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JANUARY 2020 Gwinnett/Walton Community & Family Magazine

Our Town GWINNETT

Grayson Dacula Loganville Lawrenceville

Up Close with Smiles by Simmons, see story on page 5.

14 16 19 19

Lovin Elementary School: Lovin’ Its Chickens Grayson High’s Band Director: Meet Robert Barnes Run the Reagan: Giving Back to the Community One on One with the Gwinnett Humane Society


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On the Cover: Keeping the Smiles Coming By Kristen Eleveld Choosing a dentist isn’t always an easy decision. You need a qualified dentist who is conveniently located, and who places a priority on making patients feel at home. If this sounds like all the boxes on your dentist checklist, you can stop searching, because the perfect answer is waiting for you at Smiles by Simmons, where two of Gwinnett’s best dentists are ready to make your smile bright. Dr. John Simmons grew up in the Atlanta area, and has called Gwinnett home for over three decades. Shortly after graduating from dental school in the early 80s, Dr. Simmons joined the Navy and practiced as a dentist there. Three years later, he found himself in Snellville at the recommendation of a friend who thought a local dental group would be a good fit for Dr. Simmons’ expertise. Eventually, Dr. Simmons discovered that he had both a talent and a passion for cosmetic dentistry and opened his own practice to help his patients find their best smile. Now, Dr. Simmons is one of only nine dentists in Georgia to be accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. But for Dr. Simmons, the biggest accomplishment is giving patients a positive experience filled with excellent care. “It’s my goal to treat my patients the way I would want someone to treat me,” said Dr. Simmons, whose faith plays a large role in the way he treats his patients. One of the most notable things about this practice is that patients don’t just come and go – the Smiles by Simmons team has served many of their patients for decades, and is

able to create and maintain a relationship with each patient that goes far beyond dental care. In fact, it was this high level of quality patient relationships that inspired one of Dr. Simmons’ young patients to go into the dental practice himself. Dr. Robert French, who began seeing Dr. Simmons as a child, recently graduated from dental school, and has since joined Dr. Simmons as a partner in the Smiles by Simmons office. “Everyone has been so welcoming,” said Dr. French of his experience at the practice so far. “I look forward to getting to know every patient the same way Dr. Simmons does.” Dr. French, who hails from Gwinnett, has quickly become known for his gentle approach to new patients, and his sense of humor that puts everyone at ease. Dr. Simmons noted that his partner picks up new techniques quickly, and is “ahead of the game” when it comes to both his skill and knowledge level. Both dentists credit a wonderful staff as a huge factor in their success. Dr. French also noted that they take special

care to give each patient the time they need to have all their questions answered and feel comfortable with their plan of care. “No one is rushed or made to feel like we are in a hurry,” said Dr. French. “We want to be very thorough and give everyone the attention they need.” When Drs. Simmons and French aren’t helping people in their office, they are helping people both inside and outside of their community. They each participate in a mission-oriented service project that allows them to provide dental care to people in other countries who would otherwise not have access to that type of treatment. Dr. Simmons also spends time serving his community through his church. The Smiles by Simmons team practices what they preach – each morning, the staff gathers to pray for their patients and go through a biblical devotional together. “This is like a ministry for me,” said Dr. Simmons. “We want to serve people the best we can.” More information at www.smilesbysimmons.com.

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Feature Writers Pearl Aidoo K. Coats Kristen Eleveld Kim Hill Ron Lambros Amy Ney Emily Rubin Traci Sanders

— An EndResultZ Media & Communications firm EndResultZ.com 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 2020 by Our Town Gwinnett. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden in any media without written permission from the publisher.

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Contributing Writers Dr. Cathy Bonk, MD Bill Crane Rhonda Frankhouser Tanisha Turner

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5 On the Cover: Keeping the Smiles Coming 7 From the Publisher: One Man’s Opinion 7 Learning Lessons: How to Bring Out the Natural Scientist in Your Baby or Toddler 8 Midwifery Matters! And Not Just in Childbirth 8 Crane’s Corner: It’s Past Time 9 Making Resolutions You Won’t Regret 10 Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta: Making a Difference in Gwinnett 10 Top Dogg K9 Foundation: Taking Care of Gwinnett’s Vets 12 “Why Do We Have to Read This?” Answering the Hardest Question 14 The Gift of Failure     14 Lovin Elementary School is Lovin’ Its Chickens 15 Community Matters: A Brook Runs Through It 16 Band Together with GHS Band Director, Robert Barnes 19 Gwinnett Technical College Earns National Recognition for Veterans Services 19 Run the Reagan Gives Back to Community 19 Saving Animals Since 1979: Meet the Gwinnett Humane Society 20 Enjoying a Slower Pace of Life with Slow Pour Brewing 21 Community Growth: New Facility for Dacula Families 21 Gwinnett Splashes Worldwide Color

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From the Publisher:

New Year, New You!

One Man’s Opinion By Ryan T. Sauers

@RyanSauers

@RyanTSauers

Goodbye 2019. Welcome 2020! New ideas, resolutions, and dreams come with a new year. With that said, this column is written to provide inspiration as we seek to make 2020 an incredible year in the Our Town Gwinnett community. My question is simple: How bad do you want to grow as a person this year? Do you want to be part of the solution in making our community a better place, or be part of the problem? If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to achieve it. You desire to solve things and make life better for everyone. In contrast, if you do not, you will find an excuse and complain about all the things “happening to you and around you.” Simply said, it is the way human beings are wired. So, you see, we have two choices. The first is to stand around and complain and be frustrated about how things are. The second is to do anything in our power to develop a plan and/or find a way to make things better. In this new year, I challenge you to push harder and dig deeper in every aspect of your life. Get in the game and off the sideline. Don’t be afraid to fail. As my little green friend Yoda says in Star Wars, “The greatest teacher... failure is.” So very true. Continued on page 9

Learning Lessons: How to Bring Out the Natural Scientist in Your Baby or Toddler

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By Tanisha Turner The early years of a child’s life are consumed by a desire to explore and experiment with objects. Well-known developmental psychologist Jean Piaget fittingly called young children “natural scientists” because of this inclination. By tapping into children’s tendency to explore and discover, parents, teachers, and other adults in children’s lives can actually help nurture and extend their learning. From the moment babies enter the world, their curiosity sparks a need to observe and classify objects and actions. Their brains actually change as a result of the new things they learn. As children continue to grow and explore, new discoveries help them enrich, modify, reorganize – and sometimes replace – their initial theories with quite different ideas. This type of hands-on learning explains why a child may scrutinize a new object in an effort to figure out how it works, or experiment with sound and movement as she learns how to use her body to communicate. Children need safe environments where they can experiment freely and take risks without the fear of being told, “That’s not how you’re supposed to do that.” When we support children’s natural tendency to try things out, we are cheering them on to discover and tackle new challenges creatively. This is an important step in helping them build determination and confidence in their own abilities. Adults can encourage infants and toddlers to explore and learn in simple and fun ways. Primrose recommends the following activities to bring out the natural scientist in young children: • Give your baby colorful, safe objects that he can examine by looking, feeling, tasting, and smelling. • Talk to your baby, providing a play-by-play of everything he does. This commentary helps babies organize and understand what’s around them. • Fill a large shallow bowl with water and provide your infant with simple scooping tools for endless exploration and fun. You can do this in the bathtub as well. • Fill a large bowl or shallow tub with dry beans, rice, or sand. Your child will enjoy Continued on page 15

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Midwifery Matters! And Not Just in Childbirth By Dr. Cathy Bonk, MD Midwifery is an ancient profession still actively practiced throughout the world. In the United States, the first modern day nurse-midwives were British-educated women brought to this country by Mary Breckinridge in 1925. Her focus was to provide health care to residents in the remote mountains of rural Kentucky. In every decade since, midwives have gained importance in helping to improve the overall health of women. It’s well-known that Certified Nurse Midwives play a key role in providing care of low-risk pregnancies (which is what the majority of pregnant women experience), while co-managing complications during pregnancy, labor, and birth with physician care. But it may be surprising to learn the valuable role they play throughout a woman’s entire health lifespan. Midwives are there to see women through pregnancy and deliveries, but they also are able to perform annual well-woman exams, provide counseling and prescriptions for birth control, place IUDs, provide STD testing and counseling, and evaluate and offer guidance about general gynecologic concerns like menopausal management. This midwifery model of care highly values the role of education, partnership in care, personal autonomy, and shared decision making – all while rooted in the latest evidence-based medicine. Working as part of an integrated team alongside physicians, midwives educate and empower patients to be proactive partners in their own health and wellness. Why is this type of partnership so important today for women’s health? In a word, RESULTS.  Numerous studies conducted at the National Institutes of Health, McLeod Health, and the World Health Organization show that the integration of midwives into the model of care Continued on page 12

Crane’s Corner: It’s Past Time By Bill Crane “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” said Ted Turner, entrepreneur, media mogul and philanthropist. One of the highlights of the 2019 Georgia Bulldog football season was the naming of Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium in Athens to honor legendary former University of Georgia football coach and athletic director, Vince Dooley. That honor was well overdue.  I think Georgia, and our capital city of Atlanta, should do more – and sooner than later – to recognize two other individuals, as well as two families, who have made many historic and lasting contributions to Atlanta and to Georgia. I’m speaking specifically of former Ohio Governor James Cox and the Cox family, and media mogul and environmental philanthropist Ted Turner. Cox was a former three-term governor of Ohio before he ran for president in 1920 with Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his unsuccessful running mate. Traveling the country by rail, FDR introduced Cox to Warm Springs, Southern hospitality, and the people of Georgia. Though Dayton, Ohio remained the governor’s home, he would move much of his family and business holdings to Atlanta, initially purchasing The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Georgian in 1939, and eventually growing those properties into Cox Enterprises and the Cox Media Group. Continued on page 20

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Making Resolutions You Won’t Regret

One Man’s Opinion Continued from page 7

By Rhonda Frankhouser

My recommendation is simple. We must all: quit complaining, stop making excuses, and bring passion and unique ideas to the table. Winners find a way to succeed in any situation. They find an opportunity behind each obstacle. Whiners will tell you about every problem in their way and why these issues hold them back. There are three types of people in the world: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who wonder what happened. Thus, plan your work and work your plan and you will grow – in all parts of your life – in a deliberate, purposeful, and intentional manner. This will lead to a great 2020 (no matter what you encounter) with such a positive mindset, and you will help everyone in our community grow to even greater heights in the process. Thanks for being part of our amazing community. Our team is so proud to play a key role in it. Here is to a great 2020. And now and as always, thank you for continuing with me on the journey of my town, your town, Our Town!

My 2019 New Year’s Resolutions 1. Lose 50 pounds - failed 2. Exercise more - failed 3. Save money - failed 4. Eat better - failed 5. Stop drinking soda - failed 6. Visit family more - failed Does this list look familiar? Are you, like me, one of the 65% of those who set unattainable resolutions every new year? Why do we do this to ourselves? Where did this wicked tradition come from? A little history… Resolutions made at the new year originated nearly 4000 years ago in ancient Babylonia. Making promises, such as resolving debt and returning borrowed items, were thought to gain the favor of the gods. Babylonian’s set such goals as a way to honor and reaffirm their loyalty to god and king. For most, resolutions have evolved from the original ideal of appeasing the gods to selfimprovement. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. We all need encouragement to live our best life, but what happens when we set our goals too high? The reality of setting lofty goals… I heard a statistic that proclaimed 80% of New Year’s Resolutions will fail by February. If we KNOW these lifestyle changes will help us in the long run, why do we fall off the wagon so quickly? Do we expect too much of ourselves, or are we focusing on the wrong things? As I grow older, I realize resolutions shouldn’t be so negative and punishing. Why not strive for personal growth and calmness instead? Being at peace and nurturing your soul generally breeds a sense of health and wellness, does it not? If we take a more spiritual approach to choosing resolutions, maybe some of the physical goals from the original, lofty list will come to us, not because of some unreasonable demand, but rather as a happy consequence of living a more fulfilled life. So, I’ve decided to concentrate on different things this year. My list now reads as follows: My 2020 New Year’s Resolutions 1. Cherish my husband and be thankful for our life together. 2. Take 20 deep breaths every morning, overlooking the Georgia pines in my backyard. 3. Read new authors and connect with writer’s groups in Gwinnett County. 4. Explore nature and visit more historical sites – Maybe hike Stone Mountain? Continued on page 22

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PAGE 9


Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta: Making a Difference in Gwinnett By Beth Volpert Johansen Exceptional is a word that can be used to paint a broad descriptive spectrum. The word alone can be uttered with a little accompanying breathlessness when the speaker is presented with something or someone beyond expectations. It is especially appropriate when one first meets the three founders of the Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta (EFATL): Susan Keeney, Director of Programming, Renee Smith, Director of Marketing and Development, and Lauren Marks, Executive Director. All three took a leap of faith, cutting down from full time teaching and therapy positions with stable incomes to work part time with adult children with special needs, based on their love of God. They each knew their calling and heeded. “I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose and I thoroughly enjoy helping young adults discover that purpose,” says Susan. “I also believe that building strong relationships with others greatly increases quality of life.” These special educators with many years of experience between them had one thought that kept rising to the top of conversation: “Where will our students go once they turn 22?” When students “age out” of the school system, families are faced with the opposite of “empty nesters.” Huge adjustments and new needs often present themselves with, sometimes, few options.  The question of what to do weighed on the trio until they placed their desires into prayer. What followed became a renewed passion for service to the exceptional population in and around their home base at Grace Church in Snellville. “We are so grateful to Grace because they have generously provided us space in the D House,” says Renee. “We saw a need and prayed for space; we were welcomed by Grace.”  From D House just off Dogwood Road in Snellville, the participants in EFATL plan their moves. What the casual observer might see are groups of people defined by their excep-

tionalities. But in reality the group is far from being defined by limits; they are driven by them. “The idea of this program is for our participants to decide what they want to do within a group of friends – just like any other young adult,” says Susan. “They want to go hang out at the mall, have a meal, laugh, play games. You know, just hang out.” As the program has matured and the participants have worked out plans for their weekly events, they have found that some of their personal goals are being met. For instance, the group topic one day was all about transportation. With a little research and help from Lauren, the group decided to check out Olli, the driverless car located in Peachtree Corners. From there, with their transportation interests peaked, the group set out with the staff to go van shopping. “This is an area of our greatest need right now,” says Susan. “We are limited by our current vehicles as to the number of participants we can serve and transport.”  Like many programs, the need for funding is constant, and transportation is very important to all those connected to the Exceptional Foundation because, beyond heading out just to “hang out” is the heart and soul of each outing – the giving back part. One such extension of the Exceptional Foundation is the participant-led programs serving Calvin Cove, a local non-profit housed in Westminster Presbyterian Church that provides respite care for caregivers of the fragile elderly. “Our participants have grown to love their visits to their friends at Calvin Cove,” says Renee. “The ability for them to give more than they receive is empowering; it allows them to not just feel, but to know they are making a difference and giving back to those who really need their special attention.”  Beyond giving back are the participant-staffed fundraising efforts such as Joe on the Go, a mobile coffeehouse. Participants are SUPER excited about this new venture. “We are looking forward to local businesses and organizations scheduling events for us to come Continued on page 19

Top Dogg K9 Foundation: Taking Care of Gwinnett’s Vets By Traci Sanders

PAGE 10

Every day in the United States, an estimated twenty-two veterans succumb to suicide due to mental illness or emotional trauma, and many others perish from malnourishment or physical illness. Thankfully, there is one local organization that is taking steps to rectify that. Top Dogg K9 Foundation (TDK9F) was founded by Army veterans, Blake and Sheila Rashad, in 2011. Blake (aka “Top Dogg”) served in the US Army as a K-9 Dog Trainer and has trained dogs since the young age of 12. As a child, Blake suffered from depression and required a service dog to constantly be by his side, which allowed him to mask his depression and anxiety well from others – everyone except Sheila, that is. She recognized the difference in Blake very quickly when he was away from his dog, and she inspired him to start speaking to others about his challenges and to help those who also struggled by training service dogs for them. The catalyst for launching Top Dogg K9 Foundation came after Blake met Vondell Brown, at the time Alumni Manager of the Wounded Warrior Project. Brown served in two wars during his twenty year US Army career and deals with the mental and emotional scars still today. Blake partnered with Brown because he knew he could use his expertise in dog training, along with his military combat skills, to impact the health and well-being of other veterans through the TDK9F. This program stands on the principle that Veterans Deserve Outstanding Generosity and Service (VDOGS) and supports that principle by rescuing, training, and pairing suitable dogs with disabled veterans and those struggling with mental health challenges post-deployment. Continued on page 12

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“Why Do We Have to Read This?” Answering the Hardest Question By K. Coats It’s a question literature teachers get each year. “Why do we have to read this stuff?” For most students, it is merely a complaint, a whine announcing their disinterest. And for teachers, reactions can range from annoyance to an all-out challenge to their validity as educators. But the reality is that the whole “Why do we have to read this?” is a valid question. It smacks of a self-awareness that demands attention. As a high school literature teacher, I understand where students are coming from when they ask such a question. If I can’t see the validity or relevance behind a rule or practice, I, too, have a hard time playing nice. So I always try to take a time out and explain why something like Beowulf or The Odyssey is important. The short answer is literature is akin to a safety module. The long answer is: Do you need to read this? Not exactly. Can you go on with the rest of your life never having read The Odyssey or Beloved and be happy and productive? Sure. But literature provides a service

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unlike any other, and if the reader chooses to engage with it, then it has a chance to transform. Consider the following point: humans as a species wouldn’t live very long if we had to make all of our own mistakes. The smarter of us watch those around us and learn caution based on the experiences of others. But we would be hard pressed to sit around waiting for the right lesson at the right time to reach us. Not to mention there is a definite expense of the conscience incurred when we watch others make mistake after mistake for our own benefit. This is where literature comes in to play. Authors create the lesson scenario instead of waiting for hubris to Continued on page 17

Top Dogg K9 Foundation Continued from page 10 Veterans are screened through a comprehensive application process, enrolled into the program, and then matched with an appropriately trained canine based on each one’s specific and most prominent needs. This care is provided for as long as the veteran needs support and continues through group training classes. Services such as dog training (which can take as little as eight months or as much as eighteen months), referrals for support/social services, canine therapy workshops, and networking opportunities with other veterans and military families are all provided through TDK9F at no cost to veterans. These resources are made possible by income generated from boarding, grooming, and training services for the public. TDK9F also educates the community at large on the challenges warriors face concerning physical and mental health issues, PostTraumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, depression, and other common diagnoses experienced after deployment. These warriors include Active Duty Military, Reserve, National Guard, Military Veterans (Honorable or Other Than Honorable Discharge), and Gold Star Families. TDK9F aspires to raise money to rescue more dogs from local shelters while simultaneously rescuing disabled military veterans from the wounds of war, in the Southeast and all of Georgia. They are affiliated with several other organizations to provide the most comprehensive resources for these soldiers including the Gwinnett Jail Dog Program, Wounded Warriors Project, the Arthur Blank Foundation, Wal-Mart, The Home Depot Foundation, and Military Veteran Community At-Large. TDK9F has been featured on WSB-TV, CBS46, 11 Alive, FOX5, and the NFL Network. Keeping a program like this thriving requires ongoing donations and volunteers for tasks such as dog walking, cleaning kennels, public access trips, painting, dog bathing, setting up for events, and administrative support. The kennels are in disrepair and need complete remodeling. A GoFundMe page has been set up to work toward this goal. Other immediate needs are premium dog food/sports mix, flea control medicines, veterinarian services funding, and monetary donations to cover the down payment on new kennels. The current kennels were built in the 1980s for short-term boarding. Some are falling apart, limiting the number of dogs they can save and board. The goal is to raise $30,000 for the entire remodel, but $7,850 is the amount of the deposit needed to order the material to get started, so every donation helps. By simply donating $22 per month, community citizens can help defray the cost of locating, training, and gifting these dogs that are so valuable to warriors. Social media users can also use the hashtag #Save22 in their posts to increase the number of dogs provided to veterans annually. More information at http://topdoggk9.org/ or www.vdogs.org.

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PAGE 13


The Gift of Failure           

Lovin Elementary School: Lovin’ Its Chickens

By K. Coats

By Kim Hill

One of the classes I teach is Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, or AP Lit for short. It’s a challenging class, and it asks a lot of its students. They must analyze passages they’ve never seen before at a college level, and also write about that analysis at a college level – most times within a timed setting. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever been told that their writing isn’t perfect, that there is room for improvement. My biggest challenge as their teacher is to get them to be patient with themselves and to embrace those low grades as stepping stones to more impressive skills in the future. They often think that because they didn’t do it perfectly the first time, then my class isn’t for them. I can see them planning the quickest route to the administrator in charge of schedules to get a change before lunch, and I all but block the doorway in my attempt to deescalate their fears. But I can’t blame them for panicking. They are constantly given the message to do well, score high, and perform at peak, so to them failure is, well, failure. And there isn’t much I can do to show them that they’re wrong. In life, some of our greatest growth comes from failure. In fact, I’d argue most of it does. Success is nice. Who doesn’t like that feeling of a job well done, right? But success is limited in what it can do. Success merely confirms what we already thought and did. It encourages that same behavior or effort. But failure? Failure pushes you to try harder, take a different route, and look at other options. It forces you to be more than you were on the previous attempt. Failure can be a gift. It can even enhance that feeling of success later on. That first successful bike ride is only a victory because it comes at the end of many failed attempts. As adults, failed relationships help teach us boundaries – ours and theirs. When we step out of our comfort zone, risking failure helps to redefine those lines and gives us an even bigger Continued on page 16

Once upon a time there was an elementary school full of very special students. They had a wonderful garden where they could grow food and make music, and there was a chicken castle, and the children took care of the chickens and the garden and shared the food with the community and they all lived happily ever after. A fairy tale? Hardly. Lovin Elementary, on the outskirts of Lawrenceville, is such a school. Principal Kevin Payne explains that over the last few years STEM Content Specialist Gerin Hennebaul has been leading the school to become state STEM certified by finding ways to integrate science, technology, engineering and math in its classrooms. The school achieved that honor last school year and is now incorporating art to become a STEAM school. Mr. Payne says several projects “stemmed” from this endeavor, including the study of chickens. Pre-K and second grade worked together to hatch chickens during their life cycle unit and “adopted” chickens from one student’s grandparent. Math was incorporated to determine how many chickens could live in a coop and what size and area was needed. Through that process they had a small chicken coop built that housed five chickens for the entire year. Mrs. Hennebaul then found connections through the school curriculum standards to include all the grade levels in working with the chickens. The program really took off and the number of chickens increased. During this time, Eric Stoker, an engineering teacher at Archer High School, began reaching out to Lovin to find younger students interested in starting STEM clubs at the high school. When he heard about the chickens, he saw another opportunity for the schools to work together by having high school engineering students design and build a larger chicken coop. It was a great way for the two schools to collaborate and for the high school students to work side by side with the elementary students. The result is what is now referred to as the Chicken Castle. “It’s actually large enough to house a hundred chickens,” says Mr. Payne. Continued on page 20

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Learning Lessons Continued from page 7

Community Matters: A Brook Runs Through It By Bill Crane Since practically the dawn of civilization, humanity has established settlements and communities near sources of drinking water. As civilizations grew and population density followed, human and other waste also eventually made it into those same water sources. Though waterfront property often remains golden, in city after city, in North America and elsewhere, fouled water ways, creeks, rivers, and lakes later prompted a move away from the water and abandonment of once pristine water bodies to industrial use, navigation, and further decay. The Clean Water Act helped to reverse those trends in the United States, helping to save Lake Lanier, the Chattahoochee River, and other watersheds too numerous to mention, but only in recent years in Georgia have we been returning to the water’s edge in cities like Macon, Columbus, Augusta, and now even the suburbs of metro Atlanta. And though Chattahoochee River facing homes and mansions are nothing new, expect the next real estate gold rush to be along the creeks and tributaries and expect to hear a lot more about Peachtree and Nancy Creeks. In a city just seven years old, against a plan created three years ago, the still nearly new City of Brookhaven just completed a model one mile Peachtree Creek Greenway (PCG) trail, the first of a planned 12 miles, which will pop your eyes out when you visit. Brookhaven, DeKalb County, the PATH Foundation, Salvation Army, Georgia Department of Transportation, and many others all came together to complete this initial mile in one year, from groundbreaking to trail dedication. The trail is lit, and as a result safer for night-time use. The Brookhaven Police Department’s new headquarters will literally sit on the trail near Briarwood Road. Security cameras dot the 14-foot trail, easily wide enough for two-way traffic as well as multiple bikes, strollers, and pedestrians in simultaneous use with some room to spare. Much of the trail also sits in FEMA flood plain along the creek bed, and so the National Weather Service contributed a real time weather and water level sensor, which sits atop one of the road bridges crossing the PCG and creek, allowing for real time warnings of inclement weather, potential flooding and time for local authorities to close down the trail as weather conditions warrant. The next mile, in part funded by a federal grant, will head south from North Druid Hills Road at I-85, connecting to the South Fork Peachtree Creek Trail, and then down underneath the Georgia 400 interchange with the downtown connector, eventually connecting to Atlanta’s Beltline, and later still the Silver Comet Trail, reaching as far as Anniston, Alabama. And though it might have been hard to envision this tranquil and pristine stretch of creek a few hundred yards away from the downtown-connector, the effort required the removal of more than a dozen tractor trailer loads of tires, old cars, auto parts, and human waste of all kinds...almost entirely hauled out by volunteers. The creek, woods, and underside of many interstate bridges were also a refuge for several dozen homeless residents. Rather than just sweep those folks with nowhere to turn out and off the path, Brookhaven city leaders partnered with the Salvation Army to provide them housing and other assistance. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s new campus in Brookhaven will eventually have a direct connection to the PCG, and despite the fact that the non-profit does not pay property taxes, CHOA has pledged $40 million towards the long-term completion of the PCG trail. And though there is no expectation that area residents will give up their automobiles tomorrow, the PCG does offer a route, accessible from multiple points and trail heads, to retail, restaurants, and places of employment parallel to a couple of the metro region’s most congested traffic corridors.  As word and use spread, it most certainly should offload some of that local traffic. On PCG day 1, returning with my youngest child to the lit trail at night, under a full moon and with Christmas lights twinkling in the distance, we encountered a mom, dad, and near Continued on page 18

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The Gift of Failure Continued from page 14

Band Together with GHS Band Director, Robert Barnes

comfort zone in the end. And what has the cartoon character Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus told a generation of kids? “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” The foundation of science itself is learning through one’s mistakes. For my students, failure comes as a shock. I have to assure them that this is normal and part of an overall process. I tell them, “I can’t make you better writers while telling you your writing is already perfect.” So in many ways, some of my biggest lessons don’t come from the literature we cover but rather from the challenges the students face. They learn to get back up and try again when they don’t get the grade they want. They learn to reflect and ask what they can do differently the next time. They learn that failure isn’t the end of the lesson; it’s the beginning. They learn to be patient. They learn to grow. So as we journey through this weird experience of life, I encourage you all to look at the gift of failure as a chance for growth as part of a larger lesson and not as the end of the lesson itself. Failure can be a gift if one only takes a long, hard look at it. 

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If you’ve ever gone by a high school a week before the teachers come back to school, you’re likely to find some very unexpected people in the hallways – students. More specifically band students. And even though it’s a week before the teachers return, those students have been there at least three weeks. Along with the football team, the band forms a pillar of high school culture. It’s the anthem before kickoff, the half-time show, the peppy music, and fight song in the stands. It’s the jazz band performing at the local Rotary Club, the large group performances, and concerts, and the “pit” keeping the theater’s musical numbers moving each spring. Essentially, a band can be the heartbeat of the high school experience, and at Grayson High School (GHS) the center of that beat is Robert Barnes. Barnes graduated from Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia in 1984 and earned his Bachelor of Music and Master of Education from Georgia State University. From there, he took a position at Snellville Middle School where he spent the first decade of his career. After that he went to Shiloh High School and then became one of the charter faculty members of the new Grayson High School when it opened in 2000. In fact, Barnes was even on the committee that helped to pick the school colors! He has found a home at Grayson High School, celebrating twenty years as of the current school year. For many high school band students, their instruments aren’t touched all that much after graduation. Some may play in college, but for the majority the experience is limited. The shift from average band student to aspiring teacher came when Barnes was a sophomore. He explains, “When I was a sophomore in high school, I recall sitting in the band room during a rehearsal enjoying playing and working. I was also getting pretty good as a player for I was 1st chair saxophone in the district and 3rd chair in the state at that time.” It was there he had an important realization. “I just calmly stated in my mind, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Meaning that I wanted to be a high school band director. I loved the Marching Band and loved performing music. Everything I did at that point in school was geared toward that end.” For inspiration, he credits his own band director. “My high school band director, Wally Conrath, is a great motivator, leader, and musician,” Barnes says. “He is still working as a high school band director today, and has hired me to work with his programs in the past.” And his own students have gotten opportunities to meet their own mentor’s mentor. “Recently I was able to hire him to come in and work with my students,” Barnes explains. “This was a great honor to have my mentor see how the GHS Band was developing and have him provide guidance.” That musical longevity is also found a little closer to home. “My father, Bob Barnes, is 89 years old and is still playing,” he adds. “He has been a great music teacher for me. I share a lot of his wisdom that he gave to me with my students.” When it comes to the day-to-day workings of his program, Barnes feels that the absolute best part of his job comes down to that pivotal performance. “I love seeing these kids perform on the field and on the concert stage,” he says. “It is a great sense of accomplishment for them and for me.” And just as previous generations have influenced him, Barnes continues to be an influence on other generations. He says, “I have students in my program in which their parents were students in the Grayson Band when we first opened.” But those performances don’t come easily. The amount of hours both inside and outside of the classroom can add up for both band and director. “I added it up once,” he claims, “and found that our students will practice and perform in the heat, cold, rain, wind over 250 hours outside. It can be an additional 30-40 hours per work on top of school hours during the football and marching band season.” And all of this is in addition to other parts of the year that include “…formal concerts, jazz band, honor bands, college audition preparation, and I spend a great deal of time in the off season writing and designing our shows for the next football season.” And those are just the responsibilities that revolve directly about practice and playing. Other duties include the behind the scenes logistics such as fund raising, managing the booster club, and maintaining equipment. But Barnes is quick to add, “Having said all of that I can’t see myself not being a part of it.” When asked about some of the life-long benefits to participating in band, Barnes had a ready answer. “There are a great many benefits to being in a band,” he explains. “They are not unique to band, but are very well facilitated through it. Every student in the band may have a different reason for being a member. Some may become professionals; many will never touch their instrument after high school. They all join and stay to be a part of something larger than they are; a place to feel safe and welcome; a place where they can make Continued on page 18

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“Why Do We Have to Read This?” Continued from page 12 strike their neighbor and provide that lesson. We get invested in characters and watch their journeys, choices, and decisions; we see the outcome and can learn from their mistakes. Essentially, we watch the fake people in the fake situation mess up in order to spare the real people in the real world from that same mistake. Of course, we won’t ever be in the same situation as Odysseus or Beowulf, but the mistakes and choices they make echo down from their stories. We don’t face the cyclops, but we’ve all learned not to boast too loudly when we believe we are out of harm’s way. We don’t go toe-to-toe with Grendel at night, but we’ve learned the satisfaction of an honorable victory. We don’t face witches who provide prophecies, but we learn not to attempt to achieve greatness at the cost of our own morals. You see, literature provides the vehicle for the lesson, but the lesson itself is what makes the story endure beyond its time. As long as lovers get carried away with the idea of love or families quarrel beyond reason, Romeo and Juliet will remain valid. As long as people battle

the echoes of the past and try to suppress them instead of face them, novels like Kindred and Beloved will persist. As long as mothers and daughters get exasperated with one another, The Joy Luck Club will provide comfort. Funny enough, the goal of literature isn’t to tell a story. If that were simply the case, then every student who ever asked “Why do we have to read this?” would be validated in their cynicism. The goal of literature is to warn and teach, to help people not make the same errors in judgement as the characters within those pages, to spare humanity the pain of making that mistake itself. Let the ink and paper people make the mistakes while the flesh and blood people watch and learn. Authors of stories that endure found a nerve, a common mistake people continuously make, and they write in a desperate attempt to spare those people from that cycle and to provide the lesson in a safety module packaged as a story. They write to keep us from making all of our own mistakes by sacrificing their characters instead. So to answer the original question, “Why do we have to read this?” You don’t. You’re more than welcome to go about and make all of your own mistakes if you so choose. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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GHS Band Director, Robert Barnes Continued from page 16 mistakes and not be ostracized. They learn to work as a team toward common goals, and learn how not only to lead others, but to lead themselves.” Barnes points out, “One of my favorite quotes is ‘The toughest job is to lead yourself.’ I hope this is what they get out of my program.” But ever the “large ensemble” player, Barnes wants to make sure to give credit where it is due. He says, “There are a lot of parents that volunteer to chaperone, build sets, repair equipment, provide food, first aid, fund raising campaigns, and lots of moral support!” And in addition to the boosters, he adds, “The Grayson community has been very supportive of what we do. We don’t have to travel out of our district to perform. There are a lot of opportunities to perform at the Grayson Park and Senior Center, local businesses (especially grand openings), school and community events, in addition to the football activities we support.” So thirty-one years in, Barnes is still going strong as he supports his students and the band program, providing the beat that keeps the school moving and gives a talented group

of young musicians a home. Thank you, Mr. Barnes, for all of your wonderful work as you have built the GHS band program and given the community so much of your talents and your time. May your instruments be in tune, the valves oiled, the reeds unchipped, and may chewing gum never come near your classroom. More information at https://www.gcpsk12.org/GraysonHS.

A Brook Runs Through It Continued from page 15 newborn out for an evening stroll. I couldn’t help but smile, thinking that the region just received the Christmas gift of a hopefully new family safe space. As with Atlanta’s Beltline, the PCG will likely completely transform the area over time. So, check it out, as the City of Brookhaven now has a beautiful and accessible brook running through it. Crane owns the full-service communications firm, CSI Crane. More information at www. CSICrane.com

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Gwinnett Technical College Earns National Recognition for Veterans Services By Our Town Staff Military Times® recently released their Best for Vets: Colleges 2020 rankings, and Gwinnett Technical College has been ranked second among career and technical colleges in the nation for its commitment to education and for providing opportunities to America’s veterans, service members, and their families. This marks the fourth consecutive year Gwinnett Tech has moved up in the rankings, and the third consecutive year in the Top 5. In 2019, the college was ranked 3rd in the nation. “Gwinnett Tech is honored to be named one of the top colleges in the nation for Veterans,” said Dr. D. Glen Cannon, president of Gwinnett Tech. “Our Office of Veterans Affairs has worked diligently over the last three years to remove any barriers veterans, service members, and their families may face while enrolling in college, and activating their GI Bill and all other available veterans benefits.” Gwinnett Tech Veteran Services include: • Admissions Fee Waiver • Assistance with GI Bill© certification • Dedicated Computer Lab • Priority Registration • Program Supplies Provided • Student Veterans Organization • Texts for Troops Program • Veterans Scholarships • Veterans Engagement Advisor • Yellow Ribbon Program “Gwinnett Tech is dedicated to providing support for our veterans to ensure they are successful the day they decide to enroll at Gwinnett Tech, to the day they walk across the stage at graduation and start their next career,” stated Travis Simpson, coordinator of Gwinnett Tech’s Office of Veterans Affairs. Annually, Military Times® invites career and technical colleges from across the US to complete a rigorous survey comprised of 150 questions about their operations involving current and former service members and their families. Additional data is then collected from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as three educational department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard, and the Cohort Default Rate Database. Institutions are independently evaluated in five key categories: university culture, student support, academic outcomes/quality, academic policies, and cost and financial aid. More information at http://www.gwinnetttech.edu/veteransaffairs

Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta Continued from page 10 serve coffee & hot chocolate,” says Susan. “We can also serve baked goods.” Currently the participants will be selling muffins created at Special Kneads & Treats in Lawrenceville by exceptionally talented employees. Weaving the Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta throughout the fabric of the Greater Gwinnett Area came naturally for the three founding members. Each woman brings her own unique perspective to the area of serving. When the former students started to find themselves with very little to do compared to their daily lives in transition programs through the school system, it became apparent that something needed to be done. And now the program is all systems go with a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and initiative from staff and participants alike.  “The participants drive the program by their interests, and we guide the details,” says Susan. “It really does work out for all involved.”  Like anything else, keeping costs at a minimum, providing staff, paying for supplies, gas, product, and all things involved in the running of any program takes vision and hard work. To be effective, the team is committed to keeping each group small enough to really get to know one another, yet offering several groups each week. “We believe that smaller groups provide the opportunity for deeper social connections with other program participants, as well as enhanced opportunities for engagement,” adds Renee. “Traveling within the community allows our participants to really become a part OF the community. And that is powerful – something we truly believe in.”  More information at https://www.efatl.org/

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Run the Reagan Gives Back to Community By Emily Rubin Once a year Ronald Reagan Parkway is closed for a day so about 1,800 runners can come out to race in Run the Reagan, a road race that gives back to the community. Since 1994, Run the Reagan has been raising money for local charities. Chairman Ron Weber and board member Steve Ridley joined the Run the Reagan board four years ago and have been seeing the number of runners and the amount of donations increase each year. This year the board hopes to get 2,000 runners to participate and raise $60,000 in net proceeds. Since its inception, Run the Reagan has donated over one million dollars to local charities. The race takes over 1,000 hours to plan each year and generous sponsors to make it happen. Cannon United Methodist Church provides a staging venue as well as buses to transport race volunteers, the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners closes the parkway down each year for the race, and the City of Snellville allows the race to use its police department while also providing a stage for the School of Rock to perform. Check-in and registration is held at Academy Sports. Eastside Medical Center is the title sponsor of Run the Reagan and has contributed over $300,000 to the charities the event supports over the years. Eastside has been with the race since its inception, and the event could not happen without its involvement. “We live in a very generous community, but we also live in a community with a lot of needs, and our job as is any charitable organization in the community is about that,” Steve said. “It’s about connecting resources with needs, and I hope that as a race that remains our priority and that people see this is something that we do effectively in our community.” Donations from the race to the Southeast Gwinnett Co-op allow families to come twice as often for food in the summer since students that rely on school breakfasts and lunches are home for the break. The donation to the Lilburn Co-op during Ron’s first year with Run the Reagan helped keep the co-op’s doors open. “The day we brought this $18,000 check in to them, they were going to shut the doors,” Continued on page 22

Saving Animals Since 1979: Meet the Gwinnett Humane Society By Traci Sanders Gwinnett Humane Society was founded in 1979 by a group of innovative ladies who wanted a local no-kill animal rescue program so people didn’t have to drive downtown to the Atlanta Humane Society. To date Gwinnett Humane Society has been serving Gwinnett and surrounding counties for over forty years and has rescued, re-homed, and provided love for thousands of animals as well as educating adults and children on responsible pet ownership, which includes the benefits of spaying and neutering companion animals. Often Gwinnett Humane Society is confused with the Gwinnett Animal Control program. Animal Control operates a shelter and is funded by Gwinnett County. Gwinnett Humane Society is a private, volunteer rescue organization that operates exclusively through foster homes where animals live until they are adopted. Both organizations fill a need in the community and thus work together to find homes for the unwanted and unloved animals in need. Since Gwinnett Humane Society doesn’t have a shelter, they operate out of a retail shop in the Publix Shopping Center at the intersection of Sugarloaf Parkway and Five Forks Trickum Road. The success of this program relies solely on donations from local citizens and businesses as well as various fundraisers throughout the year. The most popular fundraiser is PAWfest, a community awareness event that has been in Continued on page 22

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Enjoying a Slower Pace of Life with Slow Pour Brewing By Traci Sanders I recently discovered a hidden treasure that is quickly becoming a favorite hangout spot for Gwinnett families. Slow Pour Brewing is a family-owned, family-friendly brewery just down the street from the Lawrenceville Square. It all began years ago when Marty Mazzowi bought his brother-in-law, John Reynolds, a home brew kit for Christmas. John dove right into brewing and became fascinated with the art and science aspect. The two decided to jump in with both feet and opened Gwinnett County’s first craft brewery, Slow Pour Brewing, on September 15, 2017. John and Marty wanted to provide a familyfriendly atmosphere anyone could enjoy, and their own families play important roles in the business. John’s wife and two sisters serve in the tasting room. Marty’s wife oversees the community outreach portion of the business. The brewery offers sixteen beers on tap. Sodas, water, and snacks are also offered for those who are underage or not interested in beer. Food trucks visit a couple times per week with the schedule posted on the Slow Pour Brewing website and Facebook page. And here’s something really unique: outside food is allowed to be brought in and enjoyed by their patrons! The brew team consists of Matt LaMattina, Ryan Silva, and Dave Ward. On the sales side there is Adam Brown, Samer Sabbagh, and Bill Rodgers. Nate Groves manages the tasting room, and Judi Reynolds manages the books for the company. The ownership team includes John Reynolds, Marty Mazzawi, Chuck Spinks, Brian Barnard, and Megan Mazzawi, each keeping the business running smoothly in different capacities. John and Marty are always seeking unique experiences for their guests. Events such as Sip and Shop have brought local vendors into the brewery for their guests to experience the talented craftsmanship in Lawrenceville. Other activities include silent disco, axe throwing, DJ’s, Bingo, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and patio parties are popular as well. Their big event each year has been Simple Southernality, which is a celebration of Lawrenceville as a whole where national touring artists come in to play a free concert, and food vendors are on site for refreshments. The next Simply Southernality will take place on April 18th. Announcements will release soon. Giving back to the community is a big part of the Slow Pour Brewing mission. They Continued on page 22

Lovin Elementary School Continued from page 14

“We currently have eight laying hens that lay eggs every single day.” While the smaller coop was big enough for the chickens, the larger space allows students and staff to go inside to feed the chickens and check the water, which is collected in a rain barrel. The design intentionally left the nesting boxes on the outside so kids who feel nervous around the chickens can collect eggs without having to enter the coop. Adjacent to the coop is the school’s large community garden. Each grade level has its own 4’ x 8’ garden bed and created activities that others can participate in. For example, Kindergarten made a set of large wooden dominoes. The area contains a composting bin and also a music garden with musical components including pipes, a xylophone, and even a piano. Nine hydroponic towers, which allow plants to be grown without soil, are housed in classrooms throughout the school and circulated as different groups study them. One group harvested about 20 bags of salad from its tower. Lovin’s grade levels participate in plastic recycling competitions, and the school community as a whole participates in textile recycling through Charity Recycling Service, earning money based on the amount recycled ($300-$600 quarterly). Lovin led the county this year and Mrs. Hennebaul says, “We use every cent for our outdoor classroom.” The school’s programs tend to support each other in many ways. Last January Lovin participated in a Food Waste Warriors Project and determined over 580 pounds of food were wasted at lunch the day of the audit. Students and staff pondered ideas to reduce that amount and came up with the Share Table. Uneaten prepackaged items and fruit with skin, like bananas and oranges, are placed in containers and unopened milk and juices are stored in a small refrigerator so

PAGE 20

Crane’s Corner Continued from page 8 Turner turned a modest billboard company into the nation’s first cable Super-Station, investing in cable networks and programming in their infancy, as well as serving as a longtime owner of the Atlanta Braves. Turner became a billionaire before selling his many media holdings to Time Warner. He later got into the restaurant business, in part to restore the species of buffalo to the North American Plains. When the Atlanta Braves, under new ownership, left for the suburbs of Cobb County and the likely soon to be renamed SunTrust Park, the name of Turner Field and the life of a baseball stadium just over 20 years old ended. Though it was assumed that the name came as Turner’s Braves were the “home team” at the converted baseball park, it is seldom shared or publicized that Turner spent more than $40 million stabilizing and retro-fitting The Ted for baseball and the fans, without seeking any tax-payer assistance, subsidies, or tax breaks. Jim Cox Kennedy, grandson of Governor Cox and still the Chairman of Cox Enterprises, developed a passion for bike riding that grew into the creation of the PATH Foundation. PATH’s first trail connected Stone Mountain Park to downtown Atlanta and Centennial Park, and over the past twenty-five years more than 300 miles of pedestrian and biking trails have been constructed across Georgia. The Cox Foundation recently co-funded a pedestrian bridge with the City of Atlanta. Named for former Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr., the bridge connects the Atlanta Beltline to those PATH trails at Marietta Street downtown, not far from the former Atlanta Journal-Constitution headquarters, and reconnects the downtown Eastside and Westside, straddling the massive and exiting railroad tracks of CSX and Norfolk Southern.  The Cox family through another gift to the PATH Foundation is funding an extension of the Atlanta Beltline and PATH that connects to the Silver Comet Trail in Cobb County. When completed, this trail will reach from Stone Mountain Park to Anniston, Alabama and become the longest continuous trail path in the United States. Those who have previously blocked more substantial recognition for the Cox or Turner families have focused on their personal politics or others flaws and foibles. None of us are perfect and we should stop expecting perfection among our community and business leaders. The Cox family still owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the new owners of Cox Media Group plan to keep that name. And while Turner’s name continues to adorn several blocks of Spring Street in downtown Atlanta and parts of his former corporate campus are now owned by WarnerMedia, more significant and visible honors are well overdue for both families. Some students at Georgia State University have recently called on Atlanta’s mayor to remove the downtown statue of another newspaper giant, Henry W. Grady, another impactful but flawed leader of the post-Civil War New South. Grady’s name adorns Grady Hospital, Grady High School, and the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia.  I don’t support his name or statue coming down, but those are a few fine examples worthy of like consideration for Ted Turner as well as Ohio Governor Jim Cox and the Cox family. Crane owns the full-service communications firm, CSI Crane. More information at www. CSICrane.com students may take those items during the day. About 100 pounds were dropped on the next audit, but Lovin wanted to do more, so it was determined uneaten vegetables, which normally had to be thrown away, could go to the chickens. Now second graders go to the cafeteria after lunch each day to collect veggies and salad to take to the chickens. Other items go to the composting bin, which is now too small to handle the job, so once again Archer students are helping by designing a larger container. It seems appropriate that the coop story started three years ago as the school created Legacy Projects. Each grade level was given a charge to complete a STEM project tied either to the community garden or to community service that would leave a legacy at Lovin. The ASD class created a sensory garden. Pre-K painted the garden squares. First grade started the tradition of harvesting from the tower gardens to send fresh salads along with pre-packaged food to families who need extra assistance, and second grade built the chicken coop, which led to collecting and donating the eggs. The chicken idea has spread within the cluster as Harbins Elementary now has its own chicken coop and Archer students will again be helping build a larger coop there. Cooper Elementary will be next, and the middle school and high school have caught the fever and will be getting chickens as well. The cluster is endeavoring to feed 3,000 people by the year 2020, tracking the number of families and individuals being fed through the chicken coop and community garden. Mr. Payne says the focus at Lovin is to develop a culture of community service, and the many projects happening there are testament to that. From the smiles in the hallways to the engagement in the classroom, it is obvious that the students enjoy learning and using the knowledge gained to make their community and the world a better place. By working together, the population of Lovin Elementary is striving to make “happily ever after” a reality.

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Community Growth: New Facility for Dacula Families By Traci Sanders Dacula citizens and those in the surrounding area will soon enjoy family fun at its finest, thanks to a new addition in the coming months. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners recently approved $2.05 million in upgrades to the multi-purpose/football field at Dacula Park. This endeavor was funded through the 2017 SPLOST program and the low bidder for the project was Sports Turf Company. The facility will feature new, heavy-duty concrete at the entry and walkways throughout, and textured specialty concrete at the plaza and concession area. It will be recovered with synthetic turf and will be furnished with new bleachers and landscaping. New poured-inplace concrete walls (ranging in height from two feet to ten feet) will be in place as well as gated fencing, ranging in height from four to six feet. Families will be able to enjoy an outdoor lunch or snack in the plaza with brand new picnic tables and benches. Commissioner Chairman Charlotte Nash stated, “The field conversion will reduce future maintenance costs by eliminating mowing and watering and will make the field available for greater use with less downtime. We’re very grateful for voter support of SPLOST to allow us to improve our recreation facilities through projects like this one.” This 76-acre park situated in northeast Gwinnett will offer entrances at 205 Dacula Road and at 2735 Auburn Avenue. The first entrance will lead to the field, outdoor pool, seven baseball/softball fields, sand volleyball court, outdoor classroom, a pond, trail, pavilion, playgrounds, and restrooms. The Auburn Avenue entrance will take visitors to the activity building and tennis courts. So, whether it’s to enjoy a quick walk or run down the numerous trails or a leisurely dip in the pool during the dog days of summer, this new Dacula Park is sure to offer something for everyone. More information at https://bit.ly/2PG3hWm.

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Gwinnett Splashes Worldwide Color By Beth Volpert Johansen Gwinnett’s diverse nature is reflected in the faces of the county’s schoolchildren, business owners, and residents. With many different cultures and languages represented, it is no surprise that some of the strongest community leaders in the county are also reflective of our worldly population. Of those leaders Rony Delgarde, Founder and CEO of Global Paint for Charity, stands tall, strong, and proud. A native of Haiti, Rony arrived in America via the Miami International Airport over a decade ago with five dollars, a Bible, and a dream to educate himself with his eyes on a career path that would change, not only himself, but would also affect the world as a whole. Today, Rony heads Global Paint, a paint recycling non-profit headquartered in Gwinnett County that repurposes unused paint for projects world-wide. “I love Gwinnett County,” says Rony. “We receive tremendous support from the county government and the residents.”  Much of the support Rony and Global Paint has received has come from Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful. Guided by leadership that represents the entire county, Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful seeks to foster and cultivate a community of environmental stewards in support of improving the water, land, air, and lives. “Schelly Marlatt was the first person I actually met with,” says Rony. “My English wasn’t that great, but I told them what I wanted to do; I told them my vision – to recycle paint and help brighten up the world and make a huge difference.”  Continued on page 22

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Slow Pour Brewing Continued from page 20

Making Resolutions You Won’t Regret Continued from page 9

work with different non-profits each month under the theme of Pouring with Purpose. In December the owners partnered with Village of Hope and provided a Christmas dinner for families in the Lawrenceville area in need. Slow Pour Brewing also offers Bingo each month to raise awareness for their non-profit endeavors. The brewery is used as an event space for the community as well. John and Marty have hosted individual table rentals for weddings and receptions as well as corporate events. The space can accommodate any party size from 2 up to more than 200 people. John and Marty would like one word to come to mind when people see their brand: integrity. That was quite evident to me when I visited the facility this past December with my husband and friends. So, if you’re looking for a family-friendly environment where you can kick back and enjoy good company, a great beer, and a slower pace of life for a moment, consider Slow Pour Brewing, where their motto is “The Moment Matters.” More information at https://slowpourbrewing.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/ SlowPourBrewing/.

5. Have some “no phone time” every single day. 6. Journal about new adventures exploring the South. 7. Sample new foods – Atlanta, and the surrounding cities, host amazing restaurants with foods from all around the world! 8. Handwrite letters to family and friends! 9. Donate unused items to a favorite charity. Mine is any animal shelter or homeless center. 10. Give undivided attention to my dogs every day. They are a gift! 11. Host a social gathering each month to reconnect with friends and neighbors. Now these New Year’s resolutions, I can keep. They encourage a sense of gratitude and a way to learn more about myself, without the self-loathing that comes along with failed goals. Life is too short to treat yourself poorly. Why not try a new approach? What do you have to lose? I wish you and yours a fabulous 2020, filled with positive, enlightening experiences, and unconditional love. Rhonda Frankhouser is an award-winning novelist, now living in the beautiful state of Georgia. More information at www.rhondafrankhouserbooks.com.

Gwinnett Humane Society Continued from page 19

place for the past twenty-six years and strives to educate the public on pet-related issues while celebrating the human-pet bond. The next community fundraiser is on Saturday, March 7th where they will be partnering with Pet Wants Johns Creek to host the first Run Your Tails Off 5K in downtown Sugar Hill. Dogs are not only welcomed to join the fun, they are encouraged. In addition to homing and caring for local animals, Gwinnett Humane Society offers other services such as: EZ Pet low-cost Vaccine Clinic on the 3rd Saturday of each month at their Adoption & Community Center on Sugarloaf Parkway, and Pat-A-Pet Visits, an outreach program which involves pet visits by their volunteers and their canines with residents who cannot have pets of their own. They’ve been visiting the residents of Annandale Village in Suwannee for over fifteen years. The organization also visits local schools to discuss pet education. Some of the most recent visits include Lovin Elementary, Harbins Elementary, and Cooper Elementary for the Great Day of Service celebration. If you’re an animal lover and have the means to do so, please consider adopting a local pet or volunteering to care for the animals at Gwinnett Humane Society. They always need new foster homes to help provide a temporary home to animals in their adoption program. Plus, monetary donations are always needed to fund their programs and cover medical costs. Other items such as clumping kitty litter, pet food and treats, blankets, and pet toys are always welcomed as well. More information at gwinnetthumane.com or facebook.com/gwinnetthumane.

Gwinnett Splashes Worldwide Color Continued from page 21 Schelly remembers the energy and vision with which Rony approached the idea of using recycled paint to make a difference in the world. “Over the last eight years, I have enjoyed watching Rony put his passion into action,” says Schelly. “He is one of the most humble hardworking people I know who not only helps save the planet by recycling unwanted paint, but he spreads love, hope, and color all over the world to places that do not have the resources to do so.” Spreading love and hope are wrapped up in the colors of the paints Rony collects and ships all over the earth to third world countries that put those gallons to great use. Brightening up neighborhoods is the most visible effect. But beneath the surface is a more profound effect of the paint. “In some cases, painting helps lower the mold and bacteria levels that are so harmful,” says Rony. “We are working with the CDC on a project to help with mosquito control in some areas – it is very exciting.”  In addition to the benefits to the health of a population, paint can uplift the spirit and strength of entire villages and towns. Aside from the obvious beauty of painting a home, the value goes much deeper. “There is a whole town in Mexico we work with that was filled with crime and the people had so little peace,” describes Rony. “We partnered with them and brought them paint; it made such a difference you would not believe!” That difference is not only in the appearance of the town, but their ability to be proud of their homes and businesses. “When you fly over now, you see all these brightly colored homes, crime is down, businesses are attracting tourists. Paint makes such a difference.” Another of the great effects paint has on remote areas is with the schools. Emotion is heard in Rony’s voice as he tells of a school in Honduras that was so run down that parents had stopped sending their children. Once the school was painted, more improvements followed

PAGE 22

Run the Reagan Gives Back Continued from page 19 Ron said. “They had no money. It just rang true to me what impact we have on this community.” Over the past five years, both co-ops have received $85,000 each. The money goes directly to fighting hunger, to supporting families in the community, and to providing clothes and other low-cost items to those in need. The remaining money raised after expenses goes to the other beneficiaries such as the Brookwood School Foundation. Even though the Brookwood School Foundation is a beneficiary, this is not a Brookwood event. Grayson, Berkmar, Shiloh, Parkview, and South Gwinnett High Schools have all become involved in the race by providing entertainment for the runners with their drumlines and cheerleaders stationed along the course. When schools participate, they can earn money to further education in their cluster through the form of grants. “We would really like to have more school clusters participate,” Ron said. “We really want this to be a community event and it’s all based on participation.” Participants in Run the Reagan can choose to run in any of the four races including a half marathon, a 10k, a timed or untimed 5k, and a 1-mile fun run. Run the Reagan is a competitive race for people of all ages and is open and welcome to all. There are also many different ways to get involved without running, from donating directly to the charities, to volunteering, to coming out as a fan. More information at http://runthereagan.net. and the graduation rate began to go up. “Paint improves the conditions of the building and the way the community looks at it.” When Rony is asked about how Global Paint is able to take someone’s leftover paint from Gwinnett County in Georgia and do the most good with it all around the world, his response is hardly complicated. “I came to this country, I had an idea, I went to the people in the county who I thought might help me with that idea – and they did,” explains Rony. “I knew these people in waste management meant business, so I took this chance and worked so hard and we were able to do it. We were able to collect paint, recycle it, and package it for use where it is needed.”  “Rony and Global Paint for Charity are definitely a bright light, both locally and abroad – changing the world one color at a time,” says Schelly. “I am truly blessed to call him a community partner and a friend.” Each year, Global Paint for Charity holds paint collection events. The next major collection event will take place in May at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to collect paint for recycling. Monetary donations are also needed to pay the shipping costs as well. When asked why it is less expensive to ship recycled paint instead of buying it overseas, Rony explains that it is very expensive in many of the places Global Paint for Charity serves. “Most people make less than a dollar a day,” says Rony. “Paint can cost anywhere from $30 a gallon or more. It is something they cannot afford, but does so much good. It lifts people up.”  Each gallon makes a huge difference in Gwinnett and all around the world. So take a look in the basement or garage for your unused paint and help Rony and Global Paint for Charity splash some world-wide color.  More information at www.globalpaints.org

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LILBURN 1227 Rockbridge Rd, Ste 402 (770) 925-9210

SNELLVILLE 2050 Scenic Hwy N, Ste A (678) 344-7197 SNELLVILLE CENTERVILLE HWY 124 3641 Centerville Hwy, Ste 400 (470) 365-2135

Our Town Gwinnett

Become an Advertising Partner: Email Info@OurTownGwinnett.com or Call 678-825-2049

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together Now

for your health.

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.

Welcome to your Northside.

northside.com

Profile for Our Town Gwinnett Magazine

JANUARY 2020: (GREEN) Our Town Gwinnett/Walton Monthly Magazine  

Welcome to the JAN 2020 (GREEN) edition of Our Town Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/Walton areas. #community #family #positive

JANUARY 2020: (GREEN) Our Town Gwinnett/Walton Monthly Magazine  

Welcome to the JAN 2020 (GREEN) edition of Our Town Monthly Magazine for Gwinnett/Walton areas. #community #family #positive