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A Partnership That Enriches Center CID’s Cobb Town Tracy Styf and Town Center Alliance’s Jennifer Hogan are helping to shape Cobb’s future.

Serendipity Labs • Moore Tutoring • A.G. Rhodes • American Family Hearing Aid Center • Brookwood Christian School • North Cobb Christian • VIVA Tequila Festival

Dansby banks on LGE.

Dansby Swanson Member Since 2012

Federally insured by NCUA.

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

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

Contents Vol. XVII, No. 5 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021


A Partnership That Enriches Cobb The Town Center Community Improvement District and Town Center Community Alliance are helping to shape our county’s future.



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





Cobb’s Serendipity Labs accommodates a variety of workplace needs.

Local expert discusses the importance of auditory health during National Protect Your Hearing Month.


Moore Tutoring is an elite tutoring boutique with one mission: to connect the most driven students with the best tutors.


Local private schools are seeing a rise in new student enrollment.

A.G. Rhodes kicks off its Legacy of Care campaign.


The VIVA Tequila Festival will give attendees a true education about the culture and foods surrounding tequila.


Make your home more energy-efficient.

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

On the cover: Town Center CID Executive Director, Tracy Styf (left) and Jennifer Hogan, director of the Town Center Alliance. Photo: LaRuche Creative 2



foreSight COBB


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

At this time last year, if someone had told me that we’d still be dealing with the COVID19 pandemic (and a stronger variant of the virus at that), I’m not sure that I would have believed them. But here we are. I know that most of us are doing our best to maintain a positive attitude and to keep our lives as “normal” as possible — whatever that means these days. I’m not going to use this space to write about the struggles of our healthcare system or the political fighting over vaccinations. Instead, I want to talk about taking a positive outlook toward life. In fact, that’s what I used this page for in the September/October 2020 issue of this magazine. Autumn is my favorite time of year, so I want to focus on all the beauty that nature provides. I suggest you do the same. When the temperatures start to lower and the leaves start to change, take some time to get outside. Go for a hike or go for a drive. The North Georgia mountains provide for some of the most colorful autumn scenery in the nation. It would do us all some good to appreciate these vibrant vistas while they last. There’s a Japanese term for exploring and appreciating nature: shinrin-yoku. The term translates as forest bathing, and the Japanese do this to reconnect with nature, to ease their work-related stress, and to better appreciate their natural surroundings. By the time you read this, I will have started planning my first drive of the season for some leaf peeping and a little R&R. If you would like to do the same, check out the Georgia State Parks website ( It offers a leaf watch page that can help you plan your trips around the optimum times for peak fall foliage. So, take a break and get outside. It will improve your state of mind.

Photo by LaRuche Creative

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

Associate Editor Amy Meadows Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta Contributors Lindsay Field Penticuff, Writer Jennifer Morrell, Writer LaRuche Creative, Photography Production Coordinator/Circulation Amy Fine Controller Marilyn Walker @cobbinfocus Cobb in Focus™ is published six times a year by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA, 30350. Direct all editorial queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 100. Direct all circulation queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 130. Direct all advertising queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 142. All information herein has been checked for accuracy to the best of the publisher’s ability. No responsibility is accepted for deletions, omissions, errors and/or inaccuracies. Material in this publication may not be reprinted without written permission from the publisher. Copyright 2021 by New South Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.

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Sharper Focus Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in your community.

Leadership Cobb Selects New Members Leadership Cobb, the Cobb Chamber’s leadership development program, has selected 50 new participants for the 2021-2022 class. The group brings together diverse business and community leaders for a 10-month journey focused on personal and professional growth. This year’s class will be led by Co-Chairs Wendy Bunch, RE/MAX Pure; and Matt Teague, Walton Communities; and Vice Co-Chairs, Holly Quinlan, Cobb Travel & Tourism; and Sam Olens, Dentons. For the complete list, visit

Credit Union of Georgia Named Forbes 2021 Best-In-State Forbes magazine recently recognized Credit Union of Georgia as a Best-In-State Credit Union for the third year in a row. “We are truly honored to be recognized as one of the Best-In-State Credit Unions for a third year in a row. Our employees work hard to serve our members and deserve to be recognized for their dedication. We are proud to be a trusted financial partner for so many in our community,” said Brian Albrecht, president and CEO.

Tommy Nobis Center Hosting Free Workplace Readiness Training

Cobb County residents looking to enter the workforce, sharpen interviewing skills, or begin new professional journeys are invited to free in-person employment workshops hosted by the Tommy Nobis Center every Tuesday, through Sept. 28, at Switzer Library in Marietta. Learn more at

Annual Next Generation Award Winners Announced

Smyrna Mayor Norton Named Citizen of the Year

Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton was named the recipient of the 2020 Smyrna Citizen of the Year award at the Smyrna Area Council on July 28. “Mayor Derek Norton is extremely deserving of this recognition. He has been an outstanding leader for the citizens of Smyrna,” said Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber. “Through his leadership and tough choices, residents and businesses have been able to navigate the pandemic as safely and as successfully as possible.” Recipients of the award have demonstrated definable, exceptional deeds that showcase a dedication to making Smyrna a better place to live. The presentation of the award was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic

Cobb Young Professionals recognizes the county’s top young professionals with the annual Next Generation Award. Award winners are all in their 20s or 30s, active within their community, demonstrate leadership ability in the community and in their current role, and offer a unique perspective. This year’s winners are Allison Giddens, co-president, WinTech, Inc.; and Andrew Dill, director of government relations, Lockheed Martin.

Cobb EMC Receives High Ratings in Member Satisfaction According to its most recent customer satisfaction survey, Cobb EMC’s members are happier than they’ve ever been with the electric cooperative. “We are here to serve our members and our recent ACSI score shows that they are very happy with the experience we are providing,” said Kevan Espy, president and CEO of Cobb EMC. “I am proud of our member care efforts and our team of employees that deliver a high level of member satisfaction.” Cobb EMC received an American Customer Satisfaction Index score of 91 for the first half of 2021, the highest score it has ever received.

Marietta Museum of History Names New Leader The City of Marietta has selected Amy Reed to serve as the new executive director of the Marietta Museum of History. Reed has 20 years of experience with the museum, including as the curator of exhibits and educational programming for 18 years. Reed created and facilitated the Diverse Cobb Advisory Committee, co-hosts the weekly Facebook live series History Loves Company, and facilitates programming such as The Remember When Club, Evening with History lectures, Diverse Cobb programming, and numerous fundraisers.

Cobb E911 Recognized for Excellence Cobb County E911 Emergency Department has attained accreditation for the seventh time from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., the gold standard in public safety. Cobb County E911 has continued to meet compliance with more than 200 standards in the areas of policy, procedures, management, and operations. Only about 1 percent of communications agencies nationwide can claim this recognition.

Cobb Information Services Ranked in Top 10 Nationwide

In its annual digital survey, the Center for Digital Government selected Cobb in the top 10 nationwide for counties with populations of 500,000 to 1 million. The center cited Cobb’s cybersecurity improvements and dedication to transparency. To see the survey, visit 4



Department of Public Safety Announces Fall Citizens Public Safety Academy

The Cobb County Department of Public Safety will host its fall session of the Citizens Public Safety Academy starting September 8. The 13-week program provides an opportunity for citizens to get an inside look into the many facets of public safety. Participants will learn how Police, Fire, Animal Services, and 911 departments are organized and the important role each one plays. Learn more at


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

9/16 Shepherd’s Men Dinner This is a fundraiser for veterans injured with TBI/ PTSD, featuring a fish fry, chipping contest, silent & live auctions, music & more. More info:

9/18 Great Locomotive Chase 5K Part of the KGP Race Series, proceeds from the Great Locomotive Chase benefit The Southern Museum. More info:


Generation to Generation

Aloha to Aging will celebrate its 12th anniversary by hosting their celebration and expo at Covenant Presbyterian Church. “Getting Better with Age” is the theme for this year’s event. More info:


Lucky Dog Walk For Recovery

Raise awareness and show your support for those in recovery. Enjoy a 5K walk along the Noonday Creek trail then stay for music, food, and prizes! More info:

Experience a wide selection of foods and big helpings of entertainment, too. Admission is free. More info:

Smyrna is pulling out all the stops this year with fireworks and major music acts Sister Hazel and Gin Blossoms. More info:

10/19 October Haunt After Hours

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


Spooktacular Chase

This 10k/5k race is celebrating its 13th 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:

A fundraiser for the Marietta Museum of History, featuring artisans, antique dealers, bands, and a car show. More info:

Cops and Kids Golf Tournament

Benefiting underprivileged children, this annual event will take place at Brookstone Golf & Country Club in Acworth. More info:

9/23 - 10/3 North Georgia State Fair


Karaoke Contest

SafePath is hosting a Karaoke Contest from 6-11 p.m. at the Governors Gun Club in Kennesaw. More info:

The 2021 Superior Plumbing North Georgia State Fair returns to Jim R. Miller Park. More info:


Sweetwater Mission Golf Tournament

Guests can sip and savor hand-crafted, small-batch tequilas from Mexico paired with signature bites from Atlanta’s top restaurants. More info:

Smyrna’s Birthday Celebration

Marietta Streetfest


9/25 Viva Tequila Festival



9/18 Taste of Smyrna

Join sports celebrities in an exclusive event to benefit Sweetwater Mission. More info:


10/9 Taste of Acworth


Fall-O-Ween/ Touch-A-Truck

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

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

10/22-23 ‘Que & Brew

10/23 Halloween JamBOOree

It’s the ultimate tailgate party at Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna! There will be BBQ, a beer tasting, live music, and more! The funds go to LiveSafe Resources. More info:

This annual event is at Logan Farm Park. Yes, there will be a costume contest! More info:


10/23-24 Fall Jonquil Festival Located on the Village Green in downtown Smyrna, this annual event features arts & crafts booths, local food, and plenty of children’s activities. Admission is free. More info:

Kennesaw Beer & Wine Festival

Get to downtown Kennesaw for live music, as well as more than 100 beers, including local Georgia breweries. More info:





Providing White Glove Service in the Co-Working Space By Lindsay Field Penticuff

Cobb’s Serendipity Labs accommodates a variety of workplace needs.




hatever your need may be, Serendipity Labs has the ability to accommodate.” “I’ve enjoyed being a member here, and I look forward to enjoying the office space for quite some time.” “Serendipity Labs is an office dream come true!” “The facility is beautiful, and their hospitality is second to none.” These are just a few of the five-star comments that David Hebert, franchise owner of Serendipity Labs, and his team have heard over the past three years since opening a co-working space in the Cumberland area with his wife, Susan. “We aren’t the


typical co-working space that many people are accustomed to,” Hebert says. “Those are typically very loud and more congested, but our space has a different feel. It’s very professional. It’s quiet, and our members are very respectful of others.” “We like to say that we provide the white glove service here,” adds Angie Yip, general manager of Serendipity Labs. “That’s what makes us shine compared to some of the other flex space offerings.” Launched in 2011, and with 30-plus locations across the United States, Serendipity Labs was founded on the premise that it is about more than just a workplace. “It’s

“We like to say that we provide the white glove service here. That’s what makes us shine compared to some of the other flex space offerings.” –Angie Yip, General Manager, Serendipity Labs

about being able to interact with individuals and network, and build these relationships, which can be serendipitous,” shares Yip. And Yip and her colleague, Myia Owens, are there every day, and it’s evident in how they’ve become extensions of the client companies they serve in the space. “Our clients look at Angie and Myia as team members. So, it is serendipitous,” Hebert says. “There’s also a lot of interactions between the members. We host socials, and Angie spearheads and drives a lot of those to help make sure there’s leverage among the organizations and talking among one another.”

because it stood for a lot of the things that we had in our preschool business, which was upscale, hospitality-driven and renewal opportunities, and it is a customer relationship-type business.” As residents of Cobb for the past 23 years, they wanted to keep the business near home, since David says he planned on utilizing the space himself for his consulting business. “We wanted a business that

we were going to heavily participate in, and we didn’t want to manage a business from afar.” Their overall goal is to open locations across Cobb, including in Marietta, Kennesaw, and into the northern portion of the county. But at first, they wanted to open a main location in an established business district, so they selected the Cumberland area. “We looked at most every building

Why they chose the co-working space business David and Susan Hebert moved to Cobb County in 1999. They’ve run two Primrose Schools — one in Mableton and another in Smyrna — and now manage their own consulting company. “We sold the schools so that we could focus on raising our own kids, and when we later started looking for new business opportunities, that’s when we found Serendipity Labs,” says David Hebert. As a business owner of his own, Hebert says he found himself spending a lot of time between multiple client sites, needing office and meeting space to support his own clients. “That’s when I started looking at the whole co-working industry and knowing that my wife and I were looking for a business as our kids were moving into college, we started looking at whether there were opportunities to franchise a co-working space,” he says. That’s when they were introduced to Serendipity Labs. “We liked Serendipity Labs COBB




“We liked Serendipity Labs because it stood for a lot of the things that we had in our preschool business, which was upscale, hospitalitydriven and renewal opportunities, and it is a customer relationshiptype business.” –David Hebert, Franchise Owner, Serendipity Labs

inside the Vinings and Cumberland areas, along with The Battery and along Powers Ferry Road to find what we felt was the right opportunity,” Hebert says. “And one thing we felt strongly about was that we wanted the business to be easily accessible with firstor second-floor, easy access to parking.” They found just that in their current location at 3225 Cumberland Blvd., Suite 100, in Atlanta. “We are glad we went with this location, especially in a post-COVID-19 pandemic era, because

people don’t have to worry about being in a crowded elevator,” says Hebert. The co-working space is two stories and includes about 30,000 square feet. On the first floor, clients have direct access to the parking lot and their own dedicated entrance. It also includes co-working spaces, a cafeteria and kitchen space, in addition to a dedicated team suite and a larger conference room that can accommodate upward of 40 people. On the second floor, which can be accessed by

A SERENDIPITY LABS MEMBERSHIP INCLUDES: •  Network access to all U.S. locations •  24/7 access and badge access entry •  Guest reception and concierge services (staffed Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., excluding holidays) •  Complimentary parking and gym •  Secure high-speed internet •  Secure cloud-based infrastructure and high compliance standards •  Janitorial services •  Utilities •  Access to monthly member events •  Business services, including mail and package delivery, scanning, notary, administrative support, IT support, copies, secure printing, meeting space (at cost) and market and retail items available (at cost) •  Use of Serendipity Labs business address for your company •  Complimentary coffee, tea and filtered water •  Access to conference rooms at preferred rates




an elevator or stairwell, there’s additional dedicated offices and team suites. “Throughout the whole space, we can accommodate between 250 and 300 members, whether they are individuals who work for a large company and come in to get a dedicated space to work out of, or a small company that needs a team suite of four to five people or combinations of that,” says Hebert. There’s a host of amenities, including free parking, free coffee and tea, and a free gym, just to name a few. And there are two types of memberships — resident and nonresident. Resident members have 24-7 access to the co-working space and are offered an abundance of perks. Non-resident members can access the co-working space from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and they can come and go as they like during those hours.

Finding flexible solutions amid a pandemic Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to work remotely, Hebert and his team were seeing an increase in demand for a co-working space like Serendipity Labs. But that demand has grown even more in recent months. “As we initially came out of the post-COVID-19 pandemic, it was just people wanting to get out of the house,” Hebert says. “They wanted a place to work, a place to take conference calls, and get away from the kids and the dogs.” However, some of the small or midsize companies that are coming back to work are giving up their commercial leases because they realized it wasn’t the best solution for them. “They are wanting a

more flexible solution because half of their team may be working at home, but they still need a place to meet and want dedicated space for that,” Hebert says. “Utilizing a co-working space like ours allows for more flexibility and a company doesn’t have to commit to a five- or 10-year lease option.” And many companies are looking for ways to remain more flexible with their

office locations. “They are making decisions on how to come back into a workplace, and there’s honestly no better team than ours in this the co-working industry,” Hebert says. “And I know you’ll hear that from a lot of our members.” Hebert even runs his own consulting company in Serendipity Labs, so he’s had the pleasure of speaking to clients daily

and getting feedback on their experiences. “The members know me, and they know where to find me if there’s a complaint,” he concludes. “That could be risky, but I think they look at me as another member company, and we share ideas and different approaches. We talk about where we can help each other, so it’s very positive from that standpoint.” n

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Listen Up! Local expert discusses the importance of auditory health during National Protect Your Hearing Month. By Cory Sekine-Pettite





ctober is National Protect Your Hearing Month. So, Cobb In Focus once again wanted to take this opportunity to publicize the importance of auditory health and the prevention of hearing loss. It’s a topic we’ve covered in the past and certainly an issue that deserves more attention. As we’ve previously reported, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic disability in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in eight people in the United States (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on the standard hearing medical examination. Moreover, the NIH says about 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55-64, and nearly 25 percent of those aged 65-74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. This is not a small problem. It is, however, a fixable problem. First, we all should be actively protecting our hearing and working to prevent hearing loss. Second, if you have experienced hearing loss, you shouldn’t ignore it. There are remedies to improve your hearing and therefore your daily life. Thus, we asked Mark Stevenson, owner of American Family Hearing Aid Center in Marietta to tell us how to take care of our hearing, and we wanted to learn about the latest technology behind modern hearing aids.

Hearing loss prevention Exposure to loud noises is the most common cause of hearing loss. Surprisingly, many of us may not even know we are doing it to ourselves. It isn’t just a singular, loud noise (such as proximity to gunfire) that can cause permanent damage to your hearing. Consistent exposure to

“Forty million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and about 10 million of those [cases] can be attributed to noiseinduced hearing loss.” — Mark Stevenson, owner of American Family Hearing Aid Center noises such as high-volume music, construction equipment, lawn equipment, and industrial machinery can lead to just as much damage as a single, deafening event. We all must be aware of our surroundings and work to protect our hearing. Disposable foam plugs, over the ear muffs, or custom hearing protection devices are good options. “Forty million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and about 10 million of those [cases] can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss,” Mr. Stevenson said. “Normal conversation, just like talking one on one, can reach about 60 decibels (dB) with that, and you’re safe,” he added. “But if you get to 70 dB for an extended period, that can actually cause some hearing damage. …If you’re exposed to that on a regular basis, that can actually damage some hearing. Now, when you hit a 120 dB, that’s going to cause immediate damage.” (See the “Noise exposure limits” sidebar for more info on how decibel levels effect your hearing.) It also should be noted that nutrition can play a key role in auditory health. As reported by the Hearing Health Foundation, diets rich in fresh fruits and

vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy can decrease the likelihood of hearing loss by at least 30 percent. This was the conclusion of a lengthy study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital that monitored the hearing health of more than 70,000 women on various diets over a 22-year period. Among the key nutrients that aid in good auditory development and health are potassium (found in bananas and potatoes), zinc (found in cashews, almonds, and dark chocolate), and folic acid (found in spinach, broccoli, and asparagus).

Don’t ignore the problem Hearing loss isn’t just a problem for the elderly. Mr. Stevenson, a Marietta native who has 22 years of experience in the hearing industry, says he has just as many patients under the age of 60 as over the age of 60. He noted that there are several types or causes for hearing loss, some of which can be corrected with hearing aids while others may require surgery or other medical interventions. But whatever the cause may be, people really shouldn’t ignore any potential problems with their





It isn’t just a singular, loud noise (such as proximity to gunfire) that can cause permanent damage to your hearing. Consistent exposure to noises such as highvolume music, construction equipment, lawn equipment, and industrial machinery can lead to just as much damage as a single, deafening event.

auditory health. “It’s just always best if you feel like you’re having a problem to get it tested and checked. And it could be something in there that’s a medical issue

that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later,” Mr. Stevenson said. Mr. Stevenson, who opened his own practice in 2016 (145 N Marietta Pkwy

NOISE EXPOSURE LIMITS One way that noise can permanently damage your hearing is by a single brief exposure to a high noise level, such as a firecracker going off near your ear. But hearing damage can also occur gradually at much lower levels of noise if there is enough exposure over time. To protect your hearing, you’ll want to limit your exposure to these moderately high noise levels as well, and give your ears a chance to recover after any period of noise exposure. For example: •  At 91 decibels, your ears can tolerate up to two hours of exposure. •  At 100 decibels, damage can occur with 15 minutes of exposure. •  At 112 decibels, damage can occur with only one minute of exposure. •  At 140 decibels, immediate nerve damage can occur. Firearms, firecrackers, and jet engines taking off are all louder than 140 dB. If you find yourself near any of these without hearing protection, use your fingers and plug your ears! And at the same time, move away from the noise — even a few extra feet can reduce the loudness significantly. Source:




NE, Suite E, Marietta), says his mission is simple: to focus on the unique needs of each patient and treat their hearing loss individually. One of the early signs to look for regarding hearing loss, he said, is a ringing in the ears (known as tinnitus). But this isn’t always the case; some people experience hearing loss without ever having tinnitus first. Additionally, he said if you constantly are asking people to repeat themselves in everyday conversations, you could have a hearing issue. The problem won’t get better on its own. Truthfully, he added, we all should consider getting our hearing checked every year as part of our routine check-ups. If you visit the American Family Hearing Aid Center, the check-up process is simple. Mr. Stevenson said he first inspects the auditory canal and the ear drums to make sure everything’s healthy and there are no impediments such as a buildup of cerumen (ear wax). He also looks for signs of infection that could be affecting a person’s hearing. “If the ear canal is clear, then we go through other steps to try to find out what the problem is,” he said. A big concern for Mr. Stevenson regarding people who ignore their hearing loss is the potential for cognitive decline. He pointed to several studies, including one from Johns Hopkins Medicine, that has linked hearing loss to walking problems, falls, and dementia. In its study

(available at, Johns Hopkins followed 639 adults for nearly 12 years, and found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. “Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” reported Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., in that study. “Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.” “We don’t hear with our ears. It’s a tool to get the sound to the brain, but we hear with our brain, and we process speech with our brain. And the less you use that [tool], the less you can use it,” Mr. Stevenson said.

Hearing aid tech Once there is damage to the nerve cells in your ear canal, it is irreversible. However, some people may be good candidates for assistance from hearing aids, which can help people hear the soft sounds

of speech and the softer sounds of our environment, but nothing can reverse the physical impairment of the cochlea (the organ of hearing). “One thing hearing aids will do is slow down the auditory deprivation,” Mr. Stevenson said. “So, if the nerves are damaged from noise exposure, they become very weak and they don’t respond, which is why people don’t understand speech, because the nerves do not separate or break down those frequencies. Hearing devices stimulate the nerves and can slow down that continual loss. But there is no way to actually reverse nerve damage. …Wearing the hearing devices keeps that drop in hearing from continuing near as quickly as it would if you didn’t wear anything.” Further, the design and technology of today’s hearing aids far exceeds anything you’ve likely seen before. Depending on your needs, there are devices that are made to fit completely inside your ear canal meaning the average person would never even know you are wearing one.

There are devices that go behind the ear. There are numerous materials available. There are different battery style options (including rechargeable). And there even are hearing aids that offer activity tracking and fall detection. Mr. Stevenson said these particular high-tech devices use artificial intelligence to assure your ears are operating at full capacity. “These devices give you a ‘brain score,’ they give you a ‘health score.’ They track steps for fitness. It’s all built into the hearing device,” he said. “It tracks how much you’re picking up on speech and how much you’re using your brain to converse. And it actually gives you a score. You want to try to keep that same score so you know that your brain health is where it needs to be.” As Mr. Stevenson put it, this is supercool stuff. Of course, your needs may require a different device. American Family Hearing Center can help you make that determination. But you must take that first step and contact them for an appointment. n

A.G. Rhodes is embarking on a landmark effort. We are building a new home that will protect our most vulnerable seniors. One that will honor their dignity as they age. One that will strengthen our delivery of compassionate, person-directed care. One that will serve as a replicable model nationwide.

Learn more:





Moore Tutoring Local company helps students get more from their education By Cory Sekine-Pettite


any of us know from experience that even the most successful, academically inclined students can see the future of their education derailed by a poor exam score. Grades alone do not assure students access to their preferred university or graduate school. Good entrance exam scores (SATs, ACTs, LSATs, etc.) are crucial. That is where a company, such as Moore Tutoring, can be of service. Moore Tutoring ( is an elite tutoring boutique with one mission: to connect the most driven students with the best tutors. Founded by Marietta natives Preston Moore and Mary Lauren



Moore, the company says that its students can expect more. While, yes, it is a play on the name of the company, it’s also how Moore Tutoring operates. The company’s tutors are in college or recently graduated, they have recent experience with the exam they tutor, and can give other students the edge they need to get into their dream schools and reach their dream scores. “We wanted to offer tutoring from the absolute best schools. We know there are a variety of other tutoring companies around the country, but we wanted to offer students the best of the best. This is why we only hire the top 1 percent of tutors,” said Mary Lauren.


“Our goal isn’t to be the biggest tutoring company in the nation — our goal is to be the best,” added Preston. The couple started their company in July 2020, continuing a service Preston first started while attending Harvard Law School. Throughout school, Preston, who also is a practicing attorney for Jones Day Law Firm, tutored the LSAT (law school entrance exam) and found fulfillment in helping others succeed. From starting with the LSAT, Moore Tutoring has grown to also offer SAT and ACT tutoring. As the company continues to grow, the couple says they will expand to help students with the GRE (graduate school entrance exam) and

“As an educator for the past 16 years and former Dean of a post-secondary institution, I understand the need for all students to have a custom fit in their educational paths,” said Dr. Marian Muldrow, COO for Moore Tutoring. “However, in a typical

Photo by LaRuche Creative

“We know there are a variety of other tutoring companies around the country, but we wanted to offer students the best of the best. This is why we only hire the top 1 percent of tutors.” –Mary Lauren Moore classroom setting, that isn’t always possible. But, with an organized and individualized approach in tutoring and consulting with students, such is possible.” So, what are the advantages of seeking out exam assistance from Moore Tutoring? The couple says they regularly have students who already are scoring in or near the 99 percentile, but they come to Moore Tutoring because they want to score a little bit higher. Sometimes it’s because they are great test takers but might have a lower GPA, or they are not comfortable with their admissions writing sample. They want to focus on one area where they do excel and push further to stand out from the competition. Students don’t have to be struggling on either test to ask for help, the Moores say; they just need to want more. Here is how it works: Moore Tutoring offers packages from 3-30 hours with 10 hours of tutoring being the most popular option. Some students will purchase by the hour, as well as purchase multiple packages over the course of several months.

Photo by LaRuche Creative

MCAT (medical school entrance exam). All sessions are taught via Zoom. Moore Tutoring’s tutors and students are located throughout the United States, Canada, and various countries in South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. “You don’t have to want to go to Harvard, but you deserve the education and service from people who know the test like the back of their hand to help you reach your goals and start your law school journey,” said Preston. Aside from the obvious advantage of having a Harvard-educated lawyer and an educated marketing professional (Mary Lauren) at the helm, what other benefits can you expect from employing Moore Tutoring’s services? Well, the Moores say good tutoring companies hire tutors that scored in the top 10 percent of all test takers. Great tutoring companies, on the other hand, hire tutors that scored in the top 1 percent of all test takers. Moore Tutoring hires only tutors who have graduated from, or are currently attending, the top colleges in the country. Every tutor they hire — currently, they have 17 on staff — has exhibited excellence on the LSAT, SAT or ACT and ultimately, in his or her law school or post-secondary career. The company has three principles that it says sets it apart. 1. Moore Tutoring plan better. Students are assessed from the beginning of their time with the company. 2. Moore Tutoring has a better method. Most companies will send every student the same books and materials when they sign on. That means, regardless of if a student’s goal is a 140 or a 175 on the LSAT for example, they all receive the same “boxed” approach to studying. Moore Tutoring, however, helps students diagnose and develop a realistic path for where they are to where they want to be. 3. Moore Tutoring hires the best tutors. Its tutors have a dedicated history of success on the test to which they tutor, whether that be LSAT, SAT or ACT.

Once students purchase a package (pricing is available at, they receive a welcome email with a student intake form. The purpose of that form is to get background information about the student’s experience, or lack thereof, with the test they want to take. From there, they are paired with a tutor who will schedule a consultation and begin working on their individualized study plan. The student and tutor also will establish a session schedule. During and after each session, the tutors update the study plan and share it with the students. Currently, the company averages about 50 students tutoring each month; and its services are offered year-round. If you or a family member want to get a leg up on your upcoming SAT, ACT, or LSAT, Moore Tutoring could help. “We cannot offer test score guarantees as testing situations are different for every student. What we do guarantee is a quality tutor who will give students the tools they need to succeed,” said Muldrow. n

“You don’t have to want to go to Harvard, but you deserve the education and service from people who know the test like the back of their hand to help you reach your goals and start your law school journey.” –Preston Moore COBB



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




big city and is fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The list goes on, but it always comes back to the people who have built this county into what it is. On the following page we have profiled individuals who are among Cobb’s premier leaders. We wanted to find out about their job, 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 Photo by LaRuche Creative

WHAT IS YOUR MISSION? S+U was founded by Roxann S. Smithers and Nwa’ndo E. UmeNwagbo in 2012, two former “big law” attorneys who wanted to focus on providing quality legal services to entrepreneurs, small business owners, and nonprofits. Our primary practice areas are Corporate/Business Law, Commercial/ Business Litigation, Employment Law, and Employee Benefits. We also have a vibrant General Counsel Services practice that meets a broad range of legal needs. Additionally, we are keen on educating business owners about a myriad of legal issues. S+U provides “Notes from My Legalpad” on our YouTube Channel and serve as business mentors with Emory University’s Start:ME Incubator and Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs. S+U is on the leadership board of the ATL Small Business Mastermind Forum and the SORS Collective Meet-Up group. We produce and participate in webinars and training sessions throughout the year.

BEST ADVICE: It is wise to develop an attorney/ client relationship before you have an issue. Most of our work involves helping clients structure their business relationships and processes so that they can Founders, Smithers + Ume-Nwagbo, LLC avoid costly conflicts and claims down the road. When you do have an issue, do not ignore it. It is better to to pay a flat fee for curated master services agreements tailored address things head on than to hope they will just go to their industry. away. Find and hire a good lawyer BEFORE you need a lawyer! WHY WE WORK IN COBB: We both moved to the Atlanta area WHAT’S NEXT? We have two exciting new areas of service we in 2002 and have made Cobb County our home for almost 20 are launching this year: Business Dispute Mediation and our years. We had our first meeting to plot and plan the founding Contract Bank. Roxann is a registered neutral with the Georgia of S+U at South City Kitchen on Cumberland Boulevard 10 Office of Dispute Resolution with almost 20 years of litigation years ago this October. There is such a wide variety of smalland corporate law experience. She is providing mediation and medium-sized businesses and non-profits in the area, that services to business owners, their customers, and vendors we really get a chance to do interesting and meaningful work. — exclusively. Ideal parties (1) are looking to settle litigation

Roxann S. Smithers & Nwa’ndo Ume-Nwagbo

focused on a business dispute, (2) want to resolve a dispute before going to court, (3) address an internal management conflict, and/or (4) iron out the final details of a new venture. By the end of the year, we are launching our Contract Bank. Not every small business owner is able to avail themselves of full legal services. However, there is a great need for quality legal protections. S+U will provide master services contracts for business owners and entrepreneurs in the creative industries. Graphic designers, photographers, social media influencers, social media managers, copyrighters, and the like will be able

YOU TWO HAVE BEEN FRIENDS FOR OVER 20 YEARS AND IN BUSINESS FOR ALMOST 10, HOW DO YOU MANAGE THOSE TWO RELATIONSHIPS? Although we have a virtual practice and we each work from home, we talk regularly throughout the week. We trust each other’s intentions as friends and business partners. We respect each other’s opinions and judgments. We give each other room to be ourselves and have areas of expertise and control. When we talk, we try to get work stuff out of the way so that we can spend time on the “good” stuff — the friends part!

2451 Cumberland Parkway SE, Suite # 3836, Atlanta, GA 30339 • 404.418.8492 • COBB




North Cobb Christian School

Looking For A Better Fit The pandemic pushes some parents to choose private schools. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


ince the earliest days of the pandemic in 2020, when it was clear that schools across the country would be closed for the year — and that all students would have to adapt to online learning — many parents determined that full-time, at-home education wasn’t the best option for their family. As Forbes reported this past June (https://, parents saw and heard how different private and public schools handled educating kids at the start of the pandemic, and they weren’t always pleased



with what they saw in the public realm. Additionally, the article stated that private schools largely went back to in-person learning at the beginning of the school year last fall, while public schools remained closed or opened with a hybrid model. “While remote learning during COVID-19 was definitely better than nothing, many parents also found they couldn’t handle the uncertainty about it all, or the potential for having to homeschool their kids while also trying to work,” reported the magazine’s Robert Farrington.


According to a report from EdChoice (an American education reform organization) earlier this year, 41 percent of parents were more likely to prefer a private education for their children post-pandemic. Overall, private school enrollment doesn’t quite bare out this preference on a national scale, but many private schools have reported increased registration this year — including some in Cobb County. We spoke with two schools (Brookwood Christian and North Cobb Christian) about their growth.

The non-profit Brookwood caters to students with learning disabilities in reading and math. It is one of the few schools serving dyslexic students in the metro Atlanta area, and one of only two schools that serve high school students.

Brookwood Christian School

Brookwood Christian School Compared with the last school year, Brookwood Christian has seen a 23-percent increase in student enrollment. To help with that increase, the school added three teachers to keep its class sizes small. “Enrollment has increased at Brookwood Christian School this year because parents have seen at home with their own eyes how much their children are struggling in school,” says the school’s Director, Kim Wigington. The non-profit Brookwood (located at 4728 Wood Street in Acworth) caters to students with learning disabilities in reading and math. It is one of the few schools serving dyslexic students in the metro Atlanta area, and one of only two schools that serve high school students. “Online schooling is great for a small percentage of students, but not for all students and certainly not for students with learning disabilities,” Wigington said. “I think the pandemic put a spotlight on education in general, and our parents

began to see that neither the online classes nor the traditional setup was working for their kids.” The school offers specialized teaching methods, such as the Wilson Reading Program (using Orton Gillingham principles) by teachers who are certified in Wilson. Brookwood’s math program reads the text to the students so they do not have to be fluent readers in order to succeed in math. “Our class sizes are eight students or less,” Wigington said. “Students have art, nature studies, and time outside. We don’t forget to support the parents either. Each building has an administrator whom parents can call with questions and needs.” Most parents who choose Brookwood do so because they know someone whose child thrives at the school, Wigington said. As parents started to talk to their friends about the difficulties in public schools last year, they realized what a different experience our students were having, she added. Since

August of last year, Brookwood has held in-person classes five days per week. The school has taken all precautions and followed CDC guidelines. “We have increased time outside and created outdoor classroom space,” Wigington said. “Our school day and facilities are built around the needs of bright students with learning disabilities. We even have multi-age classrooms where students are grouped more by reading level than by age.” Wigington says about half of Brookwood’s students come from Cobb County. The other half come from Bartow, Paulding, and Cherokee counties. Most of them come to Brookwood from public schools. She added that if growth continues, the school may be able to add a new, separate building to house its middle school students. Currently, the school’s elementary students (first through seventh grade) have their own building, as do the eighth through 12th graders. Director Wigington recognizes that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in our education system. She knows that everyone involved is adapting as best they can. And while the students at Brookwood Christian are thriving, Wigington knows that not every family is able to send their children to such a school. “Our students are the kids who fall between the cracks in a traditional school,” she said. “They don’t fit in the




Education special education classroom, but they are not succeeding in the regular classroom either. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of private school; private schools are expensive. There is a bottom-line cost to educate each student, and not everyone can afford it. “For this reason, we accept state scholarship sources, private and foundation grants and donations, as well as local fundraising to make the tuition as affordable as possible to families who need the financial assistance,” Wigington continued. “It costs money, but we are resourceful and conscientious about spending and budget so much that we have the lowest tuition in the area among schools offering similar services.”

North Cobb Christian School North Cobb Christian School (NCCS) provides families with a unique K3 through 12th-grade education option that puts children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual needs at the forefront. NCCS challenges students academically, fosters them spiritually, and guides them to discover their God-given purpose and abilities. The school prides itself on being a close-knit community with caring teachers, more than 50 athletic teams and 17 performing arts ensembles, schoolwide weekly chapel, annual retreats, Spring Term trips for middle and upper school, and five Upper School Academies (magnet programs) that allow students to develop their full potential to impact the world for Christ. North Cobb Christian’s Head of School, Todd Clingman, says many of the parents

“NCCS has a strong reputation in the community for being authentically Bible-based, as well as for having very robust programs for academics, arts, and athletics.” — Todd Clingman, Head of School, North Cobb Christian School who have come to the school in the past two years say they had been considering NCCS for a long time. Factors surrounding COVID and current world events were the final encouragement they needed to make the switch for their children. “Parents are currently looking for an educational partner for their children that they can trust, whose position and stance on world events supports their own convictions,” Clingman said. “Parents who are looking for trustworthy and transparent school leadership that prioritizes biblical principles while providing an excellent education for their children have found that in NCCS.” The real win for NCCS is that nearly all the students the school gained last year stayed this year, he continued. Some came due in part to COVID, but they are all staying due to the positive school culture. “We originally came to NCCS due to COVID and the public school’s COVID policies, so in a way I am thankful for the craziness of last year, as it led us to NCCS,” said Kristen Johnson, an NCCS lower school parent. “We choose to stay, however, because of the God-focused approach to all things. I was

Brookwood Christian School 20



so impressed with the school’s leadership through the chaos of last year. I saw the school navigate some very difficult situations, yet always approached each one with integrity, transparency, and in seeking God for wisdom and direction. We are so grateful for the opportunity to send our daughter to a school that prioritizes and believes in the power of prayer, that seeks God first in all things, and is unashamed to stand up for what is right and true according to God’s Word.” While in-person learning has been the focus, NCCS has responded to our new reality with flexible options for students when needed. According to Clingman, in response to parent and faculty feedback and in alignment with guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the school is promoting health and wellness while bolstering NCCS’ nurturing culture and prioritizing the mental health and developmental needs of its students. “We are emphasizing in-person learning and also providing video recordings of all core subjects for fifth through 12th grades each day, so students who need to quarantine or stay home can

still benefit from direct instruction,” he said. “Younger students who need to participate in at-home learning work with their teachers to implement an individualized learning plan.” The school has more than 1,000 students for this academic year, up from less than 900 students two years ago. Clingman said most new students came from public schools. “NCCS has a strong reputation in the community for being authentically Bible-based, as well as for having very robust programs for academics, arts, and athletics,” he added. “We have gained many families who are looking for strong student opportunities, as well as alignment with their Christian values.” The growth at NCCS continues. The school opened a new, 38,000-square-foot upper school facility this past December, which includes a STEM center with a robotics lab, physics lab, and makerspace, as well as student collaborative spaces, classrooms, offices, and an adjacent parking


North Cobb Christian School

lot. Clingman said this upper school addition, in turn, opened space for the lower and middle schools to expand across


Media I 770-528-4545

existing facilities. Other recent additions to the 50-acre campus include a renovated main building, updated athletic facilities, and new turf for the Jacob Dennis Football Field. Additionally, NCCS is constructing a security guardhouse, which will open this fall. North Cobb Christian also is preparing to launch the second phase of its Upper School Building campaign, which will add an additional 27,760 square feet to the new facility, including a student-run coffee shop, chorus room, flex classroom space, kitchen and additional student dining room, state-of-the-art biology and chemistry labs, and dedicated upper school space for the Dr. Carolyn Ware Moving Forward Program, which provides academic support. “Above all, we are a family,” Clingman says. “The number-one comment we receive from parents and students alike is that NCCS is a true, genuine family. NCCS feels like home.” n



A Unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.







A Partnership That Enriches


By Jennifer Morrell


f society has taught us anything, particularly through the pandemic, it’s that “stronger together” is a concept worth adopting. The Town Center Community Improvement District (TCCID) is a shining example of a robust CID in action, especially when joining forces with the Town Center Alliance (the Alliance), resulting in an enhanced level of success. The role of a CID is to identify and fund projects such as infrastructure improvements and “quality of life” developments that enhance property values within the district. A quality of life project can vary from greenspace and parks to public art and bikeshare. These types of endeavors typically use infrastructure and public space to provide a sense of “place” and opportunities to enjoy the environment, recreation, education, culture and community programming. CIDs are funded by an additional, voluntary property tax on commercial properties within a specific district. In Town Center, 275 property owners with nearly 500 parcels generate approximately $3.7 million annually that goes back into the community. The TCCID employs five full-time staff members who work for both the district and the Alliance. The Alliance is funded through a variety of private, corporate, and foundation supporters by way of memberships, grants, and major gifts. It is a tool in the toolbox of the TCCID with a proven track record of success.

The Town Center Community Improvement District and Town Center Community Alliance are helping to shape our county’s future.

Stronger together: TCCID and the Alliance

Photo by LaRuche Creative

TCCID Executive Director, Tracy Styf (left), and Town Center Alliance Director, Jennifer Hogan, are creating spaces and places where people want to be.

Since its inception in 1997, the TCCID has worked to identify and invest in projects for beautification, recreation, greenspace, and other general community enhancements. These include gateway markers, trails and a bikeshare program, all with the goal of improving the environment and quality of life for the Town Center community. “In 2015, the TCCID created the Town Center Alliance, a nonprofit organization to partner for creative placemaking programs,” says Tracy Styf, TCCID’s executive director. “The collaboration allows engagement of a broader community and an increased investment in quality of life projects. The partnership and structure are unique, since not all CIDs have a nonprofit creative placemaking entity.” The Alliance is designed to take a strategic look at creative placemaking elements that will help the TCCID reach its vision of becoming one of the most accessible, prosperous, and exciting areas in metro Atlanta. While the TCCID primarily builds roads, trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes, the Alliance finds ways to celebrate the unique character of Town Center. “From public art and aesthetic fixtures that inspire and engage, to small parks that protect and conserve, the Alliance invests in projects that enhance the quality of life in the Town Center area,” says Jennifer Hogan, director of the Alliance. “By activating the physical and social environment in Town Center, the Alliance helps attract businesses and residents, boost economic development, and shape a sense of community. The Alliance team enlists the public, COBB



Photos courtesy of Town Center CID

community partners, and corporate sponsors to fully fund and develop these projects.” A good example of how the TCCID and Alliance worked in tandem to create and activate public spaces is Aviation Park. This threeacre, aviation-themed public space is adjacent to the Cobb County International Airport runway. It lies midpoint along the Noonday Creek Aviation Park Trail and offers amenities such as a 60-space parking lot, water fountain for people and pets, open green space, STEM playground, airplane-shaped and then turned over to Cobb County upon climbing structure, pavilion, and a restroom completion in 2017. Since then, the Allifacility designed to replicate the nearby ance has funded and installed educational airport control tower. The three-acre park exhibits and added programming, such as was funded and constructed by the TCCID Yoga in the Park.

Skip Spann Connector

“It is because of this unique partnership that the TCCID and Alliance can create more of these hallmark recreation areas within a region traditionally known more for its office, industrial, and retail,” says

The Noonday Creek Trail is a 10- to 12-foot wide, multimodal, hard-surface bike path that runs through the Town Center district, connecting the district’s destinations and parks. It begins at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Visitor’s Center and heads east to the Bells Ferry Trailhead, winding along the creek through forested areas, under highway overpasses, and along roadsides. The idea of a bike trail emerged in 2000 and took 12 years to complete. What was once underutilized greenspace is now useful infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation and recreation were created. “The multi-use trail has made Town Center a competitive urban district by enhancing aesthetics, recreation, and connectivity throughout the area,” says Tracy Styf, Town Center CID’s executive director. “This infrastructure is functional as well as attractive. It links to several other trails in Cobb County’s 84-mile trail network, and it improves environmental conditions by protecting the creek.” More than 200 proposed or planned miles of trail have been identified and are included in the Cobb Greenway and Trail Masterplan. These planned trail connections will continue north into Cherokee County and to the south to the Beltline and Silver Comet Trail. Outdoor spaces like these were especially important during the pandemic, giving people places to exercise and safely gather in small groups, says Jennifer Hogan, Town Center’s Community Alliance director. “During the pandemic, we saw evidence of increased usage of the trails, via our trail counters, at times of the day and week that, pre-pandemic, were not highvolume hours. This data could indicate that while people were 24



Photo courtesy of Town Center CID

Happy Trails

working from home or homeschooling during the week, they were also utilizing the trails and parks at different times of the day and augmenting their daily schedules with time outdoors.” Hogan says even outside of a pandemic setting, parks and trails are widely considered to be important for health and wellness, giving people options for reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. Also of value is the potential for reduction in local traffic and the use of the trail as a transportation alternative. Data collected on the Town Center bikeshare program in early 2020, just before the pandemic, showed that since the program launched in November 2015, more than 50,000 rides totaling more than 25,000 hours with a median trip distance of 1.87 miles were taken. Hogan says this would equate to a reduction of 11,000 pounds in CO2 emissions or elimination of over 12,000 auto trips.

Successful TCCID Projects

Styf. “These types of projects are important because they improve the quality of life of the entire region.”

Bringing projects to fruition The TCCID and the Alliance are separate legal entities, and each is governed by a separate board. While the two collaborate and work on projects in tandem, specific projects and budgets are determined by each board, respectively. Both boards use the extensive planning efforts for projects based on the various master, activation, and strategic plans conducted during the last few years. Styf says the TCCID does master planning for the district every three to five years, working with Cobb County, commercial stakeholders, and the broader community to study demographic and economic shifts. The district collects market data as well as data on fiscal impact, traffic, and infrastructure needs. “We take the results of the master plan, along with the Cobb’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan, to prioritize projects in the greatest areas of need within the district,” Styf says. “Projects are funded initially with CID dollars for concept and preliminary engineering, and then we work with our county, state, and federal partners to secure the remaining project funds and move it through construction.”

South Barrett Reliever The South Barrett Reliever is a road realignment project to give drivers an alternate route around Barrett Parkway, one of the busiest corridors in Town Center. In Phase 3, the $33.5M roadway will continue from where Phase 2 ended, then reach across I-75 and the Managed Lanes and extend to Barrett Parkway via Roberts Court. This project won the 2018 Georgia Partnership for Transportation Quality Preconstruction Design Award for Traffic Safety and Intersection Design for Phase II. Skip Spann Connector The Skip Spann Connector created a four-lane road and 10-foot-wide, multiuse path over I-75, realigning Townpark Lane into a roundabout at Busbee Drive. Its most striking feature is the lighted bridge design that reflects the iconic shape of Kennesaw Mountain. This project won the 2017 American Society of Highway Engineers National Project of the Year; the 2017 American Council of Engineering Companies Georgia Engineering Excellence Award, Transportation category; and the 2016 Georgia Partnership for Transportation Quality Preconstruction Design Award. Bells Ferry Trailhead The Bells Ferry Trailhead is the district’s easternmost point of the Noonday Creek Trail. In 2017, the area was updated to provide trail-friendly amenities, such as a restroom, parking lot, trash receptacles, bikeshare station, benches, lighting, landscaping, and water fountains for people and pets.

Town Center Bikeshare Program The TCCID is committed to bringing cycling to the forefront of mobility and providing recreation options in the district. In 2020, the bikeshare saw 17,115 active members, 229 trips per week and 50,731 total rides. In 2016, the program was winner of 2016 CREATE Community Award. Aviation Park The vision behind the park was to engage visitors in a beautiful open environment and provide much-needed amenities along the Noonday Creek Trail. The space near the end of the runway at the Cobb County International Airport led to the park theme. Noonday Creek Trail The Noonday Creek Trail is a 10- to 12-foot-wide, hard-surface path that runs through Town Center, connecting the district’s destinations and parks. Busbee Trail Busbee Trail is a shared-use path running 0.5 miles along the western side of Busbee Drive. Big Shanty Connector The Big Shanty Connector is a fourlane roadway that spans nearly two miles, from Chastain Road, heading east under I-75 and the Managed Lanes to Chastain Meadows Parkway. Noonday Creek Chimney Swift Tower In 2020, the Georgia Audubon and the Town Center Community Alliance partnered to install a 12-foot chimney swift tower along the Noonday Creek Trail.

Why placemaking matters By definition, effective placemaking increases the quality of life for residents, commuters, and visitors, and it raises the value of surrounding properties. This creative method of collaboration shapes the physical and social character of a region






Photo by LaRuche Creative

through arts, culture, and other quality of life enhancements. “Since 2015, the Alliance has worked to secure funding for the improvement of the Town Center region,” says Hogan, “by investing in projects that enhance the quality of life in the Town Center area, such as parks and greenspace to conserve and protect the environment. Examples include Aviation Park, public art and activation that inspires the community, and programs that actively engage people of all ages.” Placemaking is creating places where people want to be — public spaces that engage the community and are activated in a way such that everyone wants to use them. A recent example of how the Alliance has invested in TCCID infrastructure projects bringing additional amenities for visitors and residents is the Noonday Creek Trail, one of the most popular amenities in Town Center. Using the existing infrastructure established by the TCCID, the Alliance adopted an activation plan to adorn the seven miles of trail in the district with public art, programming, and

Town Center Bikeshare Program

creative wayfinding to elevate the trail user experience.

Sharing best CID practices Styf says that with more than 30 CIDs in the metro Atlanta area, they often collaborate with other CIDs to educate and inform


communities about collective efforts and the work inside of the districts. “I meet regularly with other executive directors to share ideas and best practices, working on issues that impact each of us, such as ensuring funding at the state and federal levels,” she says. “There’s so much we share and have learned together throughout the years. Right now, much of our discussions are centered around technology and mobility. We are also working locally with the other Cobb CIDs to connect bikeshare throughout the region.” A number of the metro Atlanta CIDs are working with the Georgia Department of Transportation and their local transportation departments on the Connected Vehicle program. This technology will link more than 1,000 intersections across the region, enabling cars, trucks, and buses to “talk” to each other and share safety and mobility information. The data is then used for transit signal priorities, signal preemption for emergency vehicles and assuring sufficient pedestrian intervals at crosswalks. n

Senior Living

A New Model of Nursing Home Care

A.G. Rhodes kicks off its Legacy of Care campaign By Lindsay Field Penticuff


he COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for older people, not just in America, but around the world. Nursing homes and other elder care facilities have been impacted heavily by this rapidly spreading virus and unfortunately,

that was the same for A.G. Rhodes here in Cobb. “It really strained us and brought us to the brink,” shares Deke Cateau, CEO at A.G. Rhodes. “Each life lost was something we took personally, but it strengthened our resolve to fight COVID-19.”


A.G. Rhodes, which also has a location in Atlanta near Grant Park and one on Emory’s Wesley Woods campus, has reported 250 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, 74 at the Cobb location; and 26 deaths because of COVID19, 12 of which were residents at Cobb.



Senior Living This led to isolation, which also took a toll on residents. “Our elders had to stay in their rooms,” Cateau says. “There were no visitations with families. There were very few group activities, which we’ve become so accustomed to in the nursing home.” Cateau adds that this was extremely difficult and against everything they believe in as an organization. They thrive on providing person-directed care for their residents, offering activities and programs that help nurture long-lasting relationships. “For all these years, we’ve been able to foster better quality care. So, for me, shutting down the nursing home went against so many of the principles and norms we know as a nursing home provider. But we had to for the health and safety of our residents and staff,” says Cateau.

Coming back stronger than ever

“Shutting down the nursing home went against so many of the principles and norms we know as a nursing home provider.” –Deke Cateau, CEO, A.G. Rhodes




Photo by LaRuche Creative

“The difficulty we had was the abundance of semi-private rooms,” Cateau says. “Most of our residents’ rooms have shared accommodations, and because of that, COVID-19 spread almost like a wildfire throughout the community.” Another difficulty of battling the virus at A.G. Rhodes is that about 50 percent of its residents are living with dementia, and research suggests that those living with a loss of cognitive function are twice as likely to contract COVID-19.

While Cateau and his staff can’t predict if or when there will ever be another pandemic like this one, they are doing their best to make sure their residents are living in an even safer environment in the future. Just before the pandemic shut down the country in early 2020, A.G. Rhodes Cobb was geared up to launch the Legacy of Care campaign in April 2020. The purpose of the project is to: Keep residents safe, including private room accommodations to better protect them from infectious diseases; honor the dignity of a resident’s aging experience, especially for those living with dementia; and move away from the institutionalized environment so the community can strengthen its person-directed philosophy of care. “What we are creating is a model of care in an environment that can be replicated throughout Cobb County, metro Atlanta, and the region,” shares Cateau. The pandemic disrupted their plans for the original launch, but even during one of the most difficult times in recent history, A.G. Rhodes Cobb still was able to raise $3 million of its $10 million goal during the preliminary phase of the campaign. “This is a really, really good start for us. But as they say, it takes a village,” Cateau adds. “So, not only as a non-profit are we depending on the donors closest to the organization to help raise these funds, we also are starting to leverage relationships in the Cobb community and share this campaign with the public.” Once complete, the Legacy of Care campaign will help the organization build a new

“This is an opportunity for us to come back stronger than ever.” –Deke Cateau, CEO, A.G. Rhodes

skilled nursing and memory care community on its existing campus with 72 private rooms for residents living with dementia. Additionally, significant renovations to the existing building will include private accommodations tailored for residents receiving inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services. “We have seen such a significant growth in the number of people living with dementia, so we want to build accommodations that would allow us to better care for them,” shares Cateau. Many residents at A.G. Rhodes are those Cateau describes as being underserved and underinsured. “We want to give them a dignity of life that isn’t available in many nursing homes today,” he says. A.G. Rhodes Cobb has a capacity to serve a total of 130 residents. Because of COVID-19 restrictions and isolation requirements, the facility’s occupancy has dropped from about 95 percent to 70 percent. In its current model, there are long hallways and each area houses 40-plus residents. The new facility and renovations will serve what is referred to as a “household model” of care. Each “home” will include 12 residents, each having their own private bedroom. Each household will also have a centralized community kitchen, as well as a small dining room designed for family-style meals. “Each household will have a sunroom to connect residents to the outdoors, in addition to outdoor gardens,” Cateau adds. “Each household also will have a living room with a beautiful sitting area.” Being able to provide these upgraded accommodations to residents and the Cobb community

means the world to Cateau. “What we are about to do in Cobb County is going to be a game changer for the industry and for so many of our elders in the community. It’s going to offer not just the type of accommodations they deserve, but the type of care they deserve. It’s the proudest time in my career.” The new facility will offer training and job opportunities for students at Chattahoochee Technical College, Kennesaw State University, and surrounding high schools through workforce development programs. Cateau says they collaborate with each of these organizations and schools to help train students who he hopes may one day work at A.G. Rhodes Cobb. “This is an opportunity for us to come back stronger than ever,” Cateau concludes. “While a crisis is negative by nature, we want to be able to use it to allow us to improve, change, and build back better than ever before.” n

Learn More Donate online: Learn more about Legacy of Care:




In Your Community

Celebrating All Things Tequila! The VIVA Tequila Festival will give attendees a true education about the culture and foods surrounding tequila. By Jennifer Morrell




ore than just an ingredient in your typical margarita, tequila has become a point of celebration and rich culture in metro Atlanta. Juan Bonilla’s VIVA Tequila Festival began initially as the VIVA Tequila Dinner Series, whereby different tequilas were paired with different menu courses created by local chefs. Affectionately known as “Mr. Tequila,” Bonilla focused on the tequila pairing and the educational aspect of the dinner, a two-hour event that pleased the palate while explaining the process of making each tequila, as well as the particulars of each dish. While the dinner series drew a considerable attendance of 20 to 50 guests, a larger experience would better showcase the tequilas, fine cuisines, and historic culture of Mexico. Thus, Bonilla’s festival was born. The VIVA Tequila Festival began as a private event on a large property, with an attendance of about 200 people. This model worked for several years, so Bonilla decided


to grow the festival in 2018, hosting about 2,500 guests. The festival partners with the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance, which promotes awareness and action for ovarian cancer. “We are here to help those battling ovarian cancer, and we hope to educate women on the signs and symptoms of the disease,” Bonilla says. “We believe that we make a difference by helping them out in every way we can.” In the past, the festival was held at Piedmont Park, but this year it will be at Truist Park. “This year, we are expecting over 5,000 people inside the tasting area and over 10,000 people in total foot traffic on September 25, starting at noon,” Bonilla says. “It’s a Saturday, so all our guests can enjoy and relax.” “Cobb County is the perfect location as the new venue of the VIVA Tequila Festival, because of the community’s diversity, family values, and our partnership with the Atlanta Braves, who bond all of the metro Atlanta

area and Georgia as the home baseball team,” Bonilla adds. “The VIVA Tequila Festival will remain in Cobb County and Truist Park — Home of the Braves — for many years to come.” Bonilla says his family has been involved with tequila producers and agave growers for generations, and he has been an ambassador and advocate for tequila for the last 25 years. “Tequila has been planted, harvested, processed, cooked, distilled, and bottled by Mexican families for more than 500 years,” he says. “Many of those families remain in the industry from 20 generations back. Family values are an essential component in tequila.” Bonilla says he is working hard to educate the public about the entire cultural aspect surrounding tequila, assuring people understand the costs involved. “Most people think of tequila as an inexpensive spirit, but in reality, it is more expensive to harvest and create than whiskey,” he says. “The plant takes five to 12 years to grow, and that’s in nature’s hands. Afterward, we produce the spirit and, later, we can rest it in barrels.”

Navigating VIVA! The festival will consist of four areas. The Battery will be home to the Main Area, from Roxy Theater to the OMNI Hotel, where music and several performances will take place from noon until 5 p.m. Sponsors and vendors will be set up there as well.

Near the Chop House Gate, a valid ticket/wrist band will be required to gain access to the Food and Tequila Tasting and Pairing Area. Restaurants will be offering samples and tequila brands will be pairing those samples with the proper tequila. Shops will be available for ordering tequila as well. The Chop House will be the VIP Area and will be converted into a tasting area with rare, unique agave-based spirits. This VIP Area will transform into a party zone after 6 p.m. for the VIVA La Noche Afterparty. The dance floor will be filled with energy and happiness, with plenty of snacks and drinks.

The main area of the festival will be set up for tequilas, restaurants, and vendors from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The VIP Lounge will be open to VIP guests from 12 to 6 p.m., and the afterparty area will be open to guests from 6 to 9 p.m. During the festival, attendees will be able to try more than 40 brands of tequila, whether neat or in cocktails. Mexican, Southern, Asian, Latin-American, and Italian restaurants will serve food, showcasing their most popular dishes or presenting new creations for attendees. In total, the festival employs about 500 people, including restaurant staff, brand ambassadors, vendors, VIVA Tequila Festival personnel, and auxiliary services, such as security and medical staff. “We proudly employ and invite as many local businesses as we can, and we are always on the lookout for more businesses to participate as sponsors or as contributors to the festival,” Bonilla says. “We usually do business with around 100 different vendors and providers.” n

Mark Your Calendar!

These are the three, can’t-miss events happening during the VIVA Tequila Festival. VIVA Tequila Festival. Takes place Sept. 25, 2021, at Truist Park. The event starts at 12 p.m., and tickets are available at Timeline: •  Guest registration begins at 11:30 a.m. •  Doors open to the public at 12 p.m. •  Restaurant and tequila pairings are from 12 to 5 p.m. •  J udging from 2 to 4 p.m. •  Entertainment will take place in the main area until 5 p.m. •  VIP Lounge is open from 12 to 6 p.m. •  Afterparty takes place from 6 to 9 p.m.

•  Public areas in Truist Park and vendor area will be closed by 9:30 p.m. VIVA Tequila Festival — Dinner Series. This occurs weekly across the metro Atlanta area from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Check dates at VIVA Tequila Festival — Mexico Experience. Visit four different destinations traveling as a tequila VIP to regions where tequila, mezcal, and other agave-based spirits are manufactured. Visit for more information.




Final Focus

Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient By Cory Sekine-Pettite


ctober is Energy Awareness Month, an annual, national effort by the Department of Energy to highlight the importance of energy to our national prosperity and security. Essentially, the agency wants people to recognize the vital role that electricity generation plays in our everyday lives — from delivering clean drinking water to powering the internet. But this occasion also is a good time to help consumers find ways to use less energy, save on their energy costs, and reduce pollution in the process. There are many, simple things we can do around our

homes to conserve energy. You already may be familiar with some of the more common tips, such as using appliances (dishwashers, washers and dryers) at offpeak times, keeping blinds closed and ceiling fans spinning in the summer to reduce air conditioning usage. But there may be some pointers of which you are not aware. We looked to the experts at Georgia Power and Cobb EMC for the following energy-saving advice. You can find more solutions from each

Surfing in Cobb County... We Make It Easy! No matter where you are, you can now access up-to-date information about what’s going on around the county. With local news, events calendars and the latest issue of Cobb In Focus, you can be instantly connected to your community.

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For advertising opportunities in Cobb In Focus magazine and these Cobb County websites, contact Jamie Ryan at 770-650-1102, ext. 142 or 32



company’s website: and, respectively. • Outside your home, caulk around all penetrations including telephone, electrical, cable, gas, water spigots, dryer vents, etc. • When using the fireplace, turn down your heating system thermostat. • Wash clothes in cold water. Use hot water only for very dirty loads. •  Replace any light bulb, especially ones that are on more than one hour per day, with a light emitting diode (LED) bulb. •  Use a slow cooker instead of simmering foods on the stove. • Plug electronic devices such as cable boxes, printers and TVs into power strips to turn off during vacations or long periods without use. • Lower your thermostat when large groups of people are expected during the winter. • Keep plants and brush at least three feet away from outside heating and cooling units so they can operate more efficiently. • Decorate with light-colored walls, rugs, window treatments, and upholstery to reflect light and reduce the need for artificial light. •  Making or reheating a small meal? Use your microwave. Cooking small portions in the microwave or toaster oven generates less heat than the stove or oven and can reduce electrical usage for cooking by as much as 80 percent. n

DELIVERING RELIABLE POWER TO YOUR HOMES & BUSINESSES Cobb EMC is ranked 1st in the nation for restoring outages quickly. Cobb EMC’s smart energy grid allows us to serve you better than ever before. Advanced technology and intelligent devices along our lines help us deliver more reliable power to your homes and businesses. This smart technology is backed by an advanced fiber network for secure communication, faster restoration times and improved customer service.

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