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Small Business Heroes Town Center CID businesses pivot to better serve the community

Wellstar Opens New ER • Cobb’s Small Biz Grants • Whitefield Academy’s New Building • MUST Ministries

Dr. Regina Robbins Wellstar Pediatrician

SAFEWHOLE FAMILYCARE We treat and protect your family as if they are ours. Across our hospitals, health parks and offices, we take extra precautions to prevent the spread of infection. From temperature checks at entrances, to deep-cleaning between patients, to our personal protective equipment, Wellstar safely provides primary care, specialty medicine, diagnostic services, surgeries and emergency care to your entire family. We are keeping families well amid COVID-19, and we are here to care for yours. wellstar.org/safecare


Contents Vol. XVI, No. 5 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020



Small Business Heroes

The Town Center Community Improvement District (CID) recognizes local companies that have gone above and beyond in serving the community during an international crisis.









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

The Cobb County Commission and SelectCobb are distributing relief grants to local businesses to aid in their recovery from the pandemic.

Wellstar Kennestone Hospital has opened a new emergency department right when the county needed it most.

Connect with local leaders who strive to make Cobb County a better place.

Whitefield Academy in Smyrna has opened a new building for its youngest students.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens was recently named in the top three of the best places in Atlanta to take your kids.

MUST Ministries has been serving Cobb and surrounding counties for years. When COVID-19 hit, MUST was there to meet basic needs and more.

The county’s new roundabouts will have you driving in circles, but in a good way.

On the cover: The School Box, Inc. Founder Dave Persson (seated) and Thomas Sherrer, operator of Mellow Mushroom in Kennesaw. Photo by LaRuche Creative 2


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

Well, here we are. It’s hard to believe, but it’s autumn. If there’s one positive thing I can say about this year, it is the fact that it seems to have flown by. Actually, there are several positive things to which I can point, because no matter what life throws at me, I earnestly try to look for the good, to stay positive. 2020 certainly has tested my resolve, but I endure. So what positives have I gleaned from this year? For starters, my friends and family have remained healthy. (Please note that I truly feel for anyone who has been sick or knows someone who lost their battle with COVID-19.) Second, my colleagues and I have been able to continue working from home, producing magazines month after month without missing a single step. We have a great team at New South Publishing. Third, we are witnessing the beginnings of much-needed social change in America that likely would not have been sparked if 2020 were a “normal” year. Finally, I have read many positive stories of people coming together to help those among us impacted the most by the pandemic. And that is why we’re focusing on the positive in this issue of Cobb In Focus, because we all need to read some good news. On the following pages, you can read about the many small business owners helping their neighbors in the Town Center Area (our cover feature), you can read how the newly opened emergency department at Wellstar Kennestone is assisting the community, you can find out about the grants program within the county that is helping small businesses, and you can see how MUST Ministries is providing even more help than they normally do. So if you need some positive news, continue reading. The people of Cobb County are doing some remarkable things, and we’re happy to report them.

Photo by LaRuche Creative

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

Associate Editor Amy Meadows Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta Contributors Jennifer Morrell, Writer Haisten Willis, Writer LaRuche Creative, Photography Production Coordinator/Circulation Amy Fine Controller Marilyn Walker cobbinfocus.com @cobbinfocus facebook.com/cobbinfocus

Cobb in Focus™ is published six times a year by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA, 30350. Direct all editorial queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 100. Direct all circulation queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 130. Direct all advertising queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 142. All information herein has been checked for accuracy to the best of the publisher’s ability. No responsibility is accepted for deletions, omissions, errors and/or inaccuracies. Material in this publication may not be reprinted without written permission from the publisher. Copyright 2020 by New South Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. For address changes, email afine@cobbinfocus.com.


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Sharper Focus

Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in your community. The Mansour Conference Center has Closed The Center for Family Resources (CFR) has closed the Mansour Conference Center as of July 31, 2020, due to the sale of the building. Owned and operated by the CFR since 2005, the building was named after John and Myrna Mansour, longtime volunteers and supporters of the CFR and its mission. Learn more about the CFR’s continuing mission at thecfr.org. 

Visit County Libraries to Complete Your 2020 Census The deadline for the 2020 Census selfresponse phase was extended to Oct. 31. Cobb libraries have Census kiosks open to help you respond online. To check which libraries are open and hours of operation, visit cobbcat.org/libraryexpress.

LGE Opens New HQ On July 15, LGE Community Credit Union held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new headquarters at Cumberland Center II on Cumberland Blvd. Among the attendees were current LGE Board Chair Dr. Michael Sanseviro, former board chair Richard Dixon, Cobb Chamber President Sharon Mason, and John Loud, owner of Loud Security.

Kim Gresh is the Cobb Chamber’s 2020 Woman of Distinction The Cobb Chamber has named S.A. White Oil Company President Kim Gresh the 2020 Woman of Distinction. “She gives selflessly to her community and industry, putting others first and ensuring no woman is left behind in the workplace,” said Chamber CEO Sharon Mason.

KSU Financial Aid Director Honored with National Award Ron Day, Kennesaw State University’s director of student financial aid, has been recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “I am honored. …My staff and I are dedicated to serving Kennesaw State students and helping them receive the financial aid they need to succeed in college and accomplish their goals,” Day said.

MUST Ministries

Joseph Malbrough is Golf Tournament the Cobb Chamber’s Raises Record Ambassador of the Year Amount for Charity Joseph Malbrough, owner of the UPS Store on Cobb Parkway in Smyrna, was chosen as the Cobb Chamber 2019 Ambassador of the Year for his commitment to the Ambassador program. According to the Chamber, Malbrough is always eager to help and consistently shows up to represent the Chamber and support its members. 4


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The Cherokee Golf Tournament benefiting MUST Ministries on Monday, July 20 at Woodmont Golf and Country Club raised a record $65,000. Pictured left to right: Don Hausfield (The Landon Group), Billy Hayes (CEO, Northside Hospital Cherokee), Wes Latimer (Owner, Latimer Construction), and Jerry Cooper (County Manager, Cherokee County).

CareSource Foundation to Help Support Black-Owned Businesses in Atlanta CareSource, a leading multi-state managed care plan, is donating $180,000 from the CareSource Foundation to Metro Atlanta Chamber’s RESTORE ATL Fund, which supports black-owned small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit Union of Georgia Named Forbes 2020 Best-In-State Forbes Magazine recently recognized Credit Union of Georgia as a Best-In-State Credit Union for the second year in a row. Only five credit unions in the state of Georgia received this designation. “We are proud to be a trusted financial partner for so many in our community,” said Brian Albrecht, president and CEO.

JC Freedom House Honored at State Capitol The JC Freedom House (jcfreedomhouse.com), a shelter for women in crisis serving Cobb, surrounding counties and beyond, recently was honored by the Georgia Legislature. The shelter received the following awards: • Outstanding Citizen Award — Marigold Edwards, CEO JC Freedom House • Georgia House of Representatives Resolution 1233 — Marigold Edwards • GA Rep. Kimberly Alexander Resolution Commending JC Freedom House • Georgia (all party) Legislative Caucus’s Nikki J. Randall, Servant Leadership Award — Marigold Edwards

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



Great Locomotive Chase 5K

Pizza, Pints & Pigskins The event takes place at Logan Farm Park and features pizzerias from all over Cobb County. More info: acworth.com

Part of the KGP Race Series, proceeds from the Great Locomotive Chase benefit The Southern Museum. More info: kennesawgrandprix.com



Sweetwater Mission Golf Tournament

Marietta Streetfest A fundraiser for the Marietta Museum of History, this event will put Georgia pride on display featuring artisans, antique dealers, bands, and a car show. More info: mariettahistory.org

Join sports celebrities in an exclusive event to benefit Sweetwater Mission in its ongoing efforts to stabilize families by providing basic needs, and transforming lives through education and jobreadiness programs. More info: sweetwatermission.org/golf

9/26 - 10/4

The Taste of the Fair Over the course of two weekends, experience the great food from the vendors of the Superior Plumbing North Georgia State Fair at Jim R. Miller Park. This is a drive-thru experience. More info: northgeorgiastatefair.com


Cobb Chamber Taylor English Golf Classic Change the setting of your networking to the beautiful greens of Indian Hills Country Club. Receptions will be spaced outdoors, lunches will be boxed and there is an option to have a cart divider between 2 players, or to walk the course. More info: cobbchamber.org


Walk to End Alzheimer’s Join participants from across the nation on this day to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research. More info: act.alz.org



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Cops and Kids Golf Tournament Benefiting underprivileged children, this annual event will take place at Brookstone Golf & Country Club in Acworth. More info: birdeasepro.com/copsandkids


Cobb Diaper Day Join the community for the 11th Annual Cobb Diaper Day at 5 p.m. at Glover Park on the Marietta Square. The Barbara Hickey Cobb Children’s Fund’s goal is to collect more than 110,000 diapers for low-income families. More info: cobbdiaperday.com


Kennesaw Beer & Wine Festival This rescheduled event takes place at Depot Park with live music as well as more than 100 beers, including local Georgia breweries. Also available are tastings from a variety of ciders and more than 25 wines. More info: atlantabeerfestivals.com

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



The Chattahoochee Tech Foundation’s annual event raises funds for its scholarship and grants programs. This year’s fundraiser will be virtual. More info: chattahoocheetech.edu/reverseraffle

Cobb EMC’s Fall Recycle Day offers free metal and paper recycling. You also can bring your old phones, computer equipment, cameras, metal items, small appliances and refrigerators for proper, eco-friendly disposal. More info: cobbemc.com/events

Reverse Raffle


Taste of Acworth This annual event showcases many local restaurants. At prices from $1 to $4, it’s impossible to leave hungry! More info: acworth.org

Fall Recycle Day



Get all of your Halloween thrills and chills at this family event at the Smyrna Community Center. More info: smyrnacity.com

Kennesaw Parks & Recreation beckons area ghouls, ninjas, superheroes and for its annual evening of free carnival games, trick or treating, children’s amusements, and costumed family-fun. More info: kennesaw-ga.gov

One Spooky Smyrna Night

Fall-O-Ween Fest


October Haunt After Hours


Pop-In For Family Fun Come and explore the Marietta History Museum on the 3rd Saturday of every month with family fun activities. September’s topic is Books. More info: mariettahistory.org


‘Que & Brew It’s the ultimate tailgate party! There will be BBQ cooked by professional teams, a beer tasting, live music, and a cornhole tournament. The funds go to liveSAFE Resources. More info: cobbchamber.org

The 10th Annual October Haunt After Hours Private Party at Six Flags Over Georgia is a great opportunity to network with local business organizations and to ride all of the great coasters at Six Flags. Register early online for $25. Same-day passes are $35. More info: cobbafterhours.com


Fall Jonquil Festival Located on the Village Green in downtown Smyrna, this annual event will features arts & crafts booths, local food, and plenty of children’s activities. Admission is free. More info: smyrnacity.com


Spooktacular Chase This 10k/5k race is celebrating its 12th year! The annual event is organized by Vision Rehabilitation Services of Georgia to raise funds for the visually impaired. Runners are encouraged to wear costumes. More info: spooktacularchase.com


Swift Cantrell Classic Part of the KGP Race Series, this is the rescheduled date for this event, which traditionally takes place in May. More info: kennesawgrandprix.com


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Too Important To Fail Cobb County Commission and SelectCobb distribute relief grants to local businesses. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


n March 27, 2020, the President signed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to expand unemployment insurance benefits and other economic relief measures aimed at reducing the economic impact of the novel coronavirus 2019 (“COVID-19”) pandemic and authorized $2.1 trillion in aid to various sectors of the economy. This economic relief package is in addition to the Family First Corona Virus Response Act. Congress continues to debate expanding federal aid for families and small businesses as the virus continues to wreak havoc across the country. In the meantime, under the current available funding, what this means for Cobb County is $50 million in relief funds available to business owners to help get them back on their feet.



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In May, Cobb County Government announced a partnership with SelectCobb to distribute the funding. SelectCobb, formerly known as Cobb’s Competitive EDGE, is an initiative of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and its community-wide partners to market Cobb County to the world, thus generating high-wage job growth, new private investment, and a pipeline of top talent. The SelectCobb Small Business Relief Grants provide up to $40,000 grants for small businesses based in Cobb County to use on personnel, rent, utilities, and acquiring PPE to ensure the safety of their employees. The grants are tiered, based on the number of employees: business with one to 10 employees can receive up to $20,000; firms with 11 to 50 employees, up to $30,000; and companies with 51 to 100 employees, up to $40,000.

Mike Boyce, Cobb County Commission chairman, presents Terry Vick from Glass Graphics with the company’s small business relief grant.

“Maintaining jobs and promoting growth within Cobb County has been and always will be our number-one priority for our small business community,” said Kevin Greiner, president and CEO of Gas South and Chairman of SelectCobb for the Cobb Chamber.

Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, and Mike Boyce, Cobb County Commission chairman, speak to grant recipients ahead of the check presentations.

“The SelectCobb Small Business Relief Grants will allow Cobb’s small businesses to stand strong during this pandemic and continue to meet necessary business expenses, as well as providing capital to acquire PPE and other resources to ensure a safe working environ-

ment for their employees.” Only July 31, officials announced the first round of grant recipients, who received a total of $7.5 million in funding. Approximately 56 percent of the 409 grant recipients are minority-owned businesses, while 53 percent

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Business are women-owned, and 8 percent are veterans. “We are incredibly thankful to Cobb County Government for their continued support of local small businesses, who have been working tirelessly to continue operations during COVID-19,” said Dana Johnson, COO of the Cobb Chamber and executive director of SelectCobb. “These grants speak to our collective commitment to providing residents with opportunities to grow and thrive while continuing to drive the county’s economic development and impact.” “On March 12, my personal chef business for 2020 was promising. On March 13, two thirds of my business disappeared from my calendar. All of my culinary instruction classes and catering events began to be erased as clients were no longer entertaining and facilities began to close down,” said Chef Elizabeth Weaver, owner and chef for Elizabeth Edibles Personal Chef Services. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could qualify as a sole proprietor for this grant, but with great assistance from SelectCobb and research, I easily applied, and I will be able to regroup, market, and keep cooking for Cobb County!” Sharon Mason, president/CEO of the Cobb Chamber told Cobb In Focus recently that the grants are helping local businesses weather this economic storm. “Our economic recovery taskforce has been focused on seeking more grant opportunities as well as helping businesses reopen safely, and many more businesses have been opening more recently. Also, with Georgia as the number-one state to do business, we are projected to recover faster than other states. In fact, our SelectCobb team has seen a significant increase in companies considering relocating to Cobb from another state since the pandemic began. With new companies bringing jobs and investment to Cobb, we will recover much faster.”

Grants program extended Recently, Cobb County extended its partnership with SelectCobb to offer a second round of Small Business Relief Grants. The application process for those grants expired before this magazine went to press, but eligible businesses were able to apply to receive up to $40,000 to use toward personnel, rent, utilities, and acquiring PPE. In an effort to educate small businesses on the application process for the grants, an informative webinar series launched on August 4 and features 10


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Cobb County Board of Commission members present grant funds to local business House of Heralds.

Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce and each of the Cobb County Commissioners and local mayors throughout the series. “I’m gratified that the board came together to address an important segment of our community, the small business community,” said Chairman Mike Boyce in a news release. “It demonstrates when it is all said and done, this board has the best interest of the county at heart. We work every day to do the best we can with the money we have — whether it is county money, state money, or federal money — we all have a duty to make sure the taxpayer’s money is spent appropriately and I think this is one action that reflects that.” Businesses that have received financial assistance from the Payroll Protection Program or Small Business Administration are eligible for the second round of grants. In addition, businesses can include both W-2 and 1099 contract employees toward their total employee count. A full list of eligibility requirements for these grants — and any potential future grants — is available at selectcobb.com/grants, but the basic requirements are described below. Small businesses must meet the following requirements: • Business must be an existing for-profit corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship • Business headquarters or primary location must be within Cobb County • Business must have 100 or fewer full-time, W-2 employees and/or individual 1099 contractors that function like employees, i.e., employees or contractors working at least

30 hours per week or 130 hours per month • Business must have been in continuous operation for a minimum of one year prior to March 13, 2020 • Business must have a current business license issued by Cobb County Government, City of Acworth, City of Austell, City of Kennesaw, City of Marietta, City of Powder Springs or City of Smyrna • Business must be current on all local taxes • Business may be home-based or located in an owned or leased commercial space • Business must certify if it has received PPP/ SBA funds and the amount in which it received as of time of application submittal • Business cannot be a publicly-traded company  • Ineligible businesses include: Gambling institutions, multi-level marketing organizations, real estate investment firms, and adult entertainment. Time will tell if and when a third round of grants will be announced. In the meantime, the committee will review applications per Commission District so that all areas are equally represented in the number of companies being assisted. Once determinations are made, a public announcement of grants funds will be made by representatives of the selection committee, SelectCobb, Cobb Chamber, and Cobb County Government. “Cobb County should be applauded for creating one of the largest small business grants in the region,” said Johnson. “I want to thank the Board of Commissioners for their leadership and commitment to ensuring that Cobb County remains one of the top destinations for small businesses.” n

Cobb Chamber Announces Small Businesses of The Year In early August, the Cobb Chamber named its Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year and declared that Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta is the Business of the Year. With a motto of “Be Your Best You,” Three-13 welcomes in partners, employees, and customers from every imaginable background with open arms. They also host an annual “Angels of Life” event, which has raised awareness and $560,000 over the past nine years for The Georgia Transplant Foundation, an organization near and dear to managing partner Lester Crowell, whose own two heart transplants have given him new life and determination.

To be considered for the Top 25 Small Businesses of Year, each hopeful submits an application to the Cobb Chamber. The applicants must prove an increase in sales or unit volume, provide examples of innovation, discuss adversity and challenges, and thoroughly detail their community involvement. Below is the complete list of winners: Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year • All Roof Solutions • Artisan Custom Closets • Brookwood Christian School • CFO Navigator • CROFT & Associates • Deluxe Athletics, LLC • Digital Yalo

• DynamiX • Eclipse Networks, Inc. • Fulfillment Strategies International, Inc. • Georgia Trade School • Governors Gun Club • id8 Agency • InPrime Legal • Janice Overbeck Real Estate Team • K. Mike Whittle Designs Inc. • Manay CPA, Inc. • Mills Specialty Metals, LLC • The Partnership of Atlanta, Inc. • Ruby-Collins, Inc. • Southeastern Engineering, Inc. • Stablegold Hospitality, LLC • Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique • Vertisys • Win-Tech, Inc.

Check out BASSH 2020 on Sept. 11 This second-annual event at Swift Cantrell Park is a Cobb County community event for business professionals to have fun, connect with new people, and have a friendly competition (field-day style). More info: piedmontinjurylaw.com

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Providing A Lifeline

New Emergency Department at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital opens at just the right time By Haisten Willis


s the novel coronavirus continues to rock Cobb County, the nation, and the world, many scheduled events and projects have been subject to delays or cancellations. The opposite was true for the new emergency department at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. The massive, 263,000-square-foot facility couldn’t have opened at a better time. A July 20 ribbon cutting was held for the new facility, which was in the works for nearly a decade, as a masked Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp were joined by Wellstar Board of Trustees Chair Otis Brumby III, Wellstar CEO Candice Saunders, and Wellstar Kennestone Hospital President Mary Chatman. “This historic moment is the result of an inspiring team and strong community partnership centered on bringing worldclass healthcare to every person, every time,” Saunders said during the ribbon cutting. “The new emergency department is an asset to our



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system and all of the people we care for.” The facility opened to the public three days later. Inside are 162,825 square feet of clinical space and 166 treatment beds. The Level II trauma center (defined as being able to initiate definitive care for all injured patients) is part of the state’s largest trauma network and, according to Wellstar officials, is expected to be one of the largest and busiest trauma centers in the entire nation. “We’re a Level II trauma center and a certified comprehensive stroke and certified comprehensive cardiac center,” says Nancy Doolittle, executive director of nursing and emergency services at Wellstar Kennestone. “What those designations mean is that we’re able to care for the highest level of patients. If a stroke patient needs to have intervention done, we have neurosurgeons who have the ability to do that. If somebody needs to have open-heart surgery or other procedures beyond catheterization, it allows us to do that.” The emergency department opened

after two-and-a-half years of construction after officials broke ground on the new Kennestone expansion in February of 2018. But the project was in the planning phase for more than two years prior to the groundbreaking, and the idea for it dates back roughly 10 years. In his statements at the ribbon cutting, Kemp praised both the economic impact and the health impact of the facility. “The State of Georgia proudly supports Wellstar Health System and the more than 24,000 team members who are on the front lines providing outstanding and life-saving care to Georgians,” said Gov. Kemp, according to a press release. “The new emergency department at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital will have an immediate positive impact on our community by serving as a critical care resource to Georgians experiencing medical emergencies or trauma.” The emergency department is larger than even the biggest Walmart Supercenter, and is

“We’re a Level II trauma center and a certified comprehensive stroke and certified comprehensive cardiac center.”

­— Nancy Doolittle,

one of the two largest and busiest emergency departments in the United States. It will be able to serve up to 600 patients per day, or 220,000 patients a year. Both figures are more than double that of the previous trauma and emergency capacities at Kennestone. It’s still to be determined how the old emergency space will be used, but Doolittle said Wellstar leaders are looking at what best meets the needs of the community during the pandemic. Wellstar officials stressed that the new center was designed and built with the community in mind as well. The healthcare system actively solicited feedback from community partners, using that input to design and build the new facility. “Wellstar Kennestone Hospital’s new emergency department was designed to continue to provide safe and high-quality care to our community,” said Chatman at the ribbon cutting. “Wellstar actively solicited feedback from our community partners and used the input to build our new facility. Our new emergency department will be the industry leader in best practices, with world-class providers, team members, and service.” When it comes to treating COVID-19, the new emergency department means the hospital has much more surge capacity if needed. Doolittle said hospital admissions through the emergency department have swelled and dipped throughout the pandemic. When social distancing was being

heavily promoted in the spring they saw fewer patients, but the numbers started to go up later in the year. “Some people may have been afraid of coming in, and were trying to keep their distance to be safe,” says Doolitte. “But by the time they made it to the hospital, they were sicker and should have come in sooner. I think that was difficult for everyone; we saw that across the country. Their needs didn’t go away, but many of them weren’t coming in.” She emphasized that COVID patients are kept separately from others and that it’s always important to go to the emergency room if you have urgent medical needs. “You don’t want people staying home who should have come in,” she says. “We have the ability to segregate our lobby spaces. If for some reason there’s a wait, we can separate patients with symptoms of COVID. There are a lot of patient safety factors that we bring into our care.” Aside from its impressive size, the emergency department also was designed with the aim of reducing wait times, expediting discharges, and enhancing the overall experience. There are separate entrances and wings for pediatric and adult patients, a streamline care initiation intake process, private exam rooms in place of curtain dividers, flexible spaces able to provide for treatment of both high- and low-acuity cases, and planned spaces and processes for de-escalation, isolation and decontamination for patients who present with infectious disease or behavioral health issues.

“There’s definitely a learning curve, but overall I am so proud of our team,” says Doolittle. “The day that we transitioned patients from the old to the new departments was seamless. It was a great transition. We learn new things every day, but overall it has been fantastic.” The second floor of the department is dedicated to behavioral health, with 12 beds for specialized behavioral health and intervention services. There are three different ambulance bays for different levels of patient severity, and parking for up to 17 different ambulances at once. The emergency department also includes 14 negative-pressure rooms (for airborne infectious disease management), direct access to the high acuity and trauma care area from a rooftop helipad via elevator, better vehicular access for both patients and emergency vehicles and an on-site, underground parking garage to drop off patients. Lastly, there are imaging rooms directly adjacent to trauma rooms, plus additional critical care equipment and technology. “I’m so proud of the team at Wellstar and everyone who played a part in the design process,” says Doolittle. “We had a neighborhood committee that met frequently. To know that we had neighborhood insight and that they were part of the process was just amazing.” The emergency department is the latest expansion for Wellstar Health System and for Kennestone Hospital, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020. Kennestone has more than 600 patient beds, serving hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and with one of only three Level II trauma centers in metro Atlanta. Wellstar Health System now includes 11 hospitals, more than 300 medical office locations, nine cancer centers, 55 rehabilitation centers, three hospice facilities, one retirement home, 21 imaging centers, 15 urgent care locations, and five health parks.  n COBB

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Special Section

Leaders of Cobb


ince its establishment more than 180 years ago, Cobb County has been defined by its people. Some of these individuals have made their mark by becoming pioneers of business, captains of industry and heads of state. And if you’re reading this, you likely know why Cobb is attractive to so many. It hosts exceptional schools, is within close reach to the world’s busiest airport, has all of the convenience of proximity to the



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big city and is fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The list goes on, but it always comes back to the people who have built this county into what it is. On the following pages we have profiled individuals who are among Cobb’s premier leaders. We wanted to find out about their jobs, delve into their personal lives and gain some words of wisdom. And of course, we asked: Why have you picked Cobb County?

Leaders of Cobb

WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: I made Cobb my permanent home for several reasons; proximity to the airport, the city, access to parks, great schools, amazing restaurants, and the growing diversity and culture of people. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? The common theme among my areas of work is centered on people. I have a passion for working with others, knowledge

Durran Dunn, aka, The Freeze Owner, Anytime Fitness East Cobb

Photo by LaRuche Creative. Freeze photo courtesy of RaceTrac.

THE STORY: Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, I migrated to New York after graduating from high school. I discovered my interest in business, specifically accounting as a high school student, and with the support of one of my favorite teachers, made the commitment in those early years to pursue accounting as a profession. I was blessed to earn an academic and track & field scholarship to attend The University of Southern Mississippi where I graduated with an Accounting degree. I later relocated to Smyrna to continue my career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Big 4 Public Accounting Firm and have since transitioned to work for Fortune 500 companies. I am one of three individuals selected by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to inspire more minorities to pursue the field of Accounting through the “Real CPAs” program. Giving back is dear to my heart so I serve on two non-profit boards, The National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA) and The R.I.S.E. Schools in East Point. I am thankful for the foundation of my mother’s prayers, my wife, family, friends, and church — House of Hope Atlanta. The discipline of track & field has always been a cornerstone of my life that has both prepared and kept me focused on achieving non-sport-related goals. I am forever indebted to the platforms that the sport has given me over the years, including today as the “Freeze” with RaceTrac’s Beat the Freeze race event in partnership with the Atlanta Braves.

sharing, and hopefully inspiring them along the way to make healthy living a lifestyle. I also enjoy teamwork, setting goals and working to exceed them, and problem solving. LEISURE TIME: I really enjoy spending quality time with my family, mother, sisters, and friends. I also enjoy traveling, dining, and competing with USA Track & Field Masters. BEST ADVICE: Begin living your dreams today and celebrate moments along the journey of life. Tomorrow is not promised; so live life to the fullest and realize that the dream is really within the journey and process of achieving your goals. Along the way, express love, value time, nurture relationships, express gratitude, give back, make time for the things that you enjoy most, and be committed to a lifestyle of physical fitness.  WHAT’S NEXT? I whole heartedly believe that my journey over the years has always divinely prepared and positioned me for whatever was next during that season. So, while I am unsure as to what exactly is next, I believe that I will be ready to embrace the next opportunity and challenge, continue to grow personally and professionally, and inspire others to live healthy through exercise.

4880 Lower Roswell Rd. Ste 520, Marietta, GA 30068 • eastcobb@anytimefitness.com • 678.909.5095 COBB

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Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: It was by great fortune that I ended up in Cobb County. My office location with W.W. Grainger was in Marietta. Looking for a place to live, I researched Cobb County. The reputation it had with its schools and community was impressive. I fell in love with the Smyrna area where I purchased my first home. Most importantly, I was introduced to my church, Turner Chapel A.M.E. in Marietta, where I have been an active member for more than 15 years. Since becoming a business owner, I moved to Mableton where again I fell in love with my neighborhood.

Littie Brown

President, SpeedPro Marietta

THE STORY: I was raised in a military family; I was born in San Bernardino, California, but grew up mainly in Austin, Texas. I graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos with a degree in business and began a career with Xerox Corporation right out of college. In my book, “Leadership Lessons from the HART,” I wrote about my path to becoming a business major and taking on a career in sales. This was not a typical career path for a young African American woman in the late 1970’s. After spending 35 years of my career with three Fortune 500 companies (Xerox, Dun & Bradstreet, and W.W. Grainger), I changed direction and became an entrepreneur. Along with my business partner, Karen Brown, we purchased the SpeedPro Marietta franchise here in Cobb County.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love the opportunity to interact with customers, working with them to get their jobs completed in a timely and high-quality manner. When we can meet a short turnaround time and see them breathe a sigh of relief, I am excited. I also love supporting the community. We have provided signage to many nonprofit and community organizations at a low cost — or in some cases, no cost to them. We also have provided opportunities for young adults to learn about the business with actual hands-on experience. LEISURE TIME: I love to golf, even though I do not get to play as often as I like. Playing in charity golf events allows me to blend in some work and leisure at the same time. My real passion is spending time with friends and family. I love to entertain at home. BEST ADVICE: I would say stay focused on your goals. I stepped out on faith when going into business for myself, and I am committed to our success. Do not get discouraged if things are not moving as quickly as you would like, adjust but stay the course. WHAT’S NEXT? I have been focused on three goals all year: Run a 5K, complete my second book, and double the revenue at SpeedPro Marietta. I will celebrate my success on my 65th birthday, Dec. 8, 2020.

200 Cobb Parkway N, #130, Marietta, GA 30062 • 770.693.1767 • speedpro.com/marietta 16


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Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb

Jim Hickey

Candidate for Georgia House of Rep., District 39

THE STORY: I was born in Chattahoochee, Florida, and attended high school in Lake City, Florida. While attending the University of Florida, I re-focused my life to service of others in the military. I graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and pursued an exciting adventure and career as an Engineer officer. While living and working at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, I met my future wife, Barbara. We were married exactly one year to the day of our first meeting. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: We chose Cobb County for the quality of life. While attending Georgia Tech for a graduate degree before my assignment as assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy, Barbara and I lived in Cobb County. We decided then that someday we would return to Georgia and to Cobb County. In 2000, after a career in the Army — and 13 moves in 27 years with Barbara and four children — we finally returned to Cobb County for good. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love that my life is an exciting adventure of enterprise and enthusiasm to make things better for other people. Using my experience as a battalion commander and brigade commander, I first seek to know the people involved, then to create a climate of collaboration, cooperation, and consensus with the people of varying backgrounds and beliefs. Working as a team, we define the issues, develop courses of action to address the

issues, and implement solutions. Focusing upon our areas of agreement, we set our differences aside to cooperate with one another to accomplish our goals. Why do I love my life? Because it is thrilling and exhilarating to know the people, not just the challenges to be solved, to be a part of a team of empowered people making a difference. LEISURE TIME: I am a coach/mentor for veterans in the Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court under the leadership of Judge Reuben Green. I am a member of the “Grave Yard Shift” for American Legion Post 29, maintaining cemeteries. I belong to the South Cobb Lions and Georgia Online Kiwanis. I enjoy listening to music, including Gregorian chant and Baroque classical compositions, especially organ. Physical fitness also is important to me, particularly cardio and body-weight training. BEST ADVICE: English writer John Bunyan once wrote: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Get involved in our community with a spirit and attitude of unconditional giving. WHAT’S NEXT? I want to hear from you so I can do everything I can for the common good of the people of House District 39.

347.556.0746 • info@jimhickey39.com • jimhickey39.com COBB

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Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb

in Marietta, Smyrna, and now Mableton. Since I spend most of my time in the Smyrna/Mableton area, it was only fitting that my business is here as well. Cobb County is filled with growing families who we connect with and serve daily.

Nicole Long

Owner, Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency West Cobb

THE STORY: I am an Atlanta native. I attended Florida A&M University where I earned a bachelor’s in Accounting and a master’s in Finance. Upon graduation, I began my career in finance and spent more than 20 years at Fortune 500 companies. In 2018, I became a mom through adoption, and everything I thought was important changed. I wanted to find work that would provide me flexibility to spend time with my daughter. I was a customer of Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency first, having found an amazing nanny. A year later, the business was up for sale and I realized it was the perfect time to take the leap and become an entrepreneur. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: Growing up in SW Atlanta, we came to Cobb frequently for shopping and entertainment. When I moved back to the area, I knew Cobb County was where I wanted to settle down. I have lived and owned homes 404.625.4278 • twinkletoesnanny.com/west-cobb 18


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WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? My job is incredible. It allows me to connect with families throughout the area while giving me the flexibility to spend time with my own daughter. Our goal at Twinkle Toes is to provide families with childcare providers that are “second to Mom!” I know what it is like to be a busy working parent and I make it my mission to help ease the stress by providing quality childcare. During the current pandemic, our team has pivoted to add childcare providers who can assist parents with virtual learning. Our clients are pleased and tell us our process made the transition a smooth one for them and their children. LEISURE TIME: As an entrepreneur and a single mom, downtime is limited. When I do have leisure time, I enjoy meeting friends at The Battery Atlanta or shopping at the Avenues. I am also a big Atlanta sports fan, so you will often find me in attendance at a game. My daughter and I enjoy finding all the cool playgrounds and splash pads around town and walking the Silver Comet Trail. BEST ADVICE: I know it’s a cliché, but “Carpe Diem,” (Seize the Day). I have learned it is important to figure out what you want in life. Once that is determined, stay focused on your ultimate goals and be open to the opportunities that come your way. WHAT’S NEXT? Being the best mom and business owner I can be. As an entrepreneur, I will continue growing Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency to serve wonderful families in Cobb. And I will keep my eyes open to new opportunities. You never know what’s around the corner.

THE STORY: I grew up on the border of Cobb County and the city of Atlanta to a military family. My parents instilled in me a passion for service to others and the importance of having a strong moral compass. After high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. Four years later, I transitioned to the Army Reserves and became a full-time Cobb County police officer. While working to support our growing family, I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s of public administration. I also received military training, including from the FBI and the Joint Forces Staff College at our nation’s capital. Earlier this year, I retired as a command sergeant major, the highest rank possible for an enlisted soldier, after more than 30 years in the Army Reserves. I am a proud husband, happily married to my high school sweetheart; a father, and grandfather. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: Except for the time I spent abroad serving in the Reserves, I’ve spent my entire adult life in Cobb County. It’s where my wife, Sharon, and I raised our children. It’s where I work, worship, and have found community. Living and working in Cobb County has been an absolute privilege and blessing for my family and me. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Each day is different. When I put on my police uniform, I ask myself how will I protect and serve the public today? As the commander of the largest, busiest police precinct in the county, I am dedicated to being an example of thoughtful, communityoriented policing. I started as a beat cop, walking the streets and getting to know the folks who call Cobb home. Along the way, I’ve seen our county and its people grow and thrive

Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb

Craig Owens

Candidate for Sheriff of Cobb County

together. I’ve worked with community leaders, come to the rescue of those in need, mentored the next generation, and have protected the public from bad actors. It’s tough, fulfilling work. LEISURE TIME: I’ve always found it hard to sit still, but when I do get a break, I spend time with my family at home or with the guys on the golf course. Of course, there’s always time to cheer on the Atlanta Falcons. BEST ADVICE: I have two pieces of advice that I live by: The easy way out always costs more in the end, and integrity matters. My work impacts others. That’s why I am so passionate about leading with integrity, especially when it hurts. The race is not given to the swift or the strong but to those who endure to the end. WHAT’S NEXT? I am a first-time candidate running to be sheriff of Cobb County. This election is an important opportunity to restore truth, trust, and transparency in the sheriff’s office and to ensure good stewardship of the public’s dollars. P.O. Box 684062, Marietta, GA 30068 • craigforcobbsheriff.com COBB

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Investing In Students New building brings new opportunities for protecting Whitefield Academy’s youngest pupils. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


n Aug. 17, 2020, the new school year began here in Cobb County under the ire of the worst national health crisis this country has seen since the flu pandemic of 1918. While there has been much public debate and private discourse regarding the merits of opening schools this fall, one thing is for certain: the schools had to be prepared. Above all else, administrators and teachers in every school planned all summer to make the health and safety of students and faculty the number-one priority. Where possible, classrooms have been modified, certain activities are being limited, and CDC and Department of Health guidelines are being followed. Knowing that Whitefield Academy* in Smyrna was debuting a new building for its youngest pupils, we checked in with Lower School Principal Maryellen Berry just as the school year was beginning to find out how Whitefield’s PreK through fourth-grade students are being protected. First, she said, beginning in May, “A group of faculty, staff, and administrators developed plans for several different modes of operation for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. A smaller group of administrators synthesized the content to prepare four potential modes of operation. Parents were informed throughout the summer



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of the various scenarios so that they gained knowledge of the school’s thoughtful preparations. The school provided parents the opportunity to share their feedback and questions as well.” Those modes, which are described in detail on the school’s website, break down as follows: Mode 1 – Traditional, on-campus learning; Mode 2 – On-campus learning with mitigation; Mode 3A & 3 – Hybrid Learning; and Mode 4 – Remote learning. As of press time, Whitefield was operating under Mode 3A, which combines elements from modes 2 and 3 to ensure the safety of students, families, faculty, and staff. Monday through Friday, students in PreK through sixth-grade will learn through in-person, on-campus instruction in small class sizes. Students in seventh- through 12th-grade will learn remotely on

Mondays and in-person, on-campus Tuesdays through Fridays in small class sizes. Mode 3A prioritizes in-person, on-campus instruction and maximizes all campus facilities to allow for physical distancing. “Because of the thoughtful, intense work throughout the summer, the school is prepared to follow CDC and the Department of Health guidelines to keep our community safe,” Berry adds. The new Lower School building, Brostrand Hall (named in honor of the Lower School’s former principal Jeanine Brostrand who retired in 2018), had been under construction since April of last year. Funding for the facility came from the school’s “Leaving a Legacy” fundraising campaign. “Many of our largest donors to this campaign will not directly benefit from the use of this new building, but they believe in the larger mission of Whitefield Academy, and they understand the need to invest for our future growth by creating the best quality spaces to serve our youngest students in a building that is safe, beautifully designed and dedicated to meet their educational needs,” Whitefield’s Head of School, Dr. Kevin Bracher, told our sister publication KNOW Atlanta magazine last year. “Brostrand Hall will do that.”

At approximately 40,000 square feet, this three-story building mirrors the state-of-theart facilities currently in use on the campus for the high school and middle school students, and it allows Whitefield to expand both its physical and academic reach for Lower School students. Among the $24-million building’s key features are 19 classrooms designed specifically for elementary school children; a new dining facility with a full commercial kitchen; administrative offices, allowing for increased collaboration among the Lower School team; and expanded utilization of open-air and covered outdoor play areas. The one-building design gives Whitefield an opportunity to showcase the creativity and excellence of its students and foster a culture of collaboration among all grade levels, Berry says. Brostrand Hall will accommodate up to 300 students, but for now, the Lower School’s older, modular buildings still will be used for some classroom instruction to enable physical distancing. “Brostrand Hall is stunning inside and out,” Berry said. “This beautiful building will reflect the excellent teaching within it for years to come. Students in PreK through fourth grade will have gorgeous spaces to build a passion for learning, for others ahead

of self, and for the living and active Jesus.” Part of the school’s mission, Berry added, is to build a passion for others ahead of self. Wearing masks and following established protocols will allow students and faculty to live out that part of Whitefield’s mission as they care for each other. “Parents can expect an excellent, Christcentered education; that has not changed,” Berry said regarding the new school year and updated facilities. “We have increased cleaning measures, safety protocols, and have split our classes to enable physical distancing. What has remained is a nurturing environment with excellent faculty who will ensure that safety protocols are maintained to protect our students, faculty, and community.” n *Located in Smyrna, Whitefield Academy is a Christ-centered, college preparatory school serving more than 850 students in Pre-K through grade 12. The rigorous, college prep curriculum with numerous AP and honors courses sets the framework for 100 percent of graduates to attend colleges and universities of their choice. A full range of athletic programs, visual and performing arts, STEM lab and college/career planning complement the strong academic offerings of this well-rounded school.

Whitefield Academy’s Lower School faculty


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SMALL BUSINESS HEROES The Town Center CID recognizes local companies that have gone above and beyond in serving the community during an international crisis.

By Cory Sekine-Pettite and the Town Center CID

The Town Center Community Improvement District (CID) is a district of commercial property owners — mostly small businesses. The CID is dedicated to the betterment of the Town Center area through transportation infrastructure, safety improvements, beautification, and other projects that enhance property value by increasing interest and investment in the community. The Town Center CID (towncentercid.com) utilizes funds from voluntary commercial real estate taxes to implement its projects, such as the South Barrett Reliever and the Noonday Creek Trail. Yes, this is an organization of business owners, but community is their key word; it’s their raison d’être. Like many of us, the businesses in this community were impacted (some severely) by COVID-19. But while the 22


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work of the CID has largely been able to move forward during this time, the usual work of many of its small-business members has not. Many businesses in and around the Town Center CID have had to reinvent, reinvest, deploy new tech, and develop other initiatives to keep their doors open. In fact, some of these companies began focusing on helping their community with new safety measures both internally (making PPE’s for example) and externally (consulting). Thus, the CID’s board members and staff decided to call attention to these companies, these so-named Small Business Heroes. They wanted to highlight their members who are reaching out, fulfilling needs, and aiding their neighbors. These are just a few of their stories:



1125 Hayes Industrial Drive, Marietta atlanco.com


Founded in 1950, ATLANCO (under the brand names TRU-SPEC and 5IVE STAR GEAR) supplies personal equipment, material, and uniforms to the military, law enforcement, and public safety markets. According to Morgan, the company adapted quickly to the pandemic by having administrative employees work from home when possible, and it instituted social distancing policies and split-shift warehouse hours in order to keep personnel safe and employed. When the need for additional equipment for frontline healthcare workers arose, ATLANCO answered the call by donating PPE masks to several local agencies, including the Marietta and Canton Police Departments, Cherokee and Bartow Sheriff’s Offices, and the Marietta Fire Department. The company also is designing several unique pieces of PPE gear to be made locally in Marietta and in their factory in Honduras. Additionally, ATLANCO is working with the Georgia non-profit All Hands On by providing clothing for their interpreters who work to keep the deaf community of Georgia informed during this difficult time. ATLANCO continues to support the local community through donations and sponsorships. The company is a sponsor for the canceled Yaarab Shrine Circus held annually at the Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. ATLANCO also donated to the Coles College Marketing and Professional Sales Department at Kennesaw State University to provide professional podcasting equipment for students studying digital marketing. Outside of the metro area, the company sponsors Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures to help support family experiences at Camp Serenity.

AJAY’S UPHOLSTERY 2641 Summers St., Kennesaw facebook.com/ajaysupholsteryinc Ajay’s Upholstery is a family-owned shop in Kennesaw. For years, the store has been one of Cobb’s go-to shops for everything from car and boat re-upholstery, to refinishing your favorite living room couch and more. During these times of uncertainty, they came up with a way to put their skills to a use — making reusable PPE (non-medical) masks. Thus far, they have donated more than 1,000 masks. These efforts began when shop owner Bibi Husain wanted to send masks to the hospital in New York where her cousins work. Shortly after sending them, the CDC began to encourage homemade masks as an alternative to medical masks for the general public. At that point, Husain and the rest of her family got to work with the goal of making as many masks and they can.

Bungii is a delivery service focused on same-day and ondemand shipping of large items for individuals and companies. Bungii drivers will deliver items like mattresses, couches, dining sets, patio sets, grills, and even loads of mulch, pine straw, or rocks, as well as other large household items. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been able to be a part of aiding the supply chain needs for both business partners and consumers who use their service. As a shipping and delivery company, they fall under the “Essential Business” provision and have been called upon to help deliver PPE from medical supply distributors, essential products, and shelfstable goods to local charities. Bungii says it even has seen an increase in outdoor supplies and DIY materials for home improvement projects. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the company has adapted to meet the needs of the communities that it serves, says owners Harrison Proffitt and Ben Jackson. As both its corporate and local business partnerships continue to evolve and expand, so do the needs for efficient and reliable alternatives to same day/next day delivery to Bungii customers. With the need for commercial delivery at an all-time high, they say, Bungii has been able to provide affordable solutions during an unprecedented supply chain crisis. Recently, the company was able to utilize its delivery services to support the Center for Children and Young Adults (CCYA) in Marietta. Bungii purchased non-perishable goods, such as bottled water and toilet paper, and delivered them to the CCYA. One of Bungii’s core values is “do the right thing,” which was exemplified in its decision to assist the CCYA. As the demand for delivery increases, the company hopes to continue to be a positive resource for our communities. Bungii has several partners in retailers located in the Town Center CID and beyond in Cobb County.


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1160 Ernest W Barrett Pkwy NW, Kennesaw carrabbas.com

1300 Ernest W Barrett Pkwy NW, Kennesaw littleredbirdgifts.com

Carrabba’s at Town Center has gone above and beyond during an unusually slow time for restaurants. When COVID-19 tests for high-risk individuals were being performed at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta, a delicious Carrabba’s lunch was provided to the professionals who were conducting these tests. Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said at the time, “A big thank you to our local hero, Carrabba’s at Town Center, for treating our public healthcare workers and public safety staff to lunch. We are grateful for our community supporters and appreciate their kindness and generosity.” Carrabba’s at Town Center has created a culture of care in the restaurant and has prioritized giving back to his community. They also are participating in the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Operation Meal Plan program, which was begun to provide food to those in need, to help restaurants keep their workers employed, and to provide a vehicle for citizens to help. In addition, Carrabba’s at Town Center was recognized in the Marietta Daily Journal for donating meals to Cobb Senior Services. The Town Center CID is grateful for Carrabba’s at Town Center’s commitment to the community now and beyond this season of uncertainty.

Little Red Bird Gifts is a boutique shopping experience with a focus on Southern and responsibly made items. This shop recently closed to keep customers and staff safe, but they came up with very creative ways to keep their virtual doors open, including offering customers private, FaceTime or Google Hangout calls where they get a “walk-through” of the store to help them find the perfect gift for anyone — even themselves. Voted Best in Cobb in two categories this year, owner Holly Hachman launched a new website for her shop and is committed to adding new products regularly. Check out her website and continue to support small businesses.

CHILDREN’S HEALTHCARE OF ATLANTA 625 Big Shanty Road NW, Kennesaw choa.org The Children’s at Town Center campus serves more than 30,000 patients a year with sports medicine, physical therapy, urgent care, and more. They’ve also stepped up during this national health crisis. “You won’t hear much about our unsung heroes, because they don’t look for accolades, they just do their jobs as the true givers they are,” says Pam Younker, Children’s Community Development Officer. Children’s treats hundreds of kids every single day. Some of their complex illnesses require a lifetime of treatment, says Younker, so every dollar the community invests helps the healthcare system lay the groundwork for similar facilities that will change the lives of children with complex conditions, as well as the lives of their families. Thank you to the hardworking medical professionals at Children’s who have and continue to go above and beyond to care for our children. Are you wondering how you can support the frontline workers and staff at Children’s? They’ve created a convenient list of ways that you can help on their website. It can be as easy as just staying home to protect others or sending a virtual smile to staff and patients!

ELDER LAW FIRM 1300 Ridenour Boulevard, Suite 115, Kennesaw shelleyelder.com The Elder Law firm is fully committed to the community. From supporting local theatre, to volunteering for veterans, to assisting with multiple fundraisers, Cobb County always has been able to count on the firm’s partners, Shelley Elder and Steve Crane. Recently, the firm donated $2,500 to provide 20 computers for students who had no access while conducting their schoolwork at home. Elder serves as the current Kennesaw Business Association (KBA) president and the firm is a member of the Town Center Community Alliance. Elder and Crane stay heavily involved in the community and feel very passionately about giving back. “We are so grateful for friends in our community like Elder Law Firm,” the Town Center CID shares. “As we receive more updates and gradually see more facilities re-open, please continue to support your local small businesses.” “Although COVID-19 has brought many struggles and hardships, we are thankful our company had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing nonprofits such as the YMCA, CCYA, MUST Ministries, and Cobb Schools Foundation,” Elder said. “We have been able to come together and provide a sense of stability for families close to home that are in need.” 24


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MELLOW MUSHROOM KENNESAW Operator, Mellow Mushroom Kennesaw Owner, Poole’s Pharmacy in Marietta Cobb businessman Thomas Sherrer is the operator of Mellow Mushroom in Kennesaw and owner of Poole’s Pharmacy in Marietta. When the pandemic began to take hold in Georgia, he donated and personally delivered pizzas to feed all of Wellstar Kennestone’s emergency room staff. To say that they were pleasantly surprised was an understatement. “Through our (family) association with Poole’s Pharmacy, previously located in the Whitcher Street building adjacent to Wellstar Kennestone, we developed a great working relationship with many of the hospital staff,” Sherrer said. “When we asked one of our ER friends what she needed most after a long day in the trenches she replied, ‘Food!,’ and we realized that that was something we could do. We were excited to have the opportunity to donate and deliver lunch to our hometown heroes, the ER staff at Kennestone.” Sherrer said that it is small gestures like these that can have the greatest impact. Considering what hospital staff have experienced, these folks were more than appreciative. Mellow Mushroom Kennesaw also participated in the nationwide fundraiser, “A Pie for a Pie Day” and donates one small pizza to a local charity for every pizza it sold. “Thanks to the generosity and support of our awesome guests, we were able to donate 175 pizzas to The Extension and liveSAFE Resources in Marietta,” Sherrer said. Mellow Mushroom Kennesaw currently offers socially distanced dine-in, curbside pick-up, and catering. Sherrer added, “We want to extend a big thank you to our staff that has worked tirelessly during this season, and we greatly appreciate our general manager, Katie Martin Hewitt, who has kept us running during tough times.”







2655 Cobb Pkwy NW #108, Kennesaw pctclean.com

Otter’s Chicken, a local sports-themed restaurant has taken a swing at new employee health practices, such as wearing face masks, and the restaurant has new order processes such as curbside delivery or delivery through a service. In addition to these initiatives, owner Will Peterson has kept his heart for the community in a number of ways. So far, they have prepared 600 meals through Operation Meal Plan. “Our goal was to find a way to keep our restaurants afloat while providing a valuable resource to our non-profits who are serving people in need. Operation Meal Plan is a way to link these entities together,” said Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber in a news release. Otter’s Chicken has delivered to Center for Children and Young Adults, Widow Strong, The Zone, YMCA, Mother’s Making Change, Tommy Nobis Center workers, Legacy Village, MUST Ministries, and Table on Deck. They also have continued to exercise their hospitality skills by hosting several spirit nights with local schools and sports teams by making them “Take-Out” spirit nights and donating a portion of the sales back to that group. Also on their line-up is the Feed the Frontline Campaign from ezCater where they are helping to deliver meals to healthcare workers in Atlanta. In addition to that, Otter’s joined the “Caring for Kennestone” team by preparing and delivering 500 boxed lunches to Kennestone Hospital. Peterson continued hosting “Spirit Nights” for local sports teams throughout the summer, where a portion of proceeds from Dine-in, Take-Out, and Curbside orders on their night are donated to their team. The restaurant also hosted a few “Welcome Back Luncheons” for teachers, by providing them individually wrapped boxes. Teachers also always receive free Regular-sized drinks at Otter’s when they show their Teacher ID.

PCT Clean is a janitorial service located in the Town Center community. The company, which is a member of the Kennesaw Business Association, has seen an increase in requests for disinfecting services and therefore an increase in need for staffing. To help fill this need, PCT Clean worked with other local businesses to hire people laid off from hotels and tourist attractions. These partners were able to recognize the collaboration potential between these two segments and reached out to make various connections. “With this unprecedented challenge in employment specifically in hospitality-related jobs, we are thankful for all the companies involved, including PCT Clean,” said the Town Center CID. The other companies involved in this noteworthy initiative are AA Top Home Care, All Pro Cleaning Systems, Diamond Glow Cleaning, Jan-Pro, The Service Fort, South Property Partners, and Stratus Building Solutions of Atlanta. “This type of creativity and support across companies and even industries is the type of teamwork that will continue to encourage our community and beyond towards success,” the Town Center CID continued.

Customized business and industry training that meets your needs. Computers/IT Industrial/Technical Leadership Safety Testing

ChattahoocheeTech.edu CorporateTraining@ChattahoocheeTech.edu 770-528-2345 A Unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.


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REMAX PURE REALTY AND MOTTO MORTGAGE 93 Church Street, Marietta remaxpure.business.site The residential real estate process is typically a very hands-on and in-person process, so when society was instructed to distance from others as much as possible, the Wendy Bunch Team at REMAX PURE Realty and Motto Mortgage were challenged to adjust their process. However, the team continues to help people find their perfect home, and they even conduct “drive-by” closings. This creative way to close on homes has allowed them to continue getting people in their new homes while maintaining appropriate social distancing. While some of life feels “paused,” some things cannot stay stagnant; buying a home may be one of those events, which is why REMAX PURE and Motto Mortgage has been working so hard to keep their business flowing safely and efficiently. Wendy Bunch shares, “I am so thankful; when we opened 10 years ago, our mission was a paperless, mainstream system… [we] have been fully operating from home without any issues.” Additionally, the company has taken this opportunity to give back to the community by supporting groups such as Wellstar, the Strand, liveSafe Resources, The Zone, and more. “We are grateful for essential work and workers who are creatively making it happen,” the Town Center CID said. “Thank you to The Wendy Bunch Team of REMAX PURE and Motto Mortgage for all that you’re doing!”



TOM + CHEE KENNESAW 1200 Ernest W Barrett Pkwy NW #208, Kennesaw tomandchee.com Tom + Chee is a locally-owned Kennesaw franchise that specializes in creative grilled cheese sandwiches and other delicious fare. Since the pandemic began, owners Eric and Laura Hart have come up with some initiatives of their own and have helped facilitate a number of donations made possible by a generous community. Here is just some of the support that they have been able to provide: • Joining forces with Capozzi’s in East Cobb, owned by Adam Kessler, they participated in making lunches for kids in the community. Tom & Chee purchased supplies and then asked the community to donate. Through this, they were able to feed about 150 children. • Some generous customers purchased lunch to donate to police, fire, and ambulance personnel. To date, they have received $1,600 towards this effort. Locally-owned Uptown Cheapskate ran a fundraiser that matched up to $1,000 to go to Tom + Chee to continue these efforts. • Other customers have donated funds for Tom + Chee to prepare meals to specific groups, including nurses and doctors in the ICU at Cartersville Medical, staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Urgent Care Kennesaw facility, Children’s Calvary Home, and more. Additionally, the Harts recently launched a food truck business (Gaston Street Eats) and have been bringing the truck to local neighborhoods to help lift morale and to keep Tom + Chee staff employed. “The community support for your small business has been incredible. We would not be here today if it wasn’t for the outpouring of love and support from our community, businesses and friends,” Laura says. “This is our hometown and we are here to serve, take care of our community, and give our employees a safe place to learn and grow,” she continues. “…I can personally say it has given me hope to see how many friends and customers have stepped in to support us during these times.”



1257-A Kennestone Circle, Marietta schoolbox.com


The School Box, a local retailer for educational toys, games, and supplies, has operated as an essential business and a resource for this time of unexpected homeschooling, The School Box is working hard to provide their goods in a manner that is safe for their employees and customers. They began by offering online and over-the-phone ordering with free curbside pick-up. They also have shared a number of online resources for first through sixth grades for free. More recently, they were approached by numerous organizations, including Kennesaw State University and Georgia Tech to help them build unique supply kits to go with the programs they would be teaching their campers at home. This burst of new business left them thinking of other ways they could help some of these organization in the future — regardless of how they are teaching. Founder and owner Dave Persson shares, “We have been building custom school supply kits for schools as a fundraising opportunity for the past four years. The sudden announcement that schools will start the year virtually has left a lot of schools scrambling for the best way to work with their families virtually. Several are working with us to create custom kits that differ from just school supplies so the students — mostly elementary age — will have hands-on items to support their learning at home.” The School Box was stocked and ready for teachers to decorate their classrooms, but quickly has to pivot to help parents prepare for home learning. If you are in need of supplies or other learning tools for you or your children for the beginning of the new school year, The School Box is a great, local resource for all your needs. 26


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Tropical Smoothie Café is a franchised restaurant with three locations in Cobb County, one of which is located in the CID. As a participant of the county’s Operation Meal Plan, they provided food to the first responders of the Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Marietta. According to a press release from the Cobb County Community Services Board, district manager of Tropical Smoothie Café, Chris May, said: “We are happy to be a part of Operation Meal Plan, as well as partnering with Wellstar Kennestone and Northside Hospital. We want to make sure everyone feels appreciated — especially our first responders.” The Town Center CID is grateful for stories like these to remind everyone of the positive impact of which our community is capable.







8520 Cobb Center Dr., Kennesaw win-tech.net

Viral Protective Services (VPS), is a new company brought to you by the principals behind Blue Sky Exhibits. Blue Sky Exhibits thrived on large gatherings and trade shows, which unfortunately came to a screeching halt earlier this year. The owners of Blue Sky Exhibits, Don Keller and Tim Kelley, had a contingency plan for something like this, but it did not include a new business. Keller and Kelley knew they wanted to contribute to the community in some way, as they always have, so they got creative on how that goal overlapped with their current capabilities. As society has begun to slowly reopen, many organizations find themselves at a loss on how to effectively and safely reopen. Keller and Kelley felt that they could fill this gap by offering solutions for protective architecture, education, and training from Business Infection Prevention Partners (BIPP), detection devices such as thermal screening, and more. That is how VPS came about. The company takes an in-depth look at how its clients’ businesses function and can provide almost anything conceivable to smooth their re-opening strategy. Furthermore, all their items can be customized to their clients’ brand. Cobb County Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson, says, “A few months ago, I’d never heard of social distancing or worried about virus mitigation. VPS has been a great business partner in helping us navigate how to serve our customers in a safe environment.” Beyond offering some services online, VPS assisted the Cobb County tag office to be outfitted with the appropriate tools to keep staff and patrons safe — items such as partitions between counters and stations, and much more. By providing an in-depth consultation and safety assessment, VPS was able to supply a thorough report of actions for the department to take to mitigate the potential spread of infection. Also, VPS provided infection prevention training to all tag office staff. In a time where there is significant uncertainty, Keller and Kelley stepped up by recognizing a growing need in the community. “They are making a significant impact on our community and beyond to slow the spread,” the Town Center CID shared.

Win-Tech is a veteranowned aerospace precision machine shop. Earlier this year, the company began making ventilator pieces for a client that was assembling full ventilator units. Win-Tech also remains vigilant in keeping their staff safe and healthy. In doing so, owner Dennis Winslow has implemented a plan that includes relaxing the paid time off policy, canceling business travel, encouraging sick employees to stay home, assigning several employees with sanitizing work areas and common spaces often, and several other reminders and policies. Allison Giddens, Win-Tech’s director of operations, said: “The best analogy we have heard is that this is a marathon — the COVID-19 challenge isn’t one we’ll beat overnight! It is vital that we communicate regularly and clearly. There are many scenarios to plan for, and the supply chain has multiple facets that can affect Win-Tech. We are working hard to mitigate risks that would cause us not to meet promises to our customers.” *Special thanks to Luci Morgan, Town Center CID’s communications and outreach manager, for assisting with this article.

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Arts & Recreation

Explore Nature Smith-Gilbert Gardens offers year-round experiences for families. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


id you know that there are plenty of opportunities in Cobb County for family fun, outdoor recreation, and engaging educational programs? One of those places — Smith-Gilbert Gardens — was recently named in the top three of the best places in Atlanta to take your kids by kidsoutandabout.com. The Gardens, located at 2382 Pine Mountain Road in Kennesaw, house more than 4,000 species of plants on 17 acres. United by woodland paths, Smith-Gilbert includes a Bonsai Exhibit, Paladino Camellia Garden, the largest crevice garden in Georgia, and the Rose Garden and American Conifer Society Reference Garden. So, there’s plenty to explore while practicing safe social distancing. “The world has really changed, but one



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thing remains constant — families want a safe place to take their children,” notes Ann Parsons, executive director. “We’ve worked very hard over the past several years to offer innovative and creative ways for children to explore nature at the Gardens, and we are so pleased to see more families visiting now!” At the center of Smith-Gilbert Gardens is the historic Hiram Butler House, dating back more than 150 years. The house was once owned by Mr. Butler, a Confederate railroad man, who worked the lines most of his life and was present during the “Great Locomotive Chase,” a Civil War battle in April 1862 along the rail lines between Atlanta and Chattanooga. In 1970, Mr. Richard Smith and Dr. Robert Gilbert bought the Hiram Butler House

and surrounding acreage in Kennesaw. They spent the next 35 years developing the house and grounds into the gardens we know today — with an emphasis on unique plantings and thoughtfully positioned sculpture. In total, there are 15 themed garden spaces containing thousands of curated plants. The award-winning “Garden with Wings” butterfly house is open seasonally every summer. Blending horticulture and art, the bonsai collection includes more than 70 trees, diligently trained during monthly work sessions that are open to garden visitors. Thirty-one remarkable garden sculptures by nationally and internationally known artists add drama to the landscape. Koi ponds, a waterfall, and child-friendly play structures throughout the property round out the experience.

Take Part in the Garden Gallop On October 31, lace up your running shoes for the annual Garden Gallop, which is part of the KGP Race Series. Proceeds from the Garden Gallop will benefit Smith-Gilbert Gardens. And the best part is that you can run the race in your favorite Halloween costume! More info: kennesawgrandprix.com

In addition to its work in educating visitors, sharing a knowledge and passion for nature, and inspiring participants to be conservation-minded, Smith-Gilbert Gardens’ mission is evident throughout the development. A minimal-toxicity ethic means that it curtails the use of chemical treatments in garden maintenance. Through best practices in collection management and collaborations

with Georgia Power, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and Atlanta Botanical Garden, it works to preserve global plant biodiversity and improve local habitat. The small price for admission (just $10, minus discounts for students, kids and military personnel) get visitors access to all of this natural bounty. Plus, there are new programs scheduled throughout the year to keep guests

coming back. For example, some upcoming exhibits you may want to check out include the Wedding Venue Showcase (Fall), the Great Georgia Pollinator Census (Fall), and the Great Backyard Bird Count (Winter). Smith-Gilbert Gardens is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get ticket information and learn more about upcoming events at smithgilbertgardens.com. n


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In Your Community

MUST Meets Needs of Cobb Residents in the Throes of Pandemic MUST Ministries has been serving Cobb and surrounding counties for years. When COVID-19 hit, MUST was there to meet basic needs and more. By Jennifer Morrell


“Our model is to give MUST Ministries customers parity, not charity,” Rogers says. “We currently have two staff members and two more to hire. We are looking for a part-time cashier and a part-time merchandising associate. Before the pandemic, we had 30 regular volunteers and numerous drop-in volunteers.”

hat originally began as a community outreach of Powder Springs United Methodist Church, Methodists United in Service and Training (now known as MUST) has become a significant provider of food, shelter, workforce development, medical clinic services, and clothing to the Cobb and Cherokee county communities. Over the years, churches throughout the area have become involved in this outreach, and the name was changed to Ministries United in Service and Training. Eventually, MUST incorporated as simply “MUST Ministries.” “MUST addresses the basic needs of individuals, families and children by providing food, shelter, workforce development, medical clinic services, and clothing,” says Chuck Rogers, director of retail operations for the organization. “MUST has facilities in the Cobb and Cherokee counties and Neighborhood Pantries consisting of 39 food pantries embedded in Cobb, Marietta, and Cherokee schools, serving a large number of at-risk children. We have been supplying grocery boxes since March 2016, and this program has served 24,724 people.”

MUST Marketplace A significant initiative of MUST is its Marketplace second-hand clothing store. Located at 1407 Cobb Parkway North in Marietta, the 4,600-square-foot store offers men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, furniture, jewelry, home goods, small appliances, toys, books, sporting goods, and seasonal items. Some items are new from other stores that had overstock. 30


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Managing through a pandemic

In 2013, MUST Marketplace replaced what was a small clothing closet, providing MUST Ministries clients with a retail environment to shop and receive free clothing allotments monthly. Marketplace served 2,888 clients in 2019, plus thousands of public shoppers who enjoy finding a bargain while helping MUST to help others. The Marketplace is funded by the revenue collected from cash-paying customers.

As it turned out, the COVID-19 pandemic was an ideal time for a service-based nonprofit to step up efforts and serve more people than ever. In the first 14 weeks of the pandemic, MUST provided nearly 1 million meals to 53,399 people, distributing summer lunches and grocery boxes, Monday through Friday. “MUST Ministries, has been distributing summer lunch meals to children for 25 years and delivering five-day meal kits to children all summer,” Rogers says. “When Cobb County Schools decided to delay opening until Aug. 17, suddenly there were thousands of summer lunch children who needed lunch meals. MUST has been raising money and gathering volunteer and staff support to extend the program.” Taking care of others is an expensive endeavor. MUST partners with a packaged food company to provide nutritious meals at a cost of $66,000. In addition, the nonprofit is continuing to pay for trucks, fuel, drivers, staff, and other expenses. The organization also donated $25,000 to Marietta City Schools to extend the Seamless Summer Meal Program.

Raising funds in 2020 can be difficult, but the greatest challenge MUST has faced during the pandemic has been accessing enough food supplies. In the beginning, food and toiletries were difficult to find in bulk. MUST had to resort to retail prices when, typically, a food bank and discount sites had been used. “Fortunately, MUST donors gave money to help meet the need, but in the past month, ‘giving fatigue’ has plagued most nonprofits that are seeing a dip in financial giving and giving of food,” Rogers says. On a positive note, Rogers has seen a remarkable linking of arms between nonprofits that have worked together to fight the crisis. For instance, a group of 60 organizations in Cobb meet regularly, sharing food, giving tips on where to find food at a good price, and encouraging one another. When MUST Marketplace was able to reopen, it was challenging. Rogers says that, as for most retailers, the reopening was slow and sales were down. In the first few weeks, the Marketplace was selling about 50 percent of its usual volume.

“MUST Ministries has continued to adapt all programs through COVID-19, finding innovative solutions to offer help and hope for people in desperate need,” Rogers says. “Remarkably, MUST has served almost 60,000 people since COVID-19 began, when we typically serve 33,500 over the course of a year.”

Simply a MUST For nearly 50 years, MUST has been established as a servant leader, caring for those in need in eight counties by providing food, housing, workforce development, medical care, and clothing. “MUST is grateful for very generous donors who bring items to the Donation Center to support the programs offered to those in need,” Rogers says. “MUST is currently in a capital campaign to build a new campus to meet the demand for services. We provide 72 beds in the Elizabeth Inn Shelter, but are sadly turning away 200 to 300 people a month because of full beds — 70 percent of whom are women and children.” Rogers says MUST absolutely has to

expand its capacity to serve those in need, to provide hope to a greater number of women and children, and to reach the most vulnerable in the Cobb community. “Our hope is to build a fully furnished home with twice the current capacity with a living area designed for dignity, comfort, and space,” he says. “In addition, we will provide a centralized campus with comprehensive support services, such as a medical clinic, food pantry, and outreach services.” Rogers recounts a success story whereby MUST Marketplace helped a citizen toward her next phase in life. “One of our regular customers is named Jackie. Several years ago, she was one of our shelter clients. She is working now, remarried, and comes to the Marketplace often to buy goods for her home. Our quality and prices allow her to furnish her home. Jackie is a testament to how MUST Ministries changes lives.” You can visit MUST Marketplace Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (current pandemic hours). Learn more about the organization at mustministries.org. n

During these challenging times, A.G. Rhodes continues to provide safe and compassionate care for our community’s older adults. Learn more:

www.agrhodes.org/coronavirus COBB

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Final Focus

Roundabouts By Cory Sekine-Pettite


he weekend I started writing this column, I had just taken a short drive to nearby Douglasville to buy some produce and flowers from a farmer whose goods I normally just pick up at a local farmers’ market. However, since my wife and I haven’t been venturing outside too much lately, we wanted to hit the road — even if it was just for less than two hours roundtrip. Near the farm, we drove through what looked like a relatively new roundabout, and I started thinking about how prevalent they’ve become in Georgia and I wondered if people actually knew how to use them, were not scared or intimidated to use them, and if they actually improved traffic flow for a population more accustomed to four-way intersections. Well, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), roundabouts do work. Studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than traditional stop sign or signalcontrolled intersections. Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control. Additionally, roundabouts actually move traffic through an intersection more quickly, and with less congestion on approaching roads, the IIHS reports. And if drivers are paying attention to signs, roundabouts are actually easy to navigate, even in areas where you may be unsure of where you’re going. In Cobb County, residents may not be too familiar with roundabouts. However, I was surprised to learn that we have nearly a dozen already in use and even more under construction. In fact, the Cobb Department of Transportation says it has plans to replace



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several four-way intersections with roundabouts. “Roundabouts have built-in safety designs that force drivers to slow down and yield to traffic within the lane before entering the roundabout,” the county reports. “Most traffic accidents occur at intersections due to conflict points and intersecting travel paths. By keeping traffic moving in the same direction, roundabouts reduce rear-end collisions — the most common type of collision.” If you’re unsure how to navigate your way

through a roundabout, the county says you should slow your speed, look to your left for approaching vehicles already in or entering the roundabout, and you should only come to a stop if you need to yield to traffic. If no traffic is approaching or in the roundabout, drivers should proceed to the right and exit at the appropriate intersection road. Simple. If you’re still unconfident, the IIHS has a video on YouTube that will help: youtube. com/watch?v=1DJDjaa25Co.  n

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Cobb in Focus magazine September October 2020