Buckhead Reporter - September 2021

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SEPTEMBER 2021 • VOL. 15 — NO. 9


Celebrating Sandy Springs Frontline Workers See Page 15


What We Learned from the Pandemic 17

Buckhead Diner closes


Student scores at Junior Olympics


New leader for Blank Foundation



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Contents September 2021

Editor’s Note Learn about your candidates


Election Guide 5 Sandy Springs Deluxe Corp. Fire station moving forward

6 6

Buckhead Buckhead Diner closing Esports hub planned

8 8


Dunwoody City center


Brookhaven Housing for transplant patients 12

Commentary Worth Knowing


Dining 28

Evolution of dining in Sandy Springs



Focus on Education Published by Springs Publishing P. O. BOX 9001 Atlanta, GA 31106 Phone: 404-917-2200

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Lessons from the Pandemic


Spruill Center


North Springs playwright


Ridgeview music


Junior Olympian


Business Blank Foundation leader


Honored as a newspaper of General Excellence


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SEPTEMBER 2021 | 3


Learn about your candidates

A Place Where You Belong Spend the day or evening on the Town! Stop by for a bite to eat or use curbside and delivery services! DINING

(Opening Soon)





Election season is gearing up, with a host of candidates qualifying at the end of August. There are more than a dozen vying to BY AMY WENK become Atlanta mayor, and there are contested seats in Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Brookhaven. In the coming weeks, Reporter Newspapers will present an online guide to the candidates across the four communities we serve. Reporter Newspapers and the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber are also hosting a candidate forum for the Sandy Springs mayor and city council races. It’s set for Sept. 27 at North Springs High School. We hope you learn about your local candidates. There are so many issues, from the ongoing pandemic to a violent crime wave in Atlanta. Another complex conversation is around future growth in metro Atlanta. The Atlanta Regional Commission predicts the 21-county Atlanta region could add 2.9 million people by 2050. That’s like all of Denver moving to Atlanta. And the latest Census data shows Georgia growing more urban and diverse. How do we balance the growth? “There’s nothing harder to talk about, or maybe more emotional,” said Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum, which led an August discussion around residential zoning. “Simply put, we don’t have enough affordable, or for that matter, enough of any kind of housing.” Home prices are soaring. In July, the average sales price in metro Atlanta was $441,500, according to the Sandy Springsbased Atlanta Realtors Association. That was up 20% from July 2020. It’s higher in the local community, according to data from Carson Matthews with Dorsey Alston Realtors. The average sales price in July 2021 was $774,641 in Buckhead, $607,424 in Dunwoody/Brookhaven, and $589,723 in Sandy Springs. “It’s not sustainable to go on like this,” Brookhaven resident Juli St. George, a realtor with Keller Williams Realty, said earlier this summer. Rents are surging, too. Melanie Couchman, a founder of Sandy Springs Together, said in the August housing forum that de-

velopers are buying and renovating aging apartment complexes in the city and charging higher rates. The loss of affordable housing, she said, is hurting the diversity of the community. “Our renters are being displaced because they’re being priced out of their apartments,” she said, adding that Sandy Springs has a supply gap of 5,270 rental units and 1,800 homes. “Without a diverse choice of housing, we will lose that diversity.” Atlanta architect Eric Kronberg in the August housing forum said that the city of Atlanta is producing about 5,170 housing units per year, with about 85% of those units being apartments. He said, in order to accommodate the future population growth, the city should be producing 16,600 housing units per year, with more units from accessory dwelling units (ADUs), duplexes, singlefamily homes and townhomes. Housing issues contribute to other problems. A 2019 study by Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead Community Improvement District framed housing affordability as a traffic congestion issue, saying most of Buckhead’s workers can’t afford to live there. Some cities are looking for solutions. Sandy Springs has considered inclusionary zoning. Brookhaven has discussed protections for Buford Highway residents who might be in the path of redevelopment. And Atlanta is proposing zoning changes aimed at creating more density, such as allowing more flexibility to build ADUs, reducing parking requirements, and rezoning property within a half-mile of a MARTA station for small apartment buildings. The ideas have been criticized by groups including the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods. Residents at an August meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B meeting said the zoning changes would alter the character of their neighborhoods and deplete the city’s tree canopy, among other issues. “Residents want our planners to consider alternatives that build growth in a manner that preserves neighborhood character, such as modification of older properties, creative reuse of abandoned structures, use of vacant properties along growth corridors,” NPU-B Chair Nancy Bliwise told Reporter Newspapers in a statement. “Coordinated regional approaches such as those that create housing near job centers, connected by transportation, can also meet [the] need.” The upcoming election is our chance to press elected officials on growth and housing issues. It’s complex but important to our future.

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Packed race for Atlanta mayor


A recent mayoral forum featuring former two-term mayor Kasim Reed, as well as City Council President Felicia Moore, Councilman Andre Dickens, Councilman Antonio Brown and local attorney Sharon Gay. BY AMY WENK AND COLIN KELLEY A crowded field of candidates will be on the Nov. 2 ballot vying to be Atlanta’s next mayor. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms upended the race with her surprise announcement in May that she wouldn’t run for reelection. In August, 14 candidates qualified to run for mayor. Some familiar faces include former two-term mayor Kasim Reed, as well as City Council President Felicia Moore, Councilman Andre Dickens, Councilman Antonio Brown and local attorney Sharon Gay. Other candidates are Kirsten Dunn, Nolan English, Rebecca L. King, Mark Hammad, Kenny Hill, Walter Reeves, Roosevelt Searles III, Richard N. Wright and Glenn S. Wrightson. Raina BellSaunders is also expected to be a writein candidate. The uptick in violent crime across the city has emerged as a key issue in the upcoming election, as is affordable housing and how Atlanta will accommodate its future growth. Qualifying in Atlanta ran from Aug. 17-20. Mayoral candidates had to pay $5,529 for their name on the ballot, or they could also qualify as a “pauper” if they had a petition signed by at least 1% of the city’s eligible voters. Here is the list of candidates for Atlanta mayor. A full list of the city council and board of education candidates is available at reporternewspapers.net. Atlanta Mayor Antonio Brown Andre Dickens Kirsten Dunn Nolan English Sharon Gay Rebecca L. King Mark Hammad

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Kenny Hill Felicia Moore Kasim Reed Walter Reeves Raina Bell-Saunders (write-in candidate) Roosevelt Searles III Richard N. Wright Glenn S. Wrightson






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SEPTEMBER 2021 | 5


Deluxe Corp. bringing 700 jobs to Sandy Springs BY BOB PEPALIS

New fire station moves forward The Sandy Springs Planning Commission on Aug. 18 recommended approval for the city’s planned Fire Station No. 5 at 7800 Mount Vernon Road. The fire station would serve approximately 18,000 residents and reduce response times in the panhandle from 8-10 minutes down to 2-5 minutes, said Alexandra Horst, an urban planner with the city’s Community Development Department.

pect. And we have advised our workforce that we don’t expect people to be back on our normal schedule until after the first of October,” McCarthy said. He expects employees to be in the office more often than not. The future for the company will be a hybrid model with office and remote

Deluxe Corp. opened its FinTech and Customer Innovation Center at 5565 Glenridge Connector in Sandy Springs, where it will eventually employ more than 700 workers with an average salary of $91,000. “We’ve already Deluxe Corp. will employ more than 700 had our first cusworkers in Sandy Springs. (Special) tomer events at the space, where we’re workdays. working on code development of new The company continues its path to products with our customers. Our team hiring 709 tech workers for the Sanhas also begun occupying the space, and dy Springs office, which will occur over the management team is holding reguwhat he called a reasonable period of lar meetings there,” CEO Barry McCartime. thy said. “A primary motivation for us to have He said Deluxe is pleased with the loour facility here in metro Atlanta is the cation near Ga. 400, I-285 and multiple great access to fintech talent, the conMARTA stations, along with great amenicentration of which here is higher than ties for its employees anywhere else in the country,” McCarthy “Of course, COVID has slowed down said. our return to the office, as we would ex-


Burnett will not seek reelection

Square One sells for $59.2 million

Chris Burnett will not seek reelection to the Sandy Springs City Council District 3 seat he’s held since 2016. “While I am stepping aside for now as an elected official, I hope to continue working with our city leadership on efforts surrounding our economy, our business community and our plans for reimagining and energizing our downtown corridor,” Burnett said.

The Square One mixed-use building at the corner of Roswell Road and Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs has sold for $59.2 million. Audubon, a multi-family real estate management company based in Peachtree Corners, bought the 203-unit building from the original developer Kaplan Residential. Angelo Gordon, a global investment firm based in New York, is also said to be part of the new ownership. The midrise building today includes around 200 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space. — BOB PEPALIS

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What Every New Dog Parent Needs to Know Congratulations, new dog mom or dad! Whether you've just made the decision to get a new dog or you've already welcomed a new pup to your pack, keep in mind that caring for your new dog requires more than love alone. What do you need to keep them clean, comfortable and healthy? We've got the scoop on how to be the best dog parent your pup could want. REGULAR VETERINARY CHECKUPS Make sure to take them to the vet for an initial checkup. Don't hesitate to ask questions during your visit. Ask about: • Flea/tick/heartworm medications • Updated vaccinations (rabies/bordetella/parvo/distemper/hepatitis) • Annual checkups • The nearest 24/7 vet clinic in case of emergency BASIC HYGIENE ROUTINE Many new pup parents are not familiar with the maintenance that is critical to the comfort and well-being of their new furry family member. Keep your dog happy and healthy by incorporating a basic hygiene routine right away. Regular care breeds familiarity with the process, facility, and staff, which greatly improves a dog’s comfort and experience. Scenthound’s Monthly Care Club provides a convenient, affordable solution for your pup’s basic grooming needs. Each visit starts with our Basic Hygiene package — bath, ear cleaning, nail clip and teeth brushing — the essential care that every dog needs. And, when you adopt a pup from one of Scenthound’s animal rescue partners, you'll get the chance to try us for free as part of our Clean Start Program. DOG FOOD With so many brands to choose from, finding the right dog food can be challenging. Consider your pup’s life stage and find a food that offers the right blend of

proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Talk to your local pet store or veterinarian for recommendations. Provide a designated area where your pup can go for water when they’re thirsty and where they can wait for food. Clean water should always be readily available. Don't forget to frequently wash their bowls as they can get grimy and bacteria ridden. DOG BED/CRATE It's important to create a space where your pup feels comfortable and relaxed. A crate can provide a sense of security — dog beds and blankets make it extra comfy.

they get loose. As extra protection and an identifier, make sure that your pup is microchipped with updated contact information. DOG POOP BAGS Responsible dog parents always pick up after their pup’s mess. Purchase heavy-duty bags and dispose of them properly — if they're biodegradable that's great too. Pro tip: Always carry a poop bag on you, you never know when you might need it.

DOG GATE Since your new pup has no idea what the rules are, a gate will keep them safe, happy, and contained. Especially if you have a puppy, you'll want to prevent them from accessing areas that are off-limits or they'll get into everything! TOYS Keep them busy with toys that are long-lasting and fun! If you want to kick it up a notch, get a puzzle toy that will challenge them mentally.

Dogs are amazing! But being a new dog parent can be overwhelming … we totally get it. Becoming a dog parent is a huge responsibility — it's a lifelong commitment! But, as much as this is a big transition for you, it's a life-changing transition for your dog. The most important things you can give your new pup are plenty of love and patience as they adjust to their new home.

COLLAR/HARNESS & LEASH A sturdy collar and leash are critical to keeping your dog safe when you go outside. A leash with a lobster clasp or carabiner is the most durable.

With a healthy diet, routine care and basic hygiene, timely vet visits, plenty of exercise, and all the accessories to keep

The collar should have an ID tag with your name and contact information, just in case

them safe, secure and entertained, you'll be the best dog parent your new family member could ever want. Dr. Jim MacLean Chief Veterinarian, Scenthound Dr. MacLean’s first job was working as a grooming assistant when he was 15 years old. Since then, he has worked in every aspect of small animal veterinary hospitals, has practiced in small animal medicine and surgery for 26 years, and has owned and started multi-doctor veterinary hospitals. With a mind for both medicine and business, Jim received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from VMRCVM at Virginia Tech in 1994 and his MBA from Georgetown University in 2011. Coming full circle, he joined the Scenthound pack to bring his expertise and experience to the grooming world. As chief veterinarian, Dr. MacLean guides Scenthound from a health and medicine perspective and helps achieve our mission to improve overall pet health on a broader scale.


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SEPTEMBER 2021 | 7


Esports gaming hub planned

Buckhead Diner closes BY COLLIN KELLEY Another dining institution, Buckhead Diner, has permanently closed. The Piedmont Road restaurant had been shuttered since the pandemic began, but Buckhead Life Restaurant Group said in an Aug. 25 press release that it would not reopen. The property it sits on at 3073 Piedmont has been sold for $6 million to Trillium Management for a yet-to-be-disclosed project, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Buckhead Diner was a favorite haunt of musicians, actors, sports stars, politicians, tourists and local regulars for 34 years. It was known for its fried chicken, homemade potato chips with blue cheese, and an award-winning white chocolate banana cream pie.

“It was with a heavy heart that we made the decision to not renew our lease for Buckhead Diner,” said Niko Karatassos, president of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. “For nearly 35 years this was the spot to be and be seen. It will forever be remembered as one of, if not the greatest, American restaurants in the country. We are happy to have hosted many celebrities and loyal locals over the decades.” Buckhead Life Restaurant Group is expanding and renovating Chops Lobster Bar at 70 West Paces Ferry Road with an anticipated completion by winter of this year. The restaurant group will also focus on other new projects, including Lamb Shack, a justopened ghost kitchen out of its Greek restaurant, Kyma.

BY AMY WENK An Atlanta-based esports provider will create a new hub at Uptown Atlanta, the project formerly known as Lindbergh City Center. Skillshot Media is relocating its Alpharetta office and production studios to the south Buckhead development. It will transform a 35,000-square-foot atrium at Uptown Atlanta into the city’s “premier venue for esports events,” according to an announcement. The atrium will be able to host 300 to 400 gamers for in-person events, featuring a large LED screen for live streaming to gamers around the world. Skillshot will also take 5,000 square feet for classroom and production space. The company is partnering with the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Film Academy to offer students workforce development programs for college credit. The move marks more momentum for Georgia’s growing gaming industry, which contributed $925 million to the state’s economy in 2019. “Skillshot Media’s new production studio and learning center will be a game changer in Georgia as the state’s esports ecosystem continues to grow and thrive,” said Asante Bradford, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s senior industry engagement manager with the Center of Innovation. Uptown Atlanta is the 47-acre mixed-use community around the Lindbergh MARTA station. Rubenstein Partners L.P. bought the project in September 2019 for $187 million and now is redeveloping the property, working with design firms ASD/SKY and Gensler.

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A new city center for Dunwoody BY SAMMIE PURCELL David Abes didn’t always plan to be in the restaurant business. In fact, the mind behind the new, upcoming entertainment complex in Dunwoody Village started out in a very different, much less flashy lane – accounting. “I worked in an accounting firm, and I was so bored,” Abes, A rendering of Bar(n), a rustic community bar. who now owns Dash Hospitality Group, said. and started Dash. Following that slight detour, the Dun“I just love the energy about the reswoody native swerved into the restautaurant business,” Abes said. rant and hospitality business, where That energy is partly why he got the he’s remained for about 30 years. He idea to create an entertainment comserved as the general manager of the Atplex in the center of Dunwoody Village, lanta Fish Market during the 1996 Olyma shopping and retail center at 1317 Dunpic Games and served as the director of woody Village Parkway. The complex will operations for Here to Serve Restaurants be located at an open courtyard in the vilfor 14 years. He then held the role of COO lage. for Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, but Abes said he was inspired by a project in 2018, Abes decided to go his own way he consulted on in Florida, The Hub 30a in Watersound Beach. “You look at downtown Roswell, Woodstock, Alpharetta – everybody has their city centers, and Dunwoody just didn’t have that entertainment center,” Abes said. About two and half years ago, he presented the idea to the real estate investment company Regency Centers, which owns Dunwoody Village. When Regency reacted positively, he brought the idea to the city. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, Abes put the project on pause. But more than a year later, construction is already underway for the first phase of the project. The plan calls for a total transformation of the space, including four new restaurants, a bar, an outdoor stage, and enough seating and space to host concerts, festivals and the like. Abes said the first part of his vision – Bar(n), a rustic community bar serving wine, craft beer, and whiskey – is expected to be completed this October. Private Wine Storage Lockers Amazing Selection The food menu will include light bites, like charcuterie, and on weekends, Bar(n) will also serve coffee and pastries. “We’re excited that [Abes] is moving forward with his first restaurant,” said Dunwoody Economic Development Director Michael Starling. “The groundbreaking for Bar(n) is a big first step. We NEW look forward to future developments – 4783 Peachtree Road, Chamblee, GA 30341 not only in the courtyard, but in other arLocation (470) 545-8483 | www.GrapesandGrains.com eas of the Village.” Read the full story online at reportgrapesandgrainsstore @ grapesandgrainsstore ernewspapers.net. Follow Our Progress/Opening online:

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Dunwoody mayor’s Top 5 things to do Lynn Deutsch was elected Mayor of Dunwoody in 2019, and has spent most of her term dealing with the ongoing pandemic. But Dunwoody is once again bustling with activity. Outdoor celebrations are planned, such as the Kosher BBQ Festival coming up Oct. 17, and the Atlanta Chili Cook Off slated for Oct. 23. Deutsch took a few moments out of her schedule to share with us what she personally enjoys getting out and doing when she has some free time. Here are Lynn Deutsch’s Top 5 favorite things to do in Dunwoody. 1. #letsdolunch: Dunwoody has so many great places to meet for lunch, and I adore our painted picnic tables. It is important to eat and shop locally, and stay in touch with our small businesses. 2. Dunwoody Farmers Market: Just about every Saturday morning, you’ll

find me at Brook Run Park at the Dunwoody Farmers Market, which is hosted by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association. It’s a special place where we can pick up fresh, local food and visit with our neighbors. 3. Malachi’s Storehouse: On Tuesday afternoons, you’ll find me at Malachi’s Storehouse collecting donations from residents for families in need. This be-

gan during the early days of the pandemic, and we never stopped. I love seeing the community come together to support one another. 4. Spruill Gallery: The talent on display inside this beautiful, historic home can take your breath away. Their gallery store is a great place to find unique and unexpected items.

5. Live music: City-sponsored concerts have begun at the new Brook Run Park Amphitheater this summer, and the experience is even better than I imagined. It’s a beautiful setting with great acoustics and room to roam. I also enjoy the live music at Dunwoody Food Truck Thursday, the Farmers Market, and at our local restaurants.

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Foundation offers affordable housing for transplant patients and caregivers BY BETH E. CONCEPCIÓN Mary Evans showed Becky Merrill around the two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a complex that sits on the Brookhaven city line. “The kitchen has everything you need,” Evans said as she opened the cabinets. “That’s good because my passion is cooking,” Merrill said. Evans could have been an Airbnb host welcoming a guest, but the truth is more complicated than that: Merrill will be staying in one of seven apartments offered by the Jeffrey Campbell Evans Foundation, a foundation set up to provide affordable lodging for transplant patients and their caregivers. Merrill’s brother Richard received a double-lung transplant May 26 at Emory Transplant Center. Merrill will be taking care of him in the foundation’s apartment for at least four weeks after he is discharged. Merrill lives in Acworth, but she and her brother need to live close to Emory while he recovers. “You are my passion, not your brother,” Evans said to Merrill. “We know what it’s like to be a caregiver, and it’s not easy.” Evans knows all too well. In fact, the

foundation was born out of grief after the death of her son, the foundation’s namesake. Evans’ son Jeffrey Campbell Evans was 23 when he fell ill with an unknown virus that attacked his heart. Within five days of contracting the virus, his heart had ballooned to the size of a soccer ball and lost 80 percent of its function. “I’ll never forget passing someone in the hospital looking at X-rays,” she said. “I heard, ‘Oh my God! Whose heart is this?’ It was Jeff’s.” Her son spent three years on the transplant list before he passed away from cardiomyopathy and its various complications. “There’s always a hole in your heart,” Evans said. “The grieving process never ends.” Nearly 10 years later, Evans said she was sitting at her kitchen table when she had an epiphany. She remembered what it was like when Jeff had to live no more than 10 miles away from the hospital while on the transplant list. “The bills at home don’t stop,” Evans said. She decided to start a foundation to help caregivers with affordable housing.

She told her husband Bob and their other son Brad about her idea. “’Let’s go for it!’ they said,” according to Evans. They opened the first apartment in 2017, sourcing all the furnishings from flea markets and estate sales. Four years later, there are seven apartments, all in the same complex. The foundation provides the residences at low cost or no cost to those who qualify for financial assistance through the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Evans said she has even bigger plans. “We want to have a standalone transplant house in Atlanta to help more people.” Evans is raising money now, with the hope to begin construction in less than two years in Brookhaven’s Executive Park. There definitely is a need. More than a thousand transplants were performed in Georgia last year, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The foundation has helped 132 patients and their caregivers since launching. More than 70 percent of these families made the trek to Emory for aftercare. About 20 percent commuted just down the street to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The final 10 percent are affiliated

Mary Evans (left) shows caregiver Becky Merrill all the kitchen supplies in the apartment provided by Jeffrey Campbell Evans Foundation for Transplant Housing. (Beth E. Concepción) with Piedmont Hospital. For Merrill, the apartment will be perfect for her and the rest of her family to care for her brother. “This is an answer to prayers,” she said. “That’s what this is.”

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Buford Highway foodie writes book about Atlanta’s unique eats different kinds of food. “On Buford Highway, you can find five different cuisines in one parking lot,” Plumb said. While plenty of other areas of town serve up fine places to eat, from The Varsity in Midtown to the fancy bistros in Buckhead, Buford Highway offered something different. It’s Atlanta’s own multimile food court. The Buford HighAmanda Plumb during lunch at Mamak on Buford Highway. (Joe Earle) way Supper Club would meet at different restauBY JOE EARLE rants each month and try new things. Amanda Plumb learned early in life They’d order a bunch of different things the pleasures of sampling different kinds and share them. “There’s just so much of food. food around here,” Plumb said recently When she was in grammar school, over lunch at a Malaysian restaurant on Plumb lived in a coastal resort town in (where else?) Buford Highway. South Carolina where exotic eateries The supper club led, in turn, to somewere few and far between. But Plumb’s thing even more ambitious: Chow Club parents and their friends found a way Atlanta. Plumb co-founded the club in to spice things up every now and them. 2017. It promises members an “underThey cooked up a supper club. ground dining experience” and hosts Every month, the host would pick monthly dinners, each with a different a country, go to the local library, track chef, at locations kept secret until the last down a cookbook from that country minute. The club now has about 1,000 on and photocopy a meal’s worth of reciits mailing list, Plumb said; about 50 peopes. Then members of the club would diple can attend each dinner. vide up the recipes and concoct dishes to The Chow Club led to her latest projshare at a group dinner. With that, they ect. She was recruited by a publisher of were off around the world, at least for a city eating guides to write a book surveymeal. ing unusual places to eat in metro AtlanKids, of course, weren’t included in ta. Her book, “Unique Eats and Eateries the dinners, but young Amanda got the of Atlanta,” came out this year. She calls message that it was fun to try new things it a “love letter to Atlanta’s food scene.” to eat. “I grew up around that,” she said. “One of my favorite things about AtAnd she liked mixing people with food, lanta is the food,” she said. even back then. As a girl, she played “resHer book features short articles about taurant” with her mom and sister as pamore than 80 places to eat, from veneratrons. In high school, she threw dinner ble restaurants such as Paschal’s or Mary parties. Mac’s Tea Room to newcomers such as “I’ve always enjoyed eating,” Plumb Little Bear, and from pricey places such said. as Bacchanalia to the inexpensive MexiFlash forward a couple of decades, can street food sold on weekends at the including stints in other towns, college, Starlight Drive-In’s flea market. Chow graduate school and various jobs, and Club Atlanta gets a couple of pages, too. Plumb found herself living in Atlanta. The idea, she said, was to highlight In 2009 or 2010, she said, she and some and tell the stories of unusual places friends were hanging around their apartto eat scattered around the city. “If you ment pool one day talking about food want to know Atlanta—yes, we have Apand decided they needed to broaden their plebee’s – but these,” she said, “are the dining experiences. They formed a club restaurants you can only find in Atlanta.” dedicated to finding interesting places to Not long ago, Plumb’s parents eat. planned to visit her. Before they arrived, They called it the Buford Highway each emailed her. Both had gone through Supper Club. her book and made a list of places they Why Buford Highway? That’s where wanted to eat. the food is, of course. Or at least a lot of @reporter_newspapers BH

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Fifty years ago, 19 Dunwoody women gathered in a private home to form an organization dedicated to community service. Thus began the Dunwoody Woman’s Club, one of the most significant organizations in Dunwoody history. “Dunwoody was really young then, mostly country,” said Carol Niemi ismember a marketing consultant who lives onweren’t the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line founding Anne Baynham. “We aware of the writes about people hersaw at worthknowingnow@gmai significance ofwhose whatlives weinspire were others. doing.Contact We just a need.” As a chapter of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), the DWC committed to choosing a community impact project (CIP) every two years in one of five areas: arts and culture, civic engagement and outreach, education and libraries, environment, and health and wellness. The new club took their commitment seriously and during their early years chose as their CIPs the institutions that BY CAROL NIEMI became the Dunwoody library, the Stage Door Players (now Stage Door Theatre), the Spruill Center for the Arts, the Spruill Gallery and the Dunwoody Nature Center. All were achieved before the club was 20 years old. Now 92 members strong, DWC still active in those in addition to Carolthe Niemi is a is marketing consultant whoorganizations, lives on the Dunwoodymany other projects including college scholarships promising young womSandyannual Springs line and writes about peoplefor whose lives inspire en leaders and Dunwoody’s much-anticipated annual Home Tour. others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. In recognition of its many achievements, the DWC received the 2021 GFWC top award, the Federation Cup – for the nineteenth time. A fitting award for the club’s 50th anniversary. One reason the DWC has made such an impact is that besides being committed to community service, many of the members have previous business and leadership experience. Maria Barnhart, for example, the current president, was an analyst with the U.S. Treasury Department for 37 years. They also bring great personal passion to whatever they do, as exhibited by the founding of the Dunwoody Nature Center. In 1975, after DeKalb County acquired 33 wooded acres from two families on Roberts Drive, DWC selected the property called Dunwoody Park as their CIP. At the same time, they were involved with forming the North DeKalb Arts Alliance with the hope of starting a cultural arts center. DWC recruited other volunteers and cleaned up the park, planted gardens and in 1976 welcomed the (DeKalb) North Arts Center to one of the houses. The volunteer coalition kept the park running until 1985, when the North Arts Center moved to its new home at the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center (the former Dunwoody Elementary School). When DWC member Kathy Hanna, a passionate environmentalist from California, learned from a neighbor that the county was planning to “develop” the property, she and another DWC conservationist, Pat Adams, vowed to save it. They pulled in three other DWC members, and with the backing of DeKalb County Commissioner Jean Williams, convinced the county to spare the property from development. When asked how they planned to use it, they said, “As a nature center!” The county’s one requirement was that someone live full-time in the house remaining on the property. None of the women had ever started a nature center before, but what they lacked in experience they made up for with passion – and the guidance of Hanna’s neighbor John Ripley Forbes, a naturalist who had established nature centers across the country. “He told us, ‘I can’t give you money,’” said Hanna, “’but I can give you advice.’” Other groups joined them, including the Spalding Garden Club, and they did a massive two-year clean-up of the property. They opened as the Dunwoody Nature Center in 1990 and incorporated in 1992, with Pat Adams president of the board, which was composed of members of many other Dunwoody volunteer organizations. “We started with seven couples each giving $1,000,” said Adams. The first director lived in the house rent free as part of her salary. Unpaid DWC members taught most of the classes. Twenty-nine years later, the rest is history. Next on the calendar is DWC’s 48th annual Dunwoody Home Tour, its major source of funding, on Oct. 6. This year will feature two homes in Dunwoody and one in Sandy Springs. “They all have the most beautiful light fixtures I’ve ever seen,” said Home Tour Chair Diane Norris. Added this year are two home decorating sessions at Southern Comforts with Marc Jones, “the consignor’s designer,” decorating the same room in two different styles. Registration information is on the tickets, which are on sale at local retailers and online at https://www.dunwoodywomansclub.com/home-tour. What these women have done for Dunwoody with no fiscal remuneration and little personal recognition is priceless. Here’s to another 50 years of outstanding leadership!

4279 Roswell Road Atlanta, GA (404) 257-0084 www.wbu.com/Atlanta 2080 N. Decatur Road Decatur, GA (404) 464-5157 www.wbu.com/Decatur

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All You Can Eat Tastes September 23rd to 25th foodthatrocks.org

The evolution of Sandy Springs’ dining scene elected in 2013, he helped spur a new wave of restaurants. “When Rusty came in, it was clear from the get go, that he saw the evolution of the restaurant community as a key element for the city,” Alterman said. Paul said he worked with the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber to launch the Restaurant Council, tasked with promoting and marketing the city’s restaurants. The city’s first Restaurant Week launched soon after, offering special menu items and drinks as a way to pique interest in the city’s eateries. “We promoted it on social media, and it caught fire,” Paul said. More residents began to eat out in Sandy Springs, and new restauThe ribbon cutting for The rants soon followed, he said. Brickery in February 1992. “And so the word spread. ‘Hey, Sandy Springs has a neat little burgeoning restaurant community. Let’s go there and check it out,’” Paul said. Sandy Springs resident Chef Todd Ginsberg of The General Muir. Dale DeSena, founder of Taste of Atlanta, in 2016 decided to bring her expertise in tasting BY AMY WENK events to the city. Food That Rocks launched that year Chef Todd Ginsberg and his partners had as a way to celebrate Sandy offers to expand their intown deli to the subSprings restaurants. urbs. City Springs has been a catalyst for Sandy Springs’ dining “I wanted to really showThey looked at Avalon in Alpharetta evolution, featuring restaurants such as The Select. case the restaurant scene and and a food hall project in Marietta. Instead, also help grow the restauthey selected Sandy Springs for a new loHistoric Roswell. rant scene,” DeSena said. “We cation of The General Muir. The New YorkBut things have knew we could do a big tastinspired Jewish deli opened this January at changed. Just as Saning event that was a VIP expeCity Springs. dy Springs has evolved rience like no other.” “We got to really thinking about … Sandy City Bar is now open at the Sandy since incorporating in Food That Rocks was first Springs, how it changed and evolved,” GinsSprings Performing Arts Center. 2005, so has its dining held at Hammond Park, then berg said. “We thought that there would be scene. “Given the demomoved to City Springs once the town center an opportunity for a good deli up there, esToday, there are graphics of the comproject opened in 2018. pecially considering there are five synaabout 270 restaurants in munity, we had a Since then, City Springs has become a gogues within a couple of miles.” the city, from fine dining tough time getting gathering place for Sandy Springs residents, For years, lacking a walkable city center, to fast-casual, featuring chef-driven restaulined with popular restaurants including Sandy Springs had struggled to attract chefs authentic cuisine from rants to come to SanThe General Muir, The Select, Flower Child and establish a thriving culinary scene. Persian, Mexican, Japady Springs,” Mayor and NAM Kitchen. And city officials just Even its own residents would pass over the nese, Greek to Italian. Rusty Paul said. launched City Bar at the Sandy Springs Percity, driving instead to the fine dining in It took some effort One restaurant Bruce and Sally Alterman when forming Arts Center, said Mayor Paul. Buckhead or perhaps the eclectic bistros of though. helped set the stage. The Brickery closed in 2015. “City Springs was definitely a catalyst,” The Brickery Grill he said. “We knew that we needed a place and Bar opened in 1992 in a now defunct for the community to come together.” shopping center off Roswell Road. It would Other Sandy Springs restaurants help Food That Rocks, a tasting event that become the “epicenter of the restaurant define the city today. Just to name a few, celebrates the vibrant and expanding scene in Sandy Springs,” Paul said. there is Rumi’s Kitchen, Breadwinner Cafe dining scene in Sandy Springs, will re“We opened because we felt like there re& Bakery, Il Giallo Osteria & Bar, Cibo e Beve, turn Sept. 23-25. Held at City Springs, ally wasn’t a neighborhood-driven, and I’m Southern Bistro, Bishoku and Hammocks the event features favorite bites and bevgoing to use the word authentic, option for Trading Company. More are coming, includerages from more than 40 restaurants, people to eat in Sandy Springs,” said Bruce ing Italian restaurant Tre Vele. along with live music. This year, there Alterman, who ran The Brickery with his The pandemic has been an obvious setwill be four sessions held over the three wife, Sally. “Our goal was not to be trendy back for many restaurants. But what is not days. Limited tickets are $80 per person or frou frou … We found a formula where lost is the industry’s importance on the for an all-inclusive VIP Experience. we were just so fortunate that we ended up community and its quality of life, Paul said. with long-term, loyal, repeat business.” “Dining is the number one form of enter“Food that Rocks was created to bring together community and entertainment The Brickery, known for its fried chicktainment today,” DeSena said. “If a city has a for a cause,” said Dale DeSena, the event creator and founder of Taste of Atlanta. en and baby back ribs, operated for 24 years, popular and great restaurant scene, people She said the event was reimagined this year due to the pandemic. “Rather than a closing in 2015 when the shopping center will move here. Businesses will open here. I single event serving large numbers, we are hosting multiple sessions. These smallwhere it was located was bought and redethink that dining drives economic developer, intimate tasting events will allow us to bring Food That Rocks back in a manner veloped. That property now houses restaument in any area.” that is safe and expands options for both our guests and restaurants.” rants including Casi Cielo and C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar. Visit www.foodthatrocks.com for more details. Alterman said when Mayor Paul was

@reporter_newspapers BH

SEPTEMBER 2021 | 15


A sampling of Sandy Springs restaurants Kid Cashew►

►Flower Child

we the power of

Location: City Springs Most popular dish: Mother Earth Bowl, with ancient grains, sweet potato, portobello mushroom, avocado, cucumber, broccoli pesto, charred onion, leafy greens, red pepper miso vinaigrette, and hemp seeds. Social: @eatflowerchild


& Learn

Thursday, October 7th • 11:30am Join us for an informative presentation on senior living and the exceptional services & safeguards. Afterwards, take a tour and enjoy a delicious lunch especially prepared by our executive chef and culinary team. Seating is limited. To make a reservation, please call 404.381.1743.

Hammocks► Trading Company Location: 7285 Roswell Road Most popular dish: Blackened Grouper Sandwich, with coleslaw, remoulade, lemon, and Old Bay fries. Social Media: @eatathammocks

TOGETHER WE THRIVE. Connection is key to a longer and more vibrant life, and powers everything WE do. It’s like being part of a super supportive family of waiters, chefs, housekeepers, ZEST® activity coaches, care & wellness teams, and even a bunch of really friendly and fun neighbors, all helping you thrive. Experience the Power of WE at The Piedmont at Buckhead.

Location: Set to open at 6090 Roswell Road Most popular dish: Meatballs au Poivre, homemade ground meatballs mixed with a blend of spices with a brandy peppercorn sauce. Social Media: @kidcashew

▲Tre Vele Location: Set to open at City Walk Most popular dish: The assortment of fresh handmade pasta made from 100% Italian grains. Social: @treveleatl ◄285 Colonial Kitchen Location: The Prado Sandy Springs Most popular dish: Sample Platter, which comes with egg rolls, short rib, duck breast, grilled lemongrass chicken, grilled shrimp, and beef sausages. Social media: @285colonialkitchen

▲Bishoku Location: Parkside shopping center Most popular dish: Terry Roll, a shrimp tempura roll and avocado topped with tuna, yellow tail, salmon and caviar. The roll is torched to create a smoky taste. Social media: @bishokuATL

The Select►


650 Phipps Boulevard NE • Atlanta, GA www.ThePiedmontatBuckhead.com • 404.381.1743 E XC EP TI O N A L S EN I O R LIV I N G I N B U C K H E A D AN




Location: City Springs Most popular dish: Miso Sea Bass, with bok choy, pickled shiitake mushrooms, forbidden black rice, and orange miso. Social Media: @theselectatl

▲Under the Cork Tree Location: The Prado Sandy Springs Most popular dish: Salt Cod Croquettes - cod and potato fritters, fine herbs and lemon garlic aioli. Social media: @eatatcorktree

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What we learned from the pandemic Reporter Newspapers asked local students to respond to the following prompt, regarding their experience during the pandemic: “Take a moment to reflect on how the pandemic has challenged you, what skills you relied on or developed to cope, and how you might use this experience to improve your future.”

Khushi Niyyar, The Westminster Schools, Class of 2022 “Sorry, I can’t,” I apologized again, the words feeling dry within my mouth. Having both sets of my grandparents living with me during the pandemic was both something I was intensely grateful for and something I partially resent-

ed. I pulled back on a few activities — Cross-Country, Track — where I felt that I, and by extension them, would be safe. In the larger scheme of things, not going to a restaurant or missing out on practices were small inconveniences for a much larger payout, but it felt like I was losing aspects of myself in the process. I have always been a fairly hands-on learner, needing to feel the weight of a pen beneath my fingers to understand abstract concepts, so the sudden shift to my computer felt jarring. In addition, most of the aspects of school that I loved — clubs and sports and friends and freedom — gradually fell away until every day was one endless cycle. It became imperative, then, that I educate myself and find ways to break the cycle. I found new hobbies and interests, met virtually with friends, and gravitated toward my family, spending endless hours on games, cooking, and just sitting and talking into the early morning. The first few weeks and even months felt like we were in a time @reporter_newspapers BH

warp and I shunned regularity and routine. However, as summer turned into fall, and fall into winter, I decided that I needed to start creating my own schedule and developed a level of independence and thoughtfulness that I never believed I could be capable of otherwise. During this time, when the world stood still, I discovered more about myself than I have in any other period of my life. However, living through a pandemic was not all growth and development. Seeing the death toll rise in India and wondering which of my relatives would be next took a greater toll on me mentally than I realized at that time. It was not until my grandparents and family could get vaccinated that I felt the weight I was carrying finally lift off my shoulders. In the end, I might remember the mindless blur of Zoom screens or the new weight of a mask or the growing isolation, but it is that moment of relief that I will carry with me past COVID and into my life beyond. I was a person rediscovering my humanity, and I will be a stronger person because of it.

Meghna Singha, Pace Academy, Class of 2022

I was able to attend school in person, my parents were able to maintain financial stability and I had easy access to testing and vaccination sites. However, rather than facing physical or economic struggles, I faced mental ones. To be frank, I get bored easily. Between school, sports, other extracurriculars and social life, my weeks tend to be jam-packed all seven days, 364 days of the year (the one exception being the day after Thanksgiving when I am too full to even move). It was just full-speed ahead for most of the year and whenever I tried to slow down, I would find myself at a standstill, unable to pick up speed again. And then the entire world came to a literal screeching halt and my entire life was put on hold. Instead of always being out of the house or always being with friends, my life was reduced to the 90foot perimeter of my bedroom and the pixelated versions of loved ones. At first, it was challenging to find ways to keep myself from just scrolling through Tiktok for hours on end. However, as the weeks become months, I discovered more and more interesting ways to keep myself occupied. Soon, these hobbies, such as painting, developed into passions. The pandemic isolated me and pumped the brakes on my life: two things I always feared, but by slowing down, I learned the art of reflection. The last year has given me the opportunity to take a breath and actually take a hard look at my life, allowing me to prioritize the things that matter. As I finish up high school and move into the next chapter of my life, I know myself and my values better than ever before. By knowing myself, I can actually be myself which is the most important skill I could have ever learned.

Flannery Hipp, Marist School, Class of 2026 I say with much gratitude that my experience throughout the pandemic has been incredibly privileged and fortunate.

The COVID pandemic has reshaped our lives, and through the months of virtual school, locked-down summers, masks, vaccines, and countless COVID tests, we’ve finally reached a point in

each of our individual lives where we have found something that works for us. For me, I took to writing. For a while I had wanted to write a novel, and with all the extra alone time the pandemic offered, I thought it would be the perfect time to start! Between breaks in Zoom school, I started to write a novel. But, like all new hobbies, it was hard at first. Developing good writing habits and being able to balance that with school was challenging. But luckily the 2019-2020 school year was coming to an end, and I had the whole summer of 2020 to get better at writing. I don’t think anyone expected the pandemic to last more than two weeks at first. I certainly didn’t. But things changed when I started to only meet my family on Zoom or talk to friends on FaceTime calls. That’s when I realized that the pandemic might give me a lot of spare time, but it also gave me a sense of being lonely. So my made-up characters became my society. And that’s when I discovered that while it was fun to write alone, it was even more fun to write with someone else. One of my best friends was writing a novel, and together we connected over virtual meetings where we’d both just sit and write. I learned that sometimes having someone to talk to, even over Zoom, made writing, and life, a whole lot easier. Now that the pandemic might be coming to a close, I look forward to having those Zoom writing chats in person, beContinued on page 18 SEPTEMBER 2021 | 17

FOCUS ON EDUCATION Tomorrow calls for a new kind of leader.

Continued from page 17 cause if talking to people through a computer could help me write two novels in the pandemic, then I know that when we get back in person, every little bit of that time not wasted will inspire me to keep writing. If writing can get me through a pandemic, it can get me through anything else.

Rohan Datta, The Galloway School, Class of 2022

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When The Galloway School switched to remote learning in March 2020 as the pandemic surged, I was initially concerned about missing in-person classes and lunch with friends. As the originally three-week virtual commitment dragged on for three months, I felt isolated and unproductive. Fortunately, the tightly-

knit community I’ve loved since Pre-K came through with Zoom, game-nights, FaceTimes, and socially-distant activities making me feel part of the community struggling together. What the pandemic did affect, though, was my entrepreneurial aspirations. In the summer of 2020, I was excited to be selected for LaunchX, an entrepreneurship program that helps high schoolers launch startups and get real-world business experience. I was despondent when I saw the email announcing the program’s shift to virtual for its 6-week duration. This would significantly limit my ability to do market research with face-to-face encounters and interact with peers and even my own startup group. Luckily, over the course of the program, I was able to draw on and improve my ability to reach out to other people – even virtually – helping my team pivot from our initial idea, create a minimum viable product, and find beta testers. To escape feelings of isolation, I reached out to mentors and participated in the program’s community-building virtual events. Although I acquired knowledge of ideation and bringing products to market, perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned was the real meaning of “networking.” It finally became clear to me that online networking goes beyond clicking the “like” button on Instagram or “connect” on LinkedIn. It is sharing your personality and genuine interest in the other person – without using a resume as a script. Even though I look forward to seeing people, interpreting body language, and hearing without a desktop speaker, as we emerge from the pandemic with “Zoom” as a verb, I know that these online networking skills are here to stay.

Kate’s Club book offers coping tips to grieving families Kate’s Club, the Brookhaven‐based non‐profit whose mission is to empower children facing life after the death of a parent, sibling or caregiver, is now getting its message out via a new book. “We Come Together As One: Helping Families Grieve, Share and Heal The Kate’s Club Way” is based on the authors’ knowledge gained from working with families that are a part of the organization. Lane Pease Hendricks is director of programs at Kate’s Club, and Nancy L. Kriseman is a licensed clinical social worker, buddy volunteer, and ambassador for the organization. The “Kates’ Club Way” believes in empowering children and teens as they move through their grief process so they can become more resilient and ultimately find ways to thrive. The book builds on that philosophy by providing suggestions and ideas so that adult caregivers have strategies and tools to best support their families. Plus, there are several chapters dedicated to helping adult caregivers cope with their own feelings about the death as they create a new life for themselves. Kate’s Club was founded in 2003 by Kate Atwood after losing her mother to breast cancer at age 12. The book is available at Amazon. Find out more at katesclub.org. — COLLIN KELLEY


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SEPTEMBER 2021 | 19


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Diana Toma’s mural “Daydreaming,” located at the entrance of the Spruill Center for the Arts. BY SAMMIE PURCELL If you’ve walked around Dunwoody’s Spruill Center for the Arts lately, you might notice that the building looks a bit different – brighter, more colorful – than it did before. Murals and other art pieces have begun to pop up all over the building, and CEO Alan Mothner wants to see that trend continue. “We worked out of a 1960s old school,” Mothner said about the center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. “[It] was a beige, stucco building that just screamed, ‘I’m a municipal building.’ And had no bearing at all on being an art center.” Spruill needed an evolution, needed to feel more like an art center than a city structure – but the first step involved making sure changes were possible in the first place. Back in February 2021, the Public Facilities Authority – which is made up of members of the Dunwoody City Council and owns the Spruill Center building – approved Spruill’s plan to make aesthetic improvements to the building. Mothner said Spruill has a number of ideas for ways to spruce up the center, and plans to include a plethora of different mediums, whether it be ceramics, painting, or sculpture. “We felt it was very important to practice what we preach, which is that art is important and valuable and can make a difference in the community,” Mothner said. “So we want every facet of that building to represent art in a variety of forms, which is why we’re incorporating many different mediums.” First Projects – Murals Some of the first projects to grace Spruill’s walls are three unique murals,


all from the minds of Spruill Center instructors. Mothner brought the first of these murals before the Dunwoody Art Commission – which approves public art projects in the city – at a March 17 meeting. The mural, “Daydreaming,” is by artist and Spruill instructor Diana Toma, and now sits at the center’s entrance. The mural depicts a person with their eyes closed, thinking – or daydreaming, as it were – about art, creation, and the world around them. “I am so honored having it be right there at the Spruill Center entrance,” Toma said. “Spruill has been a catalyst for who I’ve become as an artist. All the people that I’ve met there, the community that I’ve created, all the relationships that I’ve created through teaching those classes there – this is very important to me.” Toma, like Mothner, was interested in showcasing Spruill as a true arts center, and wanted the mural to impart what she loved about Spruill. She said she hopes when people walk by “Daydreaming,” they stop and take a moment to think. “I was looking to create a sense of wonder,” she said. “So in a way, you could say that this is a visual poem of what Spruill stands for.” Along with “Daydreaming,” visitors to the Spruill Center will find two other murals, both located in the center’s plaza – Megan Reeves Williamson’s “Shine Your Light” and Maureen Engle’s “Wooded Wall.” Williamson said she was a bit apprehensive about putting her name in to create a mural. She teaches and is much more comfortable creating mixed-media collages, so a painted mural was a departure from the norm. reporternewspapers.net BH

“I was honestly fearful of doing a mural,” Williamson said. “It was not in my wheelhouse.” But one day, she walked by Toma working on her mural as she left Spruill for the day. Inspired by Toma’s work, she decided to take the plunge. “I was stunned by it,” she said. “Something clicked in me where I thought, I think I want to do that now. She inspired me to not be so scared of that.” Williamson began work on her mural, trying to create a piece in a similar style to a collage. The final product, “Shine Your Light,” depicts a flashlight on one side, shining out into a dark, obscure background and revealing a multitude of abstract shapes and colors within the light. “I have very spiritual meanings in my collage work, so ‘Shine Your Light’ kind of fits with that,” Williamson said. “I use a lot of bright colors, overlapping abstract shapes and sort of whimsical items … it all just came together.” The third mural at Spruill Center, “Wooded Wall,” comes from Spruill instructor Maureen Engle – mostly. She had a few extra hands on deck to help her out. Engle said she worked on her mural – which depicts a forest of birch trees surrounded by colorful leaves – during Spruill’s summer camp. Everyday, kids would pass by, see her painting and ask if they could join in. Eventually, Engle let them. She allowed the campers to pick their favorite colors and paint leaves on the trees in the mural. It might not have been the concept she originally had in mind – “It became even more colorful,” she said – but it all worked out in the end. “I love letting kids take the lead and be creative,” she said. “It was fun. They got excited about it, and I got excited about it.” Mothner said the kids’ excitement about being involved in the mural led to quite a stir on camp’s “Fantastic Friday,” a day when campers can bring their parents and show them what they’ve accomplished. “They all dragged their parents outside in the 90-degree weather and showed them their mural,” he said. “Like, ‘mom and dad, look at the mural that I made!’”

ic mandalas that will be located at the back entry to the building. The class will be held during “Back to Spruill Week” from Sept. 11-18, and interested residents can sign up online. Another project that has not yet been presented to the Art Commission includes a series of totems made with ceramics that will be placed in the garden area in front of the center. Mothner said Spruill will also continue to work on projects throughout the city. At an Aug. 3 meeting, the Art Commission approved a mural project at 5064 Nandina Lane. Engle will be teaching a class where she and a group of teenage students will create a 9-foottall by 100-foot-long mural for the location. “The concept is kind of a Georgia O’Keeffe-ish garden,” Engle said. “I have a concept, but I’m going to let the teenagers give a good bit of input.” Spruill will be holding an open house on Sept. 12 from 1-5 p.m. where residents can stop by to see the new murals as well as demonstrations of ceramics, leatherworking, painting, and jewelry. According to a Spruill spokesperson, the event is free and no registration is necessary.

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What’s Next Mothner said Spruill’s next projects, much like Engle’s mural, will involve collaboration from members of the Dunwoody community. The Art Commission has already approved the next improvement, Spruill’s “Mosaic Mandala Project.” As part of this project, Mothner said residents will be able to take part in a mosaics course and help create mosa-

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Award-winning North Springs playwright plans to continue writing

BY BOB PEPALIS Nina Schwelm leaves Sandy Springs for college as an award-winning playwright, and while she plans to become a teacher, she said writing will always be part of her life. The North Springs High School graduate – class of 2021 – was one of three student winners in the Georgia Film Academy’s Dramatic Writing 10-Minute Play Competition. “The play was actually my midterm for my dramatic writing class! My classmates and I were required to write 10-minute productions to be graded by our teacher, Mr. Joel King,” Schwelm said in an email interview. King told his students that the school’s two dramatic writing teachers would pick one play to submit to a statewide play competition. One entry was allowed per school. As part of the brainstorming process, King asked his students to think of questions they wished they had answers to – and then answer one of those questions in the form of a play. “My question was, ‘Are letters across the sea enough to keep the spark of a relationship aflame?’” Schwelm said. Her play, “Across the Sea,” tells the story of a Marine stationed on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and his girlfriend living stateside in an urban metropolis. The winning entries will be given staged readings by professional actors over Zoom, planned for autumn of 2021. Schwelm said she never gave playwriting much thought, though she had envisioned writing a book or film. Her first attempt at the craft was in her sophomore year at North Springs as part of The 24-Hour Plays. “I had no idea what I was doing and a little less than five hours to write a ten-


minute production. It was so stressful – I consider my first play an absolute train wreck,” Schwelm said. So she was shocked to learn she won statewide honors for “Across the Sea,” after being surprised to be the school’s entry. “I was just about to head out to run errands with my mom when my phone buzzed with a text from Mr. King. I looked down at my phone and in the middle of the message, in all caps, was ‘YOUR PLAY WON!’ and I couldn’t believe it,” she said. Schwelm said she has little theater experience, except for elementary and school camp productions. Writing is a different matter. In sophomore year, she was assistant editor of North Springs’ literary magazine, “Echo.” The magazine gained a superior ranking from the Georgia Scholastic Press Association. In her junior year, she was promoted to editor-in-chief and managed the staff. “That year, I won a superior ranking from GSPA for a poem I wrote,” she said. Schwelm took audio-visual technology and film class during high school. In her senior year, she was script writer and anchor for the school’s news broadcast, “North Springs News.” “I had a few really great teachers and some nice friends, but I’m looking forward to the future,” Schwelm said. That future starts at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville where she plans to study Special Education. “I will most definitely continue to write – maybe the literary magazine will have a need for me. I’m in the Honors College and Leadership Academy as well,” she said.

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Cross Keys student up for scholarship BY SAMMIE PURCELL

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The Brookhaven-based Latin American Association has nominated a Cross Keys High School senior for a leadership-based scholarship. The LAA chose 17-year-old Kimberly Castro-Godinez as its nominee for the Posse Scholarship, given to students who demonstrate academic excellence and serve as leaders in their schools or communities. CastroGodinez, who lives in Chamblee, has a 3.98 GPA. Eliezer Velez, the managing director of youth services for the LAA, said CastroGodinez has participated in the organization’s mentoring program since she was in 6th grade. “She’s shown us that she really wants to pursue a career and continue with her education,” Velez said. “Because of her tenacity and her willingness to work hard to accomplish her education, we nominated her.” No decision has been made about the scholarship yet. In the meantime, Reporter Newspapers asked Castro-Godinez a few questions: How did it feel to be nominated for the Posse scholarship? Castro-Godinez: I felt good. It’s like, growing up I never thought that I could be capable of actually getting money to go to college … I go to low-income schools, so sometimes you feel like you won’t be given the same opportunities as other kids that go to private school. It was just a good feeling to have opportunities in front of me and have hope in the future. What do you enjoy doing? Castro-Godinez: I love ROTC. JROTC is a passion of mine. I just love the leadership that comes from it and also it’s really fun going to drill meets and drilling with other cadets. Also since I’ve been in the program for so long, I kind of get the sense of what I’m supposed to do and how to help other cadets. So it’s empowering to have a leadership role and also help other people.


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So you’re starting your senior year. What’s something you’ve done in your high school career that you’re most proud of? Castro-Godinez: I think the thing that I’m most proud of is trying out new things. In sophomore year, I told myself – I’m going to try out everything and see what I do and don’t like. It ended up going well! I ended up finding that I liked drilling in ROTC, and I ended up getting new experiences. reporternewspapers.net

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Ridgeview Charter Middle School Chorus Teacher Jesse Gilbert during a recent class. (Photos by Beth E. Concepción)





Ridgeview Charter Middle School Chorus Teacher Jesse Gilbert thoughtfully considered her eighth-grade students self-arranged in groups, still murmuring as class had just begun. “I’m going to move you around today,” Gilbert said to them as she started doing just that. Breaking up cliques is just one of the ways Ridgeview teachers and staff are trying to further this year’s theme of “Ridgeview United” in their diverse environment. Ridgeview is 50 percent Hispanic, 25 percent White, and 25 percent African American. The diversity is one of the many things the school has going for it. “I sought this school out for my kids because I wanted them to go to school with people who don’t look like them,” said Brad Glenn, a Ridgeview alumnus

whose daughter is in eighth grade there. “We are what everyone wishes they could create.” Glenn is president of the Ridgeview Charter School Foundation and also is the chair of the newly created Ridgeview United committee. “It was created to really take a deep dive into how we can unite our very diverse community in deeper, more meaningful ways than ever before,” he said. One of the areas where this unity is on display is in the music program, consisting of chorus, orchestra and band. Ridgeview stands out among its Fulton County public school peers for its student involvement in music. About 58 percent of Ridgeview students are involved in music. “Our music participation is roughly double the average at many middle schools where their participation rate is about 30 percent,” said Principal Opie


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Blackwell, who has been at Ridgeview for more than five years. Though that’s still high, the percentage is down from a whopping 70 percent of enrollment in pre-pandemic days. “I think there is something special in these programs for the kids: relationships, leadership skills and obviously the music,” Blackwell said. The programs also are a way for students to learn about each other through common interests, as they might not have much else in common. “We’ve always had this diverse population,” Gilbert said. “But truthfully, I’ve seen a lot of division … They live in different parts of town. They have different experiences, go to different churches, but they all come here – it is everybody. We sing the same songs, and we perform the same concerts. It matters more which voices go well together than which personalities or socioeconomic levels.” “We’re doing more than learning the music,” Blackwell said. Ridgeview United is a deliberate choice of theme for the year ahead. “This year we’re trying to acknowledge those barriers and those divisions and try to tear them down,” Gilbert said. “We’re trying to really bring the kids together more so than they have been.” It’s clear that Ridgeview staff and parents are invested in the theme, but students are on board as well. “I feel like Chorus has brought me closer with people I’ve never seen before,” said Yoel Biton who transferred to Ridgeview from Peachtree Middle School. Tori Norman agreed. “This is the year for me to make new friends,” she said. “I would like to have more friends outside my friend group so that I can have options and people who are into different things.” “I’m glad that we’re back in person now for two reasons: I want to make friends because I don’t want to be alone and because I’m a hands-on learner,” said Chace Mallory. Summer Carr said, “I didn’t think I would make any new friends because everyone has their friend groups. But over time I started to realize that I have to go for it and talk to people.” Addi Hall transferred to Ridgeview from Chamblee Middle School. “When I first joined Chorus, [Summer and I] really clicked because we were sitting near each other,” Hall said. “The setup that Mrs. Gilbert has made for us – in changing our seats a lot, making us meet new people and having more friends than we usually do – is really good and progressive for me. I didn’t have that many friends before and now I do.” Progressive thinking is what earned Ridgeview the honor of being named a Georgia Lighthouse School to Watch in 2019. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform recognized only 24 middle schools across the state with the honor. The talents of the students will be on display at the Ridgeview United Music Festival, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 21 at Heritage Green in Sandy Springs.

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Experience Epstein! Schedule a tour today and see firsthand what makes Epstein so special! Ojore Berkeley at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games. (Special/Laura Berkeley) BY AMY WENK An eight-year-old student at Heards Ferry Elementary School earned four medals at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games, according to his parents. Ojore Berkeley competed as a swimmer in the competition held in Houston, Texas, said Laura Berkeley in an email. He earned second place in freestyle, third place in backstroke, third place in butterfly and fourth place in breaststroke, she said. “He had a great time, and we couldn’t be prouder!” Laura Berkeley said in the

email. She added that Ojore also excels academically, as he’s been a member of Mensa since he was six. He’s also a chess champion, she said. “He is smashing stereotypes that suggest you can’t be an athlete and an intellectual.” Reporter Newspapers asked Ojore’s father and coach, Dalero Berkeley, a few questions: How proud are you that he was able to earn four medals at the Junior Olympics? “Totally proud of him. This was part of his summer effort focused on sports and academics. This summer he competed in

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the Junior Olympics [and] the ASA Swimming Championship at Georgia Tech. He competed in East Side Baseball tournaments. [He] performed ninth-grade math. He finished his fifth-grade math book although he is now going into third grade. As a result of all of those activities, he collected two gold medals, three silver medals, three bronze medals, a fourth-place medal, three baseball trophies, two rings and more that 10 first-place ribbons. He is also an exceptional chess player winning the kindergarten, first and second-grade chess championship for Heards Ferry and the Kids Chess Crazy House Championship for the past semester. This summer, he beat his personal best (Level 18) in his chess game for the first time.

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Is there anything you could share about his personality and determination?

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Blank Foundation’s Fay Twersky: ‘I’m a crazy optimist’ BY MARIA SAPORTA Six months into becoming president of the Buckhead-based Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Fay Twersky said moving to Atlanta “has been a jolt in the arm professionally.” Twersky, a native of Philadelphia who has spent much of her life on the West Coast, the Northeast and Israel, also embraced the idea of living in Atlanta. She previously served as vice president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in San Francisco where she had spent nine years. In her first exclusive Atlanta interview, Twersky began by saying she was drawn to head the Blank Foundation partly because it was in Atlanta and in the South – an area where she believes national philanthropy should be more invested. “We love Atlanta,” said Twersky, referring to herself and her wife, Jill. “That really was a draw.” The greatest draw, however, was the Blank Foundation’s strategic priorities as well as sharing the values of Arthur Blank and his family. Twersky succeeded Penny McPhee, who was president of the Blank Foundation for 17 years, until this past February. Before selecting a new president, the foundation embarked on a strategic planning process to determine where it should focus its giving. The board narrowed in on three areas: democracy, the environment and youth development. “They are the existential issues of our day,” Twersky said. “Democracy includes voting access, journalism, and civic participation. Our democracy is in crisis, here and around the world. The environment includes conservation and climate change. Youth development is helping young people and preparing the workforce.” It also is a pivotal time for the Blank Foundation, which anticipates increasing its annual giving. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, the foundation has invested more than $800 million. It estimates that it will give away about $75 million this year. “We are going to put a stake in the ground in having a big impact in these three areas. We are going to put serious resources behind them,” said Twersky, who anticipates the foundation’s giving in the coming years will grow considerably. “Arthur wants to increase his giving, and it’s his great joy to do that with his children. Arthur says: ‘Giving while living.’” Blank, 78, is a co-founder of the Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United soccer team as well as other entities in the Blank Family of Businesses – the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, PGA TOUR Superstore, Mountain


Sky Guest Ranch, West Creek Ranch and Paradise Valley Ranch. “We are a big complex organization,” said Twersky, who also serves on the executive team of the private businesses. “Another thing that drew me here was Arthur’s commitment to leverage the business platform and align that with the foundation. That’s unique in the foundation world.” For Twersky, it’s all about impact.

rael wasn’t hospitable to me being gay,” Twersky said. “Everything was waking up in me – politically, intellectually and sexually. I didn’t want to stay in school.” So, she took a year off and joined a kibbutz before moving to Berkley. “I felt like a kid in a candy story,” she said. “I loved the variety, the openness and the diversity.” Twersky also began working with the American Red Cross, where she was in-

Arthur Blank and Fay Twersky. (Special/Atlanta United) After serving as a director and working on the leadership team of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Twersky joined the Hewlett Foundation, where she launched and led its Effective Philanthropy Group, an internal team dedicated to organizational effectiveness. “I got to create my job at Hewlett, and I had built a great team with great colleagues,” said Twersky, adding that when she decided to move to Atlanta. “I wasn’t running away from anything.” All her life, Twersky, 57, has been zeroing in on how she can help make a difference. She grew up in Philadelphia as part of an orthodox Jewish home with lots of rabbis in the family. “I still have that in my blood,” said Twersky, who is drawn to the belief of bringing joy. But as a teenager, Twersky began “grappling” with her own identity. At 18, she moved to Jerusalem to attend Hebrew University, where she stayed for about nine months. “I was coming out. At that time, Is-

volved with emergency services, the homeless and military families who were in crisis, referring to that as her “other education.” After four years at the Red Cross, she grew to appreciate the importance of philanthropy and the need to take a systems approach. “That led me to urban planning,” Twersky said of her time at MIT in Cambridge in the late 1980s. “I ended up getting really interested in public health and doing a blend of urban planning and public health.” When she moved back to California, she worked with nonprofits, county governments and consulting – always focused on “problem-solving” and greater impact. “Even though I don’t practice as an orthodox Jew, I continue to follow the values – to heal and repair the world,” Twersky said. “I’m a crazy optimist. I do believe there’s still hope.” She also credits her upbringing for the value of family and the value of

Reporter Newspapers has partnered with Saporta Report to provide local business news from one of Atlanta’s most respected journalists, Maria Saporta. saportareport.com

learning and inquiry. “Who has different ideas?” she said. “How can we come up with bold solutions to problems?” While in California, she started a consulting firm with two friends, one of whom became her wife. They decided to start a family and had two children. “I really wanted our kids to know their father,” Twersky said. “I had a friend from high school, a really good guy. He’s an artist, and he makes handmade guitars. He didn’t want to have kids.” But he was willing to be the biological father, and Twersky is the biological mother. They celebrate Jewish holidays together, and the children have a relationship with their biological father. Jaz, 24, will begin Rabbinical School at Hebrew College this fall; and David Nathan, 20, is a rising third-year student at the University of Chicago, studying biology and aiming for a career in medical research. “We were empty nesters,” Twersky said. “Jill was very open to coming to Atlanta. She was very involved in AmeriCorps and service. We both believe in aisle-crossing. Good ideas can come from everywhere.” And she is energized by working with a family foundation with values that are so aligned with her own. “We are living in such a polarized society,” said Twersky, mentioning how even vaccinations have become politicized. “How do we lift up different voices?” Although the Blank Foundation is not endowed, Blank has pledged to have most of his wealth go towards philanthropic giving, which is good news for Atlanta. “The foundation is very connected to Atlanta,” Twersky said. “Arthur, the family and the board are committed to working in Georgia, with a focus on Atlanta, as well as Montana – with an eye towards national influence.” An area of concern is the lack of economic mobility in Atlanta, but Twersky’s optimism comes through when she quickly adds: “There are things we can do.” When asked about how long she plans to stay in Atlanta, she responded: “I’m here” – implying that she’s not going anywhere. “I feel like everything in my life and my career has prepared me for this moment,” Twersky said. “It’s hard to give away money well. It’s a total privilege. But to do it well in a way that has enduring impact, takes strategic clarity, a willingness to take risks, swing for the fences, measure our progress and adapt as we learn.”

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3910 Lawrenceville Hwy, Tucker GA 30084

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BUCKHEAD CHASTAIN OFFICE Bill Murray, Sr. VP Managing Broker 3744 Roswell Road NE I Atlanta, GA 30342 404.537.5200 Buckhead.bhhsgeorgia.com BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES GEORGIA PROPERTIES A member of the franchise system of BHH Affiliates, LLC

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SEPTEMBER 2021 | 32