APRIL 2020 (BLUE) Our Town Gwinnett Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/NE DeKalb

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APRIL 2020 Gwinnett/NE DeKalb Community & Family Magazine


Lawrenceville Snellville Lilburn Stone Mountain Tucker

Up Close with Atlanta Gynecology & Obstetrics, see story on page 5

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Publisher’s Column: We Shall Prevail Crane’s Corner: Missing Things Both Large & Small From Plastics to Parrots: Brenda Bean and Parrot Productions Operation Rally Point: No Person Left Behind

The Village Corner

German Restaurant, Bakery & Tavern We are a full-service bakery, restaurant, and tavern specializing in German cuisine.

April 25-26

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“Dr. Simmons is proud to offer Botox and Dermal Fillers. Call the office to schedule your consulta

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6655 James B Rivers Dr. Stone Mountain, GA 30083

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Hours Of Operation: Tuesday - Friday 9am-10pm Saturday 8am-11pm Sunday 10am-9pm Closed Monday

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Mothers’ Day May 10

At the dental office of John W. Simmons, IV, we are committed to providing you with the high comprehensive dental care, focused on improving both the function and beauty of your smile. A patient care and comfort are our primary concerns. We are proud to run a practice that treats ea kind, gentle, and caring manner, just like family. We offer a full range of the latest cosmetic a procedures that concentrate on ensuring long-lasting, brilliant results you will love, and others

Cosmetic Dentistry The cosmetic procedures we offer can dramatically enhance the appearance of your smile. We offer a wide selection of procedures that can correct almost any dental imperfection.

• Porcelain Veneers • Teeth Whitening • Dental Bonding • Gum Recontouring • Dental Implants • All-Porcelain Crowns



Compassionate Dentistry Our superior services can recapture the health, functionality, and youthful appearance of your natural smile. Our practice focuses on providing Before After long-lasting results and promoting overall dental health. Hexcellent e a lt H y • B e a u t i f u l • i n s p i r e d PAGE 2



2381-B Main Street E Dr. John Simmons and Dr. Snellville, Robert French combine a blend of Georgia 30 experience, wisdom and fresh new knowledge to affordably serve

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John W. Simmons, IV, DMD, PC www.smilesbysimmons.co Robert J. French, DDS

Office Monday 9:00am30078 - 7:00pm Tuesday 7:00am 2381-B Main Street EastHours: • Snellville, Georgia Wednesday 7:00am - 6:00pm Thursday 7:00am - 2: 770-985-2437 • SmilesBySimmons.com Dr. John W. Simmons, IV

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At Northside Hospital Cardiovascular Institute, you’re at the heart of everything we do. Our team of Georgia’s leading doctors is with you from the very start. Powered by the Northside Network, we give you the expertise you need and the exceptional care you deserve. Trust your heart to Northside. Our team of experts are now seeing patients in Braselton, Canton, Cumming, Holly Springs, Lawrenceville, Midtown Atlanta and Sandy Springs. Visit northsidecvi.com or call 404.962.6000 to schedule an appointment.

Our Town Gwinnett


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FANCY FEATHERS 3180 Oakcliff Industrial Street, Doraville Georgia 30340

Open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Wed.-Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. & 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Tues.-Thur. Also open by appointment. Offering all parrot/bird supplies at wholesale prices. We sell hand fed BABY PARROTS and cockatiels. Please call 770-986-0661 or visit fancyfeathersstore.com. Featuring Zupreem, Pretty Bird and Dr. D’s pelleted diets, laAvian seed diets along with our own mix, Fancy Feathers, of seeds specialized for parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, finches and Gouldian finches.

Online store at fancyfeathersstore.com

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Be entertained while you learn! Enjoy an interactive hour learning about these magnificent birds.

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Check our website for events! Go to menu, then events—we might be at a library near you! PAGE 4

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On the Cover: Midwifery Matters! And Not Just in Childbirth By Our Town Gwinnett Staff Midwifery is an ancient profession still actively practiced throughout the world. In the United States, the first modern day nurse-midwives were British-educated women brought to this country by Mary Breckinridge in 1925. Her focus was to provide health care to residents in the remote mountains of rural Kentucky. In every decade since, midwives have gained importance in helping improve the overall health of women. It’s well-known that Certified Nurse Midwives play a key role in providing care of low-risk pregnancies (which is what the majority of pregnant women experience) while co-managing complications during pregnancy, labor, and birth, with physician care. But it may be surprising to learn the valuable role they play throughout a woman’s entire health lifespan. Yes, midwives are there through pregnancy and deliveries, but they also are able to perform annual well-woman exams, provide counseling and prescriptions for birth control, place IUDs, provide STD testing and counseling, as well as evaluate and offer guidance through general gynecologic concerns like menopausal management. This midwifery model of care highly values the role of education, partnership in care, personal autonomy, and shared decision making – all while rooted in the latest evidence-based medicine. Working as part of an integrated team alongside physicians, midwives educate and empow-

er patients to be a proactive partner in their own health and wellness. Why is this type of partnership so important today for women’s health? In a word, RESULTS. Numerous studies conducted at McLeod Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Health Organization show that the integration of midwives leads to greater patient satisfaction, lower rates of cesarean sections, the ability to understand and achieve a natural birth process, and overall, a more holistic approach to a woman’s health over her lifetime. Simply put, women, children, and families have better lives because of the work of Certified Nurse-Midwives alongside physicians. Atlanta Gynecology & Obstetrics recognized the ben-

efits of midwifery early on, and integrated midwives into their model of care more than seven years ago. Partnering together, their five physicians and six midwives provide patients the best combination of education, empathy, and technology in obstetrical and gynecological care. More information at MyFemaleDoctor.com

Come Meet Dr. Haylee Humes - Our New Doctor!

“Where Smiles Blossom” Janice J. Wilmot DMD • MS • PC O RRTTH HO D DO O N T IIC SSPP E C I A ALLIISSTT


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Gwinnett Orthodontics 956 Killian Hill Rd. Suite D Lilburn, GA 30047

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Gwinnett/NE DeKalb Community & Family Magazine

Publisher/Owner Ryan T. Sauers Ryan@EndResultZ.com Creative Director Elsie Olson Elsie@EndResultZ.com

Editor Catherine L. Osornio Editor@EndResultZ.com Photography Marcie Reif Photography Distribution Coordinator DeeDee Chapman Feature Writers Pearl Aidoo K. Coats Kristen Eleveld Ron Lambros Amy Ney Emily Rubin Traci Sanders Beth Volpert Johansen Contributing Writers Bill Crane Rhonda Frankhouser


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— An EndResultZ Media & Communications firm EndResultZ.com Our Town Gwinnett is published and direct mailed to select homes in the Gwinnett /NE DeKalb area. Opinions expressed by the writers and staff are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher. Our Town Gwinnett reserves the right to edit and/or reject any editorial or advertising content. Our Town Gwinnett is not responsible for errors in advertising beyond the cost of the space or for the validity of claims made by advertisers. Entire contents copyright 2020 by Our Town Gwinnett. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden in any media without written permission from the publisher.

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Read Online: OurTownGwinnettOnline.com @OurTownGwinnett @OurTownGwinnett @OurTownGwinnett Join the Our Town Community Forum:

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On the Cover: Midwifery Matters! And Not Just in Childbirth From the Publisher: One Man’s Opinion: We Shall Prevail Crane’s Corner: Missing Things Both Large and Small Snellville Police Spotlight: Humor in Blue Camp Kudzu: Easing the Journey of Type 1 Diabetes From Plastics to Parrots: Brenda Bean and Parrot Productions Return to the Victory Garden Gardening Challenge: Georgia vs. California Becoming Greater: How One Superior Court Judge Candidate Plans to Lead Gwinnett County to Victory Operation: Rally Point – No Person Left Behind Meet Young Actress Cady Walls Snellville Theater Troupe Impacts Young Actors Stronger Together: How Two Local Businesses Joined Forces to Better Serve their Community PTA/PTSA: Partnering For Success Building Stuff That Matters Mentoring Matters in Gwinnett

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From the Publisher: One Man’s Opinion

Eddie’s Automotive Service


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By Ryan T. Sauers




I have written many columns over the years that are positive and encouraging. Each one has been written from the bottom of my heart. We are at a unique place in time. Let us not forget, however, that we live, work, worship, and play in an amazing community. We also live in the greatest country in the world. Americans are strong. Americans are creative, passionate, and survivors. Americans always find ways to overcome the toughest of times. You see Our Town community, we are these Americans. I think our community is amazing and represents the very best of America. We know the coronavirus and the changes to our lives are unprecedented. I challenge you to find the best in this situation. How can you give back? How can you help someone else? This is way bigger than any one person. It does not help anyone when we post online things that are negative. We must not panic. We will prevail. We will win. I am nearly done with my doctoral coursework in leadership (spending vast amounts of time studying human behavior). This unique time in our history demands great leadership. Remember, anyone can be a leader, not just “people with titles.” Therefore, we must support and encourage each other. We must remember the time we have on this earth (regardless of this virus) is very short. Let us make it our passion to make others smile and laugh, and to be a breath of fresh air as we help and serve others. We must support small businesses during this time. They are the backbone of our country and community. Please find ways to help them. Again, do not panic. There is no need to panic. Human beings, however, can “ramp up” emotions in others when continually talking about social isolation, the stock market, grocery stores, etc. Yes, all these things are real, Continued on page 14

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VOTE…General Primary Election - May 19, 2020

Elect Jasper Watkins III Commissioner District 3 Gwinnett County

(Auburn, Braselton, Centerville, Dacula, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Loganville, Mountain Park & Snellville)

Decisive, Determined, Dependable Military Decorated Registered Pharmacist & Licensed Nuclear Pharmacist Gwinnett Rotary & Chamber of Commerce VFW Post 5255 & American Legion Post 232 Medical Reserve Corps GEM After receiving 49% of the vote in 2016, I feel compelled to run again for Commisioner of District 3, providing proven leadership and transparency as our District representative. As a retired Lieutenant Colonel who served 25 years in the U.S. Army, I know how to manage programs efficiently and balance budgets. My candidacy is motivated by my commitment to serve, and I am confident that my military skills and executive experiences will provide solutions that our county and cities are demanding. My grassroots efforts will bring the people of Gwinnett County together to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing our community today, transportation. The way we move and reach the places we live, work and love, shapes our everyday lives. Moreover, I will address our concerns about the safety of our neighborhoods, investments in job creation, fiscal accountability, and inclusion. In less than two years, Gwinnett County will have more than 1.5 million residents!

Now is the time to decide to protect our future quality of life by creating an upward cycle of prosperity for the 21st Century. Committee to Elect Jasper Watkins III 1911 Grayson Highway, Ste.8-233, Grayson, GA 30017 770.609.5548 www.watkins3for3.com


Crane’s Corner: Missing Things Both Large and Small By Bill Crane Hard as it may sometimes be to admit, we crave the routine, the known and the customary. This time is not that. Some are surrounded by family, but even that is upsetting for many. Sheltering in place is comforting in its familiarity, but disquieting in the lack of normal routine. And yet, despite all of this, we are blessed. Yes, things will likely get darker before we emerge from this valley, but we know, from watching China and other parts of our world, that there will be another side. Thousands if not millions are being cleared of this virus, developing anti-bodies and returning to good health. If we listen, heed warnings, take precautions, regularly practice common sense hygiene, keep our distance, and stay home, we can and will make a difference as well as help to save lives. We will remember and speak of this time for decades. Just as millions have the attacks of 9/11 frozen in time in their minds, this too will leave a lasting scar. Hopefully, it will give us more resilience and remind us of the many, many things we take for granted. Our home victory garden already has seeds sewn into the ground, even more in small pots in our little greenhouse. The soil has been amended and fertilized and we expect a generous harvest of many vegetables and fruits by late spring and early summer and well into the fall. We are blessed. With this extra time to re-connect, not spent commuting and fighting to get from place to place, we should first invest in those we love and/or miss the most. And while we cannot worship together in great numbers, that doesn’t stop the power or benefits of group prayer. As we take care of our own family and circles, pray and hope for the best for everyone else. Think of the power and benefits of that last friendly smile and wave, during a moment of respite outdoors, or the simple joy of hearing children laughing in play, not entirely aware of the reasons for the Earth standing a bit quiet and still. As someone who has spent a good amount of time working from home, parts of this new routine are in my old routine; but there are still things that sting by their absence. They are both large and small. I had extended and grown my yoga practice to 5-6 times a week. It’s not the same online, though I am trying, as the practice brings me peace, better health, less stress, and many other benefits. But now, strangely, it seems harder to make the time. My children are both safe and well, but as I have not been able to stay fully isolated, I do not want the risk of exposing them or my aging and frail parents to anything that I might unknowingly bring into their homes – so our visits are daily, but virtual. Thank God we are going through this with our utilities and technology intact. New friends and neighbors come to greater significance in our lives, in part due to proximity. Strangers are greeting each other inquiring about their day, helping while seeking nothing in return. We are blessed. We cannot and should not expect our government to step in and handle all aspects of this crisis. We must be willing to assist others, hold ourselves and others to account, and work toward the common good and public health, and I still believe that most, though certainly not all of us, are up to that task. We are blessed. Yes, there is no playbook for this, and yes, it seems our economy is at least temporarily in free fall. But whether or not you are a student of history, I can assure you that even from our nation’s humble beginnings, we have survived worse, and we will certainly survive this. Hope and prayer and love and friendship will help. We are in this together, and we will come out of this stronger – a nation changed, but also a nation perhaps reminded of what really matters most...both the big and the small. I didn’t think it possible that I might miss or even yearn for a bit of metro Atlanta traffic. But even the big roads can make you feel good, and somehow I know before long I-285 will again be a parking lot. Until then, take care out there. Crane is the senior political analyst with WSB Radio and TV and owns the full-service communications consulting firm, CSI Crane. More information at www.CSICrane.com

hope prayer love friendship

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The Snellville Police Department’s Facebook page makes for interesting reading. Posts range from information, updates, announcements, and humorous articles from the officers. Open to the public, the page has the community enthusiastically engaged in the comings and goings-on in the City of Snellville. There is a post for Missing Persons, some crime videos asking for help in identifying perpetrators, community updates and announcements, safety tips, and jokes. It is quite clear from the community participation via commentary and the steady stream of postings on the Facebook page that both the police department and the public are actively engaged. For instance, there is a video on the page with a caption: “Someone knows this young man!” “Tremendous video from an entering auto from Summit Place off Temple Johnson Rd. Please share this until we get him & his partner ID’ed.” This post resulted in 422 shares and 92 comments, such as. “Hope the little punk is identified quickly.” “I would love to know what type of camera this was filmed with? Really good quality”. “Probably the same one who broke into mine Thanksgiving on Temple Johnson Rd.” Another video post is captioned “Short slow-motion video of a white F150 leaving an unoccupied home off Hickory Smoke Ct. The suspect reportedly stole a refrigerator from the home. Any information – contact...” This post was shared 14 times, had 13 comments, and 35 reactions. A hilarious comment was, “Is stealing a refrigerator a cold case crime? Asking for a friend.” Other post includes: Tips for the Week: January 21, 2020, read as follows: 1. Don’t leave car unoccupied while warming. 2. Don’t leave car running & unattended while you run into the gas station. 3. Give away your house pets if you can’t bring them in from the cold. January 18, 2020 Roses are red. Violets are blue. The left lane is for passing. The end. (I did not make this up) “Can we start using our blinkers in 2020? Only the Lord should move in mysterious ways, not you.” (I love this Facebook page.) One of my favorites, “You ever tried to breathe quieter while walking up a hill in your vest, so bystanders didn’t hear you fighting for your life to breathe?” (Hilarious!!!) I reached out to Assistant Chief Perry, who oversees the Facebook page, wanting some background information on the Why? How? And What? Question: How is the Snellville Police Department’s Facebook page perceived by the community? Answer: Back in 2010, our department was the first in Gwinnett County to have a department Facebook page, and one of the first in the Metro Atlanta area. Our goal was to use the Facebook page to provide information regarding crime as well as to provide safety tips to those we serve. We never thought our initial social media outreach program would turn into the success that it has become. We are consistently told by our community members that they love our social media outreach. We have since grown the social media outreach to more than just Facebook. The department is also active on Instagram as well as Twitter. However, most of our followers are through Facebook. Question: What is the police department’s take on the community’s enthusiasm and engagement on your Facebook page? Answer: We reach thousands of people every week from social media posts. We have always enjoyed the comments and feedback from those that follow our pages. We have also noticed that the community loves some of the humor that we provide on the social media pages. The Facebook page has also been very beneficial regarding our efforts to place officers in certain areas of concern that have been identified by the community. This is particularly true regarding traffic offenses. I also asked him if there was a particular incident/comment or situation that stood out to Continued on page 15

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Camp Kudzu: Easing the Journey of Type 1 Diabetes By Traci Sanders Camp Kudzu recently celebrated a huge milestone at The Stave Room in Atlanta. The event was hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and marked the 20th anniversary of Camp Kudzu, a nonprofit that has lived out its mission since 1999 of educating, empowering, and inspiring over 4,000 campers living with Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Nearly 400 guests in attendance, including founding board members, past and current campers, counselors, ambassadors, and volunteer medical staff, clapped and cheered when it was announced that the organization had exceeded its goal of $300,000 to cover yearround programming and outreach across the state. Thanks largely to the caring contributions of one camper’s parents, the grand total came to nearly $400,000. More than 6,000 Georgia children and teens are living with T1D. Camp Kudzu has transformed the lives of more than 4,000 of these youngsters with this life-long, insulin-dependent autoimmune disease. Campers learn how to manage the disease in an inclusive, funfilled environment where life-long friendships develop for both campers and volunteers. Trace Wood, a fifth grader at Camp Creek Elementary in Lilburn, was diagnosed with T1D at age seven. The boy shied away from overnight camping until his family discovered Camp Kudzu. Karen and Art Wood, their son Trace, and their nine-year-old daughter, Makenna (who does not have T1D), attended the fall Family Camp and received a wealth of insight on how to support a loved one living with this condition. It was an enriching and educational experience for the whole family. “We immediately felt connected at camp and welcomed new friendships and relationships built there,” Art said. “The Camp Kudzu staff really cares about the entire family Continued on page 12

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From Plastics to Parrots: Brenda Bean and Parrot Productions By Emily Rubin Brenda Bean started Parrot Productions, her exotic bird show featuring birds from across the Southern Hemisphere, twelve years ago because her birds were bored sitting at home. She had worked for fifteen years in a plastics factory making vinyl siding, and when she came home from work, she had no energy to play with her birds even though they needed interaction. Brenda started Parrot Productions to give her birds the attention and interaction they needed. Parrot Productions visits assisted living homes, daycares, schools, birthday parties, and libraries. “I had no idea that I would be doing five to seven shows a week with these birds,” Brenda said. “I didn’t have any clue that Parrot Productions would flourish.” The bird show started with just four birds in a friend’s elementary school class. Since then, the show has grown to eighteen exotic birds from all over the Southern Hemisphere. Many of Brenda’s show birds are highly endangered, and she shows her audience the importance of protecting the species. “All my show birds love to go to these shows,” Brenda said. “They love to stand out on the perch and they know they have to wait their turn. It’s really adorable that they love their turn, they love to go, they love to see all these new people.” Brenda got involved with birds long before Parrot Productions started traveling around

Georgia. At fourteen, she convinced her parents to let her buy a parakeet. Brenda picked out the biggest and prettiest blue parakeet that turned out to be the oldest and most awful. “She was never tame and I was brokenhearted,” Brenda recalled. “She only lived for a year because she was probably six years old when I got her and they only make it six years. Then I didn’t have any more birds until the ‘80s.” For years, Brenda had a successful bird business in Texas. The business died down during the recession when no one could afford to buy a thousand dollar bird, even if it was a great deal. She moved to Georgia where now she not only does bird shows, but she also hand raises baby birds. Brenda thinks she has raised around 1,000 or 2,000 baby birds since she got involved with parrots in the ‘80s. In the middle of baby season, she can have up to fifty-six babies at a time to feed formula to. “The babies that I raise up actually come to me and this makes everything all worthwhile, all the mess, all the grief, and the exhaustion,” Brenda said. “When you open the cage door and the bird comes to you, it’s really magical.” Along with baby birds, Brenda finds homes for older birds whose owners can no longer take care of them. Brenda says some people who have had a pet bird for twenty-five years can no longer take care of the bird when they move into a nursing home, and placing that bird in the right home is difficult. She takes pride in her ability to find them forever homes. Brenda sells her baby birds at her Doraville shop called Fancy Feathers. She sells everything a bird needs including food, toys, treats, cages, formula, and stands. Her show birds can also be found outside of the Parrot Production shows. Some of her birds are TV and movie stars sitting on actors’ shoulders. Her bird Little Man starred on the shoulder of Allison Janney in the movie I, Tonya, and others have appeared in the remake of The Jungle Book and in an episode of the CW series Dynasty. Audience reactions are Brenda’s favorite part of the bird shows. People are awestruck throughout the show, and when they hold a bird on their arm, the excitement is visible. “I live for these faces,” she said. “I live for that moment when the light comes on in a kid’s eyes because he’s holding a bird for the first time and he looks at the teacher. That’s why I continue to do it. And I’ll probably do it until physically I am unable to.” More information at http://parrotproshows.com/.

What B.T. Parker’s experience will bring to Gwinnett County


B.T. Parker Gwinnett Superior Court Judge

• Second-Chance-Accountability Court – B.T. Parker will work with the District Attorney’s office to create an Accountability Court which will give non-violent and non-sexual offenders a Second Chance. This Court will help to educate and employ, so that offenders will have purpose. Investing in the offenders’ rehabilitation costs far less to taxpayers than imprisonment. • Prison-Prevention Program – B.T. Parker will work in cooporation with the Gwinnett School Board to create

a program to deter our youth from committing crimes so they will avoid the consequences of being in the Criminal Justice System. • Judicial-Efficiency Committee – Our Gwinnett court system is backlogged. As B.T. Parker has litigated cases in about 100 of the 159 counties, she will bring efficient practices from other counties to Gwinnett County.

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Our Town Gwinnett

• Wife and Mother • 2019 Award Recipient–100 Most Influential Women in Georgia, Global Women Wealth Warrior, recognized by Governor Kemp for service, mentorship and financial literacy • Gwinnett resident for 24 years; Attorney for 24 years • Trial Attorney Advocate, National Institute of Trial Advocacy • Attorney for working class, celebrities, and the poor • Litigated multi-million dollar cases • Volunteer Attorney, Gwinnett Legal Aid • Volunteer Attorney, Gwinnett Truancy Intervention Program • Member of Berean Christian Church • President and Board Member of Various Organizations • Foster Parent, Gwinnett County • Cheerleading Coach, Gwinnett–Grayson Athletic Association

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Camp Kudzu Continued from page 10 andthe impact T1D has on all of us. With other organizations you often feel like a number, but with Camp Kudzu we felt like part of the family.” Trace attended overnight summer camp in 2019 for the first time and the results were better than expected. The camp helped him embrace and empower himself with the tools and confidence to better manage his disease while also making new friends in the T1D community. “He is counting down the days until next year when he can attend again,” Art added. The Wood Family is quite active in the community and founded The Taste of Tucker in 2010, an event in which the proceeds are donated to local charities. Camp Kudzu has benefited from this event since 2017 and is now the primary beneficiary. At the anniversary party, Art challenged the crowd to increase funds for “camperships” by stating that he and Karen would match The Taste of Tucker proceeds, up to $20,000 of the funds raised. The end result was more than $150,000 collected for the Fund a Camper program. Camp Kudzu’s philosophy is that until there’s a cure for T1D, there’s at least a place

where these kids and teens can go to get support and to take their minds off their disease for a minute. Today, Camp Kudzu is accredited by the American Camp Association and has been recognized as one of the top T1D camps in the country. It hosts year-round programs through multiple summer sessions, family camps, and Sprouts Day Camp. In 2019 Camp Kudzu introduced over 229 new campers from both the Gwinnett and DeKalb areas to their programs, serving a total of 935 children and teens from 80 Georgia counties and awarding $213,000 in scholarships to those in need. Camp Kudzu Executive Director Robert Shaw is continually in search of champions who will join them in their mission to help make a difference in the lives of children throughout Georgia, particularly those living with T1D who have inadequate or limited access to essential diabetes care and resources. “Our goals are ambitious for 2020,” Shaw shared, “expanding programming, deepening our reach into underserved communities, honing our ability to serve culturally diverse families where language or other factors could be a barrier to receiving the best potential diabetes management education. And I have 100% confidence we will succeed.” More information at www.campkudzu.org

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Return to the Victory Garden By Beth Volpert Johansen The feel of warm earth in your hand, the smell of sunshine in the soil, the taste of a ripe tomato just picked from the vine – there really is nothing like it. For some, it is an exercise in therapy or tradition. For others, it is a mission to bring the joys of the small farm back to the community. And, in this time of crisis, it is also a way to offer a helping hand to others. “Absolutely plant a garden!” says High-Hog Farm co-owner, Keisha Cameron. “And not just because of this pandemic. I feel like everybody should know how to grow food. It’s magical.” And who couldn’t use just a bit of magic in the face of a global crisis? As an advocate for people developing the skills needed to be self-sufficient, Keisha finds that our current pace is simply not sustainable – mentally, physically, or emotionally. “Skills like mending clothes and putting food on the table through gardening and hunting are essential,” says Keisha. “It has taken an event like this pandemic to show how connected we are.” Keisha goes on to explain that our grandparents and great grandparents lived through a variety of tough times and always showed resilience and ingenuity. Living on a five-acre farm does change a person’s perspective, but Keisha and her family all take stock in the idea that life could be simpler and more self-sustaining. “Go to the store, buy some flour, bake some bread,” she says. “This situation underscores for me everything we, as small farmers, have been discussing for years.” Those discussions often take on the idea that our current “fast food” lifestyle is simply not sustainable and that this is an opportunity for us, as a community and a society at large, to do a better job of managing our food. Keisha describes some very simple things that most any family or neighborhood can do together. Have a pool and tennis area? Start a community garden. “Begin with a salad box,”

suggests Keisha. “Watch videos and do some research on companion gardening. Start your own Victory Garden.” The Victory Garden that Keisha is referring to is a nod to the past – and our future. In a pamphlet dating back to October of 1942 penned by George Washington Carver, the idea of a Victory Garden first started with the shortages experienced in wartime. According to many in the media and government, our country – the world even – is engaged in a war against an unseen enemy – Covid-19. Information and history of the Victory Garden can be found at the USDA’s National Agriculture Library (www.nal.usda.gov). And while the idea of a Victory Garden can be traced back generations, it is the future that has Keisha concerned. “I have a plan for planting, and our family farm grows food for more than just ourselves,” says Keisha. “Anyone can use a Victory Garden, no matter how small, to provide food for themselves and others. It is a way to connect to your neighbors and the community. It is a way to show our children hope and self-reliance.” One of the websites Keisha recommends is: https://classroomvictorygarden.org/. Here families can learn all about providing food for themselves and others – an activity that can give children something to do about the crisis. Gardening is therapeutic. Most of our children have never had to struggle for food. Far too many children do understand hunger. Now is the time to give our kids something tangible to grasp in the fight against something they cannot see. That feeling of doing something is high on the list of benefits for Snellville half-acre farmer, Ann Geeslin. Ann has long embraced the lessons of her grandmother when it comes to gardening, homemaking, and homesteading. Every year, Ann shows a growth in the yield of her gardens, and every year she learns lessons on what works and what does not. “Some of my favorite memories are with my grandma in her garden,” says Ann. “She taught me how to harvest and can tomatoes. We spent many evenings on her glider snapping fresh beans. It was our time to connect and be together. There is nothing better than homegrown food. It is a way to get out in the fresh air and relax – even if your thoughts are on troubled times and you are learning to grow food ‘in case.’” Whether you are a five-acre farmer like Keisha and her family at High Hog Farm, a halfacre farmer like Ann Geeslin, or an aspiring salad box gardener, digging into the warm, fragrant soil is one of the best ways to alleviate the stress of a global crisis. Teaching children or offering an example to neighbors in person or by posting on social media is a great way to connect to the community on a local and global level. Plus, it is just plain good eats. More information at @HighHogFarm on Twitter or High Hog Farm on Facebook.

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One Man’s Opinion Continued from page 7 but we will get through it together. One step at a time. One punch at a time. One round at a time. So, take a deep breath. We have all been saying for years things like we are “slammed, drowning, running ragged, swamped, etc.” Now we have the opposite problem. We have time on our hands. The choice is what to do with this precious gift of time. For me, I’m training to run a 5k, working on new business plans I had not had gotten to, talking to old friends, working on my final course work, spending more time with my family, making more time for prayer, reading, and watching great shows and movies. The biggest thing that can help our hearts and minds is to refrain from continual talk that is negative or depressing. Informing other of key news is great. However, “inciting others” to be anxious is not good at all. So, instead, share the things you are doing to make a difference. Let others know the ways you are using this precious gift of “forced down time.” I encourage you to post things that show the positive things happening in your lives due to more time to think and reflect. Simply said, let us control the things we can control. Most



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things in life are out of our control. For example, we do not decide when we are born or when we die. God is in control. We must be proactive, vigilant, positive, giving, loving, etc. Please remember that 100 years from now people will be talking about this time in our history. The choice is up to us. How are we going to create the change we want to see? How are we going to teach younger generations what can be learned from this slower paced time? Is it possible we can all come together and UNITE? Maybe, we can have real dialogue again and put our silly differences aside. Maybe we can put the smart phones down and talk with each other. We are all human beings first. We are all flesh and blood. We are all Americans. We all live in the same community. So, look yourself in the mirror and determine what you can do to make this time the best it can be. We all must flip the script and quit talking about what we don’t like and begin working to build each other up. Remember, we may not have sports to watch, but the ultimate game is going on right now. And, we are all on the same team. Together, we can and will make our stamp on history here in Gwinnett County. Moreover, we can show this leadership so that other Americans do the same. At times like this it is simple. Leaders lead! So, keep your head up. It will all be okay. No more panic and worry. Let us channel that into helping each other. Please note it is true you can’t control some things that are happening; however, you can absolutely choose how you respond to them. This is your choice. Finally, thank you as always for continuing with us on the journey of my town, your town, Our Town.

Gardening Challenge: Georgia vs. California By Rhonda Frankhouser Gardening is in my blood. I was raised by a farmer who used to say a garden smaller than a half-acre, and an orchard with less than twenty producing fruit trees, wasn’t worth planting at all. I spent much of my young life waking up at dawn, weeding and watering, picking fresh vegetables, and canning preserves. At the time, I wasn’t a big fan of the regimen, but looking back, spending those mornings beside my father in the garden were some of the best days of my life. My gardening preferences changed over the years. I still grow fresh herbs for cooking, but now I prefer landscape gardening over growing fruits and vegetables. Fighting pesky bugs took much of the fun out of harvesting my own food, but cultivating beauty does feed a part of my soul. Bakersfield, California, my hometown, offered ample sunshine, but water rationing and the dry climate limited

Continued on page 18

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Becoming Greater: How One Superior Court Judge Candidate Plans to Lead Gwinnett County to Victory By Kristen Eleveld

to Parker’s heart, as her foster daughter used to attend the Club. The free Carnival will be opened to the entire community, and will not charge for food and games. “This is our way of giving back,” she said. Part of the funds for the Carnival are made possible through the Golf and Tennis Challenge at Chateau Elan, another event that Parker will host. While this event also had to be postponed, everyone is excited about returning to this Challenge on May 29th. Participants are encouraged to dress their best in their favorite golf or tennis attire, and then prepare to have a great time. At the end of the day, the reason Parker hopes to be the next Superior Court Judge for Gwinnett is about one thing: Making Gwinnett County even greater than it already is. “Becoming Gwinnett’s next Superior Court Judge would allow me to effectuate real change in peoples’ lives,” Parker said. “It’s an incredible burden, but also an incredible opportunity to do good for others.” More information at www.btparkerforjudge.com/

If you ask attorney B.T. Parker to describe herself, she might tell you that she is tough, but fair – and that Gwinnett County is her highest priority. Parker is in the running for Superior Court Judge of Gwinnett, which is the most important judicial seat in the county. She has been a resident of Gwinnett for over twenty years, so it only makes sense to run for a position that would best allow her to help the community that has become her home. “I have seen a lot of growth over the years, and I have also seen some of the unique challenges facing our county,” Parker said. “I want to offer new ideas to solve old problems.” Indeed, Parker, who has worked as both a civil and criminal attorney, has outlined no less than three such ideas that she believes will give Gwinnett County the opportunity to reach its highest potential. One is her Second Chance Court program, which is aimed at giving Fertilization to bring Pre-emergent nonviolent and nonsexual offenders the opportunity to go into rehabilitation programs your lawn out of instead of prison. This program is especially important to Gwinnett because studies have dormancy. to help prevent shown that while most first-time offenders will return to prison for a second crime 34% Spot weed crabgrass.control. of the time, that number drops down to an astonishing 11% when offenders make use of Insect control and the experience and knowledge gained through rehab. The Second Chance Court would be fertilization for your the fourth Accountability Court in Gwinnett, after the Drug, Mental Health, and Veterans Post-emergent to trees and shrubs. Courts. control existing Her second initiative is going into the heart of Gwinnett County – its school system. Parker feels that a Project-Prison-Prevention program will go a long way to educate middle weeds. and high school students about the criminal justice system that is currently not addressed in • Lawn Care most upper-level schools. She firmly believes that bringing a Juvenile Justice component • Plant Health Care into the classroom is important to saving our youth and our community. Fertilizer to help • Core Aeration “It’s important that our youth understands that committing a felony will send them to transition lawn out jail,” said Parker. “We want them to be aware of the ramifications and repercussions of • Seeding their actions.” of dormancy. • Fire Ant Control In order to accomplish this goal, Parker envisions a curriculum that introduces youth to ex-offenders, police officers, judges, and other members of the criminal justice system who • Water management can offer information and insight to help the students understand exactly how serious the Same-Day Free Estimates • Same-Day Free choices are before them. Lawn Care Lawn care Estimates $25.00 First Custom fertilizationand and weed weed control programs For her third and final program, Parker plans to create a Judicial Efficiency Committee. Custom fertilization control programs As an attorney who has run the gamut when it comes to representation, as well as one who Lawn Treatment Planthealth Health Care has practiced law in 100 of the 159 counties in Georgia, she has seen some opportunities for Plant care lawn Fertilization, disease and insect control Gwinnett County to catch up to its peers – and maybe even surpass them. Citing an example First$25.00 first Plant Health Care Fertilization, disease and insect control treatment of Gwinnett’s recent electronic filing, as opposed to neighboring counties that switched to Locally Owned and Operated $10 OFF New customers only up to electronic filing years ago, Parker says she wants to help transform Gwinnett County into Locally Smaller company,and bigger service 6,000 sq. ft. when you agree owned operated the best version of itself. She plans to use her experience in other counties, as well as expert to our 8 treatment program. Smaller company, bigger service Pre-pay advice from colleagues, to ensure that Gwinnett County is properly equipped to give every Not valid withdiscount any other discount offer. citizen what they need. Of course, it isn’t just about becoming a judge. Parker has planned two spring events that are sure to bring the community together, along with supporting a good cause. No contract to sign This year, Parker decided to start a Spring Carnival that will be open to all. Though the You call, we come Carnival has been postponed to adhere to recent safety measures, Parker is still excited Pre-pay discount to make it happen later in the year. There will be games, food, and lots of fun – all of the carnival staples! The Carnival will be held at the Boys and Girls Club, which serves 1,400 Service guaranteed No contract to sign students a year at a rate of 540 students per week. The Club is a cause very near and dear



Snellville Spotlight: Humor in Blue Continued from page 9 him. He pointed out that based on a social media post of a video, the department was able to identify two suspects that had committed armed robbery inside the city. Being able to solve such a serious crime is a huge success for the social media outreach program. Snellville PD’s Facebook page is an informative and fun way to engage the City of Snellville. The posts are educational, interesting, and quite humorous, and based on the commentary from the public, it is safe to say both sides are enjoying this community service. More information at https://www.facebook.com/Snellville.Police/

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Operation: Rally Point – No Person Left Behind By Traci Sanders There is a term in the military known as a “rally point” that basically means a central point for assessment and regrouping. When soldiers are deployed, they are divided up into groups and assigned a rally point, which serves as their headquarters for communication. The leader instructs the group to meet back at that location at a certain time. Any soldier who does not return at the specified time is considered missing. When this happens, a Quick Response Force is sent out to search for the missing soldier and to bring him or her back to the rally point. It truly is a “no man left behind” effort. Soldiers become accustomed to such practices and to depend on them for their support and survival. But what happens when the war is over, when the soldiers return to their original homes to be reunited with their loved ones? Many come back and face the realization that they no longer have a home, a job, or a family. Where do they turn? A large number end up on the streets – alone, cold and hungry, and completely disconnected from society. A veteran named Johnny Grimes found himself in just such a situation. After serving a tour in Iraq, Johnny found himself divorced, with full custody of his children, and with nowhere to live when he was sent home from the Army to take care of his children. Thankfully, Brandon Watts – a fellow soldier and good friend who Johnny had served with in Iraq – stepped in. Brandon helped Johnny secure a place to live and get back on his feet. Throughout the process, Brandon and Johnny began wondering how many other soldiers in the area might have been struggling with reintegrating themselves into society. The two soldiers decided to go undercover across several counties to learn the backstories of veterans living on the streets. They wanted to dive deep into the thought and decision-making processes of these veterans to determine how their lives had taken such a drastic turn. What Brandon and Johnny discovered changed their perspectives and their lives forever. One major realization the two men had was that numerous veterans had been all but forgotten. They didn’t want to impose on society or cause people to feel sorry for them, and

they didn’t want handouts, so many decided to lay low, fade into the background, and live on the streets if necessary to be the least amount of burden on others. In 2015, Brandon, Johnny, Brian Green, Beth Briele who’d served 2nd tour in Iraq with Brandon, and their good friend Randy Delvaux who had lost his Navy veteran father to suicide in 2013, came together and formed an organization to start addressing the needs of local veterans. Sadly, Beth lost her battle with cancer in April of 2019. Each of these individuals had some sort of military affiliation and wanted to do his or her part to give back to the veterans who had courageously served our country. They decided to call this effort Operation Rally Point. “There is a separate system of reciprocity in the civilian world and veteran community,” Randy said. “Unfortunately, the two don’t often meet on the same terms. They are grossly disconnected, and vets don’t feel that civilians would understand what they go through. They don’t want to burden others with their experiences, and they don’t want people to pity them. If you take a really good look, from all the angles, 99.9 % of problems vets deal with is human stuff, not stuff unique to the military. We want to start that conversation about what veterans go through and educate folks on how we can all support our vets together.” As the Chief Strategy Officer, Randy said that Operation Rally Point functions to serve vets in three ways: welcome them back home, assist, and provide. “Veterans all share a common bond of brotherhood/sisterhood,” he added, “and a lot of our time is spent making sure our brothers and sisters have the help they deserve, and that when we leave them, they’re as ready as they can be.” Most of Operation Rally Point’s clients come from the VA system in the Atlanta area. As CEO, Brandon receives between five and ten calls per week. The team jumps in quickly to assess a veteran’s immediate needs – food, shelter, and clothing – and then begins focusing on other resources to help them acclimate to their new home, basically their new way of life. “I meet with each veteran personally and assess his or her situation,” Brandon shared. “We also offer guidance and connection to outside resources to clients over the phone. Most of these veterans are in survival mode. We address each one individually based on their needs, not just their circumstances. Sure, we help them later secure permanent homes, vehicles, and even jobs; but in the first few hours, days, we are focused on letting them know that they matter and that they are no longer alone. We are in it for the totality and focus on success as a whole.” Continued on page 21


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Please note events are subject to postponement due to the Corona Virus Pandemic. Please refer to STAT’s website - Snellville Events.com - for up-to-date information. PAGE 16

May 23

MEMORIAL DAY CELEBRATION 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. FREE CONCERT 6 to 9 p.m.

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Meet Young Actress Cady Walls By Emily Rubin Cady Walls is a local 14-year-old actress who has been in music videos, local theater productions, student films, and an episode of a Disney Channel TV series. She started theater acting when she was five years old and screen acting when she was ten, and she also dances and sings in her band Quality Rated. As an online student, her schedule is flexible and allows her to film and audition during the school day. Cady has appeared in short films such as Fuzzite Fighters and Somewhere In Between, and plays a younger version of a main character in an upcoming web series The Naturals that was filmed in Boston. Cady made her appearance on TV in an episode of the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark where she played the kazoo with her nose while beatboxing. “The feeling that I was going to be on a Disney Channel show was insane,” Cady said. “I got to see how the Disney studio sets were set up, and I got to meet a bunch of Disney Channel stars, so that was just a really awesome experience.” Between her screen acting gigs, Cady performs in theater productions. Theater is a great way to keep her skills fresh, and she loves it. In her theater career, Cady has performed in Matilda and Newsies, among other theater productions. Her upcoming roles include the characters Ben and Lisa in the musical Disaster! at OnStage Atlanta. Cady dreams of being a musical theater performer on Broadway and being in an ABC sitcom. Her big theater dream role is Anna in a musical production of Frozen. In screen acting, Cady prefers lighthearted and comedic roles over dramatic ones. Life as an actress for Cady is different from other older actresses. She is too young to drive, so her parents drive her to different studios for coaching and recording her tape auditions. Cady has a manager and also works with a talent agency that does a lot of networking for her. She is represented by Evolution Talent and The Actors Scene Management. Cady’s age also influences the parts she gets auditions for. She is officially in the teen area of casting and gets roles for characters ranging from ten to eighteen year olds. Continued on page 19

Stay Safe! Flatten the Curve

The Corona Virus while challenging also brings the opportunity for innovation. Our team is hosting virtual open houses and utilizing tools to maintain the highest level of service for our clients. When showing homes, we are taking all safety precautions possible. We have great online tools for you to view homes and can do everything except an in person showing on line. Let’s all work together and we will all be stronger when it is over.

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Snellville Theater Troupe Impacts Young Actors By Emily Rubin Momentum Performing Arts Community Theater Troupe (M-PACTT) is a pre-professional musical theater troupe for middle school and high school students who have a passion for theater. When M-PACTT started in 2018, there were twelve students. This year the group has grown to nineteen. Members audition to get into the troupe and they re-audition annually to stay. Maggie Walls and Lain Walls are the creative forces behind M-PACTT. “The idea really was to create a performance arm of the studio that also could give some of our more serious performers an opportunity to perform outside in the community and also potentially be adjudicated to compete and have some of those harder core experiences,” Maggie said. Lain wanted to start the troupe because he is passionate about providing an outlet for those in the community who are serious about being involved in theater. “I think it’s really important to have not only quality arts programming, but affordable arts programming,” Lain said. “We keep trying to make M-PACTT a place where anyone can come and get affordable programming.” Continued on page 18

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Snellville Theater Troupe Continued from page 17

Gardening Challenge Continued from page 14

M-PACTT has performed at the Yellow Daisy Festival, Snellville Days, and a TEDx event at Shiloh High School. One highlight of their first year as a troupe was receiving an invite to participate in a Disney Youth Performing Arts program. The troupe performed a selection of songs from Newsies at Disney Springs near Orlando, Florida. “This opportunity was really awesome, and this is my favorite thing that M-PACTT has done,” troupe member Avery Britt said. “It really helped us grow, and the moment of it was really surreal to me.” The original twelve members walked quietly, in their costumes, and in single file through backstage areas. They were expected to behave like Disney staff members. The troupe opted to perform in Disney Springs instead of the park so they could gather a larger audience of people willing to stop and watch the performance. Onlookers approached the members afterward thinking M-PACTT was a professional group hired by Disney to perform. “It was a great kick-off to being a performance troupe,” Maggie said. “It was a really good moment for our founding members.” In addition to the Mickey Mouse trophy the troupe received for their performance, M-PACTT has an award for best choreography from the Georgia Theater Conference. The troupe performed Junie B. Jones, The Musical, and two members won awards for best lead vocalist and best supporting actress. Lain describes his experience in M-PACTT so far as humbling. Troupe member Cady Walls describes M-PACTT as a friendly environment and says her fellow troupe members have become her family. Avery describes M-PACTT as a welcoming environment and enjoys the teamwork the troupe displays. When Lain graduates at the end of the year, he hopes to perform professionally and start another group like M-PACTT for youth in his community. For now, he hopes to be able to come back every once in a while and see M-PACTT’s improvement. He hopes to see the troupe continue to strengthen in love and skill. More information at https://instagram.com/m.pactt?igshid=6nkkj5u2vtn8 and http:// www.momentumatlanta.com/ .

the kinds of foliage that could survive. With an average rainfall of 7-10 inches A YEAR, I had no choice but to design a drought tolerant landscape. Succulents and cacti colored with fragrant lavender, Mexican sage and kangaroo paw around a bed of river rock, draped by live oak trees for much-needed shade. It was beautiful, but very limited. As gorgeous and stark as that arid landscape was, it’s nothing compared to Georgia’s natural beauty. For someone accustomed to driving dusty roads, peering out over the dry, brown fields and thirsty trees, I was mesmerized by the lush landscape. The towering bright green trees, the thick ivy crawling over the red soil made a perfect backdrop for saucersize magnolia blossoms, the scent of sweet lilacs, and the chirp of truly happy birds. It was breathtaking. The moment we moved into our new home in Grayson, I couldn’t wait to revamp the garden. Every plant I chose was foreign to me – ones that would never live in California’s high desert. Lilacs and hydrangeas, and ferns of every kind. Camellias were a must, as well as my absolute favorite trees, dogwood and magnolia, to polish off my dream garden. I couldn’t stop myself. Everything I put into the ground thrived without fuss. Even though I’d like to take the credit, the blessing of the sixty plus inches of rain and the temperate humidity in Georgia did most of the work. The comparison between gardening in central California and northeast Georgia isn’t really a fair one. They both have an innate beauty – a style all their own. There’s a certain magnificence to the severity of a cactus garden, but there are few things more stunning than morning dew on a purple Endless Summer Hydrangea bloom. My father would have been in awe. I wish he was here to share it with me. Rhonda Frankhouser is an award-winning novelist, now living in the beautiful state of Georgia. More information at www.rhondafrankhouserbooks.com.

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Stronger Together: How Two Local Businesses Joined Forces to Better Serve their Community By Kristen Eleveld What’s better than one incredible physical therapy practice providing much-needed services to people in Gwinnett? How about two incredible physical therapy practices teaming up to ensure that no one who needs care goes without the very best. Thanks to Regional Vice Presidents Wesley Spake of BenchMark Physical Therapy and Colby Allen of Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, their services have joined together to create a multitude of resources in order to serve even more of Gwinnett County. A large part of their success is also thanks to their merger with the Upstream Rehab Family of Care, which is a leading provider of outpatient rehabilitation services that works with additional physical therapy service providers to create a member network that allows everyone to better serve more communities. For Drayer Physical Therapy, the merger, which happened in early 2018, provided a lot of resources that allowed them to offer even better care to clients. “We have seen increased stability, increased accessibility to resources, and better longterm sustainability,” said Colby of how the merger helped Drayer thrive in its industry. Of course, the benefits are not only one-sided. Upstream Rehab Family of Care also benefits from the partnership with both Drayer and BenchMark, which has been part of the Upstream family for several years. “Both sides have something to offer,” said Wesley. “Upstream has helped BenchMark with the process of onboarding clients, and both Drayer and BenchMark have created a culture centered around patient care, which we have continued through Upstream.” One thing that both BenchMark and Drayer have always placed as a top priority is the way they treat their clients. From the front office all the way to meeting with the therapy team, these offices are all about creating a positive experience for everyone who walks through their doors.

“What separates us from other providers is our patient-first culture that is present in each of our offices,” said Colby. “Our goal is to create a remarkable experience where every patient leaves knowing we care about them.” These providers are so dedicated to treating patients to the best of their ability that they promise not to make new or recently referred patients wait weeks for an appointment. Instead, they commit to getting a person into an office within the next 24 to 48 hours in order to assess a patient’s needs and to provide treatment and relief. It is important to Colby and Wesley that patients are not only seen quickly, but that they are given relief and help as soon as possible. It is this patient-first culture that has given both BenchMark and Drayer the reputation for being among the best of the best in Georgia. And, now that they are both operating under the Upstream Rehab Family of Care, they are able to combine their efforts to create even more opportunities for patients to receive the treatment they so desperately need. “We are one organization now, working together to serve the Snellville and Loganville area,” said Wesley. “Our teams have blended to provide every patient with a great experience.” “We’re stronger together,” added Colby. “We have taken the best of both brands and combined them to create something even better for our patients. We want to get you healthy as fast as we can.” More information at benchmark.urpt.com or drayer.urpt.com

Meet Young Actress Cady Walls Continued from page 17

“Sometimes I’ll get a role that is very mature that I’m not quite ready to play,” Cady said. “It’s always interesting to see the casting calls that come through. And it’s really interesting to kind of put myself in the mindsets of those drastically different characters maturity-wise.” Cady encourages young actors and actresses to practice every day and learn something new. Watching TV as an actor and looking for techniques television actors use is one of the best ways she has learned. More information at https://www.instagram.com/cady_walls/?hl=enn.

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PTA/PTSA: Partnering For Success By Ron Lambros Chacaria James walks the halls of Lilburn Middle School and listens intently to the hum of students in their classrooms. As president of the school’s PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association), she knows just how important the education process is for each child and what is critically needed to help them achieve their greatest success. “Parental involvement!” she emphatically states. “It’s a critical part of any child’s educational achievement. For kids to be truly successful in school and in life, they need to see their parents actively engaged with their teachers and school administrators in the learning process.” That’s where a school’s PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) or PTSA comes into play. “We provide an avenue for a parent to become their child’s biggest advocate by working alongside their teachers and school administrators,” James says. “It doesn’t take long for any child to realize just how important education really is when they see their parents investing their time to help them in the process. Membership is open to parents, grandparents, even individuals in the community, who just want to see kids succeed. Students learn more by what they see than from what they hear.” Like any major metropolitan city, Atlanta is highly diverse, and Gwinnett County in particular, is a melting pot of cultures and races. It is a microcosm of the world at large, and that can sometimes present a problem. “Many students are raised by parents of various cultures who never recognize the need to be actively engaged in the educational process,” James says. “We’re trying to change that. Our volunteer base reflects diversity in its makeup to mirror the makeup of the community. By doing so, all races and cultures can be reached, and every parent can understand the need for their involvement.” James was born in Antigua and raised in the US Virgin Islands, moving to Atlanta in 2016. “We had PTA/PTSA groups when I was growing up,” she says, “and it was a natural transition to continue my involvement once I got here. To be truly effective, you need to build a foundation of involvement early in the educational process with elementary school and continue through high school and beyond. Parental involvement in the life of any child should never stop.”

Sadly, not every school in Gwinnett County has an active PTA/PTSA program. In fact, Georgia has lower numbers than many other states on a national basis. “The fact is, all schools should have a program, but don’t,” Jamie states, “and there is a direct correlation between gang activity, delinquency, and the drop-out rate when parental involvement is active and when it’s not. We’re doing our best to get more schools on-board.” James is not alone. Large corporate sponsors like the Coca Cola Company, Stone Mountain Park, Papa John Pizza, Office Depot, and the Gwinnett Stripers Baseball organization recognize the value of PTA/PTSA groups, and are underwriting conferences and events to better equip their leadership for today’s challenges, to help raise up future leaders for the group, and to teach them fund-raising techniques to underwrite the group’s various activities, like offering scholarships to qualified students, and hosting events like Take Your Family to School Week. “Nothing – no educator, teacher, or school program – absolutely nothing can take the place of parental involvement in the life of any student!” Jamie explains. “It is imperative for the overall success any student achieves in the educational process. The PTA/PTSA helps them do just that, and I encourage every parent to get involved if they love their child and wants him or her to succeed in school and, ultimately, in life. What parent doesn’t want that?” More information at office@georgiapta.org.

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Building Stuff That Matters By Ron Lambros Construction is a way of life in Atlanta. Anyone who travels our roads or watches vacant lots become skyscrapers overnight sees it every day. To many, construction means progress. But to Chris Maier, Director of Business Development for Cooper & Company General Contractors, construction means opportunity. “Cooper and Company is a family business with a reputation for loyalty, a strong focus on community involvement, and supporting various charitable initiatives,” Maier says. It seems like a natural fit for Chris, who has been working hard at finding ways to give back since he was fourteen. “Within the first 1-2 months of my hire,” Maier said, “I decided to take on a full-fledged effort to partake in different charitable causes and give back for the blessings I have received in my life. For one year now, I have been organizing large-scale networking events to benefit a different charity each quarter. These events are called Contractors, Closers & Connections (CCC) events, and are intended to bring the professionals from within the construction and real estate industries together into one deliberate venue to collaborate, meet one another in person, discuss new ideas, and offer referrals – all while supporting a great cause.” Maier added, “One event will benefit The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Not only will the FCA receive a portion of ticket sales proceeds, but more importantly, its members will have a chance to be introduced to a whole new audience of companies that would welcome the opportunity to bring them on board as interns, learning from the industry’s best. “What we truly hope to accomplish from the CCC events,” Maier explained, “is to offer developers, brokers, general contractors, architects, and engineers an experience like no other, with a high-energy environment for those within the industry to attend and build long-lasting relationships. In the future, we hope to expand and even create CCC chapters and events in cities other than Atlanta. Think of the impact we could have and the good we could do!” It’s encouraging to know that other industry leaders are following the example set by Cooper and Company. More than just constructing buildings like fueling stations, police precincts, fire stations, city halls, industrial warehouses, religious centers, and educations facilities, they are building lives and opportunities by affording industries the chance to grow and become better at what they do, which creates a better world as well. Does Maier ever get discouraged or disheartened by the priorities of much of big business today? “One of my life’s mottos,” he said, “was made famous by the legendary Babe Ruth, who said, ‘It’s hard to beat someone who never quits!’ I’m driven, it’s in my DNA, and I’m excited about everything we’re doing.” As we were closing our conversation, I shared with him a business philosophy I was taught while pursuing my own Business Administration degree back in the early 70s: The business of business is business. Chris Maier paused and reflected. “Business is personal,” he said, “and one person can change the world, but it starts with small actions, and decisions to be bold!” Here’s hoping Chris Maier never quits trying to change our world for the better. We need passionate people like him in every facet of life! More information at chrism@coopergc.com.

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Operation: Rally Point Continued from page 16 Unlike many veteran organizations, Operation Rally Point receives no government money and is funded solely through private donations, fundraisers, and personal contributions from Brandon, Johnny, and Randy. These funds have helped many veterans secure hotel rooms, vehicles, and, of course, the basic necessities. Operation Rally Point is always in need of volunteers with a heart for veterans who are willing to offer their labor, time, monetary donations, and other resources. As Brandon mentioned, “We’re not just here to help provide basic necessities for survival. We want to help these people thrive by offering guidance and mentoring as well. Some of these veterans just need to know they’re not alone.” More information at http://www.oprallypoint.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/oprallypoint/.

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Mentoring Matters in Gwinnett By Amy Ney It is no surprise that research consistently proves the positive, long-term benefits of mentoring. Whether it is professional, personal, or spiritual, mentoring is often a stimulant for growth and accomplishment. Particularly for the youth, a healthy mentoring relationship can be critical to achieving both academic and personal goals. Studies point to increases in confidence and performance, as well as decreases in risky behavior in students who are effectively mentored. Nury Castillo Crawford, Director of Academic Support in Gwinnett Public Schools, wants to do just this in her community. “I love Gwinnett,” she said. “I believe in our community. I believe all children should feel good about themselves and those happy children make successful adults. It is my passion.” Gwinnett is fortunate to have such a champion for a better tomorrow. Gwinnett Public Schools has seen an increase in diversity, especially in the Latinx population. Despite the increase, graduation rates lag behind other population groups. “Some of our strategies in implementing mentoring are to eliminate or minimize that gap in Latinx graduation rates,” she explained. Her program started in Meadowcreek and Berkmar, expanding to Norcross, Discovery, and Central Gwinnett. Crawford was excited to announce they would be in fifteen schools next year. The schools are chosen based on data and the ratio of Latinx students. Crawford explained the best place to start is in middle school. “We review data that reflects the top three variables to predict student achievement: attendance, behaviors, and academic success.” she asserted. “We want to intervene before they start encountering challenges.” But this program goes beyond demographics. Crawford wants to support any student who needs it. She confirmed that sometimes even if a student seems to be doing fine in school, a teacher or administrator or parent feels that something is wrong or a child needs a little extra support. The student can then be sent an invitation to participate. “The invitation ultimately is to the parents,” she said. “They need to buy-in. There is no cost involved.”

As for the mentors themselves, Crawford says, “The biggest role mentors have is to listen. Students usually have about fourteen minutes a day that an adult will listen to them. And to meet with a student for an hour every other week, and to listen without judgment, can be life-changing for kids.” The benefits of Crawford’s mentoring program are far-reaching: increased high school graduation rates and lower dropout rates; healthier relationships and lifestyle choices; higher educational aspirations; enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence; improved behavior, both at home and school; stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers; improved interpersonal skills; and decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use. Crawford explained every mentor volunteer goes through background checks like a public school teacher. Then they are trained. “We have events throughout the year where we meet” she said. “I communicate with them via emails, newsletters, and phone calls. Mentoring is mostly at school. Sometimes, though, families invite mentors to their home or dinner.” Crawford said she understands the challenges faced by many of these students. “So many in the Latinx community who volunteer are also first-generation,” she explained. “We can see ourselves in these kids or their families. I wish I had someone like this when I was young.” She hopes other people in the community will reach out and volunteer. Born in Peru, Crawford immigrated to the United States when she was ten years old. The transition to a new environment and culture was a shock to her, but with the love and support of her family, she flourished. She attended Florida A&M University where she attained a bachelor’s and a master’s degree before she came to Georgia in 2006. Her pride and joy are her three sons and Oreo, her Shih Tzu. Last year, Crawford was named one of Georgia’s most influential people and was the keynote speaker at the Georgia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages annual event. She also writes bilingual children’s books. The Sofia series is about an immigrant girl and the power of her community helping her thrive. Her books, including her most recent book, Sofia & Vivi: Big Sister, are written in both English and Spanish. She has also written a parent empowerment book, Plant the Seeds Well...Expect Wonders, that is available in English and Spanish. Fans of her work will look forward to a new chapter book series coming soon. It is clear this is her passion and she feels privileged to help children grow both academically and socially. More information at nury.crawford.@gcps.k12.org.

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Please know Wages & Sons Grief Support Staff are still here for you during this time of uncertainty. If you are in need of guidance on how to process feelings of grief and loss during the current circumstances or just a simple conversation, please reach out to one of our Grief Support Staff.


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Due to the current climate and social distancing our current Grief Group has been postponed.

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Bring on the Saturday morning dance parties. Why hold back? Call your local BenchMark Physical Therapy today so you can start moving and feeling better faster! BUFORD I-85 • 2815 Buford Dr, Ste 102 • (770) 271-4413 GRAYSON • 2065 Grayson Hwy, Ste B • (678) 376-0213 LAWRENCEVILLE • 4825 Sugarloaf Pkwy, Ste C • (678) 985-0238 LILBURN • 1227 Rockbridge Rd, Ste 402 • (770) 925-9210 LILBURN – BEAVER RUIN • 4145 Lawrenceville Hwy NW, Ste 8 • (678) 691-7163 SNELLVILLE • 2050 Scenic Hwy N, Ste A • (678) 344-7197 SNELLVILLE CENTERVILLE HWY 124 • 3641 Centerville Hwy, Ste 400 • (470) 365-2135


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