobb Teacher Leader Academy.

Through the years, the Give Our Schools a Hand (GOSH) program has motivated the community to take an active role in Cobb’s public school systems and has attracted attention to the quality of education in Cobb County. Dating back to 1988, GOSH has become one of the largest events honoring local educators, celebrating more than 130 teachers here in Cobb County.

The Presenting Sponsor for GOSH is Voyles Automotive Group.

Doctorate Level sponsors for this event are Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Kennesaw State University, Lockheed Martin, Atlanta Braves Foundation, and The Lumistella Company.

E ducation
Jenifer Mitacek Joshua Dempsey

Chattahoochee Tech Celebrates Opening of Superior Plumbing VECTR Center

Chattahoochee Technical College celebrated the opening of the Superior Plumbing Veterans Education and Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center at the college’s Marietta Campus in October.

The college will help veterans translate military skills and experience into training programs for high-demand and meaningful careers. It will provide

active and retired veterans with a place to assist them as they transition into the civilian workforce and into postsecondary education institutions. “My colleagues in the General Assembly and I, along with Gov. Kemp, take seriously the state’s responsibility to help activeduty military and veterans,” said House Speaker David Ralston who spoke at the opening. “While we can never repay them for their service or sacrifice, we can ensure that they have every opportunity for success when they enter the civilian workforce.”

The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) State Board approved naming this facility the Superior Plumbing VECTR Center in honor of a $500,000 donation

presented by Jay Cunningham to the Chattahoochee Tech Foundation. This donation worked in conjunction with a $2.25-million appropriation from the General Assembly for establishing a VECTR Center at Chattahoochee Tech. This is the second VECTR Center in the state, following the establishment of the first VECTR program near Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. To learn more, visit

Chattahoochee Tech Aviation Training Academy Breaks Ground

Chattahoochee Technical College hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in September in Paulding County to mark the beginning of construction for the college’s $35-million Aviation Training Academy.

Community leaders gathered with Chattahoochee Tech staff and faculty at a site near the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport. The three-story, 55,000-square-foot facility planned for this location will provide space for up to 200 students who will train in aviation mechanics and maintenance. It will include a 12,000-square-foot hangar along with instructional labs, classrooms, and a technical library. This facility also will include an administrative wing to provide for an FAA testing lab and college faculty offices.

Specific programs of study planned for the Aviation Training Academy include Aviation Maintenance Technician-Powerplant and Aircraft Structural Technology. Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanics repair, service and maintain parts of an aircraft that include the engine, landing gear, brakes and airconditioning systems. A program of study also will be offered at the new facility in Aircraft Structural Upholstery and Trim.

“There is a soaring industry demand for more aviation maintenance professionals,” said Chattahoochee Tech President Dr. Ron Newcomb. “The Aviation Training Academy will allow us to respond to that workforce need and provide

students with real-world, practical training for successful careers in this field. We are so appreciative of the Governor’s and General Assembly’s commitment to our mission of strengthening both individuals and businesses through workforce training.”

The Chattahoochee Tech Aviation Training Academy project was announced in 2018, with the $24-million project programming and design work beginning in 2021. Croft & Associates, a Georgia-based national architecture, design and engineering firm, created the design for the Chattahoochee Tech Aviation Training Academy. Construction for this new facility is anticipated to be completed in approximately 13 to 15 months.

Speaker David Ralston spekas at the opening Dr Newcomb, Jay and Jim Cunningham and TCSG Commissioner Dozier

Progress Over Perfection

Don’t get in a rut this holiday season. Stick to your health goals.

H ealth

It’s something that often haunts us come New Year’s Day each year, and something many of us struggle with — losing the weight we’ve gained during the holiday season. But it doesn’t have to be hard, and Crystal Duke, a certified fitness instructor and health coach, as well as owner and founder of CLifeFit in Marietta, says it’s about finding balance when it comes to your eating and exercise habits in November and December.

“Enjoy this season and all that it has to offer. Just be mindful that the key to success fully managing your weight over holidays, like everything else in life, is to use ‘bal ance,’” she says.

Coach Crystal, who has been a fit ness instructor for five years and created CLifeFit two years ago (she recently relo cated to Cobb County from Chicago), works alongside her brother, Doran Duke, MD, a board-certified internal medicine doctor and obesity medical specialist. The CLifeFit gym is located inside ARCD Weight Loss

Management off Roswell Road in Marietta, where Dr. Duke is CEO. She works mainly with women, and her mission is to help them create sustainable behavioral patterns centered around their health to improve

quality of life. ARCD and CLifeFit col laborate together using the most advanced diagnostic tests to assess body composition and metabolic rates to accurately map out an action plan for long-term weight loss.

A.G. Rhodes is embarking on a landmark effort.

We recently began construction to


for those


build a new home on our Cobb campus
will improve the quality of care and safety of elders, particularly
living with dementia.
us create A LEGACY OF CARE as we pioneer what it means to live well during all stages of life – regardless of age, diagnosis, or socioeconomic status.
“Enjoy this season and all that it has to offer. Just be mindful that the key to successfully managing your weight over holidays, like everything else in life, is to use ‘balance.’”
–Crystal Duke, Certified Fitness Instructor and Health Coach, Owner and Founder, CLifeFit

The story behind CLifeFit

Coach Crystal fell into the health and fit ness profession after working 20 years as a speech-language pathologist.

“Many of the adult patients I treated had suffered from cardiovascular and neuro logical diseases, with underlining comor bidities of hypertension, diabetes, hyper lipidemia (high cholesterol) and obesity,” she says. “Over time, I learned that if these comorbidities had been properly managed early on with medical intervention and life style changes, many of my patients’ medical outcomes would have been different.”

She also experienced this firsthand with her mother. Despite years of encouraging her to eat a more balanced diet, Duke’s mom was always resistant. And although she claimed she worked out, Coach Crystal never really saw any real improvements in her mother’s health or energy level. “I accompanied her to the gym one day and discovered that even though my mom was familiar with the place, she appeared very uncomfortable and unsure of herself in the space,” adds Coach Crystal.

This is something she’s learned many women relate to. “That day, my mom and I agreed to embark on a journey together to improve her overall health,” Coach Crystal says. “Over time, my mom made small, last ing changes and gained a renewed sense of self-confidence that ultimately transformed her body, mind, and overall lifestyle.”

In turn, Coach Crystal gained new per spectives and a deeper level of empathy for people who, like her mother, just needed someone to come alongside them to help provide education, support, guidance and a little tough love in this area of their life.

And out of this experience, she launched CLifeFit, which is unique in that she pairs fitness training with health coaching. “My greatest joy is helping women develop selfefficacy in the areas of their body aware ness, strength in terms of what they are

able to do physically in the gym and, more importantly, their ability to conquer fears and overcome obstacles in their weight loss journey that they’ve struggled with for years,” Coach Crystal says. “I really want to equip people with tools that they can always go back and refer to once they leave my program.”

She also wants women to understand that they aren’t alone in their struggles to gain or lose weight. “I always tell people, ‘We’re looking for progress not perfection on this journey, and you’re going to have highs and lows.’ But when you have those lows, you don’t have to stay there, and when you have those highs, glean all the goodness that comes out of it so that you’ll press repeat to do it again,” she says.

Healthy habits during the holidays

Approximately 80 percent of weight gain or weight loss is determined by what we eat, leaving about 20 percent based on our exercise habits.

“What most people don’t understand is that the more excess fat and adipose tissue we have in our bodies, it facilitates so many other potential complications in our bodies,” Coach Crystal says. “And one of the things that is really disheartening is that when our body gains weight in the way of fat, it recalibrates our bodies to think

that if you went from 150 pounds to 170 pounds, that 170-pound weight is now the new norm.”

So, when someone attempts to lose that extra 20 pounds after the holidays, their body will often fight even harder to hold onto the 20 pounds because that’s the new “norm.”

“Often, women are not only fighting hormones and metabolism changes, but they have also changed what their body deems as its normal weight when we have these ‘yo-yos’ in our weight,” Coach Crys tal adds. “Our bodies are always looking for a homeostasis norm, and it will always try to resist any change in that once it sets its new parameters. It’s frustrating for a lot of people!”

Coach Crystal knows it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits and stay on track to exercise regularly during the holi day season, so she shared five tips to help you avoid the holiday health blues:

Minimize stress. Realistically, we can’t eliminate all stress over the holidays, but we can try to avoid unnecessary levels of it.

In the community:

H ealth
CLifeFit CLifeFit 330.281.4584 Instagram: @c_life_fit
CLifeFit and ARCD Weight Loss Management is partnering with the Cobb County Recreation Centers to provide fitness and educational programs in 2023.
Just for readers: If you mention this article when you call, you qualify for a free weight loss or fitness consultation with Crystal Duke, Certified Fitness Instructor and Health Coach, and Owner and Founder of CLifeFit, as well as a free weight loss consultation with Dr. Doran Duke.
Crystal Duke

Stress will increase our appetites for sweet, fatty and salty foods, which then spike our blood sugar and ultimately increase fat stor age. Try your best to pace yourself, practice saying the word “no,” and remember you can only be stretched so far or do so much within a 24-hour period.

Eat before you go. Food is one of the top things we look forward to during the holidays. Try to eat a healthy snack before going to an event where you know delicious food will be served. This way, you will be less inclined to overindulge and can avoid the dreaded morning-after mirror conversa tion, which normally begins with the state ment, “What was I thinking?”

Use a smaller dish. While standing in a buffet line, I have witnessed some plates that defy all levels of space and gravity, but in theory the size of the dish you choose can provide healthy perimeters for portion control. When dining out, request half your food be plated and the other half placed in a to-go box for later. Note: Later does not mean eating your leftovers an hour after you get home from the restaurant.

Create an environment for success. If I

ARCD Weight Loss

pass by my favorite holiday cookies several times a day, the likelihood of me consum ing one or many of them over a 24-hour period is quite high. Don’t set yourself up for unnecessary temptations that can get you off track. Over the holidays, consider adopting the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Be sure to work smarter, not harder.

Strive for progress not perfection. Remember one bad meal, or for that matter one bad day, will not derail you. If you hap pen to fall off the wagon, forgive yourself, recommit to your goals and move forward.

And if you step on the scale on Janu ary 1 and you’ve gained weight, don’t beat yourself up about it. “Find a doctor, nutri tionist, psychologist, health coach and/or fitness trainer who can assist you in reclaim ing your health and reaching your goals,” Coach Crystal concludes. “My mottos are, ‘It is never too late, don’t wait,’ and ‘Yes, you are worth it.’” n

Management 3020 Roswell Road, Suite 130 Marietta, GA 30062 678.403.1239 Free consultation: 404.963.6737
Doran Duke, MD

Raising Awareness And Funds For Service Men And Women Shepherd’s Men has raised nearly $8 million.

Before I entered the SHARE program in 2015, I was in so much physical and emo tional pain I was ready to end that pain no matter what it meant,” says James Peterson, Shepherd’s Men team member and SHARE graduate.

“It’s given me the chance to fight alongside true patriots on a new battlefield in a war against veteran suicide,” offers Gary Herber, Shepherd’s Men team member and SHARE graduate.

“The Shepherd’s Men run is a way for me to cel ebrate those fallen heroes and let their families know I will never forget their loved ones. My oath does not have an expiration date,” adds Jarrad Turner Sr., Shepherd’s Men team member and SHARE graduate.

It’s comments like these over the past eight years that have continued to drive the co-found ers of Shepherd’s Men — Troy Campbell and Travis Ellis — to foster their mission of helping service men and women across the country.

“To know that our group has been able to be directly responsible for getting human beings from wherever their hometown is to Atlanta to receive this care, get them well and allow them to re-engage not only their home but their church and community, it means everything,” Ellis says. “And to know that generations are going to be the recipients of opportunity and the promise of tomorrow because of just what little we’ve done is just such an awesome thing.”


Ellis’ father died from a drug overdose when Ellis was young, so he has firsthand knowledge of the impact such trauma can have on children. “To know that children have an opportunity because their mom and dad are here serving in the capacity of ‘mommy and daddy’ and not a sobering sta tistic is a pretty special thing,” he adds. “It’s been the honor of my lifetime to participate in some small way.”


Located in Atlanta, Shepherd Center is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research, and reha bilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain.

The SHARE Military Initiative includes a dedicated treatment team experienced in working with veterans and first responders. Depending on a patient’s unique treat ment needs, the Shepherd Center care team includes specialized providers trained in:

• Neurology

• Physical and rehabilitation medicine

• Physical therapy

• Occupational therapy

• Speech-language pathology

• Recreation therapy

• Nursing

• Case management

• Neuropsychology, psychology and counseling

• Chaplaincy

• Counseling for those in recovery for substance abuse

• Individual, family and group therapy

• Client/family education

• Cognitive rehabilitation

• Vestibular (dizziness and balance) eval uation and treatment

• Vocational/academic evaluation and community re-entry

• Life skills training and coaching

• Transition support to home

• Pain management

The program provides comprehensive rehabilitation at no cost to military veter ans, service members and first responders who have traumatic brain injuries and cooccurring mental health concerns, so they can embark on a truly individualized and impactful path to renewed relationships, purpose, and life. It costs on average about $35,000 for someone to participate in the program, which is funded largely through charitable donations.

To date, more than 750 veterans have benefited from SHARE’s life-changing work, and among those, between 225-250 have been helped thanks to funding from Shepherd’s Men. Shepherd’s Men was founded in 2014 after Ellis, along with a group from the Cobb Chamber of Com merce’s Honorary Commander’s Program, visited Shepherd Center and learned about the SHARE Military Initiative.

“The best asset we have as a nation are the men and women who raise their right hand to wear the uniform of the nation,” says Ellis, who is also a Smyrna businessman. “I wanted to give the class an opportunity to see the work that Shepherd Center was doing through the SHARE Military Initia tive. I had a friend who went through the program and he would tell you it trans formed his life.”

After the visit, which included members of the U.S. Marine Corp from a local recog nizance unit, Campbell reached out to Ellis and shared how moved he was to hear stories from the men and women served by SHARE. “Troy mentioned that he had always wanted to run from their unit in Smyrna to the Marine Corps War Memo rial, but he only wanted to do it because he liked to run,” Ellis says. “We met for lunch and the thought was that we would do the run from Shepherd Center to the Marine Corps War Memorial (684 miles), and we would do it not only to say we did it, but to see if we could raise a month’s worth of programmatic costs for SHARE.”

Their initial goal was to raise about $100,000, but they exceeded that, raising $135,000.

“Shepherd’s Men grew organically from there, and the next year we ran from New York to Atlanta and then it just kept snowballing,” Ellis says. “Over the course of eight years, we’ve run 5,000 miles all over the country and carried different amounts of weight, anywhere from 22 to 93 pounds. We’ve tried to raise advocacies through those physical exercises, while also

Shepherd’s Men Comprised of active or retired servicemen and civilian volunteers, Shepherd’s Men raises awareness and funds for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Established: 2014 Founders: Troy Campbell and Travis Ellis Learn more:
Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department race event.

reaching more people and finding not only men and women who need the program, but folks who are interested in supporting financially.”

Why running? Ellis, who participates in PT daily with the local regiment, says running is “kind of engrained” in the cul ture of the Marine Corps. “It’s something everyone was already doing as part of their daily wellness plan, but it was also some thing we could construct to not only push ourselves physically,” Ellis says. “But when people see folks running down the side of the road carrying the colors and wearing the weighted vests, they tend to stop and ask questions.”

Shepherd’s Men has raised nearly $8 mil lion for Shepherd Center, and 100 percent of all funds raised benefit the military ini tiative. “In the first year, we made a com mitment that we didn’t want to make any comfort-based decisions for ourselves,” Ellis says. “We weren’t going to stay in a hotel room or buy a meal. That first year, we slept

in fire stations and even in a field one night. As we got further along, though, we met some sponsors who had a ton of hotel points, so they began providing lodging for us.”

Jarrad Turner’s Story

The initiative, which is available to service members and first responders who have

Presenting Sponsors
10K RUN 5K RUN 5K WALK 1K RUN/WALK TOT TROT RegisterOnline “I really needed to understand my brain injury and how it affected my PTSD. I also needed to understand how PTSD has affected me and what my triggers are.” –Jarrad Turner Sr., Shepherd’s Men team member and SHARE graduate
Travis Ellis and Troy Campbell Shepherd’s Men

served in the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001, regardless of discharge status, has been especially impactful for Jarrad Turner Sr. A U.S. Army staff sergeant and combat medic from 2001 to 2010, Turner was injured during his second deployment. He underwent four shoulder surgeries and two elbow surgeries and was medically retired from the Army due to his injuries. In 2012, he became a SHARE client and received treatment for his inju ries, as well as other helpful therapy. He joined Shepherd’s Men to honor his fellow brothers-in-arms who were lost in combat and to suicide.

Turner says SHARE helped him real ize that he will forever face challenges, obstacles and adversity, but he has learned that he needs to create a process that works best for him in dealing with those. “I was able to use my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro to simplify my life,” he shares. “Using technology, I created a scheduling process that keeps me on track and prevents me from becoming overwhelmed. Having a brain injury doesn’t stop you from living life. However, it does mean that you must be careful, thoughtful, and understand what works for you.”

While at Shepherd Center, Turner underwent a thorough understanding of traumatic brain injury and post-trau matic stress disorder (PTSD). “You can’t fight something you don’t understand,” he says. “I really needed to understand my brain injury and how it affected my PTSD. I also needed to understand how PTSD has affected me and what my trig gers are. The weeks I was in the program allowed me to simply focus on me. As a soldier, husband and father, I never made time to address my invisible injures. I was only focused on the physical injuries. Before SHARE, I really tried to ignore all the pain, along with the residuals of my injuries.”

As a husband and father, Turner also has learned to deal with his injuries by remind ing himself that he always wants to be the best version of himself when it comes to his kids. “The challenges I face from my injures should never prevent me from being a great dad,” Turner says. “Things like a lapse in my memory, double vision, fatigue and pain are always in my life. The SHARE Military Initiative gave me the tools and training to work through these issues, and still be that

good father and husband. I am blessed and eternally grateful.”

Today, he has found multiple ways to help relieve the stressors in his life. He enjoys weight training, mountain biking, cooking, and playing chess and Uno with his kids. “If there is anything that I could offer fellow veterans, I would say you deserve an oppor tunity to live your best life,” Turner adds. As service members, we have all been trained to take care of everyone else. Now it is time to take care of yourself.”

The significance of the No. 22

Each day, approximately 22 American vet erans make permanent decisions to end their own lives. Shepherd’s Men will not

Upcoming Event


rest until the number of lives lost every day to suicide goes from 22 to 0.

“While we are raising resources and funds for SHARE, we want to bring to light a 2012 U.S. Department of Defense study of the number of veterans who take their own lives,” Ellis says. “Over the course of the next decade, that number remained pretty flat. The most recent study showed it at 20.8. Suicides are down slightly in the veteran community, but they are still at a staggering rate com pared to civilian population. It’s still an epidemic problem and unfortunately one that often goes untreated.”

Through his work with military service men and women, Ellis has learned that the common practice is over-prescription of narcotics, such as pain medication, sleeping medication, or anti-anxiety medi cation. And it may seem inconsistent with the mantra of a war fighter to step forward and say they need help, but it’s truly the most heroic thing a person can do, con cludes Ellis.

“But if you are not doing well and you are struggling, please reach out to us directly or SHARE,” he says. “There are people who care, and there’s a local program that can provide life-saving care that will produce a generational impact.”

Legion Post 29 8th Annual Veterans Day 5K Run Saturday, Nov. 12 Marietta Square 5K Run/Walk/Wheelchair: 7:30 a.m. Tot Trot: 8:30 a.m. Register:
“There are people who care, and there’s a local program that can provide life-saving care that will produce a generational impact.”
–Travis Ellis, Co-Founder, Shepherd’s Men
Travis Ellis and Jarrad Turner Sr.

Honoring Military Veterans

In recognition of Veterans Day, Cobb In Focus wants to make you aware of a few events and other news items related to local military service members and those who assist our service members.

Veterans Memorial 5K

Lace up for a cause and honor America’s veteran community on November 12. The 8th Annual Veterans Memorial 5K Run is presented by American Legion Post 29. Horace Orr American Legion Post 29 of Marietta produces the event. Post 29 is one of the oldest Legion posts in America, founded Sept. 29, 1919. This event fulfills several of the group’s mandates as a veterans organization. The money raised is all distributed to honorable charities serving veterans in need in our community and state.

The 5k Run helps the Legion engage with the non-veteran community in a positive and patriotic manner, sharing its belief in Americanism, patriotism, and the importance of honoring our fallen veterans. This is a fun, family event that continues to grow each year. Spend the day at the Marietta Square, running safely, and helping to support veterans’ causes. More info:

41st Annual Georgia Veterans Day Parade

The Georgia Veterans Day Association (GVDA) will host the 41st Annual Georgia Veterans Day Parade on Saturday, November 12. The event kicks off at 11 a.m. at The Battery Atlanta. The GVDA says this new location offers easy access to event parking, a great family friendly location to view the parade, and plenty of dining options after our events. “This will be a destination for all citizens to come together and honor our veterans and active-duty military,” the group says.

Each year, the GVDA selects one group of veterans to pay special honors to. For 2022, the GVDA will honor our nation’s military aviation — all branches of service and every type of aircraft. For more information, visit

Thank Those Who Served

On Saturday, November 5, the United Military Care organization is holding a special event at East Cobb Park in Marietta where, among other activities, guests have the opportunity to give thanks to those who served, shake the hands of veterans, listen to live music, and learn about American military history.

United Military Care’s mission is to ensure veterans of all ages, branches, and lifestyles receive the care and support necessary to live their best life. The organization provides the tools and resources to empower our veterans to live a safe, healthy, productive life through one-on-one relationships backed by a dedicated team of professionals. Learn more at


Military Appreciation Luncheon

The 70th Annual ARMAC Military Appreciation Luncheon is a celebration of Cobb’s military community, recognizing the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. More info:


Veteran Legal Services Clinic

In celebration of Veterans Day, The Warrior Alliance and its coalition of legal service provider partners are collaborating to support veterans, active-duty, and National Guard/ Reserves with free legal advice. More info:


Veteran’s Day Ceremonies

Join the Cobb County community in honoring United States military veterans. Event details and start times will vary by municipality. Note: Some events may be scheduled before November 11. Acworth: Kennesaw: Marietta:

Powder Springs: Smyrna:



Wiley Creek Duck Preserve is taking reservations now for the 2022-2023 season.

Just a short drive from anywhere in Cobb County, in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, sits an idyllic, 380-acre, farm with numerous lakes and ponds in Waleska, Georgia. This time of year, when the leaves are changing and every sunrise reveals a pillowy fog rising from the lake, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful, natural setting than this property known as Wiley Creek Duck Preserve.

Yes, this picturesque location is a hunting preserve. Owners Larry and Peggy Lewal len have been hosting outdoorsmen for 11

seasons on their land (Lewallen Farms), offering experienced waterfowl hunters and first-time guests the opportunity to enjoy a hunt on private land and to stay overnight if desired. The guest lodge accommodates up to 19 people and is fully furnished with seven bedrooms; a two-bedroom, top-floor apartment; a full kitchen; game room; and spectacular vistas of the surrounding moun tains. In addition, a newly renovated threebedroom home on the property is available. The Farm House also offers great views. The couple owned a construction com pany until about a year-and-a-half ago when

they sold that business to concentrate fulltime on their farm and duck preserve. Peggy said they’ve learned to operate Wiley Creek by trial and error, but with 10 hunting seasons under their belt, they have it down to a science now, hosting hunting parties on Wednesdays and Saturdays from November through March. “Now we have this follow ing [of hunters] that come every year,” she said. “So, we have a lot of families that come back. We have a lot of corporate people that bring employees or guests.”

As a preserve, Wiley Creek provides the ducks (mallards) for the hunts. Peggy said

Arts & Recreation

that of the 7,200 ducks they raised this year, approximately 3,600 will be killed during the hunting season. They purchase the birds (ducklings) from a supplier in South Georgia and feed and protect them until maturity. “He delivers them up here when they’re four weeks old,” Peggy said. “And then we keep them in an aviary kind of structure so the hawks won’t eat them. …

So, as they grow, it’s their home, so they are imprinted to stay there. They’re not going to fly off once they start to fly.

On the hunt

On the morning of your scheduled hunt, Wiley Creek guests are dropped off within a short distance of your blind. As the sun rises, the birds will start to fly. You are welcome to call the birds in as they search for their next meal. After a hunter reaches his four-bird limit, a member of the Wiley Creek crew will help to collect your ducks with one of their dogs. (You can bring your own retriever but make this known when booking your hunt.) Guests then are driven back to the Pavilion for a hot country break fast — biscuits and gravy, bacon, and farmfresh eggs, et cetera. Following breakfast, you and your group can gather for photos of your birds. Wiley Creek does provide frozen breasted birds from the previous hunt in exchange for the ones from your hunt. Of course, you are welcome to take your birds instead. Typically, the hunting experience concludes by about 10:30 a.m.

Overnight guests also are treated a homecooked evening meal. “We feed steaks,

Wiley Creek Duck

Sawyer Farm Road, Waleska,

Hunting package options

$400 /hunter Drive-In Package

• World-class duck hunting experience without leaving metro Atlanta

• 4-bird limit ($75 per bird over the limit, up to 2 additional allowed)

• Coffee & pastries pre-hunt and a full hot country breakfast following the hunt

• 1 box of steel shells provided for the hunt

$500 /hunter Overnight Package

• Enjoy a great evening in the Wiley Creek lodge filled with activities or time for rest before the morning hunt

• 4-bird limit ($75 per bird over the limit, up to 2 additional allowed)

• Appetizers and hearty dinner the evening before the hunt AND coffee & pastries pre-hunt/full hot country breakfast following the hunt

• 1 box of steel shells provided for the hunt

mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, apple pie, and ice cream,” Peggy said. “We feed them well. They’re allowed to bring alcohol in; we don’t serve alcohol.”

You must be licensed

A duck stamp is not required to hunt at Wiley Creek, but guests must have a hunting license or preserve license. State license fees help support wildlife conserva tion in Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the state receives federal funds from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, based on several factors, including the number of paid sporting licenses. In Georgia, these funds are approximately $14 million a year and have helped restore habitat and improve wildlife populations, among other conservation efforts. Hunters may purchase

licenses online at, by phone at 800.366.2661, or at more than 800 license agent locations. n

Lewallen Farms also hosts weddings!

Larry and Peggy Lewallen started hosting weddings and other events on their farm about five years ago — but not during their duck hunting days, of course. They have a team of coordinators and planners who can give every bride her dream ceremony. The farm can accommodate 200+ guests for events and 18 overnight guests. Word definitely is spreading. Peggy said by the end of this year the farm will have hosted 53 weddings.

Guests can expect a mountain view ceremony space, luxurious bridal suite, large groom’s space/entertainment room and accommodation options, as well as a large reception hall. “We want you all to come and see us and have a good time. Our staff will treat you well,” Peggy said.

To learn more about scheduling weddings or other events at Lewallen Farms, visit

Preserve 205
GA 30183 770.597.0026
Photo by Harlows Photography + FILM

New 55+ Active Adult Community Coming To East Cobb

According to Forbes magazine, interest in age-restricted commu nities (they’re not called retire ment communities anymore) hasn’t been this robust since the National Association of Home Builders started com piling an index in 2008. These neighbor hoods are attracting everyone from empty nesters looking to downsize, to older adults seeking a lifestyle change, to actual retirees.

One of the newest 55+ developments cur rently under construction in Georgia is The Reserve at Bells Ferry in East Cobb. This is the first active adult community from Atlan ta’s Brock Built, a premium home builder with nearly four decades of exceptional design, quality, and craftsmanship. Each of its communities are intentionally placed amongst the best attractions and amenities, says Brock Built. Not only will its homeown ers enjoy an amazing lifestyle, but their fam ily and friends will also look forward to an unforgettable experience during every visit.

So, what can homeowners (and their

guests) expect at The Reserve at Bells Ferry? First, the community is in East Cobb just minutes from outdoor attractions such as the Noonday Creek Trail, Kennesaw Mountain, and numerous local golf clubs. Additionally, there are the exciting shops, dining, and activities in lively downtown Woodstock. Stroll Main Street’s boutiques, grab a bite to eat, and listen to live music with neighbors, friends, and family. This welcoming suburb escape combines the character of a small town with the conve nience of city living — just a short drive away from metro Atlanta’s most popular destinations, including The Battery Atlanta and Truist Park.

Here you’ll find a lifestyle with charm ing design, convenience for you and your visitors, and plenty of comfort to spare. The homes (some of which are available to purchase now) here are loaded with style features and elevated finishes, all among beautiful, lush landscaping where you’ll never need to lift a finger to maintain and

I n Your Community
The Reserve at Bells Ferry combines the character of a small town with the convenience of city living.

enjoy. The Reserve at Bells Ferry is your opportunity to find a home where life matches your pace,” Brock Built says.

When you are living in The Reserve at Bells Ferry, you will have exceptional opportunities to stay active and to enter tain friends. Not only does this neighbor hood feature an incredible collection of amenities, but homeowners can enjoy it all without having to keep up with land scaping. Meet new friends in a gorgeous dog park; catch up over a friendly game of cornhole; picnic with family under the pavilion or by the outdoor prep kitchen and grills; and unwind together around the community’s formal gardens, ample green spaces, pickleball courts, fire pit, and community garden. With amenities like these, you can stay active and spoil your guests in style.

Key floorplan features for The Reserve at Bells Ferry include 2+ bedrooms with 2+ baths (second level available), 1,600to 2,690-square-foot floorplans, twocar garage, and covered patio. To learn more and to see currently available

homes, visit the-reserve-at-bells-ferry.

Brock Built says this unique location offers much more than a quiet retreat. Here you’ll have everything at your door, from shopping at the Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta to quick-stop conveniences around the corner at Publix or Kroger. Enjoy lunch in one of Woodstock’s cozy cafes and finish the afternoon with a sweet slice of pie at the local Pie Bar. Downtown Woodstock’s activity calendar is full of family-friendly festivals, nightly live music, and arts and entertainment events that keep neighbors gathering throughout the year. n

About Brock Built

Brock Built’s strong roots in metro Atlanta have given the builder the opportunity to provide unparalleled living experiences in some of the Southeast’s most desirable locations in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. The company combines decades of experience and best-in-class materi als, appliances, and fixtures to construct homes of lasting quality that have earned Brock Built a stellar reputation. Its promise is to develop communities that provide a sense of belonging, to provide homeowners with modern comforts and personalized details, and to back it up with incomparable craftsmanship. Learn more


Our E-Waste Problem

Iread a report recently which declared that more than 5 billion cell phones became so-called e-waste this year, either by being stashed away in people’s houses or simply thrown in the garbage. According to the International Association of Electronic Waste Producer Responsibility Organizations, stacked flat on top of each other, that many disused phones would rise 50,000 kilometers, more than a hundred times higher than the International Space Station. That’s quite a visual representation of a real problem: our unwanted gadgets can pose extensive environmental harm.

I’m guilty of hoarding old phones, com puters, and other gadgets because I know

of potential for environmental harm from the metals in these devices. These metals (gold, copper, silver, palladium, etc.) can be reused and recycled for other electron ics which could lead to fewer raw materials being mined (another environmental issue itself is how we remove these metals from the earth). Experts say that each of us

currently is storing at least 11 pounds worth of unused gadgets in our homes. That’s bet ter than tossing them in a landfill, I say, but not by much.

“Smartphones are one of the electronic products of highest concern for us,” said Pascal Leroy, director general of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum, a not-for-profit associa tion representing 46 producer responsibility organizations.

Honestly, our old devices can often be difficult to recycle. That’s a main reason many people hold onto their old phones and laptops. Legislation can help with this. For example, in the European Union, a law was passed recently requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets, and cameras from late 2024. Hallelujah! I have an entire shoebox full of old cables and chargers I can no lon ger use. This legislation should help us, too, because I don’t see electronics manufactur ers designing new gadgets to multiple inter national standards. It will soon be USB-C for everyone.

Meanwhile, locally there are businesses and municipalities willing to assist with our e-waste. Check with your local city about e-waste days and seek out nearby electron ics stores that take back old devices and appliances. Also search online for Georgiaregistered Electronics Recycler businesses. Many of them offer free or low-cost pickup or

services. I’m committed to finally recycling my old devices. Are you? n

F inal Focus Cobb In Focus magazine is now a partner with Surfing in Cobb County... We Make It Easy! 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


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