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DEC 2018/JAN 2019 Gwinnett/Walton Community & Family Magazine

Grayson Dacula Loganville Lawrenceville

Up Close with Camp Bow Wow Lawrenceville, see story on page 5.

8 12 16 19

Up Close with Gwinnett School of Dance Community Member Spotlight: Meet Author Jason Brooks Getting to Know: Santa Perry Eidson of Grayson One on One with McConnell Middle’s TOTY Holly Hahn








You are invited to our January Events! Dogwood Forest of Grayson F AM ILY C AREGIVER E DU Assisted Living & Memory Care S UPPORT & D EM ENTIA Join us every 3rd Tuesday of the Month, starting

Tuesday January 15, 2019 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM.

Refreshments will be provided. Dogwood Forest of Grayson provides care services for your loved one while you attend the support group.

Coping with an aging loved one with memory loss is a process comprised of many small steps. Join us and let’s take the first step together.

RSVP Requested 678-496-2319 1754 Grayson Highway Dogwood Forest of Grayson Assisted Living Grayson GA 30017 Join us every 3rd Tuesday of the Month, starting J RSVP Requested 678-496-2319 1:30 – 3:00 PM. 1754PM Grayson Highway will be provided. Refreshments Grayson GA 30017 ASSISTED LIVING & MEMORY CARE




Dogwood Forest of Grayson provides care services for your lo Our Town the support group. (RSVP required)

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11/6/18 12:51 PM

On the Cover: Perfect Paws-itivity for your Pooch By Kristen Eleveld Five years ago, if you had asked Kathy Stone what she dreamed of doing with her life, she wouldn’t have told you that she wanted to own and run a day camp for local dogs. But for the last three and a half years, that is exactly what she and her husband, Rick, have been doing. Camp Bow Wow, which has been in business nationwide for thirteen years, is designed to give dog owners a safe and happy place to leave their dogs while they work, go on vacation, or tend to a family emergency. All breeds are welcome – large, small, and everything in between. Designated as “campers,” each pooch has the chance to run around in a large yard, play with friends, and rest in their cabins throughout the day. You may find your dog enjoying a walk down Wigglebutt Way or playing over on Medium Meadows. Each element of Camp Bow Wow is designed to give dogs the best experience of their day. “We want to give these dogs a chance to be a dog!” said Kathy, who knows each camper by name. “Our goal is to make it as much like their home as possible.” Indeed, it seems that every furry friend who walks through the doors is excited to return to a place they know and love. Of course, while fun is always had, safety is the camp’s first priority. Dogs are divided into groups according to their temperament and size, which keeps some of the bigger campers from inadvertently stepping on a smaller friend. Campers also need to be at least four months old to ensure that they are ready to try a new home away from home. Camp Bow Wow is open six days a week for day camping, but every day for boarding – and some campers enjoy every single day! Most dogs only come once or twice a week, but whatever the frequency of their visits, the office staff is always waiting with open arms. An onsite, full-service groomer is available to give your pup whatever he needs. Each staff member, or counselor, is given the opportunity to meet the dogs to help everyone decide if the counselor will be a good fit. Once they join the staff, they receive training on the best and safest ways to interact with their canine companions. Everything from reading a dog’s temperament to procedures on administering medicine is covered in their training sessions. They even become certified in doggy CPR and first aid, which, says Kathy, is a vital component of keeping the campers safe. The campers’ safety and security are the main emphases of Camp Bow Wow. That’s why you will find their Lawrenceville location tucked away in a quiet corner, Not only does this help eliminate excess noise and distractions, but it serves as an extra level of security if a dog manages

“Dr. Simmons is proud to offer Botox and Dermal Fillers. Call the office to schedule your consulta to run from an owner on the way in or out of the building. “We feel that all the dogs at camp are like our dogs when they’re here,” said Taylor Alexander, who manages the Lawrenceville location. “Anything we can do to help our campers or their families, we will do it.” But the campers aren’t the only ones who benefit from this top-notch facility. Kathy has recognized a need for local teens to have jobs – not just for the paycheck, but to teach them vital life skills. “Talking to my own children’s friends, I realized that they didn’t know what they wanted to do Continued on page 9

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Our Town Gwinnett is published and direct mailed to select homes in the Gwinnett /Walton 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 2018-2019 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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IN THIS ISSUE 5 7 8 8 9 9 10 12 13 14 15 15 16 16 17 18 19 19 20 21 22

On the Cover: Perfect Paws-itivity for your Pooch From the Publisher: One Man’s Opinion Up Close with Gwinnett School of Dance Awesome Santa Offers Sensory Alternatives for Gwinnett Families Exercise in Pregnancy: Is it OK or Not OK? Valor, Achievement, and Service: Honoring Gwinnett’s Veterans Heidi Campbell wins Gwinnett County 2019 Teacher of the Year Community Member Spotlight: Meet Author Jason Brooks Local Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody Captures the Essence of Queen Learning Lessons: Skills Needed for Future Career Success Chaplain’s Corner: Big Steps, Small Starts! Holiday Travel Tips: Save Your Sanity 8 Steps of Gratitude that Will Change Your Life Getting to Know: Santa Perry Eidson of Grayson Never Suffer from Holiday Stress Again Love Thy Neighbor Car Show Begins a Tradition of Paying It Forward Grayson United Methodist Church Holiday Cookbook Memories Leading with Her Heart: Holly Hahn, McConnell’s TOTY Sports Talk: Fall Middle School Golf League Crane’s Corner: Civility Begins at Home One on One with Stacy Kenyon: Grayson High’s TOTY

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Can you believe it’s December? This year seems to have flown by. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now Christmas and the New Year are nearly upon us. It is hard to believe it is almost 2019. And, nearly two decades since Y2K. Time never stops. I love this country and our freedom. This means we have the right to disagree with each other. However, I want to stress – when we do disagree – that we must actively listen more and talk less as the goal is always to find a place of agreement. Why? This allows the other person to feel fully heard out and understood. As the late Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Again, our goal should be to find common ground with others, and I think in most cases this is possible. However, if we cannot achieve this, we must “agree to disagree” in an agreeable (not combative) manner. Nobody wins when everyone yells and tempers flare in person or online. The Golden Rule (which has roots in many religions) is based on the fact that we should treat others as we want to be treated. I challenge us ALL to do more of that. We can bring about positive change one relationship at a time. We must always look for the best in each other, giving another a chance to be human beings first, and not some kind of “box” you check off that defines you (ex., age, gender, race, etc.). We are not boxes – we are special. We are all unique. We each have an important story and our own unique DNA. We all matter. Everyone! Let me say it again: WE ALL MATTER. I challenge you during this holiday season to dig deep, do your own research, reflect on your own worldview (what you truly believe), and don’t settle for letting the sensationalistic (often negative) media “tell you” what to believe or what should make you angry. Remember, for every person who is covered on the news doing something wrong, there are so many more people (getting little publicity) doing things right. There are wonderful things going on in this community. Are they often reported? No. So, I Continued on page 14

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Providence is equipping students to lead, serve, and embrace faith in Christ while providing top-tier academics, competitive sports, award-winning fine arts, and a nationally-recognized STEM program. Come and see how we prepare the next generation to be hard-working, articulate and gracious young people who live out their faith and thrive in an ever-changing world.

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Up Close with Gwinnett School of Dance Our Town Staff

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Kelly Bowlin has been a champion for arts education in Gwinnett County since 1984 when he founded the Gwinnett School of Music. Today the music school has grown to five locations in Gwinnett. One of those sites, 2057 Grayson Highway, is located in the historic Victorian era McConnell House. Behind the house sits an old rock barn, dating back to the 1800s. The barn was used as a livery stable when the old Grayson Railroad used to pass right behind it. Kelly had long envisioned repurposing the old barn for use as a dance school and events venue. Today that vision has come to fruition. The Gwinnett School of Dance now occupies the newly re-constructed building. The barn’s original warmth and charm are still evident in its rebirth, and now not only is this site home to the dance school, but it is rented as an events center hosting weddings, receptions, birthday and graduation parties, corporate events, and more. The building has a full catering kitchen complete with a pass through for bar service, and it boasts one of the best dance floors anywhere with a floating 2500 sq. ft. hardwood floor. Nina Baldridge is Artistic Director of the Gwinnett School of Dance. Her passion for the arts is evident when she talks about the school. “Our students learn more than just dance,” she says. “They learn cooperation, determination, tenacity, and more. It is so important for me that our performances and classes reflect our aspirations and our values. I’m always saying that we are changing the world one dancer at a time!” Nina’s passion for the arts began with a scholarship with the Houston Ballet at seventeen years old. She later moved to LA and was in the music business before shifting back to dance by relocating to Arizona where she founded The Arivaca Performing Artists Company. It was music that brought her to Gwinnett County, where she served many years as studio manager to the stars at Tree Sound Studios. Today, under Nina’s guidance and direction, the Gwinnett School of Dance students have garnered many accolades, with several students awarded scholarships to the Joffrey Ballet. The dance company has won first place in competitions, and the students have been featured in music videos. The school is very proud of the hard work the dancers have done.


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Awesome Santa Offers Sensory Alternatives for Gwinnett Families By Jess Wells Having kids with special needs gives many Gwinnett families both big rewards and big challenges. This is especially true around the holidays. Samantha Snow is working to make one significant part of this Holiday Season much easier for special needs families in Gwinnett and our surrounding counties. “My daughter, Reagan, is autistic,” Samantha shares. “She doesn’t do well in large crowds or with being rushed, but she loves Christmas and loves Santa. My mom, Debbie Bird, and I came up with the idea of ‘Awesome Santa’ last year after I was frustrated with the lack of Santa options for kids with special needs. The only choices available for a ‘Sensory Santa’ were either in Atlanta or North Gwinnett – and they only allowed five minutes per kid with Santa. The times offered were early in the morning, between 7 and 9 a.m. – which is not ideal, as lack of sleep is a common theme with families like ours.” Last year, Samantha and Debbie made their idea of Awesome Santa a reality. They served 20 families, and hope to have many more this year. Each family is given at least fifteen minutes with Santa so no one feels rushed. This gives the kids time to get comfortable with Santa in their new environment. Samantha’s Dad takes pictures, which are made available for free following their visit. Everything is done with the comfort and ease of the kids and families in mind. “Our entire family really jumped on board to make last year’s event a special day for everyone,” Samantha glowingly says. “My parents own and operate Creekside Sports Center and Bluesprings Youth Soccer Association, and they offered one of their buildings at Bluesprings to be used for the Awesome Santa pictures for a day. My aunt, a special needs teacher in Newton County, made cookies and gluten-free treats for all the kids to enjoy. My cousin, Jason Baird, also a special needs teacher in Newton County, played Santa Claus using the same Santa outfit our grandfather wore when he volunteered as a Santa for families in Pennsylvania!” Continued on page 14

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Exercise in Pregnancy: Is it OK or Not OK?

Camp Bow Wow Continued from page 5

By Dr. Haleh Hamidi

or be when they got older,” said Kathy. “They lacked some really basic skills, the kinds of skills you could learn at a job.”Camp Bow Wow Lawrenceville partners with a local high school to give students the chance to benefit from a work-study program. The students receive a class credit for their efforts – and, more importantly, training on how to be more self-sufficient after high school. Kathy and her manager Taylor also reach out to high-school-age youths as staff members for the camp, which they see as an opportunity to grow their own community. “Earning money is great, but we want to prepare people to be independent and self-sufficient,” Kathy said. “You may not make this your career, but you will learn to finish what you start and why that matters.” The community has noticed the impact of Camp Bow Wow Lawrenceville – which is probably why the facility has won the 2017 Readers Choice Award from the Gwinnett Daily Post and the Best of Gwinnett award twice. Kathy Stone is owner of Camp Bow Wow Lawrenceville. Taylor Alexander is manager of Camp Bow Wow Lawrenceville. More information at

As an obstetrician/gynecologist for the past eighteen years, I am asked about exercise in pregnancy almost every day. Whether from a woman who wants to continue her exercise routine during her pregnancy or one who wants to start to exercise, questions come out often: Can I exercise during pregnancy? If so, how much and what type is recommended? Is there any type of exercise that could harm my baby and that I should avoid? The truth is that aerobic and muscle strength exercises have an essential role in health maintenance of a woman in all stages of life, including pregnancy. In a normal and uncomplicated pregnancy, routine exercise can be extremely beneficial. It is associated with several benefits such as: • cardiovascular health, muscle strength, physical fitness • psychological well-being and energy level • improved sense of agility and balance • reduction of low back pain and pelvic pain • reduction in risk of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean section Ideally a typical exercise session begins with 5 to 10 minutes of warm-ups and stretching, followed by the exercise program (30 minutes per session), and ending with 5 to 10 minutes of cool down. Most guidelines suggest 30 minutes of exercise daily, five to seven days per week. Pregnant women who have not been exercising regularly should start slowly, possibly as little as 10 minutes each time and gradually increase the duration of exercise. Women should choose exercises that activate large muscle groups in a rhythmic and continuous fashion and that maintain strength, core muscles, and flexibility. Example of activities that are safe are walking, swimming, aerobic dance, stationary cycling, rowing, low impact aerobics, yoga, Pilates, jogging, running, strength training. Some exercises should be avoided are: • Ones with high risk of falling or hitting the abdomen against a hard surface (soccer, basketball, volleyball, horseback riding, skiing, surfing, downhill skiing • Hard, jerky movements (jet skiing, speed boating) • Ones that increase the core body temperature (hot yoga, hot Pilates) • Ones that require lying on your back for a prolonged amount of time • Activities that require jumping movements and quick changes in direction (jump robe, gymnastics) Continued on page 12

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Valor, Achievement, and Service: Honoring Gwinnett’s Veterans By Emily Haney “Thank you for your service” were the five words that helped Colonel Richard White’s “non-purple heart wound” heal years after he returned from the Vietnam War. With thirty-one years of active service, White is the co-director and chairman of the Georgia Military Veteran’s Hall of Fame. On November 11, he addressed veterans from WWII to present day at the Veterans Day Ceremony held at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial. White recalled returning from war to a country that did not accept what he had just fought for, which led him to develop a chip on his shoulder. However, that feeling of resentment began to change with Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield from the 1990s. More and more people started to thank veterans for their service. White told the crowd about visiting an elementary school a week prior. “The grammar school had a veteran appreciation day, and as everyone walked in, the first and second graders, little boys and girls, were waving flags,” he recalled with some emotion. “Everyone said those five words: ‘Thank you for your service.’” White never tires of hearing those words of affirmation and is a firm believer in thanking veterans “in person and loudly.” “War is not normal. We have a lot of gratitude to give to our veterans, and a lot of gratitude to give to our loved ones back home,” he advised. Accepting thanks and sharing your story is all part of your legacy and your family, White believes. What a veteran shares with his/her family allows them to better understand; and it turn, these recollections can be passed down to later generations. If you don’t share your story, it ends with you. This Veterans Day marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, when the armistice with Germany went into effect. The day celebrates and honors each individual who has served in the military. “Since the beginning of our nation, there have been over 44 million men Continued on page 13

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Heidi Campbell wins Gwinnett County 2019 Teacher of the Year By Our Town Staff On November 8, one hundred thirty-seven Teachers of the Year (TOTY) from all the schools in Gwinnett County gathered in the ballroom at the Infinite Energy Forum for a special evening: the 2019 Teacher of the Year Banquet. The banquet is a Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) tradition that celebrates the best teaching around the county. The 2019 Elementary School teacher of the year is Kelly Specht from Riverside Elementary School, the 2019 Middle School Teacher of the Year is Lindsey Saa of Couch Middle School, and the 2019 High School Teacher of the Year is Heidi Campbell of Parkview High School. Campbell was also named the 2019 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. Dr. Doug Doblar, the 2018 GCPS TOTY, gave the evening’s opening inspiration. As an elementary teacher at R.D. Head Elementary School, Doblar was also a top ten finalist for the 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year Award. His opening remarks welcomed the crowd with warmth and praise. He said, “Welcome to the 137 teachers here tonight. We are here because our district made a promise. We promised 180,000 kids that we would make sure they would reach their full potential. We are here tonight because when it comes to keeping that promise, no one keeps it better than you.” The evening was sponsored by numerous corporate sponsors and business partners. Dr. Jonathan Patterson, Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Support, took the stage to thank those partners. The Presenting Sponsor, Peach State Federal Credit Union, donated cash awards and a crystal peach to the GCPS TOTY. Dr. Patterson detailed the prizes that the local school recipients would receive, and then introduced the Masters of Ceremonies, Dr. Terry Watlington and Dr. Jon Valentine. Each TOTY, from every school in all five districts, were presented with TOTY plaques. In the final portion of the banquet, CEO and Superintendent of GCPS, J. Alvin Wilbanks, took to the podium to congratulate the six county finalists and to announce the level winners and the GCPS TOTY for 2019. These Top 6 Finalists – Juah Nyemade Baker-Marsh of Lovin Elementary School, Kelly Specht of Riverside Elementary School, Chandra Harmond Brandel

of Coleman Middle School, Lindsey Saa of Couch Middle School, Heidi Campbell of Parkview High School, and Meredith White of Peachtree Ridge High School – received a check for $500, a generous gift card and basket from Kroger, and a plaque. Wilbanks then announced the level winners. Kelly Specht of Riverside Elementary was named the Elementary Teacher of the Year. Specht, who has been teaching for twenty-nine years, was thrilled with her award. “This is an absolutely wonderful surprise!” Specht told the crowd in her speech. “My entire career has been dedicated to my passion for teaching reading to struggling learners.” Specht is a Reading Recovery and Early Intervention Program teacher. Lindsey Saa, an 8th grade Social Studies Teacher from Couch Middle School, was named the Middle School TOTY. “This is a dream and so I appreciate it,” Saa told the crowd with excitement. “This goes to every person in this room. You guys make me better. We learn from each other. We are in it together, and when these kids are successful, we are successful.” Saa has been teaching for fourteen years. Parkview High’s Heidi Campbell was named the High School TOTY. She has been teaching since graduating from Oglethorpe University in 1994. “Everyone has their own personal story,” Campbell told the audience, “and, as a Language Arts Teacher, I’m in the business of stories. The honor of being Teacher of the Year will be added to the stories of each and every one of us here tonight. What a special night. I am so thankful to add this night and this honor to my story.” The evening ended with a final announcement from Mr. Wilbanks: the 2019 GCPS Teacher of the Year, Heidi Campbell. Campbell received numerous gifts from the sponsors, including a $1,000 annual stipend, a check for $500, a crystal peach from Peach State Federal Credit Union, a ring from Sholastic Images, a $500 Kroger gift card, a one-year lease on a Jeep Cherokee Lattitude from Hayes Chrysler Dodge Jeep, and a laptop from EMTEC. Excited by the honor, Campbell said, “When I think about what is the most important thing we do as teachers, I truly believe it is making connections with all kids. Optimal learning takes place when we connect.” She went on to read an original poem that she had entitled, “Connecting With the World in My Classroom,” which described the diverse student population that she proudly connects with each day. Campbell will proceed to the next level, which will be consideration for the Georgia Teacher of the Year. More information at .

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THIS IS NOT JUST HEARTBURN. This is Rose—a wife, a grandmother and the matriach of the family that makes sure holidays are spent together. During this holiday season, Rose is thankful for her primary care team that ensures her digestive troubles won’t keep her away from family—or her favorite rich foods. Rose’s goal is to be happy and healthy for her family for years to come. With Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care, we make that possible.

She is more than just a patient. Our Town


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Exercise in Pregnancy Continued from page 9 • scuba diving. When in doubt, ask your doctor Exercise may not be recommended or should be modified in case of certain conditions such as extreme obesity, risk of fetal growth restriction, high risk of miscarriage, severe anemia, maternal heart or lung disease, incompetent cervix, and placenta previa. Therefore, before starting an exercise regimen, it is important to consult with your obstetrician. Wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy. More information at

Community Member Spotlight: Meet Author Jason Brooks By K. Coats

Being a young adult is hard. You feel frustrated, overshadowed, and helpless in the face of so many other people in your life that always seem to “know better” than you. Finding your own feet is hard enough, and becoming a leader in these circumstances can be downright heroic. Well pre-teens, parents, world – meet EJ Lee! EJ Lee – created by local author Jason Brooks – is a character who shows us, adult and pre-teen alike, that leadership is within everyone. She is the youngest of three siblings and often feels forgotten. That is, of course, until she is pulled into another world with creatures that have tentacles and where she is personally tasked with defeating a monster. Drawing heavily from both his English degree background as well as his leadership focus, Brooks emphasizes the opportunities for leadership we all have daily. He uses his character – a young girl who feels powerless – to demonstrate that potential. He says, “Since leadership is what I study everyday as part of my work with [leader and speaker] John Maxwell, I want this book to help kids to get a better picture of leadership. EJ’s journey isn’t just about getting back home; it’s also about learning how she can influence people and circumstances for the better. I want kids to understand that they can make choices that impact and inspire others.” This is one of the main reasons that EJ is the youngest. Jason chose that birth order on purpose because the youngest sibling often gets left behind. EJ’s journey is more than just a physical trek into an alternate dimension. She is also on a much bigger journey of self-discovery. And in this, Brooks places his character alongside many other literary characters from the classics like Bilbo, Dorothy, and Alice, on to more modern ones like Kenny Watson and Arnold Spirit, Jr. Brooks explains that journeys don’t even have to be “epic” – like the one EJ makes – to be important. “I think every journey is an epic journey,” he said. “We just choose to frame them in small terms, sort of suck away the mystery and wonder. My journey as a man, husband, father, writer, etc. is a continual battle against daily obstacles, some big, some small. I think every person is living an incredible story each and every day, even if no one else notices, and this book reflects that.” Brooks meant for EJ to have a wide appeal. He explains, “My life – and the life of my family – is completely bound up within this book. I drew from my own childhood experiences and memories, and borrowed liberally from my wife and my kids. EJ is essentially an amalgamation of the four people who live in my house, so while she’s not perfect, she’s kind of awesome.” Through this character, Brooks hopes to inspire young adults at a pivotal time in their lives. The young adult (YA) genre is booming in the book market, and it’s a place where authors are writing for an audience that is highly tolerant of experimentation in both topic as well as writing style. And it’s an age group that Brooks feels is continually underestimated, especially in regards to leadership. “I have two YAs in my house, and I was a youth pastor for the better part of fifteen years. The YAs are a smart audience that doesn’t get enough credit – nor do they get enough in Make your holiday the way of positive messages. As a result, I wanted to create something for younger readers that would inspire them to lead and read.” Make your holiday Make your holiday reservations today! Brooks cites both C.S. Lewis and Lewis Grizzard as some of his stronger influences for his writreservations today! reservations today! ing. The idea for EJ Lee and the Golden Door came from his time working with John Maxwell. “I developed a curriculum to help parents become intentional about teaching their kids to become (770)995-3500 (770)995-3500 (770)995-3500 leaders. The company decided not to pursue the project, so my boss (and writing mentor) Charlie Wetzel told me I should take the idea and explore it further to see if there was more to the story. Turns out there was.” Brooks would go on to develop an entire new dimension for EJ to explore and learn about herself and her potential outside the shadows cast by her siblings and the distractions of everyday life. One last detail that stands out rather profoundly is the H.P. Lovecraft-esque addition of the creatures sporting tentacles. For adults, “aliens” in our stories tend to be rather humanoid. Luke Skywalker is an alien. Dr. Who is an alien. But tentacles? It’s just wild enough to draw in that YA audience that loves something unusual. When asked about the tentacle element, Brooks interestingly responded, “The tentacles were carefully chosen. I can’t go into more detail because it would give too much away; but in order for me to illustrate how people from different cultures/worlds can connect, I needed to make the differences between EJ and the creatures as stark as possible. And also, tentacle creatures from another world are just kind of classic, you know?” As a final thought on what Jason Brooks hopes readers will gain from EJ Lee and the Golden Door, Brooks states, “I know everyone writes a kids’ book with the desire to communicate something, but I truly wanted this book to help at least one kid realize that she could be a leader, or that he could choose to be someone that makes a difference in the lives of others. I also wanted kids to understand that they live in a world full of opportunities – and even though some of those opportunities would stretch them or even cause them to fail, the end result of choosing to see more before others do always creates more opportunities.” Congratulations to Brooks on his novel. We look forward to seeing the new generation of leaders it inspires! Jason E. Brooks is the author of EJ Lee and the Golden Door. More information at https://www. .

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Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody Captures the Essence of Queen By Heidi Campbell


Bohemian Rhapsody, written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Bryan Singer, hit the big screen on November 2, and has already grossed over $138 million at the box office. The film, just over two hours long, brilliantly explores the music and relationships of the members of the legendary rock band Queen. The lead singer, Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek, is highlighted throughout as the front man, yet the film makes it clear that he cannot stand alone; the band is his family and he needs them. Malek plays Mercury with uncanny accuracy. He not only looks like a mirror reflection of the late superstar, but he masters Mercury’s stage presence and mannerisms as well. Mercury is portrayed as the quintessential artist; he struggles throughout the film to run from his darkness, finding temporary solace in his wild, Dionysian lifestyle. He meets “the love of his life” Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boynton, and they get married. He cannot maintain this marriage, however, because he finds himself drawn to men. “Your life is going to be very difficult,” Mary tells him. And she was right. He struggles for years before he comes to terms with who he is. The film follows the band as they work together to create new, cutting edge music. They want music that people will have to engage with, but their original manager, Ray Foster, played by Mike Meyers, doesn’t share their vision. When they play him their recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he has no interest in it, declaring it is too long. Mercury leads his band out of his office and tells Foster that he (Foster) will forever be the man who lost Queen. For fans of Queen, this film is spectacular. The backstory brings deeper understanding to some of their legendary songs, including the foot stomping behind “We Will Rock You,” the catchy disco beat of “Another One Bites the Dust,” and the pathos hidden behind “You’re My Best Friend.” Between the writing, recording, and performing, the film gives the audience a true taste of how the band collaborated and polished their work. Mercury (Malik) perhaps most accurately described the band when he said, “We’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for other misfits.” Mercury spent most of his life searching for his place; the only place that ever felt like a “fit” to him was on stage. The film presents a truly three dimensional look at this complex man, including his family, his friendships, his passions, his weaknesses, and his ultimate understanding of what is truly important. Perhaps the words of his father were truly the lesson he needed to learn in the end: “You can’t get anywhere by pretending to be someone you’re not”. Mercury realized that he didn’t have to hide behind his wealth and parties – he said, “We’re family. We believe in each other. That’s everything.” After learning that he had AIDS, he gained a new perspective. He realized that he didn’t want a solo career and he wanted to settle into a more peaceful, loving life. This epiphany came just in time to perform at the Live Aid performance, which was one of Queen’s most legendary performances. Bohemian Rhapsody is the most fitting name for this film, since Queen’s music was certainly unconventional and “bohemian.” The title song aptly summarizes the band, their music, their lead singer, and their spirit. Interestingly enough, Rotten Tomatoes only offered up a score of 64% for this film, but the “Audience Score” was a 92%. This seems to be right in line with Queen’s music – they were often met with lukewarm press while audiences couldn’t get enough. Queen fans will not be disappointed by this film.

Gwinnett’s Veterans Continued from page 9 and women who have had the honor to don the cloth of military service,” said White. The Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial honors the local soldiers who died in the line of duty. Thirteen black granite markers pay tribute, beginning with Gwinnett’s natives before the American Revolution. “Here in Gwinnett County we have never lacked folks who will step up when there’s a need for military service going back to colonial times,” said Chairman of Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, Charlotte Nash. Our veterans have allowed us to maintain the freedoms that we enjoy. “May we never say the phrase ‘freedom is not free’ as a cliché,” said White. “It is the most true statement. It costs a lot.” Veterans Day is a time to reflect on our freedoms and to say, “thank you for your service” to all of those you come across. White encourages everyone to nominate someone for the Georgia Military Veteran’s Hall of Fame. Everyone who gets nominated, even if they don’t win, receives a certificate of honor presented by White. “Valor, achievement, and service are what you need, and all of you have it,” said White.

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One Man’s Opinion Continued from page 7 challenge you to help us get the news out. Share a copy of this magazine, in print, social or digital media form, or the online version. You will find positive news and events that should encourage readers. I challenge all of us to keep a “thankful and hopeful heart” as we enter this new year – a year fresh for new beginnings. The past is the past. The present IS a present. The future is what we must work on, one hour, day, and week at a time to make this community and in turn our country, a better place. And we can do just that, one person at a time. So, start with small things. Say please. Say thank you. Hold the door for someone. Smile. Laugh. Let the little things go and truly live. It makes a big difference. Again, we are ALL human, so tap into your childlike spirit and have fun again during the holiday season. I want to share how much I appreciate the Our Town community. I am thankful for the Our Town family, friends, staff, and partners. I wish you a safe and blessed holiday season. We could not do it without you. So, until next time and as always: this is my town, your town, Our Town!

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Learning Lessons: Skills Needed for Future Career Success and How to Nurture Them By Tanisha Turner When parents think about the earliest skills they should be nurturing in their children, language, reading, and motor skills likely come to mind. However, a recent survey revealed that another set of skills may be just as important to develop early in life to give children the foundation they need for future success. According to a national survey of human resources managers responsible for hiring, problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, self-control, adaptability, and working memory – collectively referred to as executive function skills – are essential to succeeding in today’s workplace. In fact, survey respondents agreed that these skills are more important than good grades, technical skills, and other factors when it comes to hiring. Yet, the majority of those surveyed said that entry-level employees are rarely proficient in executive function skills, and agreed that they are difficult to teach. One in four respondents also indicated employees are becoming less proficient in executive function skills over time – a concerning trend given that research suggests these skills will only become more valued as society evolves. These statistics may sound worrisome, but encouragingly, executive function skills actually have their foundational roots in early childhood. The Harvard Center on the Developing Child reports that children’s early life experiences influence their capacity for executive function skills, and laying the foundation for such skills is one of the most important tasks of the early childhood years. All the adults in a child’s life – parents, grandparents, teachers, and others –have a once-in-alifetime opportunity to help set him or her on a pathway for success. And nurturing the executive function skills needed to succeed later in life doesn’t have to be difficult. Try the following fun activities for children at home: • Develop problem solving through play. Children work through their understanding of the world as they play. For example, when children play with blocks, they learn that putting heavier blocks on top makes block towers tumble more quickly, but putting heavier blocks on the bottom makes the tower stronger. • Promote critical thinking by asking thought-provoking questions. Whether you’re playing with blocks or while at the grocery story, ask your child simple, open-ended questions like “Why do you think…” and “What if…” to inspire deeper thinking. Be sure to give your child plenty of time to answer the question, refraining from giving the answer yourself. • Encourage teamwork by leading by example. Children learn how to respond to others mostly by watching their parents and caregivers. Make it a point to model behaviors like listening and being respectful at home. • Cultivate self-control by giving instructions. Instructions don’t immediately sound like much fun, but singing songs like the Hokey Pokey and playing games like Simon Says actually encourage self-control by requiring children to move in a specific way at a particular time. • Nurture adaptability through dramatic play. Children can practice adaptability – the ability to take in and adapt to new information – by using everyday objects in new ways, like turning a paper towel roll into a telescope. • Foster working memory by reading aloud. Consistently reading aloud with children reinforces sounds and letters, helping them learn and store information in a way that feels more like play. Take things a step further by making up a story together. As the complexity of the story grows, your child will get more practice remembering the information. By intentionally nurturing these skills during the first five years of life, parents and caregivers can help set children up for success that will last a lifetime. Tanisha Turner is Owner of Primrose School at Sugarloaf Parkway. More information at www.

Awsome Santa Continued from page 8 Samantha continues, “Another cousin, Elizabeth Aderhold and her husband, Adam, built a wheel-chair ramp to make the Santa Stage accessible for everyone; and their middle daughter, Ruby, drew our Awesome Santa logo. Ruby is also on the Autism Spectrum. Debi Dalton, who owns Your Angel Wings Horse Riding Therapy, donated toys so each child who visited Santa went home with a special toy. My sister, Kristen Bird, did all the organizing and advertising from her apartment in Alabama, and the rest of our family donated Christmas decorations and helped decorate the night before.” This year, Awesome Santa will happen on December 8 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Creekside Sports Center. Families with a special needs child of any age are welcome. More information at

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Chaplain’s Corner: Big Steps, Small Starts! By Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz He was a 7-year-old boy in desperate search of the meaning of Christmas. He was seeking to understand why he always ended up depressed around the holidays. On the advice of a friend from school, he gets involved in directing a school play about the nativity story. When he loses control of the production because of the cast members’ refusal to listen to him, he is given the lesser responsibility of finding a Christmas tree for the play. But instead of buying a big and shiny tree like he was instructed to do by his friend, he chooses to buy a pitiful little branch. This makes him the target of laughter and ridicule by all of his friends in school. As this boy cries out in hopeless desperation, he wonders if anyone understands what Christmas is all about. Another boy (the one who didn’t make fun of him) gets in front of all those around and starts explaining: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, so, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.” The 7-year-old boy is Charlie Brown, who is best known for his uniquely striped shirt. His best friend is a little dog named Snoopy. But the other little boy who recites the Christmas story to him was his friend Linus. Linus is best known for his ever-present security blanket. You see, throughout the story of Peanuts™, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally, and all the others attempt on several occasions to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for all his friends, he simply refuses to give it up. Well, until precisely this moment in the story of Charlie Brown. You see, right in the middle Continued on page 20

Holiday Travel Tips: Save Your Sanity By Our Town Staff Follow these tips to save time, money, and your sanity this holiday season. 1. Avoid busy travel days: If you’re willing to be flexible, there are a few ways to avoid the madness of popular holiday travel days. If your plans permit, take a red-eye, which is the last flight out each night. Red-eye flights are typically cheaper and less crowded. Traveling on the actual day of the holiday can also help you avoid airport congestion. 2. Clear your browser history, cookies, and cache before searching flights: Are you waiting for flight prices to drop and they just won’t budge? Airlines and travel websites can track how many times you’ve visited their website and change their prices accordingly. Make sure you’re starting fresh every time you browse to get the best prices. 3. Join loyalty and rewards programs to save money: Most airlines have a free rewards program where you can earn miles toward free flights. For example, with Delta SkyMiles, every trip can earn you more miles toward travel on any Delta Air Lines flight. And SkyMiles members can link their SkyMiles and Lyft accounts via to earn even more miles with the Delta SkyMiles program. 4. Travel light: If you plan on giving out holiday gifts at your destination, it’s best to mail them before you fly. Not only will that save you packing room, but airport security can open gifts in checked and carry-on luggage, ruining your hard work. Mail your gifts by early December to make sure they arrive on time. If you must bring gifts with you, pack the wrapping paper and presents separately to avoid security snafus. 5. Screen shot and save your travel details: You never know where cell service or Wi-Fi won’t be available, especially on an airplane. It’s smart to have your boarding pass, hotel details, and other travel information ready at any moment. 6. Check in online: If you don’t have luggage to check, save a step at the airport by checking in online before you arrive. Most airlines will send you an email when it’s time to check into your flight. For an even faster experience, download your airline’s app and your boarding pass will automatically sync to your phone. You’ll skip the check-in line and spend less time waiting at the airport. (BPT)

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8 Steps of Gratitude that Will Change Your Life

Getting to Know: Santa Perry Eidson of Grayson

By Carol Tuttle

By Beth Volpert-Johansen

You can’t force change. You need to allow it. And a key to allowing change is accountability. When we take accountability into every aspect of our life, we are in the most powerful position to allow change to occur. Implementing these 8 steps of gratitude will help you create remarkable change for good in your life! 1. Appreciate everything – even that which you judge as bad, wrong, and painful. 2. Express gratitude for every single moment of your life. The more you create feelings of appreciation and gratitude, the more things you will attract into your life that you can appreciate and feel gratitude for. 3. Gratitude is one of the highest vibrations that we can be. Look for things for which you can be grateful. Play the Grateful Game. By yourself or with others, take turns saying what you are grateful for. 4. Start a Gratitude Journal. Every Thanksgiving, as a family, we get out our Gratitude Journal and write 1,000 things for which we are grateful. We number from one to 1,000, leave the journal on the kitchen counter with a pen, and invite family members and friends to write in it as often as they would like. It usually takes us between a week and ten days to get to 1,000. 5. If you pray, thank God for believing in you, for giving you the agency to create your life, and for remembering your truth. 6. Thank all the people who have played a part in your life. 7. Write a thank-you note once a week to someone to express your appreciation for them. 8. Most importantly, appreciate yourself for what you are remembering and for the joys you are creating. These simple steps of gratitude address the core issues that most people struggle with at a deeper level. Putting a daily focus on these moments of thanks will shift your core vibration, which allows greater shifts in your life. Remember, you DO have the power to change anything in your life. Whether the actual event changes or you change your response and perception, both create a new experience. And the first big step to making use of that power is by showing gratitude for your life. Be accountable first, and great change will follow! Carol Tuttle is a teacher, speaker, author and pioneer in the field of personal development. More information at

Santa Claus may traditionally call the North Pole home, but for Santa Perry Eidson, Grayson is workshop central. Emory University IT guru by day, Perry stays busy being Santa most everywhere he goes. Community is exceptionally important. From being the official Santa of Grayson to attending dozens of Christmas events as well as supporting the Grayson Rams Friday Night Lights, Perry is as spirited as they come. Even his chosen sideline business is well connected to the frozen North. Owner of Stone Mountain Ice, Perry provides frozen water to cool even the hottest summer festivals all around the South. Instead of a sleigh, Perry delivers his blast of cold in one of several refrigerated trailers – emblazoned with his tagline, “Twice the Ice” – which are perfect for supplying ice to ball games, parks, festivals, and markets. “Ice is a simple product, but it is one most everyone uses at some point,” says Perry. “I like to make sure you get a good, clean, and good tasting product at a fair price. People enjoy getting a picture of Santa next to one of the freezer trailers.” Perry’s obvious Santa persona is more than just a part of being Perry the Ice-Man. He lives and breathes the love and kindness of Christmas all year long. Children know him and look upon him in true wonder when they spy him at springtime ball games. The tall man with the snowy white beard sporting one of a vast collection of tropical shirts is often bent at the waist to see eyeto-eye with the smallest of children. Each time, Perry listens carefully with a nod of his head to each child as they answer the proverbial question, “Have you been a good little boy or girl?” And when they have answered, he produces a coin to prove to any doubters that they have seen the real Santa right there in his off season. At the Christmas in July event held every year in Grayson, you can find him in “Santa casual” attire, but there is no doubt that Santa is there visiting both the young and the young at heart. What football players know about Santa is that he is in the stands watching them each week, so they had better be good for goodness sake! Each of those kids is a child at heart when it comes to Christmas, and knowing Santa is on their side, ringing those sleigh bells and cheering them along, makes a difference. Grayson High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Brian DeBerry is always happy to see Santa at the games. “Perry Eidson has been a tremendous supporter of Grayson High School through the years ranging, but not limited to painting the G’s around campus on roadways to providing ice to events,” says DeBerry. “We appreciate all Perry does as a valuable stakeholder in our community. Individuals like Perry in the Grayson community help ensure success we have in many different facets here at Grayson High School.” Even the kids in the band can always spy Santa in the stands as he gives equal time to support the cheerleaders and marching band. “He always makes it feel like Christmas even when it’s 90 degrees in August,” says Ben Phillips, featured trumpet player. “I love watching him transform,” says Grayson Mayor Allison Wilkerson. “We were walking into the Chick-Fil-A before the Grayson vs Rockdale game a few weeks ago when a car pulled up. Perry’s wife, Laurine, and I were walking in the door and we heard this little girl almost whisper, ‘SANTA.’ Perry was exhausted! He had been awake for almost 24 hours, and he transformed!” Mayor Wilkerson goes on to describe how Perry’s eyes sparkled as he spent the next few minutes making that little girl feel like she was the only kid in the world. “That is who Perry is,” says Wilkerson. “I am fortunate to call him my friend, and Grayson is fortunate to call him our Santa.” Making a difference is what Santa Perry is all about. As a constant contributing member of several community social media groups, Santa Perry spreads his cheer and a good measure of common sense when topics go slightly awry. “People tend to get over-enthused on social media,” says Perry. “It is easy to get carried away and type things you might not say in person.” He goes on to explain that humor is a good way to get folks to take a step back and think a little more about what they are saying. “On the other hand, social media at its best can reconnect long lost friends and bring us all together closer as neighbors. It can also be a great place for a countdown to Christmas!” The role of Santa took a huge turn for the better this year when Perry and his beloved Mrs. Claus, Laurine, became grandparents again to the sweetest little bundle of boy. “We were blessed with the addition of a little boy joining his big sister,” says Perry. “Having both a girl and a boy now means we get to shower both with love and gifts, which is easy for Santa. Grandkids really are a special gift!” Santa Perry can be found at photographer photo shoots capturing that special moment, visiting in private homes to give children a memory they will always remember, helping out at the Southeast Gwinnett Co-op for those families that might not be able to afford a Santa visit and picture, visiting at various libraries, welcoming patrons to their favorite restaurants, visiting at senior centers, and more! More information on Facebook: Santa Perry Eidson.

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Mediaquality Maker Group *Se habla español improve your of life.” identifies as margins: needs. They always proreprint our restau(Chris) is always timely Don Britt Danny Sam Thomas vide timely,Chef affordable • “Margin is the space between ourselves and our limits.” rant menus, my and works expeditiously Hwy, General Manager Fratelli’s Owner was and high quality work. 720 Old Snellville first thought to Suite 150 • “Margin grants us freedom and permits rest.” to get our information Summit Chase NY Style Pizza About Face Skin Care, LLC Media Maker Group call Media Maker Lawrenceville, GA 30044 into mailboxes. I tried • “Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion.” is our reliable business Group. Now, our Phone: (770)601-4340 the on-line services, but White space as a margin in life provides structure and a framework. Consider what404.379.6878 a frame | partner for printing menus look almost Chris’ expertise makes provides around a work of art. It defines the art and creates focus. As you look at a framed item, and direct mail. as good as our the difference! Thank you Chris! Media Maker Group is proud to be the printing & mailing partner for (STAT) Snellville Tourism & Trade pizza! notice how your eyes are drawn to what’s in the frame, reducing any distractions. The frame frees Ask for your special Winter 10% discount by mentioning our ad in Snellville Spirit Magazine! Preferred Printing and Mailing Vendor of you up to focus on what is important. Don Britt Chef Danny Sam Thomas Relate that to your life. Most of the time, we’re the ones creating our chaos. Draw or visualize a General Manager Fratelli’s Owner frame and ask, “What do I want framed in my life? What do I want people to focus on?” Margins Summit Chase NY Style Pizza About Face Skin Care, LLC create boundaries and release us to live our lives responsibly. 404.379.6878 | Consider a printed book or a magazine. Without white space or margins, words would “bleed off” the page. There would be no clarity, no design, and there would be confusion. The same Media Maker Group is proud to be the printing & mailing partner for (STAT) Snellville Tou effect happens in our lives when we don’t create margins or white space. Ask for your special Winter 10% discount by mentioning our ad in Snellville Spirit Preferred Printing and Mailing Vendor of Authors John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud frame it this way in their book, Boundaries, Fratelli’s is a New York-style pizzeria and Italian restaurant Fratelli’s is a New York-style pizzeria and Italian “Boundaries are anything that helps differentiate you from someone else.” In other words, where Fratelli’s is a New York-style pizzeria and Italian located in Snellville, Georgia. In addition to Georgia. specialty pizzas and restaurant located in Snellville, In you begin and end. restaurant located in Snellville, Georgia. In pastas, our menu also includes gluten-free options addition to specialty pizzas and pastas, our and To avoid the “big E” at this time of the year, take these steps: addition to specialty pizzas and pastas, our menu also includes gluten-free options and homemade We cater both smalloptions and large functions menudesserts. also includes gluten-free and 1. Choose to shift from the “do all” to a white space mindset. homemade desserts. We cateroptions. both small and and have several take-out and delivery We homemade desserts. We cater both smallare anda family2. Create a tangible frame and choose what goes in it. Begin with the daily non-negotiables. 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I could not be fully prespart of the family. located in Snellville, Georg restaurant restaurant located in Snellville, Georg ent at each activity. I now consider what I can and what I cannot do. Practicing this now provides We early are happy to announce thatto due to our local addition to specialty pizzas and pasta Plan early secure all your Plan to secure all addition your needs for the holidays. We are happy to announce that due to our local to specialty pizzas and pastas a way for the end of the year to be satisfying, fulfilling, and enjoyable. success, we have moved to a bigger and better menu also includes gluten-free option success, we have moved to a bigger and better menu also includes gluten-free options Having antoevent? location. We would like thank our family and cater both needs forour thefamily holidays. 4. Get adequate rest. After that end of the year syndrome appears, rest tends to disappear. homemade desserts. We sm location. 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Gwinnett School of Dance Continued from page 8 Ultimately, Kelly and Nina recognize that dance, along with all the arts, play a necessary role in the Gwinnett community. The school is about teaching and learning life lessons together. They are manifesting a creative vision which applies to every part of life. Gwinnett School of Dance offers instruction in ballet, hip hop, modern contemporary, tap, jazz, lyrical, and musical theatre. More information at

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location. We would like to thank our fam

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Love Thy Neighbor Car Show Begins a Tradition of Paying It Forward By Kim Hill

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The idea of doing a car show for charity began to take hold a few years ago among a close-knit group of friends in the Grayson community. Considering themselves “car people” and having two members actually in the car restoration business, the group felt a car show would be a great community event. However, the idea remained dormant until one of the friends, James Smith, was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2015. Though initial treatments went well, the disease returned the following June, and James spent the next six months giving his best fight. At this point, unbeknownst to James and his wife, the group of friends decided to hold a car show on James’ behalf. In what James’ wife Libbey calls “an outpouring of love from the community of Grayson,” the group pulled together the efforts of friends, neighbors, family, and businesses to promote and organize a hugely successful show. On that day James stated, “I can’t wait to be back here next year to pay this forward to somebody else in need.” That was September of 2016. James lost his battle with cancer three days before Christmas that year. The following year, the group of friends vowed to fulfill James’ wish to pay it forward, and gave Libbey the task of finding a recipient. She learned of a young man named Blake Huffman who was in need of a kidney transplant. Blake had contracted the E. coli virus as a child and had needed a transplant at an early age. His mother, Cindy, was his first donor, but that kidney began to fail when Blake was twenty-seven. James had also been a kidney transplant patient. He had been diagnosed at age 27, and received a kidney from Libbey a few years later. The similarity made Libbey feel James would have chosen Blake as the recipient, so the 2017 Love Thy Neighbor Car Show was held that October for Blake. This second successful show raised funds to help with the necessary medications and expenses that lay ahead for Blake, and it also promoted the need for Living Donors, as both Libbey and Cindy were living proof that giving of yourself to save a life is truly the best gift you can give. Through the car show’s social media presence, several people came forward hoping to be a match for Blake, including a woman from out of state who had recently lost her husband to kidney complications. Blake successfully received an anonymously donated kidney on Valentine’s Day of this year. When considering a recipient for the 2018 show, the group of friends became aware of a young girl named Madeline McNeely who attends a local preschool. At four years old she was diagnosed with a Malignant Rhabdoid Tumor, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer that grew around her spinal cord. Madeline is courageously fighting the disease and was chosen as the beneficiary of the third annual Love Thy Neighbor Car Show. As her ongoing treatments of both radiation and chemotherapy keep her in the hospital often, Madeline was unable to attend the show, but her parents and siblings were in attendance, and her brother and sister decided the “Madeline’s Choice” car award on her behalf, confirming the choice with her via FaceTime. Madeline’s latest MRI report has shown good news. The Love Thy Neighbor Car Show has become an anticipated annual community event with an attendance that is growing each year. It takes place in Grayson City Park, and is a fun day featuring music with a DJ and lots of donated food, including baked goods and hot dogs. This year’s show, in honor of Madeline, featured a bouncy house and face painting that was provided by students from Archer High School. Eighty cars were registered, not counting the special kids’ section, which developed as the result of a neighbor’s grandchild wanting to bring his own car and donate his piggy bank money to help James at the first show. The kids register their cars and make their donation themselves so they understand what they are doing and who their donation is helping. Additionally, 50-50 raffle tickets are sold for $1.00 each or people can get a car length for $20. “The neat thing is,” says Libbey, “this year Blake’s family volunteered to come and paid it forward for Madeline, and next year her family will do the same. We just become a bigger family every year.” What started as a gift of love for a friend is a continuing legacy of loving one’s neighbor. More information at

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Grayson United Methodist Church Holiday Cookbook Memories

Leading with Her Heart: Holly Hahn, McConnell’s TOTY

By Beth Volpert Johansen

By Emily Haney

A tattered and worn cookbook filled with notations, locations, special ingredients, or photos tucked between the food-stained pages is more than an instruction book. It’s a piece of history that connects generations of cooks to the earliest of their memories. Sometimes historical preservation gets a little boost from modern technology in the form of social media. Recently, Rebecca Page posted a quick little conversation in gratitude of her copy of the 1979 Grayson United Methodist Church (GUMC) Cookbook. Her post caught the attention of Marsi Hill Briggs and her twin sister, Missi Hill Rich, and the conversation just rolled on: Rebecca: The family will again gather here for Thanksgiving and with the help of my DIL and grands, we will have the typical Southern meal. It’s pretty much the same menu each year, and as I looked through my recipes today, sweet memories came to the surface. Missi: I am so thankful to have been raised at Grayson United Methodist Church among so many good cooks! Reading the names you listed brings back sweet memories of such sweet people. I treasure my GUMC cookbook! Memories of people and of days growing up in the tiny town of Grayson are etched in and among the recipes from ladies like Laura Biggers, Louella Norton, Granny Cooper, and the highly accomplished artist, cook, and homemaker, Ollie Cobb. “She wasn’t just a cook,” says Rebecca. “Ollie Cobb’s crafts were way above the norm; her cooking was the same.” Rebecca calls these ladies and so many other cookbook contributors the “Saints of Grayson United Methodist Church.” Originally comprised and edited by Rosa D. Bell, the cookbook was not published until after her death in 1978. The book includes a dedication page describing the love, time, and energy Mrs. Bell put into the book, and she is fondly remembered for her wonderful Christian spirit and commitment to the church. Continued on page 20

Holly Hahn has led with her heart for the past twenty years of teaching. Fourteen of those years have been at McConnell Middle School, where she is the current Teacher of the Year. Hahn believes you have to lead with your heart first, and everything else second. Hahn teaches Intro to Algebra to eighth graders, and serves as lead mentor for new teachers. Not having had the best middle school experience herself, Hahn wants to change that for her students. “I want it to be something that students can enjoy,” says Hahn. One of the ways she does this is by allowing her students to work at their own pace. She sets deadlines for them on each unit’s work, but allows them to take the time they need to learn and complete the material within that time frame. According to Hahn this helps teach students responsibility along with math. “It shows them how to be responsible for their own learning and to know when to ask for help, which are all life skills,” says Hahn. “The only way they’re being left behind is if they don’t take care of their own learning.” Hahn doesn’t fit in to what you might consider the teacher mold. “If you look at me, I look super young even though I’m 42,” she says. “I just handle things a bit differently.” Working in special education in undergrad left Hahn with the mentality that most kids are going to struggle, but it’s up to her to make it as engaging as possible for them to struggle less and to want to attempt to do the work. Hahn strives for complete engagement in the classroom to accomplish this. “You’re competing with social media’s instant gratification for attention, so I have to be more engaging than anything else to keep their attention,” says Hahn. She finds teaching to be humbling work. “You have to be 100 percent in tune with who are and what you do,” Hahn states. “The students will know if you’re not giving it your all.” She’s Continued on page 21

Session 1: June 3 – June 20 Session 2: June 24 – July 12 (no camp on July 4) Session 3: July 15 – August 2

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Chaplain’s Corner Continued from page 15 of his explanation of the Christmas story, Linus drops the blanket. Right in the moment when he is retelling the angel’s words “fear not,” the blanket hits the ground. For the first time in the history of the show, Linus doesn’t need his security blanket. For the first time in his life, he is not afraid. Personally, I don’t think that was a coincidence by the artist Charles Schultz. I believe what this cartoon is telling us is simply that: The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears and from the habits we are unable to break ourselves. The reality is that the world in 2018 can be a scary place to live. Yet, in the midst of fears, uncertainties and insecurities, I want to remind you the words from the book of Luke that were retold by a cartoon in 1965: “Fear not.” I want to invite you to seek true peace and true security in the one place that it has always been and can always still be found. And that is Jesus. Rodrigo Cruz is the Lead Pastor of a multi-ethnic and multi-site church called The Nett Church. More information at .

Sports Talk: Fall Middle School Golf League By Our Town Staff The Five Forks Middle School golf team won the Fall Season Middle School team competition. The team, comprised of Eric Ervin, Grady Freeman, Hakim Kitabwalla, Duncan and Thomas Reid, Sean Smith, Isaiah Taylor, Julie Langenderfer, and McKinlee Proctor, along with team marshal Kevin Ervin, shot a combined score of 24 under par during the four weeks of team play. Couch Middle School’s Paige Greco won the Girl’s Drive, Chip, and Putt end of season competition, and Joshua Parker from Trickum Middle School won the Boy’s competition. For the 9-hole Individual Stroke Tournament, Couch’s Paige Greco also won for Girls with a score of 42, and Five Fork’s Thomas Reid won the Boys with the low score of 40. “We experienced continued growth going from 81 players in the spring to 112 this fall,” said Middle School Golf League Director Les Witmer. “We added two new Middle School teams from Loganville and Shiloh to our returning teams from Bay Creek, Couch, Creekland, Crews, Dacula, Five Forks, McConnell, and Trickum Middle Schools. We also added Trophy Club of Apalachee in Dacula to our existing golf courses of Summit Chase Country Club and Country Club of Gwinnett in Snellville, Cedar Lake Golf Course in Loganville, and Collins Hill Golf Course in Lawrenceville.” According to Witmer Most Improved Golfer Awards for the fall season were given to Tara Dolan for Bay Creek; River Morrow, Jordan Hanna, and Presley Pope for Couch; Michael Higgins for Crews; Noah Dixon for Creekland; Evan Higdon for Dacula; Isaiah Taylor for Five Forks; Carson Barnett for Loganville; Aiden Whitman, Dorien Smith, and Olivia Robertson for McConnell; Trey Grant for Shiloh; and Chloe Gordon and Eliot Prior for Trickum. Also, Crews’ Zac Choi won the closest to the hole putting contest and received a free registration for the 2019 Spring Season. The Middle School Golf League is organized through the South Gwinnett Athletic Association and plays mainly on Sunday afternoons during both fall and spring seasons. Each team has a volunteer marshal who supervises play and keeps score. Parents support their players and may ride carts and follow play from the golf course cart paths. “We began our season again with a clinic for all, an extra clinic for new players to golf for the league in preparation for their team best ball play, and a practice round to get everyone organized,” said Witmer. “We had forty-one players at registration who indicated that they were true beginners who had never played golf on a golf course, but by the end of the season they were hitting good shots and had learned a lot about the game of golf!” After the practice round, it was four weeks of team best ball play, and then they players were introduced to stroke play where the more experienced juniors participated in a 9-hole tournament, and then everyone got to play their own ball for an individual score. “It culminated with the very popular Drive, Chip, and Putt competition just as at the national event, and then a pizza party and awards presentation,” added Witmer. The 2019 Spring Season for the Middle School Golf League will begin in March, with play through the end of May. More information at

Cookbook Memories Continued from page 19 Although Rebecca’s beloved cookbook makes a grand appearance during the holidays, it wasn’t unusual for her to gravitate towards the recipes for a Sunday dinner or a Tuesday evening. “I have developed into a cook. I was more into my career, and as the years went by, I became wiser,” says Rebecca. “So many of those cooks had an effect on me; my heart stands still when I come upon their recipes.” While preparing for the 2018 holiday season, Rebecca reflected on the family ties connected by cooking. “My sister Marilyn and I always compared our dressing before and after our meal,” says Rebecca. “I always felt Marilyn’s dressing was more like our mothers.” While the history of Grayson United Methodist Church might be wrapped up in all those recipes, the significance is certainly not lost on those who grew up devouring those dishes and learning how to make them just so. “The next generation has such affection for that cookbook,” says Rebecca. “For that, and all those memories, I am grateful.” The next generation will be represented by accomplished cooks like Marsi and Missi, preparing such favorites like Nancy Camp’s Banana Nut Bread, Gracie Jacobs’ and Laura Biggers’ Whiz Muffins, and Laura Biggers Orange Fluff. Tables all over will continue to be graced by and thankful for the delicious memories of the ladies of Grayson United Methodist Church.


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Crane’s Corner: Civility Begins at Home

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By Bill Crane “If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will be speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power...” President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). Teddy Roosevelt, or as he often preferred, T.R., is my favorite president by far. The former “Boy Governor of New York” became President of the United States in 1901, ascending from the vice-presidency following the fall 1900 assassination of President William H. McKinley. The Roosevelts – Teddy, and later F.D.R., Eleanor, and others – were not above hard-fought political contests and even occasional mud-slinging; but in the White House, as well as on the campaign trail and in public life, this split-party family believed in the civility of the discourse. Our current president did not create the great divide in our nation, nor did he alone bring things to their current state of frequent shootings or acts of domestic terrorism.  And civility – teaching it, practicing it, and living it – begins at home. As a columnist, commentator, and analyst of things political, I have lost count in recent months of how many times I’ve been approached by a reader, listener, or viewer, sharing their concerns about the great divide present in our nation. Invariably and with increasing frequency, at some point during these brief encounters my new acquaintance will offer, “And I can’t even speak to my children, husband, high school best friend...fill in the blank here...about the President or politics anymore.” I hear you and I understand where you are coming from. But if we can’t, as a nation, or even within your own circle and family, speak civilly with our relatives, friends, and neighbors about the direction and leadership of our country, what hope can we EVER have that our elected leaders will get it together? In other words, if it’s “okay” to write off a friendship of decades or to not speak to a sibling or progeny or parent over differences of politics, then why isn’t it okay for a Supreme Court confirmation hearing to devolve into the spectacle the world recently witnessed? Hate speech and arguments laced with profanity and insults as the first volley among strangers seems to have become the conversation style point of today. And yet—and there are reams of research to back me up on this – once one side starts shouting during a dispute, the other side most typically stops listening. We have real, yet comparatively minor differences of age, race, culture, education, demographics, etc. But we are all humans, comprised primarily of salt water resembling the cleaner parts of our oceans. We all value freedom, safety, peaceful communities, and quality schools, and we take pride in being Americans. As usual the devil is in the details in achieving these standards that we value, as well as in how to determine how these things might be funded and who best to pay. But those differences are not likely to go away. And we can only control our own actions, and possibly influence small circles immediately around us.  Our children and others ARE paying attention and are watching us. Leadership by example is real; it’s not just some trite cliché. I try to practice this every single day. During this holiday season, as we gather or sit for the great feast, try a fresh approach to discourse and the political beast in between courses. The midterm elections and absent run-offs will at that point be safely a few weeks in rear-view. “I’m sorry, I know in recent years I’ve let my strong beliefs or opinions be shared too loudly. I have often tried to drown out or simply not listen to other points of view. That is wrong. I apologize. I don’t want to ruin our wonderful celebration with talk of politics or faith, but when these do come up again, I promise I will do everything I can to listen, to be respectful, and, even when I disagree with you, to remember that our family/friendship is more important...and trumps winning the argument itself every time (pun intended).” Try it. What have you got to lose? And once we can all get enough of our own houses back in order, then it might be time to ask the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and on Capitol Hill to get back with the program as well. Civility begins at home. Here’s wishing you and yours the very best during the holiday season. Bill Crane is the senior political analyst with WSB Radio and TV and owns the consulting firm, CSI Crane. More information at

Holly Hahn, McConnell’s Continued from page 19 also constantly asking herself if she’s making a difference. Although she doesn’t teach for this reason, Hahn has had previous students reach out to her thanking her for making a difference in their lives. Every now and then she’ll receive a text or email stating that she’s the reason they went to school or graduated from college. This year a student who’s leaving for Guam to be in the military reached out, and Hahn had dinner with her family. “Her parents thanked me for not giving up on her, and they said I was the reason why she chose to go in to service. I always talked about serving others, so that’s what she did,” Hahn relates. “You live for those moments. You don’t teach for those moments, but they sure keep you going.”

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One on One with Stacy Kenyon: Grayson High’s TOTY By K. Coats Whether you recognize it or not, Dr. Stacy Kenyon’s presence is ingrained in the fabric of Grayson High School. She can be found within school clubs like the ping pong club, Student Council, and SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving). She can be found in the school spirit club called Rams RIOT – no doubt you’ve seen them running around at football games painted up. She can be found in the social studies honor society Rho Kappa. And for her most recent act, she can now be found in the makings of the school yearbook. Of course, this is aside from all of her regular classes. One thing is for sure, if you have ever had the pleasure of speaking with one of Dr. Kenyon’s students, you can bet they’ll be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her subject, AP Psychology. One major part of Dr. Kenyon’s philosophy relates to relevance. She states, “Life-long learners are made in the classroom, but teachers need to make sure that their students know how to apply this knowledge to the real world as well.” Dr. Kenyon’s emphasis on relevance and learning as a life-long process permeate her instruction. They also outline her own experience. Stacy Kenyon didn’t begin her journey in education, but it wasn’t a far walk from where she began as a social worker for the Division of Family and Children Services. It only took six short weeks to realize that she was destined for a career outside of this field, but she knew that she always wanted to work with kids. For her inspiration as a teacher, Stacy points to some early influences from her own years in school. She credits Mrs. McClauslin from Trickum Middle 8th grade science as a major influence in that she “taught me that all subjects can be fun and that teachers are people who care about you.” From that early reliance on teachers, Stacy grew into learning to also rely on herself through Allen Beach, the band director from Parkview High School, who “taught me I could do anything and really gave me confidence in myself.” A product of Gwinnett County Public Schools as well, Stacy graduated from Parkview High School with the class of 1988. Having taught in several other high schools in the area, Stacy eventually helped to open Grayson High School in 2000 and is one of nine on the current faculty who is an “original Ram.” And it was here at Grayson High that Stacy Kenyon provided the best example to her students of what it meant to be a life-long learner when she completed her doctorate.

Having worked with high school students her entire teaching career, Dr. Kenyon provided insight on her approach to this traditionally tricky age group. She says, “Treat them with respect and ask their opinions – they are people, too. Find out what they are interested in and see if you can incorporate it in lessons. If not, ask them about their lives! If they see you care, they will work harder for you!” And in speaking to her students, you see that mutual respect. Former student Sarah Jehle can testify to this personalized attention. “Dr. Kenyon is so enthusiastic about psychology and teaching as well as her students. She makes an effort to get to know each and every one of her students and truly cares about what is going on in their lives!” Grayson Class of 2018 Valedictorian, Shivanni Ramdass, had even more to add. “[AP Psychology] was so relevant,” she said, “and Dr. Kenyon made the material come alive with her interesting anecdotes. Her passion for psychology was evident in each class, seeing as she not only imparted wisdom to her students, but she also made sure that we had an enjoyable time learning. Her method of teaching was phenomenal in preparing us for not only the AP Exam, but also for college level material.” Former student Anna Calaicone echoes Dr. Kenyon’s philosophy, especially in regards to relevance. She explains, “Dr. Kenyon is an engaging teacher who makes a lasting impact on every student in her class! She taught me so much, not just about psychology, but how to learn information effectively for any other subject.” Dr. Kenyon’s dedication takes her outside her classroom as well. She points out, “A student needs to be given the opportunity to apply the knowledge they are learning to their life. If a teacher is only using the book and lecturing, students are not drawn into the content and therefore will not ‘experience it.’” Following her own advice, Dr. Kenyon regularly participates in the Educational Tours program and takes her students to other parts of the world to experience other cultures and explore parts of history not always accessible to students from Grayson and Loganville in a first-hand way. Dr. Kenyon shows no signs of slowing down as she constantly undertakes new challenges in her career and seeks to push herself as well as her students to see the relevance of information and the importance of being a life-long learner. Dr. Kenyon may be woven into the fabric of Grayson High School, but Grayson High is also a huge part of who she is as well. And both parties are blessed to have one another. We wish the best to Dr. Kenyon and her students as they learn on their journey through this school year and in the years to come. More information at


2057 Grayson Hwy, Grayson, Georgia 30017 • 770-962-8078 • PAGE 22

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DEC '18/ JAN '19: Our Town Gwinnett/Walton Monthly Magazine  

Welcome to the DEC '18/ JAN '19 (GREEN) Our Town Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/Walton county.

DEC '18/ JAN '19: Our Town Gwinnett/Walton Monthly Magazine  

Welcome to the DEC '18/ JAN '19 (GREEN) Our Town Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/Walton county.