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DECEMBER 2019 Gwinnett/NE DeKalb Community & Family Magazine


Lawrenceville Snellville Lilburn Stone Mountain Tucker

Up Close with American Heritage Animal Hospital, see story on page 5

10 12 13 14

Business Spotlight: Catching Up With Smoke Rise Agents Getting Schooled with Craig Elementary: Meet Alyson Reilly Meet Andy Paulson Trickum TOTY: Passion is the Classroom To Remember is to Honor: Gwinnett County Veterans Museum

The Village Corner

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

Sunday, December 15 at 2 pm & 6 pm Wednesday, December 18 at 7 pm

“Dr. Simmons is proud to offer Botox and Dermal Fillers. Call the office to schedule your 6655 James B Rivers Dr. Stone Mountain, GA 30083

(770) 498-0329

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

Teams of Two • Materials Provided Holiday Snacks! • Winner Prizes! You Keep The House!

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At the dental office of John W. Simmons, IV, we are committed to providing y comprehensive dental care, focused on improving both the function and beauty o patient care and comfort are our primary concerns. We are proud to run a practi kind, gentle, and caring manner, just like family. We offer a full range of the l procedures that concentrate on ensuring long-lasting, brilliant results you will lo

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 Before




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2381-B Main St Dr. Simmons is proud to welcome his new partner,Georg Snellville, Robert J. French, DDS and showcase his beautiful work.

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John W. Simmons, IV, DMD, PC 2381-B Main Street East

Our superior services can recapture the health, functionality, Snellville, Georgia 30078 H e a lt H y • B e a u t i f u l • i n s p i r e d 770-985-2437 • and youthful appearance of your natural www.smilesbysimm smile. Our practice focuses on providing PAGE 2 Become an Advertising Partner: Visit or Call 678-825-2049 Our Town Gwinnett long-lasting results and promoting Office Hours: Monday 9:00am - 7:00pm excellent overall dental health. Wednesday 7:00am - 6:00pm Thursd Dr. John W. Simmons, IV

together Now

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Northside Hospital and Gwinnett Medical Center have joined forces to bring better health care to the communities we serve. We don’t take this mission lightly. That’s why our new system unites our many convenient locations, our broad network of distinguished physicians and extensive array of comprehensive services. Because exceptional health care isn’t any one thing. It’s everything.

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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 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.

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Our Town Gwinnett

On the Cover: Choosing the Best Care for Your Furry Friends: Meet American Heritage Animal Hospital By Kristen Eleveld Giving your pets the right care is critical to their wellbeing. But as a loving pet owner, you want more for your furry friends than just a veterinarian alone. You want a vet who really cares about your pets and about you. American Heritage Animal Hospital (AHAH) is a place where you and your pets will be treated like family. Dr. Cat McGinnis owns and operates American Heritage Animal Hospital in Snellville, and she places her top priority on getting to know her patients, and then figuring out what will help them thrive. Dr. Cat has wanted to be a veterinarian ever since she was young. Beginning at the age of fifteen, she started working in animal clinics and hospitals to gain experience in the field. After earning her degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia, she worked in several general practice vet offices. However, she was unimpressed with the corporate feel of some of the offices, and wanted to find a way to avoid cookie cutter treatment plans and provide individualized care to each patient. “I was frustrated seeing medicines or procedures recommended to patients based on standard operating procedures or quotas,” Dr. Cat said. “I wanted to practice my own way, to really get to know my patients and their families, and to be able to tailor each treatment plan to the individual patient’s needs.” In 2013, this dream became a reality when she took over AHAH after having worked there for a year. The opportunity allowed her to practice as she had always hoped – in her own style, with a personalized level of care and treatment for every

furry friend who came through the doors. Now, American Heritage Animal Hospital is known for keeping a small-town feel alive in a city booming with people and events. “Being an independently-owned veterinary hospital allows us to become so much closer to our clients,” said Dr. Cat. “We know our clients by name, and we know what’s going on in their lives.” Dr. Cat and her team make it a priority to emphasize to each pet owner that his or her pet is unique and deserves to be treated that way. The team wants to create a relationship with all their clients in order to offer the very best care to every animal (and the humans, too). Another important quality that sets Dr. Cat and AHAH apart from the rest is their dedication to being honest and telling every pet owner the truth. They don’t overprescribe medication or procedures, and they make sure every client understands his or her pet’s illness. Dr. Cat fully explains the reasoning behind recommended diagnostics and treatments so that owners can make informed decisions as to the best care for their pet. Along with earning the reputation of being one of the best animal hospitals in Gwinnett County, the AHAH team is also a regular part of the community. Dr. Cat is involved with multiple Great Dane rescue programs, one of which is right here in Georgia – Southern Style Great Dane Rescue. This rescue gives Dr. Cat and her team the chance to offer medical services for Great Danes in need, along with providing safe transportation for the dogs throughout the area. The Explorer Program at AHAH is designed to help high school students do what Dr. Cat did – discover whether becom-

ing a veterinarian is the right path for them. These students have the chance to shadow Dr. Cat and understand exactly what her job requires. Interns also come from local veterinary technician schools to gain hands-on experience in the office. Dr. Cat and her team are passionate about giving people the chance to learn as often as they can, and this program is another way for students interested in the veterinary field to know what waits for them. At the end of the day, Dr. Cat wants to help as many patients as she can, while still offering them only the best treatment and care options. “I just want to do what is best for the pet and the person,” said Dr. Cat. “We are here to build long-term relationships and care for every pet, whatever they need.” More information at

Celebrating 20+ Years Of Making Smiles Blossom!

G i ve Y


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Gwinnett Orthodontics



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Gwinnett/NE DeKalb Community & Family Magazine

Publisher/Owner Ryan T. Sauers

In today's world, it can be difficult to help our children fully become who God has created them to be.

Creative Director Elsie Olson

Providence Christian Academy comes alongside you to provide innovative programs and attentive staff that will help equip them for life's challenges.

2018 2019


Come and discover how we can help your family move from surviving to thriving.

Attend an Open House!


Competitive offers on your home & a retail market valuation in 48 hours Get a side-by-side comparison showing what you’d net from various offer options.

Then decide what is best for you! Our team will guide you through the sale. Get your offers & free valuation now! Call Kathy Coots 770 654-8972

SomeSome restrictions apply. See website for details. If your home restrictions apply. See website for details. If your home is listed for is listed withbroker, another thisasisanot intended as a salefor withsale another this isbroker, not intended solicitation of business. solicitation of business. Each iRealEstatePro office and Keller Each iRealEstatePro office and Keller Williams Realty is independently Williams Realty is independently owned & operated. owned & operated.


Our Town

Editor Catherine L. Osornio Cover Photographer Marcie Reif Photography

— An EndResultZ Media & Communications firm 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 2019 by Our Town Gwinnett. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden in any media without written permission from the publisher.

Stay Connected!

Distribution Coordinator DeeDee Chapman

Read Online:

Feature Writers Pearl Aidoo K. Coats Kristen Eleveld Kim Hill Ron Lambros Amy Ney Traci Sanders Beth Volpert Johansen

Contributing Writers Bill Crane Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz David Walker

Join the Our Town Community Forum:

@OurTownGwinnett @OurTownGwinnett @OurTownGwinnett OurTownGwinnettCommunityForum


5 On the Cover: Meet American Heritage Animal Hospital 7 From the Publisher: One Man’s Opinion 7 Age is Merely a Number 8 Chaplain’s Corner: A Christmas Story from Buddy the Elf 8 Teacher Talk: Four Ideas to Celebrate a Teacher 9 Merry and Bright: How M.C. Twinklin’s is Bringing Us the Christmas Cheer We Crave 10 Catching Up With Smoke Rise Agents 12 Getting Schooled with Craig Elementary: Meet Alyson Reilly TOTY 13 Meet Andy Paulson Trickum TOTY: Passion is the Classroom 14 To Remember is to Honor: Gwinnett County Veterans Memorial Museum 14 From War to Family: A Story of New Beginnings 15 Seeking Serenity in Gwinnett: The Heart of What Matters 17 Crane’s Corner: More Than a Chip Off the Old Block 17 One on One: Stone Mountain Co-op Ecumenical Ministry 18 McClure Health Science High School – Picking a Pathway to Better Health 18 Gwinnett County Spotlight: Community Based Mentoring Program 19 Gwinnett Animal Welfare: Receives Best Friends Society Grant 20 Legal Matters: Do I Need to Avoid Probate? 21 An Angel Among Us: Meet Jill Butcher

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From the Publisher: One Man’s Opinion By Ryan T. Sauers



Can you believe it’s December? This year has 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 2020. And, we enter a new decade. Time never stops. I hope (despite the commitments and busyness of the holiday season) we all take a deep breath, relax, and remember that we are human beings -- not human doings. Let us focus on the best in each other and take time to enjoy this special time of the year. Lastly, let us remember we all have a great deal to be thankful for. There are wonderful things going on in this community. Are they often reported? No. So, I challenge you to help us get the news out. Share a copy of this magazine, in print, social or digital media form, or our online version. If you have not done so, please join the Our Town Gwinnett Community Forum group on Facebook that has exclusive information for members. We will be sharing more news and events than ever in 2020 and will try to cover as many of them as possible. In all these places, you will find positive news/events that should encourage us. 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, one day, and one week at a time to make this community an even 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 all stakeholders in the Our Town Gwinnett community. 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!

Age is Merely a Number By Traci Sanders Taking care of our senior population has been a priority in Gwinnett County for more than forty-five years. What started out as Meals on Wheels has blossomed into several additional programs to meet the physical, emotional, and social needs for aging citizens in Gwinnett. Gwinnett Senior Services are primarily funded through the Atlanta Regional Commission through the Older Americans Act to provide funding for home and community-based services, case management, nutrition services, Senior Centers, and much more. Programs are established in Buford, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Grayson, Snellville, and Centerville. I recently had the immense pleasure of visiting the satellite location of Snellville in the Betty McMichael Room at Briscoe Park, and gained a wealth of insight as to what it takes to make a program such as this a success. As I entered the building, I noticed a group of thirty or so seniors in a room positioned to my right. I peeked inside and saw they were being led in simple, large-muscle movements by an energetic, smiling instructor. The great thing is that the seniors were smiling as well, truly enjoying themselves. Right away I could tell that this experience was going to be different than what I had expected from a Senior Center. I was greeted by Regina Miller, Division Director of Health and Human Services, and Gail Lane, Resource and Marketing Coordinator. The ladies told me that each senior citizen is Continued on page 13

Our Town Gwinnett

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Christmas is Here! Pre-Lighted Trees Wreaths & Garlands Byer’s Choice Carolers Annalee Elves & Dolls Fontanini Nativities Mark Roberts Fairies & Elves

M.C. Twinklin’s


“Atlanta’s Unique Christmas Store” 2178 McDaniels Bridge Ct. ll Lilburn, GA 30047 770-972-7237 ll

Make the right “Choice” for your child. n Traditional (1st - 12) Private school n Small classes, safe environment n Credit Recovery n IEP’s Welcome n Non-traditional program for 6th - 12th or working adults n Adult diploma program n Hope Scholarship/ Dual Enrollment available n Hands on curriculum/Rigorous STEAM

CHOICE Educational Academy 5510 Lilburn Stone Mountain Road Stone Mountain, GA 30087 Phone 770.921.3690 n Fax 770.921.3693 PAGE 8

Chaplain’s Corner: A Christmas Story from Buddy the Elf By Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz As a family, one of our favorite things to do during the Christmas season is to watch Christmas movies such as Home Alone and Christmas Vacation. Our favorite is Elf. If you haven’t seen the movie, the story is about Buddy, a human left for adoption, who crawls into Santa’s toy bag as an orphaned infant and ends up in the North Pole. Shocked by his presence, Santa is at a loss for what to do with him. But Papa Elf speaks up and offers to raise Buddy. He is raised as an elf, educated as an elf, and even though he wasn’t an elf, he is indoctrinated with the code of the elves. The code of the elves has a lot to offer all of us here on earth. Here are three of the rules we may want to follow: 1. Treat every day like Christmas. Christmas is about acknowledging that there is hope in this broken world, and that we are not alone despite the darkness that we may encounter. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Light of this world. So, if Christmas is about hope, imagine having hope every day of the year and not only during December. And if Christmas is also about shining the light, then imagine if all of us who try to do good things during December do it every day. Imagine how much more of God’s love would be felt around the world. 2. There’s room for everyone on the nice list. In celebrating the birth of Jesus, we acknowledge and give thanks that Jesus came for all of us. There is no one Jesus will keep from accepting the love of God – there is room for everyone on the nice list, on the list of grace and forgiveness. And let me clarify that no one has the authority to exclude people from God’s list, as simple as that. 3. The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear. I am not a big fan of my own voice, so I rarely sing. Yet, there is so much to sing about during Christmas. We sing because Christ entered this broken world. We sing because God’s love is such that it was exclaimed by the angels. We sing because of the diversity of the wise men. We sing because of the inclusion of the shepherds. We sing because of the humility of God’s entrance in the manger. And we sing because God’s transforming love brings the whole creation together. That is why we sing, and we should sing loud. The Christmas message is a message worth singing about all day long, every day of the year. If we apply the Elves’ code to our lives, then maybe this world will be a little bit better. Just a thought! Rodrigo Cruz is the Lead Pastor of The Nett Church. More information at

Teacher Talk: Four Ideas to Celebrate a Teacher By Our Town Staff Whether it was a kindergarten teacher who demonstrated kindness and compassion, a sixth-grade teacher who encouraged you not to give up when things were hard, or a high school teacher who inspired your lifelong love of reading or learning, most people can remember a teacher who made a difference in his or her life. A recent survey commissioned by Staples found that three out of four Americans reported having had a favorite teacher, and over 83% said that a teacher had a meaningful impact on their life. These days it’s easier than ever for students to stay in touch with their former teachers, thanks to social media, but that hasn’t always been the case. According to the survey, less than a quarter of baby boomers have stayed in touch with any of their teachers, while 66% of younger Americans have stayed connected to some of their former teachers. The survey also found that since graduating, nearly one-third of respondents said they hadn’t thanked an important teacher, but wished they had. If there’s a teacher who made a difference in your life or the life of your child, here are some ways you can thank them. 1. Express yourself. If you’re currently in school, or your child is in school, take a moment to write an email or handwritten note to express your appreciation for what they’ve done for you or your child. Include enough detail so they really know what they mean to you and your family. Or, even better, tell them in person. 2. Enjoy a blast from your past. Look for your teacher on social media sites so you can send a message to thank him or her, no matter how many years have gone by. You can ask your school’s alumni group or reunion committee for assistance locating favorite teachers. Continued on page 15

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Merry and Bright: How M.C. Twinklin’s is Bringing Us the Christmas Cheer We Crave By Kristen Eleveld The end of the year is coming up fast, and the holiday spirit is starting to hang in the air. If you’re already dreaming of the perfect Christmas tree and decorations, a local store is ready to help you make your dreams a reality. M.C. Twinklin’s is ready and waiting for you in Lilburn – but you should only check it out if you love excellent service, customized ornaments, and a holiday wonderland that is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. Leading her team of merry elves is Cheryl Gaston, who first opened the store with her brother-in-law Mike in 1982. Since 1994, Cheryl has been running the show and creating new Christmas experiences for every holiday season. “I love Christmas, even with all the hustle and bustle,” said Cheryl of what she enjoys about her job. “It brings out the happy and the hope in people.” When you walk into M.C. Twinklin’s, you can expect nothing less than a true Christmas wonderland, complete with decorated trees, custom decoration designs, and a team full of helpful elves, ready to offer ideas to complete your home’s festive atmosphere. Cheryl’s background in design has inspired her to create hundreds of different decoration design themes that run from classic to colorful and everything in between. “It is a great challenge every year to change the environment in our store,” Cheryl said. “I love the opportunity to help others with their design challenges, as well.” Changing the environment has been a theme for M.C. Twinklin’s in 2019 as they recently completed renovations to the inside of the store. The shop now boasts sixteen fully decorated trees that also offer design ideas for your own Christmas tree. But what hasn’t changed is the team’s dedication to helping everyone find the right look to celebrate the holiday season. You can even schedule a design consultation with one of the elf designers. Many customers at M.C. Twinklin’s bring photos of their current home design that help the store elves blend their holiday décor and their everyday décor into one seamless, aesthetically pleasing environment. Trying to find out why your pre-lit tree won’t light up? Head to the store to get some professional elf help as they work with you to diagnose the problem and offer a solution. Of course, you can’t start any design without an essential first ingredient – a Christmas tree. “We are the sole supplier of NeumanTree in the Atlanta market, a product I believe is the finest Christmas tree in the industry,” said Cheryl. “It is a pleasure to sell such a fine product from such a responsible vendor.” How do Cheryl and her team create so many amazing Christmas options for their customers? It’s all about the off season. Cheryl spends much of the year planning, designing, and buying for the coming season. She even visits architectural treasures all over the world to discover design inspiration and new color combinations. It is Cheryl’s goal to offer people a lot of high-quality options that don’t just repeat year after year. And once the season begins, the store is busy! The elves are already knee-deep in ribbon, ornaments, and all types of decorations as they begin filling custom orders and creating new design ideas for their shop. But it’s all worth it, as long as they can keep helping people find what they need. Cheryl said it best: “I enjoy anyone who loves Christmas, and our customers love Christmas!” So if you’re looking for some holiday inspiration, a new ornament for your tree, or some amazing decorations to get you into the Christmas mood, head to M.C. Twinklin’s in Lilburn to get the full Christmas experience. You may not know what you want when you arrive, but Cheryl and her team will have you set for the season by the time you leave. More information at

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Catching Up With Smoke Rise Agents By Kristen Eleveld In 2018, we learned about an incredible local realty team – Smoke Rise Agents, led by Team Principal Pat Soltys. It’s time to catch up with the team to see how far 2019 has brought them. Smoke Rise Agents already boasted an impressive reputation of being one of the best real estate teams in the business. Since 2018, they have been growing in leaps and bounds while maintaining their status as the Realtor® team to beat in Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties. Several new team members have been added to the group, but, in true Smoke Rise Agents-style, they haven’t hired just anyone to help clients find their dream home. Soltys looks for the best of the best before accepting new agents. It’s important to make sure the fit is right in every sense of the word, and that their clients’ needs are always met. Once hired, every new agent is given the information and training needed to be the very best at the job. “We take a lot of pride in mentoring new agents as they learn,” Soltys said. “It’s important to us that every new team member has the opportunity to partner with a more experienced agent.” It is their attention to these details that sets Smoke Rise Agents apart from the rest of the industry. Each team member makes sure that even seemingly small particulars are taken care of for every client. They also make excellent use of the latest technology and information to ensure that they are staying on top of housing trends and methodologies, offering everyone they work with the chance to utilize the resources available to the Smoke Rise Team. Operating alongside their team of agents are five behind-the-scenes staffers who work to ensure that every client experience is smooth and successful. You may never see the staff out in front, but Smoke Rise Agents Team is proud to have the best support and marketing team, which is vital to the home buying and selling process. Smoke Rise Agents also make a point to maintain relationships with other local business owners who may be able to assist clients. For instance, if a homeowner is looking for a trusted source to complete some repairs in their home, Smoke Rise has a list of key contacts who will do the job right.

“Great agents don’t sell houses – we are selling service, which sells the houses,” said Soltys. “If you don’t give the best of service, what do you have to sell?” It is this service-oriented mindset that inspires clients to return time and time again for all of their homeownership needs. And the service at Smoke Rise isn’t just confined to their clients – they also make a point to give back to their community as much as they can. But if you’re looking for a list of charities or causes that Smoke Rise Agents assists with or donates to, you won’t have a lot of luck, because the team at Smoke Rise only wants to take the opportunity to give, and they aren’t interested in using it for bragging rights. “There are some things you don’t need credit for,” said Pat when asked about her team’s charitable service. The growth at Smoke Rise Agents hasn’t just been confined to their staff, either. Over the last year, Smoke Rise has partnered with Palmer House Properties to learn which parts of their community are most in need of quality realty guidance. At the end of the day, Smoke Rise Agents care about one thing: Empowering people to plan their real estate decisions. Whether that means assisting first-time homebuyers who don’t know where to begin, or connecting a relocating senior citizen with the right resources for making sure his or her belongings are stored safely, the team at Smoke Rise Agents wants to give everyone they help a positive experience. “Connect your community – connect their needs and wants,” Pat said of her team’s goals for the Gwinnett area. “We want to help people find their path to home ownership.” Smoke Rise Agents saw incredible growth in 2019 – and they think 2020 will be their best year yet. More information at

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SRS will be found under the Hobbies and Personal Enrichment section. Questions about registration? Call the Continuing Education Dept. at 678.226.6739.

Unable to attend class? Call 770.931.1414 today to schedule a no cost consultation - even if you just need a second opinion. For more information visit Investment Advisor Representative offering securities & advisory services through Cetera Advisors LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor, Broker/Dealer, member FINRA, SIPC. Green Financial, Gwinnett Tech & Cetera Advisors are not affiliated. Awards are not to be considered a guarantee of future results, nor as an endorsement by any client. Best of Gwinnett winners are chosen via voting and editors’ input, & opinions are vetted with the use of other available information. Pinnacle award rankings are based on growth, revenue, community service, & other criteria. Barron’s: based on total assets (AUM), revenue, & other factors. Office located at 3700 Crestwood Pkwy, Ste 140, Duluth, GA 30096.


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Our Town Gwinnett



! N E


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TASTE & TOURS Get a taste of what’s to come at The Sheridan, Snellville’s newest senior living community. Savoring our chef’s greatest holiday creations followed by a sneak peek of the community.



Our Town Gwinnett

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Getting Schooled with Craig Elementary: Meet Alyson Reilly TOTY By Traci Sanders

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Craig Elementary celebrated one of their own recently as Teacher of the Year (TOTY). Seventeen year teaching veteran, Alyson Reilly, received the TOTY honor for her work with K-5 ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages). This is Reilly’s first TOTY recognition, and she couldn’t be more excited. When asked what her favorite part about teaching is, Reilly said, “I love seeing my students grow and progress over the years. I often have students for several years in a row, so I really get to see an amazing amount of progress. Some of my students are newcomers to the USA as well. It is an incredible experience to be a part of their first year in the country and see how they persevere through the year. It truly creates a bond between us that is irreplaceable.” As a mom of a fourteen-year-old daughter who is a freshman at Brookwood High School, Reilly has a true heart for children. She’d like parents and students to understand that teachers truly love their students beyond the walls of the classroom. They constantly think about them and worry about them. The job doesn’t end when a teacher walks out of the school building at the end of the day. “We always want them to continue to grow and accomplish all they set out to do,” she said. “It is true that once students are in your classroom, they become ‘your kids’ for life. We share in their happiness and heartaches even though the students don’t always realize it.” Family is a top priority for Reilly, and she is blessed to have such a supportive family unit. “My daughter is the one who encouraged me to proceed with my nomination at the local school level,” she said. “She continued to encourage me by saying that I work hard, and my students deserve to have their teacher be a TOTY. It was very heartwarming to know that she values what I do. Both she and my husband were very excited to hear the news and continually support me in my teaching.” However, all this fame and recognition doesn’t go to Reilly’s head. She remains true to the real reward of teaching – impacting lives. “It is very humbling to be honored for something that you really love doing each day,” she added. “My students and their families really become a part of my life continuing past the years that they are at Craig Elementary. I am truly blessed to be at a school that not only supports what I do each day, but also sees the value and importance of it. It is such an honor to represent Craig as their TOTY this year.” Reilly was diagnosed with breast cancer in spring of this year, so showing up for her students has been more difficult some days. This award has been a bright spot in a challenging year. She plans to continue teaching ESOL at Craig Elementary as long as possible. “It truly is an amazing school under the leadership of Mrs. Angie Wright,” she stated. “We are definitely a family at Craig. I work with the most passionate teachers who make coming to school so exciting. I know that I have a passion for family outreach programs for EL families and also early literacy skills for ELs. I hope to be able to incorporate both in the near future to better serve the EL families of the Brookwood Cluster.” More information at

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Age is Merely a Number Continued from page 7

Meet Andy Paulson Trickum TOTY: Passion is the Classroom By Amy Ney It is a rare thing to find your passion. However, nineteen years ago, Andy Paulson was hired to teach sixth grade math at Trickum Middle School and has been there ever since. Paulson grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. After earning a soccer scholarship to Wofford College in South Carolina, he came to Atlanta to coach and work at Sports Authority. “At the time, Wofford didn’t have a teaching degree,” Paulson said. “I realized soon after graduation that I had a real love of teaching. I had always been a teacher in some capacity: from coaching at summer church camps to training of employees at Sports Authority. It’s what I loved, so I went back to school and got my teaching degree from Mercer.” Trickum Middle School is the only middle school in the Parkview cluster, and has over 2,200 students enrolled this year. According to Principal Ryan Queen, it’s likely the largest enrollment in the school’s history. Trickum has a staff of 125 teachers. Each year, the county recognizes teaching excellence, and it was no surprise to Queen that Paulson was recognized. “Mr. Paulson is a fabulous teacher and a wonderful person,” Queen said. “He is a role model for our students and his colleagues. He is continually working to improve his craft and help all his students learn at high levels. He is truly a shining star in the Trickum community.” Paulson’s inspiration comes from students. “I think their enthusiasm and ability to get into the work inspires me,” he said. “They work hard and I enjoy interacting with them.” He enjoys the challenge of finding ways to make math interesting to students by making it fun and relevant. A project they are working on currently involves comparing the data plans of three cell phones. “They need to be able to find the most cost-effective plan. But not just for themselves,” Paulson said with a laugh. “They need to understand it for different users; understanding a MB versus a GB. If you worked at Continued on page 21

assessed before being accepted into the program, as a requirement of the ARC funding. They are questioned about aspects of their lives such as food availability, general health and mobility, and other quality-of-life factors. More than 400 seniors are served through this congregate programming (meaning, inside the physical locations). Another 450 receive home-delivered meals as well as respite home-making services, transportation and care management for those who have a need, and even food for companion pets. Over 39,000 meals are served each year through the senior centers. Seniors are offered a 5-day program in Buford, Lawrenceville, Norcross, and Centerville locations. They arrive either by their own means, via a caregiver, or may partake in the transport service offered by the program. Attendees are provided a continental breakfast upon arriving at 9 a.m. and can then enjoy social activities, exercise, nutrition education, and field trips that are scheduled immediately afterwards as part of the evidence-based programming. Various classes geared toward health and education include drumming, dancing (line or belly dancing), tai chi, yoga, Zumba, crafting, cooking, etc. Social activities offered include competitive rounds of Rummikub or billiards, music, sharing word finds, or simply catching up with friends. Participants enjoy hot lunches served at noon, which not only meet the state’s nutritional standards, but also personal preferences and dietary needs. Gail and Regina have discovered, through interviews with members of the program that autonomy and social interaction are the two most important needs senior citizens have. Both are crucial to their overall well-being, along with a sense of community and belonging to something bigger than themselves. In fact, seniors are even transported to the grocery store once per week to do their shopping, at their own cost. The satellite programs host 3-day programs. Grayson meets on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at the Grayson Senior Center building. The Snellville program meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the Betty McMichael Room at Briscoe Park. These satellites represent a collaborative effort between the municipalities and the county to serve seniors in these communities and those who were on a waiting list for the Centerville program. Gwinnett senior citizens have not been forgotten, thanks to amazing professionals like Gail and Regina and the many other staff members who do their part to make sure these programs run smoothly and effectively. Their ultimate goal is to keep Gwinnett senior citizens aging in place and thriving rather than simply surviving. More information via Regina Miller at 770-822-8832.

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From War to Family: A Story of New Beginnings By Kristen Eleveld

To Remember is to Honor: Gwinnett County Veterans Memorial Museum By Ron Lambros When I went to visit the Gwinnett County Veterans Memorial Museum, located on the first floor of the Old Historic Gwinnett Courthouse in downtown Lawrenceville, I was greeted by the broad smiles and firm handshakes of the soldiers who proudly shared their names and the branch of the military they served in. Many were combat veterans, a few in more than one war, and all were volunteers. “The idea to display the personal items of those who served in all wars the United States had fought was initially developed in 1988 by members of American Legion Post 232 of Snellville, GA,” said Jim Ruiz, one of more than twenty volunteer staff associates at the museum. “Their vision was Continued on page 16


A few years ago, Michelle Reed was inspired to find out a little more about her family history. Her ex-husband, who was adopted, wanted to see if he could find his birth parents, and turned to a DNA test and genealogy website to learn more about his past. Michelle, who has over twenty years of experience as a genealogist, decided to join him, thinking she might find out some interesting new facts about her own history. What she didn’t expect was to find another member of her family. In 2017, she and her younger brother, Kevin Brunell, who had also taken the DNA test, received a message that their DNA profile had matched with someone else on the registry, meaning this person was closely related to them. The message was from someone they had never met, and this person asked if Michelle and Kevin had any close relatives who served in the Vietnam War. Both their father and uncle had served, but it was through Kevin’s connection that he and Michelle discovered they had a half-brother, Peter Pham. While their father had passed away a year earlier, Michelle, Kevin, and Peter decided to meet. Michelle and Kevin flew down to Georgia to spend time with Peter, where they learned more about their newfound family. When Michelle went back to Michigan, she realized that she wasn’t satisfied to have only met Peter – she wanted the chance to know him. And she felt compelled to give that same opportunity to others facing a similar situation. “This type of thing is a lot more common than people realize,” said Michelle. “A lot of children born during and after the Vietnam War are missing parts of their family, and we want to Continued on page 16

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Teacher Talk Continued from page 8

Seeking Serenity in Gwinnett: The Heart of What Matters

3. Contribute. Add to a teacher’s success by investing in extra school supplies. Many teachers use their own money to enhance the classroom, or to help students who cannot afford supplies. Nearly a third of survey respondents reported that a teacher had bought them school supplies when they couldn’t afford them or helped them out with lunch money. Not sure what to get? Buy a few extra items from your child’s supply list or pick up a gift card so the teacher can select what would be most useful for the classroom. 4. Make your appreciation public. Share your appreciation for a teacher with the world by posting a message, photo, or video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Successful vlogger and co-founder of parenting website WhatsUpMoms, Elle Walker, publicly thanked a teacher who made a big impact on her life. Walker surprised her high school media teacher with a special thank you for helping her get where she is today. A formerly shy and awkward high schooler, Walker was able to break out of her shell with her teacher’s encouragement, starting with doing the morning announcements at her school. Now she reaches millions of parents through her social channels. Make and take the time to thank the important teachers in your life and the lives of your children this year, as we proceed in this new school year. (BPT)

By Beth Volpert Johansen Perspectives on loss and grief range from the most minor life change to the complexities that surround the most painful losses known to humans. Anything that ad represents loss –content. becoming an empty ATTENTION - Double check for ATTENTION - Double check ad–ALL for ALL nester, dealing with illness, or ATTENTION losing a loved to divorce death can cause content. conflict within - one Double checkorad for ALL content. Phone, web, address, coupons, etc. web, address, coupons, etc. a person. The perspective or view of Phone, thePhone, loss is what can change over time. But what if it doesn’t web, address, coupons, etc. Assume nothing - Reply back back that ad isad approved once change? What should a person do? nothing Assume Reply that is approved nothing -for Reply back thatby adanyone is approved once theonce Outreach comes in many forms. Of course, outreach efforts to be effective, offer ALLAssume ITEMS HAVE BEEN CHECKED FOR ACCURACY. ALLITEMS ITEMS HAVE BEEN CHECKEDACCURACY. FOR ACCURACY. BEEN CHECKED must be accepted. As with anyALL population HAVE at any given time, there areFOR those in need of outreach and those who are ready and more than fully capable of providing that outreach. Coaching a life and getting to the heart of what matters are exactly the kinds of endeavors in which Beverly D’Amico specializes. In fact, her outreach is aptly named The Heart of What Matters. As a nurse with an Air Force background, Beverly has been bringing health and healing to others for more than thirty years. “My love is to help women,” says Beverly. “We get bogged down in what we are supposed to be and forget about what we can become.” Combining her love of nursing and Continued on page 22

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From War to Family Continued from page 14

To Remember is to Honor Continued from page 14

help reconnect families.” Now that she realized how prominent this issue was for so many people across the world, Michelle decided to create, a website dedicated to helping Amerasians find members of their family. She worked to create a specific focus for War Babies – making connections for children of Vietnam War veterans. Once the website launched, Michelle was immediately flooded with requests and questions from Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino people who were seeking their American fathers. Many people were asking the same types of questions, and Michelle quickly created articles on her website to guide people through the process. “It can be painful to talk about, but people want to know the truth,” said Michelle, who is determined to connect as many families as possible. “This is a chance to know your entire family.” While Michelle’s reunion with Peter was a joyous one, she recognizes that not every encounter will be the same. That’s why she is adding a new element to her website, where both parents and children can seek support and community for those who are going through similar situations. Michelle’s brother, Peter, was as surprised as Michelle to learn he had siblings – and just as thrilled to meet them. “When I was a kid, I would ask my mom about my dad, but she didn’t have an answer for me,” Peter said. “As I got older, I decided to look for a picture of him – I just wanted to see if we looked alike.” Peter asked a friend to help him set up his DNA profile online, and the rest is history. Moving forward, Michelle and Peter have a dream of creating reunions like these for all children of war veterans who are looking for their families, especially their fathers who may have never known about these children. That’s where the community can help. War Babies needs support to make their dream a reality. You can go to their website to donate a DNA kit, donate to their general fund, or even become a volunteer to help them spread the word on their mission. “When I came to the United States, I felt very alone. I had trouble connecting with people,” Peter said. “But the last two years have been totally different. I know my father’s family now.” If you want to learn more about ways you can make a difference for people like Michelle and Peter, head to to find out how they need your help. You can also check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More information at

to display more than just an assortment of impersonal war materials. They wanted to establish a place to honor the veterans from Gwinnett County that includes all branches of the Armed Forces. That is why our motto is ‘To Remember is to Honor.’” Jim continued, “The museum offers an extensive collection of personal military memorabilia, uniforms, regalia, photographs, models, and artifacts from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and through current conflicts in the Middle East. Many of these exhibits enable visitors to see a more personal side of war, one that must be experienced first-hand to be truly appreciated. All museum exhibits are from veterans, or friends and families of veterans, and are either on loan on a long-term basis or donated outright to the museum for posterity.” On display in the various rooms are the actual uniforms of the men and women of Gwinnett County who faithfully served in our military, their medals, personal effects, photographs, and weapons. There was a corner display for a Medal of Honor recipient, an American flag that flew over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and far too many reminders of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. According to Ruiz, since the American Civil War to the present-day Gulf War, over 700 souls from Gwinnett County died while serving their country. One display in particular was nothing less than fascinating. In the World War I room there is the actual uniform of a World War I German Cavalry Officer, with an accompanying large photograph of the young man. This officer was captured by the French Army, and later released after the Armistice in 1918. This same officer later served in the German Army during World War II, and, once again, was captured, but this time by American Forces in Germany. Many years later, the grandson of this very same German officer graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and is now a serving officer in the U.S. Army. “Only in America can this happen,” Jim proudly declared. “The grandson’s West Point cadet uniform is on display in our Gulf War room.” The cost of war is never cheap, and neither is properly running a museum to honor its veterans. “Admission to the museum is free,” Jim said. “The museum receives no taxpayer money whatsoever. It relies on the donations from museum visitors, the local business community, and private foundations, like the Whitcomb Family Foundation. We also conduct funding drives at local malls, community events, and large businesses, like Home Depot and Wal-Mart.” Everyone, both young and old alike, needs to visit this special place and experience Gwinnett County’s contribution to our peace and freedom as a nation. “To Remember is to Honor,” and deservedly so! More information at

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Crane’s Corner: More Than a Chip Off the Old Block

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By Bill Crane It is true in large and small towns, but particularly true in the south: strong, positive servant leadership, more than any other trait, can make or break most any community. Metro Atlanta and many other regions in our state have been blessed with visionary leaders, and often multiple generations of the same leading families carrying a disproportionate share of that load.  As our state has grown and matured, that leadership team, thankfully, has also become more diverse, including women, minorities, and a variety of cultural backgrounds in those groups which attempt to build consensus and move communities forward. Separating the servant leaders and community builders from the self-aggrandizers is also simple. The Davidson family in DeKalb County was long known for granite. Literally, they owned the parcel and acreage around Arabia Mountain, Stone Mountain’s smaller, twin sibling, as well as granite quarries that dotted the east side of metro Atlanta, atop a massive granite vein which includes Stone Mountain (long owned by the Venable family). In 1983, Charles “Chip” Davidson III, returned to his hometown of Atlanta from Houston, Texas to open the southeast real estate development offices of Hines. Hines has long been a name dotting north metro construction sites and developments; but it was Davidson’s ground-breaking work on The Ravinia complex – later known as Perimeter Center – that changed that area of modern day Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven from literally apple orchards and cow pastures, into what is now one of the nation’s most robust edge cities, containing the metro area’s second largest cluster of Fortune 500 corporate and North American headquarters. Davidson brought what some may now consider the “evils” of density to the suburbs of north metro Atlanta – parking decks, mid and high rises, destination hotels, and dining – to a market long accustomed to heading to downtown, later Midtown or Buckhead, for such options and fare. Hines is still a market leader, and The Ravinia is being again refreshed even as this column is being written. But you can tie back the Dunwoody MARTA station, the relocation of Pill Hill hospitals from downtown, and the massive expansion of the Perimeter Center sub-office market to decisions and bets made by leaders like Liane Levetan, Bob Voyles, Chip Davidson, and others during metro Atlanta’s turbulent 1980s and explosive 1990s. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) recently honored Davidson for a career and lifetime of vision and instrumental developments, first at Hines and later as the CEO and co-founder of his own firm, the Brockdale Group. “At first I thought (winning this award) was a set-up. Then, when it sunk in and I looked at the previous list of winners, I was blown away,” Davidson said to The Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior winners of this lifetime achievement recognition by the ULI include Tom Cousins, John Portman, Egbert Perry, and Lawrence and Mary Gellerstedt. Those are some tough acts to follow, also proving that Chip and his career are much more than merely a blip or a chip off of the old Davidson granite block. Like most leading families, Davidson’s work does not end with his own enterprises. He sits on the board of trustees of the Shepherd Spinal Center as well as the Georgia Conservancy. A man of strong faith, Davidson is also an honorary board member of Trinity House Community Ministries. Most people generally know who the ground-movers are in their community, and those who all too frequently further divide their limited time, schedule, and resources to make their town a better place to live, invest and raise a family. When the opportunity arises, just say thank you or offer those folks a nice pat on the back. Remember, it was often their capital, and perhaps family resources, that was at risk, with no guarantees of return and a requisite share of near misses. Mr. Davidson, to you and your family, and the many leading families like yours across Georgia, many thanks! Crane is the senior political analyst with WSB Radio and TV and owns the full-service communications consulting firm, CSI Crane. More information at

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One on One: Stone Mountain Co-op Ecumenical Ministry By Traci Sanders Some people may not know that there is an organization looking out for the residents of our Stone Mountain and surrounding communities. It’s called the Stone Mountain Co-op Ecumenical Ministry. An Ecumenical approach means that a network of Christian churches is involved in the services provided. The program was founded in 1999 by the Stone Mountain Ministerial Association. This group of people would meet once per month to plan for the Sunrise Service on top of Stone Mountain. Every church was represented at this event. A pastor from Saint Michael and All Angels, Father Jarrett, commented that this many pastors meeting once per month should do more for the community together. He proposed uniting to form a Cooperative Helps Ministry, which is now known as the Stone Mountain Co-op Ecumenical Ministry. Continued on page 20

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McClure Health Science High School – Picking a Pathway to Better Health By K. Coats McClure Health Science High School isn’t your typical high school experience. Of course, there are the usual factors that are universal to all high schools: tests, spirit week, and clubs. But students at McClure Health Science also have the freshman courses of Medical Ethics and the Law and Current Issues in Healthcare. And if you get into a health emergency, then McClure Health Science is a good place to be because all students are required to be CPR and First Aid certified. That makes sense because McClure Health Science High School specializes as a Health and Science Pathway school. Pathways are becoming increasingly popular across the county with the goal of giving students hands-on experience in a specific field along with foundational training and even certification – all prior to graduating high school. Students at McClure Health Science have an enviable array of resources. Principal Nicole Mosley explains, “Students can choose from one of three pathways: clinical, medical support, and health IT. Certifications are embedded within all pathways.” The pathways themselves are filled with meaningful experiences, tools, guest lecturers from the medical field, and business partners, including partnering with HealthMPowers, using artificial intelligence, and a patient communication simulator. Mosley is a long-term faculty member of Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS). She began her career at GCPS in 1996 as a teacher at Summerour Middle School and then on to Peachtree Ridge High School. In 2007 Mosley began her transition to administration at Berkmar Middle School and then back to Peachtree High School. She would eventually become principal of Berkmar Middle School in 2014, and she is the first principal of McClure Health Science High School as it opened this school year. Mosely’s vision for McClure Health Science focuses on innovation and curiosity. She emphasizes a goal to “Awaken the Wonder” in her students. “This simple phrase, Awaken the Wonder, is Dr. McClure’s vision to prepare the new generation to be both competent and compassionate healthcare professionals” Mosley said. “Awaken The Wonder at McClure Health Science means that we as educators instill in our students the drive to wonder and to be curious, the drive to create a promising future, and the drive to make their impact on the world around us.” This goes perfectly with the Pathway curriculum hands-on approach as students are encouraged to explore their interests in the health and science field. “WE WILL advance the meaning and purpose in each student’s life by providing relevant opportunities for college and career pathways that unfold into a promising future,” Mosley added. “Our planning for the student experience is driven by a desire to create authentic and challenging classroom environments. This student experience features direct learning from health care industry professionals through the seminar series, as well as meaningful and engaging classroom activities designed to help our students grow as critical thinkers and problem-solvers.” As the Pathways curriculum design gains popularity across the county, it’s nice to know that GCPS students are already taking full advantage of the opportunities McClure Health Science offers. With Dr. Robert McClure on the school board and Principal Mosley at the helm, the community can expect great things from McClure Health Science High School. On behalf of the community, thank you for making these wonderful resources available to GCPS students, and we look forward to seeing what all they accomplish. More information at

Gwinnett County Spotlight: Community Based Mentoring Program By Traci Sanders


Gwinnett County is quickly becoming a hub for enriching experiences for adults and student citizens. One such example is the Gwinnett County Public Schools Community-Based Mentoring Program that was founded about ten years ago. It began with African-American boys, with a goal to connect caring adults in the community with students to provide guidance, encouragement, and support in becoming successful young adults. Recently, a new division of this program was added to support the Hispanic/Latino community after observing the low high school graduation statistics for this demographic. It’s called the Hispanic Mentoring Priority (HMP). As a first-generation immigrant who was blessed by the outpouring of love and support from Continued on page 22

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Gwinnett Animal Welfare: Receives Best Friends Society Grant

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By Our Town Staff Best Friends Animal Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting pet adoptions and no-kill animal rescue and spay and neuter practices, has awarded Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Division a $50,000 grant to help keep animals out of the shelter and in loving homes. The grant aims to manage and ultimately decrease the number of shelter intakes by at least 20 percent in 2019 – 2020. Many people surrender their pets for financial reasons – an inability to pay for food, veterinary care, or even leashes. The extra funds will be used to operate a new mobile unit that will provide remote services such as vaccinations, spay/neutering, microchips, and educational assistance that will encourage people to keep their pets. “We’ll find out what services or resources they need to ensure their dog or cat stays with them,” said Alan Davis, Animal Welfare and Enforcement Division director. “We anticipate that providing these services to those who might not otherwise have access to basic veterinary resources will create a healthier environment for pets and families while reducing the number of calls and intakes from these neighborhoods.” Davis said the money will provide a big boost to the Animal Welfare outreach program. “We’re very excited and grateful to receive this grant,” Davis said. “This is the biggest grant Gwinnett Animal Welfare has ever received.” The funding will allow Animal Welfare staff and volunteers to canvass targeted neighborhoods in Snellville, Lawrenceville, and Norcross, and assist families thinking of surrendering their pet to the county. Carrie Ducote, senior manager for the Southeast Region of Best Friends Animal Society, said Gwinnett was chosen because it has a high adoption rate and this new community outreach program will benefit even more animals and families in Gwinnett and possibly beyond. Continued on page 21

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Brand & Britt Insurance Agency 20 Grayson New Hope Road, Suite A Grayson, GA 30017 770-963-6427 The coverages described here are in the most general terms, and are subject to the actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions, and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Central agent. The Central Insurance Companies are comprised of Central Mutual Insurance Company and All America Insurance Company.

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Stone Mountain Co-op Continued from page 17

Legal Matters: Do I Need to Avoid Probate?

Angela Callahan is Executive Director, and the program houses representatives from thirteen churches in the Stone Mountain Community. The Board of Directors governs the Ministry, following the bylaws from the original pastors. They are elected from church representatives. The staff provides spiritual counsel and guidance as well as food, clothing, and personal items to its clients. Emergency financial assistance for housing and utilities is also an aspect of the program. The program directors also assess the needs and refer clients to additional community resources when needed. In addition to offering temporary services to those in dire need, the program’s main mission is to help clients become more self-sufficient to live a more self-sustained lifestyle. In fact, coordinated screening, filing, and tracking tools are in place to avoid duplication of services or one taking advantage of resources. Since this program is operated solely through volunteer efforts, donations are smartly utilized and greatly appreciated. Donations can be made in person at the Stone Mountain Co-op office or online through the website. A list of current needs is also posted for those who wish to materially participate in donating. Volunteers are always needed and welcomed. Every first Saturday of December for the past eighteen years, the Co-op has offered Breakfast with Santa, which includes a country breakfast and silent auction. There is also a Secret Santa Shop where kids can shop for their family members for Christmas, and no item is over a dollar. This event takes place this year on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Eastminster Presbyterian Church located at 5801 Hugh Howell Road. Donations for the Santa Shop can be dropped off at the Co-op office at 5324 W. Mountain Street in Stone Mountain on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. More information at

By David Walker Everyone who knows us knows that we strongly recommend a will, medical advance directive, and durable power of attorney. These are vital to help your loved ones handle your affairs upon your disability or demise. The best referrals we get are from people who have these documents and have found out how they smooth the road. A common objection to having a will is: “I want to avoid probate – I hear it’s horribly expensive and takes years.” In Georgia, probate is not like that. The process in Georgia is one of the quickest. There is a “no administration necessary” petition available for estates with no outstanding debts, all heirs agree on the distribution plan, and there is no will. If needed, the will probate process can be done here in a few months; other states can take years. It is important to have a well drafted will, which can make the job of an executor much easier. There are assets that don’t have to go through probate. These include IRAs, 401(k)s, and similar retirement plans, annuities, and life insurance. Pay-on-death accounts can be set up at banks so that the beneficiary automatically owns the account upon death of the depositor, but cannot access it before. Revocable trusts are often sold as the way to avoid probate. In some situations they are, but in others they can be more complicated than a will and probate. There are some circumstances that are better for a revocable trust, such as 2nd marriages with children from previous marriage, disinheriting a child, or owning out-of-state property. Sometimes persons of advanced age whose situations are fairly stable, who don’t plan to buy new homes or other assets can benefit from a revocable trust (or “living trust”). With revocable trusts much of the work that would be done in probate is done in advance, so that the only thing left to do after death is transfer of the trust assets to the beneficiaries. More information at

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More than 50 years of compassionate care. More than 50 years of

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An Angel Among Us: Meet Jill Butcher By Traci Sanders When one hears the name Jill Butcher in Gwinnett or nearby counties, phrases such as, “Jill is amazing!” and “Oh, my goodness, she’s such a wonderful person,” will likely follow. Jill founded Summit Academy in 2007 as a means of offering enrichment courses such as drama, art, and music, as well as core classes to the home school community. The program is comprised of a group of home-educating parents and qualified instructors and offers a variety of classes for grades K-12 at affordable rates. Jill oversees all seven locations of Summit Academy in Gwinnett and several surrounding counties. In addition to overseeing the Summit programs, Jill is a mom of three and a pastor’s wife for Church at the Grove where she focuses on leadership training and caring for the local community in whatever capacity she can. She often delivers meals to local residents and has been known to help them locate funds to assist in their financial hardships and debts. Jill carries this same benevolent spirit over into Summit Academy by ensuring parents are fully informed about the programs, offering financial assistance with course costs when needed, and even turning folks away to help them find programs that are better suited for their needs. Sonya Weese, Jill’s administrative assistant stated, “She truly puts people first. She sees the good and bad in people, and still has a true heart for humankind.” Jill and her husband, Pastor Russ Butcher, along with their two youngest children and some church members went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic in July to share some leadership training and implement a Vacation Bible School program there. Jill was a huge resource during this trip because she speaks fluent Spanish and was able to create connections with the Dominican people. An educator, a caregiver, a leader, a philanthropist, a contributor to the community in multiple ways, Jill Butcher is definitely a woman to be acknowledged and celebrated. If you have a child who is homeschooled or participates in online school and you’re looking for educational or vocational support, Jill Butcher is one woman you want to contact! More information at or

Gwinnett Animal Welfare Continued from page 19

“We wanted to help start this program from the ground up,” Ducote said. “Once this is up and running, Gwinnett can then teach other shelters how to save more animals.” Gwinnett Animal Welfare anticipates receiving about 7,100 animals in 2019. It typically adopts out about 96 percent of the animals it receives, one of the highest rates in the Southeast. More information at or

Meet Andy Paulson Continued from page 13 Verizon, you would need to be able to sell it to someone who uses a lot of data versus someone who uses very little. Think of a teenager versus maybe a senior.” Paulson explained the learning didn’t stop there. “Some students even took it further and explored it between carriers and developed their own data plans. It was a lot of fun and very useful.” His free time is almost all about kids, but he does enjoy watching soccer. “I am really excited to have our own Major League Soccer team,” he said. “We went to the first Atlanta United game and have been to several others. I am a huge fan.” Paulson also always cheers on the Georgia Bulldogs. “Unless they are playing the Gators,” he joked. Paulson and his two daughters are also huge Parkview supporters. His daughter Hannah, now a senior at Armstrong State/Georgia Southern University, graduated from Parkview, and his daughter Kayla is a junior at Parkview. He spends most of his free time in the community. “I love to support Parkview Band where Kayla plays the trumpet,” he said. “I always enjoy watching my students play sports and perform in the community, in plays, or musical instruments. Teaching isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle.”

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Community Based Mentoring Program Continued from page 18

The Heart of What Matters Continued from page 15

her community, Nury Castillo Crawford, director of the HMP program, was recently named one of the fifty most influential Latinos in Georgia, out of more than 450 applicants. She shared why she is so passionate about this cause. “This honor is a reflection of the hard work and effort I put in to lead our Hispanic Mentoring Priority,” she said. “I promote, engage, and share our program’s vision, mission, and goals every time someone invites me into their space. I am proud to spread the word about the district’s commitment to and support of Latino students and families.” According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia is the third lowest in the nation for Hispanic /Latino high school graduates. Between 2004 and 2013, Hispanic enrollment in Georgia’s public schools nearly doubled, rising from seven to thirteen percent, which was more than any other racial group according to a state study. Additional goals for this program are to recruit and train volunteer mentors who will provide support and enriching experiences for the students, as well as valuable resources for the parents. Some of the activities and resources include: educational field trips, Saturday life sessions, career fairs, summer camps, and individual and small group mentoring. Students from surrounding clusters are invited to participate, and the membership is free as part of the Gwinnett County Public School system. The board members of the program are always seeking new resources and opportunities to include in the support they provide for the students and parents. Flyers and other correspondences are being distributed throughout local churches and networking events, as well as being shared on social media, to locate more adult mentors for the program. Training and background checks are provided at no cost to volunteer mentors. If you have the time to spare, and a heart for today’s youth, consider becoming a volunteer mentor in this much-needed program. You could end up helping to shape our next president. More information at

her passion for strong psychological strength and health, Beverly has brought her years of experience to her own outreach to the community in and around Gwinnett, and well beyond. “I have clients all over,” says Beverly. “With technology, it is so much easier for people all over the world to seek and receive therapy.” Beverly’s mission statement from her website reads: “Our mission is to bring balance to individuals in five key areas of their lives: Finance, Relationships, Emotions, Spirituality and Health. We believe living a life to the fullest means striving for balance in all of these key areas. We’ve searched out the best tools to help bring out the changes you desire that will uncover the Truth behind the myths so that you can begin to live a balanced life and reach your full potential right now!” “A person can have a total shift and change in their perception of their lives by something perceived as positive or negative,” Beverly says. “A major change, like the loss of a loved one, which is painful, to winning the lottery, which looks like a great thing on the outside, is still change.” She goes on to explain that no matter the positive or negative perception, change makes a life often vastly different than it was before the catalyst moved things, people, emotions, lives – in a word, stress.  “Emotions are attached to everything we think or do, and stress comes with plenty of emotions,” she adds. “You think you are in control of your life and then things break down.” Beverly explains how, as humans, we tend to be three different people: the “regular” you, the “dreamer” you, and the “negative” you. The negative you is the protector. By being negative – not trying to move beyond a stagnant position – we are protecting ourselves from further pain of movement in any direction. But, as the adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Learning to move beyond pain is where The Heart of What Matters can help. “We need to verbalize how we feel – have someone really hear us,” she says. “As an Air Force veteran nurse, my own PTSD led me down this road. I needed something that could transform my life.”  Beverly’s own recovery was a path that included a program called F.R.E.S.H. that addressed each of five areas: Finance, Relationships, Emotions, Spirituality, and Health. From her first workshop, Beverly felt she had found a safe environment to practice healthy new skill sets that helped her reach her highest potential by revealing hidden patterns and cycles that were keeping her stuck in the routine of stress that she had developed.  “We need to deal with the truth of who we really are and stop telling ourselves we can’t achieve our goals for one reason or another,” explains Beverly. “The F.R.E.S.H. Awareness Workshop™ allows us to teach clients how to utilize new life tools, learn, participate and collaborate with one another. The Fresh Awareness Workshop™ deals with the uniqueness of an individual’s HEART!” More information at

You are invited to our

Gather together with us and share in fellowship for our holiday remembrance events. The evenings will include live musical performances, video tribute presentations and a touching candle lighting ceremony for all to participate in.



Gwinnett Chapel 1031 Lawrenceville Hwy. Lawrenceville, GA 770-277-4550




Stone Mountain Chapel 1040 Main Street Stone Mountain, GA 770-469-9811

You may also make reservations online at



The Wages Family Jeffrey, Susan, Nan, Bill Jr.


Become an Advertising Partner: Visit or Call 678-825-2049


Don’t forget to RSVP by December 2 to receive a FREE Remembrance Snowflake.

All are welcome, and we hope you will join us and bring your family and friends. Please call to let us know you will be joining us. - The Wages Family

Our Town Gwinnett

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Preventing Osteoporosis Throughout your life, there are things you can do to prevent bone loss:

10-20 20-35 35-50






1,300 mg of calcium per day

1,000 mg of calcium per day

1,000 mg of calcium per day

1,000 mg of calcium per day

Limit soft drinks but eat greens!

Weight-bearing exercises

Exercise is crucial

Get some sun & exercise


Profile for Our Town Gwinnett Magazine

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

Welcome to the DEC 2019 (BLUE) Our Town Gwinnett Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/NE DeKalb. #community #positive #family

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

Welcome to the DEC 2019 (BLUE) Our Town Gwinnett Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/NE DeKalb. #community #positive #family