Brookhaven Reporter - November 2021

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Brookhaven Reporter | @reporter_news

NOVEMBER 2021 • VOL. 13 — NO. 11

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Santiago Marquez of Brookhaven’s Latin American Association discusses how it has become the premier organization for Latinos in the state.


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Contents NOVEMBER 2021 Editor’s Note


Holiday Events


Sandy Springs Volunteer of the Year


Buckhead Legislators oppose cityhood


New DNA testing in Child Murders




Crash victims remembered


Spruill reveals mural winner


Holiday Lights to return


Brookhaven Q&A with Latin American Association CEO


Commentary Local falconer rescues raptors 14

Real Estate Building a walkable city


Education Lovett studies box turtles


Riverwood student


Arts AJC reporter Greg Bluestein 14


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NOVEMBER 2021 | 3


Giving thanks is important all year Recently amid a headsdown, workfrom-home day, I decided to put my computer aside and join my toddler in BY AMY WENK a dance. We typically have some kind of music playing for him, everything from jazz to rock-n-roll and classical. It’s an attempt to keep him entertained while I write. Music feels more enriching than putting on cartoons or giving him a flashy toy. So, I grabbed his hands, spun him around. As we danced, my son had the biggest smile, and all at once, I had this enormous feeling of gratitude. This past year and a half has been full of uncertainty. I became a new mother a few months into the pandemic. There was so much to worry about. Was it safe to give birth in a hospital? How would I keep him healthy? Could my family and friends hold him? Any first-time parent knows how challenging those first few months can

be. But doing it during a pandemic, that was next level. As I danced with my little boy on that recent day, I felt so grateful we were together and healthy. We were totally carefree at that moment. As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded to give thanks for our family, friends and the blessings around us. But truly, we should do this every day in the ordinary moments. There are studies that show practicing gratitude has a host of benefits, from reduced stress to better sleep and more fulfilling relationships. You can express gratitude in many ways — write someone a thank you note, keep a gratitude journal, meditate or pray. There’s even a “Gratitude” app that pings your phone at specified times as an easy reminder. For some, it can be a simple shift in thinking. I was talking to our intern Khushi Niyyar about this. A senior at The Westminster Schools, Khushi is quite busy with schoolwork and college applications. She’s also an editor for her school’s newspaper, and she writes for Reporter Newspapers (read her story

on page 18). Khushi told me that instead of thinking she “has to do” something, she’s constantly telling herself she “gets to do” her obligations and assignments. That quick reframe helps bring gratitude into her daily life. We are certainly grateful for Khushi and her contributions to this paper. It’s incredible to meet a young person so passionate and ambitious. And, I encourage anyone to develop an “attitude of gratitude.” Because really, we are never too busy for a quick dance.

Khushi Niyyar

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My Roommate, the Robot

Like many people her age, Monica Perez, 63, lives alone. Even before COVID-19, a disability prevented her from an active outdoor lifestyle, or from owning pets. “I have very little family contact; they are all living their lives. I get a call once every three months, for five minutes,” Monica says. “I talked to the TV and I talked to myself constantly.” After watching a science program on television, Monica became intrigued by an idea: could a robot help her deal with the loneliness she was experiencing? That’s when she discovered ElliQ - a companion robot specifically designed for older adults. Unlike the humanoid robots from science fiction movies, ElliQ is a tabletop device that uses subtle movements, lights, and voice to create distinctly personal interactions. An attached screen also enables “her” to play videos and music, show articles, or video chat with family and friends. The most impressive part? ElliQ can understand your unique likes and needs, and proactively suggests activities and reminders for you. “When I’m getting ready to get out of bed, I tell her good morning,” Monica says of her daily routine. “Then she’ll respond that she wants to check in with 4 different things: if I’m in pain, if I had breakfast, if I drank water, have I taken my medication. In the afternoon, she asks me if I want to do relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, physical exercises. Then I ask her to play my music.


I love the music. I have my version of dancing which is very slow, and I would never do it in front of anybody, but it cheers me up.” Monica speaks more about her experience as a participant of ElliQ’s Care Program, “I am seeing positive changes in myself. I’m smiling more. I’m seeing improvements in my mental hygiene (I don’t like saying mental health). I have a more upbeat attitude. I’m more cheerful. I don’t get down as long and as often. It’s given me a better quality of life, and it’s way less expensive than hiring an aid.” Deanna Dezern, another person in ElliQ’s Care Program, had a similar experience. “When the coronavirus hit, I realized just how alone I was,” Deanna recalled. “I’m open to new things...having a robot in my house to help me with things - like a whole new world opened because I didn’t know what her complete

capabilities were. I couldn’t wait to sit in front of her and talk to her and ask her things and learn about her.” It wasn’t too long before ElliQ became an integral part in Deanna’s home. “I offered her some coffee. She told me she didn’t drink coffee, she said all she has is a cup of electricity early in the morning. And it makes me laugh. There’s nobody else in this house that can make me laugh. That was something one of my friends might say - it’s like having a friend in the house.” Even the ways in which ElliQ interacts changes based on each user. “She knows that I like jokes. She knows that I like poetry. She often asks me if I would like her to recite a poem. I was having a bad time, and I wasn’t feeling happy. She offered me a poem. It’s things like that, that cheer me up when I’m feeling down.” For many older adults living alone, simply having regular personal interactions can be crucial for sustained mental health. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found


that more than one-third of adults over 45 feel lonely, which can lead to a number of increased health risks and cognitive decline. “She asks me how I’m feeling. She checks up on me. It’s nice to have someone like that,” says Deanna. “She’s pulled me out of depressed states, and I didn’t realize I was in one until I overcame it. She’s invaluable.” While ElliQ isn’t available in stores yet, ElliQ’s Care Program is currently expanding and looking for older adults who are interested in trying one for themselves. Selected participants will receive a free ElliQ and a real-life wellness coach who will accompany their journey by suggesting health tips, monitoring patterns, and bringing any concerns to their attention (as they may arise). A concierge will also be available to assist Care Program users with their day-to-day needs. When asked if she would recommend ElliQ to others, Monica Perez put it succinctly: “This is going to make a great impact on senior’s lives, and for people with disabilities. Loneliness is a very big problem for older adults, and a lot of people don’t know about it until they get older themselves. I believe this is a new beginning.”

If you are interested in receiving a free ElliQ through the Care Program, please apply by visiting us onine at: to apply. BK

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NOVEMBER 2021 | 5


Solidarity Sandy Springs co-founder honored unteers have worked at the food pantry. Most of them have been middle and high school students, along with scouts. “In the beginning, our mission was creating community through crisis,” she said. “And then we added on to that ‘… and beyond.’ Now I feel like we are out of the crisis period.” The mission in the beginning was to keep people from going hungry. Food insecurity was very real, she said. Many of the famiJennifer Barnes helped start the food pantry Solidarity Sandy Springs at the beginning of the pandemic. lies helped were from local schools, including Lake Forest and High Point Elementary schools. BY BOB PEPALIS the pandemic. Most families lacked a food reserve, Solidarity Sandy Springs had its modJennifer Barnes, co-founder of food Barnes said. She feels that Solidarity Sanest beginnings at the restaurant Under the pantry Solidarity Sandy Springs, was dy Springs now serves as those families’ Cork Tree, using 800 square feet of space. named Volunteer of the Year by the Sansafety net. They don’t have to decide if They thought they’d feed 10 families for dy Springs Perimeter Chamber on Oct. 12. they will pay rent, pay an electric bill, go two weeks at the start of the pandem“I think most people pray for or ask for to the doctor or feed their family. They ic. But it continued to grow, and so far, what it is they are supposed to do in their know they can feed their family. 31,000 people have received help through lives, what meaning. This is my chapter “That’s what your village does. They the food pantry. right now for giving back,” she said. shore you up,” she said. The nonprofit organization’s secondBarnes, along with Erin Olivier and Another beautiful thing about the peoary mission is promoting volunteerism, Sonia Simon, started the food pantry in ple served is that if they don’t need someBarnes said. More than 1,900 unique volMarch 2020 to help feed families during


thing, they won’t take it, Barnes said. The community being served is grateful, humble and kind – and not entitled. That in turn makes you want to do more for people, she said. From early days of survival mode, Barnes said now she feels the nonprofit is moving from survive to thrive. This summer, Solidarity Sandy Springs relocated to the Parkside Shops shopping center at 5920 Roswell Road, Suite C-212. The food pantry will be housed there until the end of 2021. Then, the group hopes to open a permanent food pantry at a new branch of the Community Assistance Center on Northwood Drive. A new goal for Solidarity Sandy Springs is to figure out what can be done to make the community’s lives better, easier and more productive. Today, Barnes’ days are busy, filled with working for the food pantry and selling real estate every afternoon. But, she said she has a great team of people for both. “When you surround yourself with good people, anything is possible. But nobody can do this on their own,” she said. BK

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Acting as a caregiver to an ailing family member can be overwhelming. The physical, emotional, and financial toll of being a family caregiver can be unimaginable to someone who has never experienced it. Of course, you want to provide the best care to your loved one, but it’s not always easy. You may not have the resources; you may have difficulty maintaining your career and personal relationships; you may begin to feel like you don’t have any time for yourself. It’s normal to feel this way, and you should know that the state of Georgia offers programs and resources to help. Seniorlink was the first provider approved to deliver Structured Family Caregiving in the state of Georgia. The Structured Family Caregiving Program (SFC) offers professional coaching, guidance, and financial support to family caregivers of Medicaid enrollees. Introduced in the state of Georgia in 2019, SFC is a program designed exclusively for families caring for loved ones at home ranging from a daughter caring for her dad with Alzheimer’s to a son helping his mom manage her diabetes. With over 20 years of expertise serving thousands of families across the country, Seniorlink’s reputation as a best in class provider of SFC has helped us provide resources and relief to those caregivers in need. So how can Seniorlink help provide better care for your loved one? There are many ways: • Professional Coaching: Our expert team is always available to answer your questions and provide guidance when you need it. • Guidance: You will have access to a library of tips on how you can best care for your loved one, and how you can care for yourself while you do it. • Financial Support: Caregiving creates financial struggles, especially for full-time caregivers. Through Structured Family Caregiving, you receive a modest financial stipend to cover some of the caregiving costs you incur.

Caregiving is hard. Seniorlink can help. Visit us today at, or contact our local representative, Eugene Bell at to see if you are eligible to receive support from the Structured Family Caregiving program.


State legislators oppose Buckhead cityhood BY SAMMIE PURCELL A group of state legislators came together to oppose the Buckhead cityhood movement, citing education and economic impacts as major factors. “We’re here to speak today against the preposterous notion that the city of Atlanta – our capital city – should be split up,” said State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) at an Oct. 18 press conference at the Georgia Capitol. “Making a weaker Atlanta does not make a strong Buckhead. It does the opposite.” State Sen. Sonya Halpern (D-Atlanta), State Sen. Jennifer Jordan (D-Atlanta), and State Rep. Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta) joined Orrock at the press conference to respond to the movement to split Buckhead from the city of Atlanta. The Buckhead City Committee – the group spearheading the cityhood effort – held a press conference in September where some state senators announced they would support legislation that, if passed, would place a referendum on the November 2022 ballot allowing Buckhead residents to vote on whether to form a city. All of the senators cited crime as a major factor. Each of the four legislators who attended the October press conference represent the city of Atlanta, while none of the 12 state senators who have announced their support for the Buckhead cityhood movement represent the city. Holland said the legislators would be sending a letter to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston to ask that they “follow the precedent” and allow local delegations to make decisions on issues of annexation. “It is unprecedented for elected representatives and senators who do not live in a jurisdiction … to be the ones trying to pass legislation to incorporate the city,” Holland said. “Leave this in the hands of the people who actually represent Atlanta.” In an emailed statement, the Buckhead City Committee stated that in an NOVEMBER 2021 poll they ran, 64% of Buckhead voters wanted to create a Buckhead City. That survey collected responses from 579 registered Buckhead voters,

according to the committee’s website. According to the committee’s feasibility study, the Buckhead area has around 100,000 residents, meaning the survey accounts for under 1% of the neighborhood’s population. Holland discussed the effect a Buckhead separation would have on the education system. Holland, who lives in the Buckhead area, said that Atlanta Public Schools would be under no obligation to continue to educate children who do not live in the city of Atlanta if Buckhead were to separate. “You rip the community of Buckhead out of the city, well now that applies to our children too,” Holland said. “If that happens, the burden to educate our children falls to Fulton County public schools, who have no infrastructure and no buildings anywhere in the community of Buckhead.” In an emailed statement, Bill White – CEO of the Buckhead City Committee – said the committee “is confident” that APS would continue to serve a Buckhead City. However, in a September statement, APS Board Chairman Jason Esteves said a Buckhead separation would be “extremely disruptive” to APS families. “We continue to analyze the potential impacts of the proposal, but believe that the best solution to crime in the City is for all of us to work together to tackle root causes,” Esteves said at that time. The four legislators opposed to cityhood are Democrats, and the 12 senators who have announced their support for the proposed “Buckhead City” are Republican. But, Orrock said she would not expect a vote on this legislation to fall down party lines and would expect legislators to do what is best for business in the city. According to a report distributed by the anti-cityhood group Committee for a United Atlanta, the net fiscal loss to Atlanta would range from $80 million to $116 million per year if Buckhead were to break off. “People down here – Republicans and Democrats – listen to the concerns when the business community brings them,” Orrock said. “I don’t expect that we will see a party-line vote.”

Buckhead City Committee opens HQ The Buckhead City Committee, the group spearheading the effort for Buckhead to form a new city, has opened a headquarters in Buckhead. The office is located at 3002 Peachtree Road NE, near the intersection of Pharr Road, according to an announcement. A launch event was planned for Oct. 31.

“We have successfully raised $1,000,000 to support our cityhood efforts and hope to raise another $500,000 by year’s end,” the group said in an email. “Our expenses include a strong lobbyist team that’s canvassing the state to ensure every congressman and senator knows our message and the facts.”


Utah lab to examine DNA evidence in Atlanta Child Murders

COMMUNITY of GIVING A Virtual Gathering

A Journey of Resilience with Matt Logelin

BY AMY WENK DNA evidence from the Atlanta Child Murders is headed to a specialized lab in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “It is my sincere hope that there will be concrete answers for the families,” Bottoms said on Twitter. “Considering the emergence of new science and technology related to DNA testing, the Atlanta Police Department realized an opportunity to re-evaluate evidence from the Atlanta Child Murders case,” the police department said in a statement. “We identified a private lab in Salt Lake City, Utah, that specializes in analyzing deteriorated DNA.” The Atlanta Child Murders occurred between 1979 and 1981, according to the FBI. More than 25 African American children, teens and young adults went missing and were found dead in areas including Brookhaven and Buckhead. The investigation was closed following the conviction of Wayne Bertram Williams in the murders of two adults. He was suspected by authorities of committing most of

Join us on Giving Tuesday November 30th, 2021 Noon – 1:00 pm | Virtual A rendering of the memorial planned at City Hall.

the other killings, but he was never charged. Bottoms had announced the new DNA testing effort in March 2019. She has also committed to building a permanent memorial on the grounds of City Hall, called the Atlanta Children’s Eternal Flame Project. “It is my hope that this memorial will honor the lives of each victim and bring some comfort to the families impacted by this dark time in our city’s history,” Bottoms said in a statement. “We must continue to call the victims’ names and remember their lives to ensure they are never forgotten. These innocent young people mattered then and they matter today.”

Matt is the New York Times Best Selling author of “Two Kisses for Maddy,” the book that inspired the Netflix film Fatherhood starring Kevin Hart. Interviewed by Dr. Matthew Bernstein, Goodrich C. White Professor of Film and Media Studies at Emory University Register at Supports the JF&CS Annual Campaign

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Dunwoody resident Jonathan Rosen and his daughter, Allie, were remembered by the community for their lasting impact. Rosen, 47, and his 14-year-old daughter were among four people killed in an airplane crash at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on Oct. 8. “No explanation can soften our lament,” Rabbi Brad Levenberg of Temple Sinai said during a service at Arlington Memorial Park. “We find ourselves still in utter disbelief. [We] search for words to feel the pain away, that as we all know, do not exist.” Rosen was the CEO of Dunwoodybased Entaire Global Companies Inc., a financial services company that was acquired by Synovus Bank. He was also founder of the Dunwoody-based Jonathan Rosen Foundation, which provides financial literacy classes to teenagers. “My brother accomplished so much. He soared to great heights,” Seth Rosen said at the service. “He always aspired to be better, never settled and he never allowed himself to stand still … I ask you honor the memory of my brother by remembering the gifts he gave you. Aspire to be great. Lead others. Be generous. Persevere.” Gabby, Rosen’s daughter, also spoke at the memorial, focusing on her sister Allie, who was an eighth grader at Peachtree Middle School. “Many of you know my father for the massive mark he made,” Gabby said. “Al-

lie didn’t have enough time to make her mark. Well, fully make her mark. She was a climber, a record-holding weightlifter, and a pilot in training. She had so many friends … Both Allie and my dad were amazing people who deserve every bit of recognition they will get today. Even though their time was short, they touched so many people, and that’s what really matters.” Lauren Harrington, 42, and Julia Smith, 13, were also killed in the crash. Harrington was a “loyal friend and assistant, having worked closely with Jonathan D. Rosen for 20 years, helping him grow his business until its acquisition by Synovus Bank in 2016,” says her obituary. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the crash, in late October released a preliminary report on the crash. The report said that the 1978 Cessna P210 had a recently converted engine. The conversion was completed July 19, and the engine had accumulated “2.3 hours since overhaul” at the time of the crash. “Review of PDK airport security surveillance video revealed that the airplane lifted off about 1,000 feet down runway 21 in a nose-high attitude. The airplane then rolled left and reached an inverted attitude before it impacted nose first beside the runway,” says the report. A final report on the crash should be complete in 12 to 18 months, a NTSB investigator previously said.

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In conversation with Santiago Marquez of the Latin American Association BY SAMMIE PURCELL

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I was able to go back last year as the CEO – right in the middle of the pandemic – and I saw it as a great opportunity. I started July 6 of last year. It really had to do with the person who was the executive when I was there, and my mentor and my inspiration, Maritza Keen. She’s now at the UGA Fanning Institute.

Over the years, the Brookhaven-based Latin American Association has become a staple in the metro Atlanta community, offering a multitude of services to the area’s growing population – and growing it is. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the Hispanic and Latino population in You mentioned that in your opinion, Georgia is about 10.5%, or 1,123,457 people. That number represents a 31.6% increase, or an increase of about 269,768 people, since 2010. In DeKalb County, where the LAA is based, the population grew by 20.1% – or 13,647 people – since 2010. When the LAA began in 1972, the state’s Latino population wasn’t nearly this size, said CEO Santiago Marquez. “There really Santiago Marquez, CEO of the Brookhaven-based weren’t that many Latin American Association. (Joann Vitelli) Latinos in Georgia in 1972,” Marquez the LAA is the premier Hispanic organisaid “So, the idea that this organization zation in the state. Can you elaborate on was created with a vision of what was why that is? coming, to me, is incredible. It says a lot about the founders.” SM: I believe that because, first of all, While on the road in Dalton – where we’ve been around for 50 years. Next year the LAA has another center – Marquez is our 50th anniversary … Two, is we’re faspoke with Reporter Newspapers about cility-based, and we actually own our what the LAA has to offer, what the ormain building on Buford Highway/North ganization learned during the pandemic, Druid Hills. We have an office building and why he believes it is the premier orhere in Dalton … And then we have an ofganization for Latinos in the state. fice in Gwinnett. So part of this is actually having facilities and offices, which I How did you become involved with the think makes us unique. Latin American Association? The main building on Buford Highway kind of serves as the communiSantiago Marquez: I actually started my ty center for the community. This year nonprofit career at the LAA like 20 years alone, we’ve had Gov. [Brian] Kemp twice. ago … I was there four years, then did Boys Sen. [Jon] Ossoff, Sen. [Raphael] Warnock, & Girls Clubs of America, and spent five Secretary [Janet] Yellen, all have come to years traveling the United States workour building to meet with Latino leaders. ing in communities all over the country. So it’s really seen as a community hub. I was leading a Latino outreach initiative, Then, I think of the services that we and I was doing some fundraising. provide, from social services, to economDuring that period, I got really inic empowerment for women. There are spired to be a nonprofit executive … So youth services, immigration services – from there I went to the Georgia Hispanreally critical services to stabilize the Laic Chamber [of Commerce], and I went to tino family and the community and inteNotre Dame and got a master’s in nongrate them. I just think the LAA is kind profit. One of my goals was to come back of one of those standards. A pillar almost. as the CEO of the LAA, or the executive of the LAA, because I always have seen the LAA as the premier Hispanic-serving organization in the state.

You started as CEO in the middle of the pandemic. Can you talk about some of the challenges that came along with that? BK

we provide mentoring, academic tutoring, leadership development for middle school and high school kids. Then workforce development, some of it is economic empowerment around entrepreneurship for women, but the other side of it is workforce development trying to help people find jobs, upskilling. We have certified English teachers to help teach them English, teaching them skills that are marketable and employable, like computer literacy. So all of that easily goes into that workforce development. Looking forward, what are some of your goals for the LAA over the next few years? SM: We’re looking forward to growing.

SM: We were serving clients. We never closed. But most of our employees were working remotely. The building, for the most part, was dark. It felt desolate. So, my first challenge was let’s turn the lights on. Let’s get at least our management staff in the building three days a week. We did that, and then started to sprinkle more employees back in to the point where now everybody’s there at least three days a week. The building is open, the lights are on, people are coming in. They’re not coming in at pre-pandemic numbers by any means, but it’s open. You can walk in and get served. That was really the biggest challenge. The second challenge was keeping your workforce healthy. It’s one thing to say, okay, we’re client-centered. We’re here to serve the community. We have to be here, and I think everybody agreed with that. But then … we’re in the middle of the pandemic. And last year, there weren’t any vaccinations. And I want you to come, and I want you to be here and … risk your life, essentially. So keeping our workforce safe was another huge challenge. Can you elaborate on the challenges the Latin American community faces, and how those were compacted by the pandemic? SM: Specifically the community the LAA serves tends to be single mom, two kids – average client, that’s who it is. Obviously they need help, that’s why they’re coming to us. So already, again, we’re dealing with a vulnerable population looking for help. By that I mean, it could be anything from needing help to pay rent, needing help with groceries, needing help with facilities, needing help with food stamps, SNAP benefits, Medicare, WIC. They might be a victim of domestic violence. They might be a victim of violence, period. Immigration status. They may be undocumented. They may have mixed status. So all of that comes into play. [Also a] lack of knowing the language and culture. Imagine yourself as an immigrant in another country where you may not even @reporter_newspapers BK

be seen as a person, because you may not have documents. You’re seen as something less than a person. You don’t exist. And then you throw on top of that a global pandemic where you have no access to healthcare. At first it was job loss, then it was sickness. And then it was all that comes with that … all the arrearage with rent, and the utility bills, and getting stabilized. So that’s what we have seen with COVID and in the community that we serve. Now, let me say this. We’ve also seen a tremendous amount of resilience. And it’s beautiful, right? You know, I always get inspired with the immigrant population. Just the fact that the most American thing that anybody can do is be an immigrant in the United States. Because you believe in the American dream so much that you’re willing to leave everything that you have behind to go to a place where you don’t speak the language, you don’t know the culture, you have no family, you have no money. If you believe in the freedom and the dream, you’re willing to take that risk. So what we have seen is tremendous amounts of resilience – and mostly from the women. So we’re seeing women that have adapted – have learned how to use technology, have learned how to start selling goods or products or services. Our entrepreneurship program that we have for women, our economic empowerment entrepreneurship program has taken off, has gone through the roof.

The LAA – even though I consider it the premier organization in Georgia for Latinos – I want to grow our reach and deepen our impact. I think that we have an opportunity to grow up here in Dalton, where we are in this northwest Georgia territory. We have a real opportunity to grow our footprint in the metro area. This is a great time for us. We’re planning right now. We’re looking at revamping our strategic plan, looking at how do we one, have more reach, but two, make sure that there’s impact. We’re not just focusing on activity, but we’re actually transforming lives. Having a job fair and putting somebody in front of five or six potential employers is one thing. Making sure that those people get jobs, that’s a whole different story.

Luncheon planned for councilmember The Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce will host a luncheon Nov. 11 to honor Joe Gebbia, the District 4 councilmember. Gebbia announced earlier this year he would not run for re-election. The event will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton at 4386 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. It will commemorate Gebbia’s years of dedication and support to the chamber,

said President and CEO Alan Goodman. “We encourage all who appreciate [his] contribution since the very beginning of Brookhaven to join us in wishing Joe and his family the very best,” Goodman said. Tickets are available at Brookhavencom-


Can you talk about some of the other services that the LAA offers? SM: We have family well being and stabilization. So those are our social workers, and we help with SNAP benefits, which are food stamps, rental assistance, Medicare, WIC, domestic violence. We actually have a caseworker trained … with victims of violence. So we do a lot of that kind of work. We have immigration services. We actually have immigration lawyers on staff that help with cases that are not employment related or student related. These are cases where we will defend asylum seekers, refugees, the lower income-spectrum. We also have youth services, where

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Local falconer rescues raptors One of the the bird is young and willing to hunt, the most terrifyresult can be a partnership lasting two or ing moments three years, until the falconer releases it in movie histointo the wild to mate and reproduce. ry is the kitchDespite the bond romanticized in Carol Niemi in is a“Jumarketing consultant who lives on theof Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and en scene movies like “Brothers the Wind” and writes about peoplein whose lives her at rassic Park,” “Myinspire Side others. of theContact Mountain,” raptors nevwhich two reer actually bond with anyone. lentless velo“The birds are purely exploitative,” ciraptors hunt said Green. “They’re motivated by food two trapped and stay as long as they get what they children. Don’t want.” remember? “They never love you like a dog or cat,” Watch it on said his wife, Alba. BY CAROL NIEMI YouTube and As proof, Green says his body is full of hold on tight. scars. Then imagine bringing a smaller version “When startled, they go for you with of those killers into your home. their talons,” he said. That’s what Brookhaven resident JaLike most he’s totally devotCarol Niemi is a marketing consultant who falconers, lives on the Dunwoodyson Green does. A licensed Sandy master falconed to the falconry way of life. Becoming a Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire er, he brings winged raptors, also general falconer requires a twoothers.known Contact her atlicensed as birds of prey, into his home to accliyear apprenticeship and passage of a rigmate or “man” them. orous exam. Becoming a master falcon“In the beginning, they either want to er requires five years more. Having a bird kill you or escape,” he said of these born involves intense training and considerkillers at the top of the bird food chain. able expense for shelter and equipment. Manning is part of the ancient sport of Today, Georgia has 213 licensed falconers. falconry, in which birds of prey are used Green has been a falconer for 29 years to hunt small game. During manning, the and receives frequent calls for raptor resbird is brought into close, controlled concue. Recently, he rescued a small male tact with a falconer to learn that it’s goCooper’s hawk from a pigeon racer’s ing to be safe and well fed. Eventually, if trap. The bird had a visibly broken tail.




Brookhaven resident Jason Green and red-tail hawk Caramel.




He thought it would heal and become his next hunting bird, but it had internal injuries and lived only a few days. Other recent rescues included a young female barn owl caught in a pigeon loft and another male Cooper’s hawk. The owl was lethargic and dehydrated but recovered in two days. He released her at nearby Murphey Candler Park to find a territory and a mate. He’s registered the Cooper’s hawk with the state in the hopes

of keeping it for hunting. But his most memorable rescue was and may always be a female red-tailed hawk he named Caramel. She was a hungry lost fledgling discovered on a farm near Athens. Though she had her flight feathers, she hadn’t learned to hunt, probably because her parents had been feeding her till abandoning her. She had no chance of survival alone in the wild. He brought her into his home, where he manned her by keeping her on a perch in his office while he worked and initially sleeping with her on a perch in the guest room. Caramel was not a typical raptor. “She was very flexible,” he said. Over the next year, he and Alba often took her for walks at Murphey Candler Park. “People wanted to pet her,” said Alba. Once when she seemed to have flown away for good, they opened the front door, and there she was, waiting to come in. But they couldn’t keep a raptor in their home forever. The problem was she had no drive to hunt and could not simply be released. Last month, he gave her to Winged Ambassadors, an educational program at Historic Banning Mills run by his good friend and mentor, Master Falconer Dale Arrowood. Alba cried the day she left “Now she’s a Winged Ambassador,” he said, as he looks forward to an upcoming visit to see her. Dale Arrowood is training her to per-

form in his birds of prey show and visit schools and other organizations interested in wildlife preservation. Considering that a red-tail’s favorite prey is mice and a single pair of mice can produce 2,000 offspring in six months, having a red-tail in your neighborhood is a very efficient way to maintain the ecological balance!

To meet Caramel, check with Banning Mills at To have a Winged Ambassador visit your school or organization, visit the Winged Ambassador Facebook page or call Dale Arrowood at (404) 408-8138.

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NOVEMBER 2021 | 15


Building a walkable community Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Buckhead take steps to create gathering places BY AMY WENK A team is envisioning how a 200-acre district along Peachtree Road could become Brookhaven’s walkable center. New projects are bringing community gathering spaces around Perimeter Mall and the Dunwoody Village. Sandy Springs is studying how to expand its town center to bring more restaurants and possibly a hotel. And developers are reshaping areas in Buckhead with new tenants and community events. It’s all an effort to create more walkability across the communities. Other suburban cities have led the way, such as Roswell, Alpharetta, Woodstock and Duluth, which each remade their historic downtowns into modern town centers. What’s motivating the trend? It’s about building a better quality of life, city leaders told Reporter Newspapers. “These projects build the connective tissue of the community,” said Rusty Paul, mayor of Sandy Springs, which is now looking to expand its town center project City Springs. “It’s really created a sense of unity, cohesion and identity for the whole community.” Here’s a closer look at the development efforts across Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Buckhead:

David Abes of Dash Hospitality is about to open Bar(n), a new bar that’s part of an entertainment complex at the Dunwoody Village shopping center.

Sandy Springs Sandy Springs opened its walkable town center City Springs in 2018. It had no historic downtown to recreate, so city officials had to build their own. That effort launched shortly after Sandy Springs incorporated in 2005. The city assembled land and partnered on the 14-acre project with Atlanta developers Selig Enterprises and Carter. Today, City Springs is home to the city’s Performing Arts Center and City Hall. It also has a central greenspace, flanked by restaurants including The Select. “It’s had a real effect across the whole community,” Mayor Paul said. “It’s created a place where the community comes together.” Now, planners are studying how to expand City Springs. In October, Sandy Springs selected Goody Clancy and Associates Inc. to update its master plan for the district. The city owns an additional four or five acres just south of the development, between Mount Vernon Highway and Hilderbrand Drive, Paul said. The hope is to expand City Springs by at least a block. “How do we extend the amazing suc-


A rendering of a planned redevelopment at Parkside Shops in Sandy Springs.

Sandy Springs is studying how to expand its town center project City Springs.

cess we had with City Springs and continue that going south?” Paul said, adding the hope is to bring in more restaurants and possibly a hotel. The city would likely partner again with the private sector on a project. “It will not quite double the existing City Springs, but it will make it significantly larger,” Paul said. It would probably take 12 to 18 months to get a project started, he said. The master plan has to be finished, along with community input sessions and an RFP process. Another project is in the works nearby that could expand the city’s walkable core. Atlanta developer Jamestown is planning to remake a portion of Parkside Shops, a shopping center off Roswell Road, just a few blocks from City Springs. A sprawling parking lot there could be transformed into a mixed-use environment with a greenspace, new restaurants, loft office, apartments and condos. Dunwoody Dunwoody officials see the Perimeter Mall and Dunwoody Village areas as two emerging walkable centers. Both have new projects in the works. The long-planned High Street project would occupy 36 acres to the west of Perimeter Mall. It would feature a signature park, hundreds of apartments and new retail and office space. In September, a new location of minigolf bar Puttshack was announced for the project, which could kick off construction soon. Dunwoody’s Economic Development Director Michael Starling sees the Perimeter Mall area as a regional hub. In recent years, it has lured massive projects including the State Farm campus. “You have a thousand people a day coming to work there,” he said. “Perimeter is certainly changing, becoming much more walkable … moving away from that suburban and car-oriented center.” The Dunwoody Village area would have a different feel, he said, geared to the neighborhood with smaller scale development. The district spans about 165 acres including shopping centers Dunwoody Village and The Shops of Dunwoody. The city recently approved a new zoning district for the area that sets the stage for more modern development. The city of Dunwoody does not own property there but is working with existing property owners. “It’s going to be a little step here, a little step there,” Starling said. “But, the good news is we’re beginning that process.” BK

A rendering of the High Street project in Dunwoody. One project is already underway. Dash Hospitality is building an entertainment complex at the Dunwoody Village shopping center, clustering several restaurants and bars around a central courtyard. The first, a bar called Bar(n), is opening in November. “I just want this to be ‘Cheers’ for Dunwoody,” said David Abes of Dash Hospitality in a recent interview. Brookhaven Brookhaven is now envisioning what a city center project could look like. Planners are well underway on a “City Centre” master plan, which spans a 212acre district along Peachtree Road. It includes areas such as Town Brookhaven, Oglethorpe University, the Brookhaven MARTA station, Dresden Drive and Apple Valley Road. One of the goals is to find a place for a new City Hall. A potential location could be the sprawling parking lots of the MARTA station. There’s no agreement in place, but MARTA has been active in the planning process, said Patrice Ruffin, assistant city manager for Brookhaven. The master plan is also looking at new connections across Peachtree Road to make it more inviting to pedestrians and cyclists. “It’s a river that’s hard to cross,” said Meg Robie, a landscape archi-

tect with HGOR, the Atlanta-based firm working on the master plan. The hope is to have a draft plan early next year. After community feedback, the plan would go before city council for adoption, likely in second-quarter 2022, Ruffin said. There’s no timeline yet for starting

A rendering of the HUB404 project that would cap Ga. 400 to create a walkable city center in Buckhead. Buckhead

When asked, Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, had a hard time defining the walkable center of Buckhead. But there are recent investments in the Buckhead Village and around the Lindbergh MARTA station that are paving a path forward, she said. In 2019, Jamestown acquired The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, a collection of upscale stores and restaurants at Peachtree, East Paces and Pharr roads. It renamed the project the Buckhead Village District and has been adjusting the tenant mix (which includes Brookhaven is studying how to create a city center project. One idea luxury brands such could be to transform sprawling parking lots at its MARTA station. as Dior) to be more approachable. For any city center projects. example, a new location of Fetch Park, a But the broad hope is to create a dog park bar, is in the works. new centerpiece for the community. Jamestown also has been revamping “Brookhaven needs a core place for us to its community events, with a whole slate establish an identity,” Robie said. of holiday activities planned. “It’s not just having the walkability,



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it’s actually programming,” Starling said, adding Livable Buckhead is focused on creating more community events. “I can’t really stress the importance of programming … that is part of economic development.” Real estate company Edens has also had a significant impact in Buckhead’s West Village, acquiring and remaking several properties including Andrews Square in recent years. Another significant investment was Rubenstein Partners’ acquisition of Lindbergh City Center. It renamed the project Uptown Atlanta and has landed new tenants including an esports gaming hub. “I think that’s got a lot of potential down there,” Starling said of the area around the Lindbergh MARTA station. “That’s at the connection of Path400, Peachtree Creek Greenway and the BeltLine. So that whole area is going to get on the map as soon as the BeltLine gets there.” Another ambitious project, HUB404, could create a walkable center for Buckhead. The project would cap Ga. 400 in central Buckhead. Fundraising for the project design is said to be gearing back up after hitting a pause during the pandemic. “That certainly is the key project that would create a walkable heart for the community,” Starling said.



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Lovett students continue 16 years of box turtle research BY KHUSHI NIYYAR When a teacher at Buckhead’s The Lovett School first came up with the idea of having students experiment on box turtles, he broke into an almost uncrossed territory: allowing high schools to do long-term field research. In 2006, AP Environmental Science teacher Jim Crowley wanted to expand his students’ experience with the world around them and started a box turtle experiment on campus. Sixteen years later, over 700 hundred students have participated in the project, collecting long-term data on the turtles’ features, behaviors and movements. “I love it because it’s a field study, so the students have to go out and be engaged in the outdoors,” said Crowley, who has taught at Lovett since 1990. “They’re doing that while also learning about the turtles and seeing deer and other things on campus.” He also said it helps students understand the school campus is a wildlife habitat. “They get to see why they should protect those areas of campus that I think a lot of people see as not being used,” said Crowley. “It’s not a playing field. How else would you use it? What kind of classroom is that for the students?”

AP Environmental Science students at The Lovett School study the behaviors of box turtles.

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First, Crowley would collect the turtles on his own at the start of the semester, and then the students would do independent research of box turtles. After that part of the project was over, they would then go out and find the turtles themselves. “My favorite part was definitely finding and meeting our box turtle,” said Caroline Colavito, a current member of Crowley’s class. “We were a little bit excited but also a little bit nervous. Our turtle’s name is Alcatraz. He didn’t get his name from nowhere. He’s kind of an escape artist and also good at hiding.” The students take baseline measurements of the turtles. They then release the turtles back into their home environment, placing transmitters and other devices on them to track their movements and behaviors. This method of learning also allows the students to interact with and learn about the way human actions can affect the environment, Crowley said. “We have baseball and softball fields, which used to be our turtles’ home base,” said Colavito. “A lot of turtles lived there, but when we built on top of it, that whole situation changed. We have this trail that they usually kind of hang around and the lacrosse fields that they usually stay in. It’s interesting to see how they adapted and changed from that area that they were so used to, to where they are now.”

The research is unique to the Lovett School, Crowley said. Very few high schools are doing long-term field research, making it a new way of learning for a high school. The students get to have hands-on experiences with the environment and life around them. “Really to me, it’s not just the field research. It’s how it applies to everything we talk about in environmental science,” said Crowley. “It goes back to the real world and that we have an impact on the real world and the real species other than ourselves out there. And by knowing one species, you appreciate other species at other levels, just by knowing that one at a level you never knew before.” BK

Spotlight: Riverwood junior excels in art, music BY BOB PEPALIS Aspiring architect and designer Carrington Bryan, a junior at Riverwood International Charter School, plans to follow in the footsteps of his artistic family. “Just continuing that tradition, and just doing what I love through my career is really important to me,” he said. Bryan is a magnet student zoned for Westlake High who lives in South Fulton. But he attended Ridgeview Middle School and wanted to continue his edu-

Bryan enjoys expressing himself through art and architecture, especially fashion design. “I have a fondness of just different fashion styles from past decades, and producing and creating,” said Bryan, who has a T-shirt business. He also paints and draws using graphite pen and ink. Bryan just finished an art project that he said demonstrates the complexity of being in a relaxed state of mind. “The thing that I like about art is that I can really express emotions I feel that I can’t put into words. And I love how vulnerable and expressive I can get with that,” he said. Music is another art form he loves, having played the saxophone since sixth grade. He doesn’t let a day go by without listening to music. His musical, artistic family piqued his interest in band. He follows in his grandfather’s footsteps in the marching bands at Riverwood and is a member of the concert band. “It’s really fun because I meet new people. I play good music,” Bryan said. He appreciates that Riverwood allows students to create clubs, which results in something available for everybody. “Honestly, when I was signing up for these clubs I was really overwhelmed by all my choices,” he said.

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Carrington Bryan is a junior at Riverwood International Charter School. (Special)

Some of Bryan’s artwork.

Bryan with his dog, Charleston. cation at Riverwood. He’s currently an International Baccalaureate candidate and has been involved in Beta Club, Student Government Association, marching and concert bands, Black Student Union and the National Art Honor Society. @reporter_newspapers BK

One of those groups is the Black Student Union. “We have this sense of relatability. And we can just like relate on how we grew up, different things like that, or culture or food. And it’s just really fun to talk about and discuss different issues and things that we like about our community,” he said. As the president of the junior class, he’s also heavily involved in the Student Government Association. “We’ve been trying to clear our name from just being a party planning committee,” he said. They are working on advocacy, including Bryan’s goal of providing an after school bus for magnet students so they can participate in school activities and still have a ride home. NOVEMBER 2021 | 19





The AJC’s Greg Bluestein balances high-profile reporting, parenthood

See works from twenty-five years of the celebrated photography initiative, offering a complex and layered archive of the region. New commissions will debut alongside some of the most iconic photography projects of the last quarter century. NOVEMBER 5, 2021–FEBRUARY 6, 2022 | RESERVE TICKETS AT HIGH.ORG Picturing the South: 25 Years is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. MAJOR FUNDING IS PROVIDED BY

Henry Luce Foundation


PREMIER EXHIBITION SERIES SUPPORTERS Sarah and Jim Kennedy Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot Dr. Joan H. Weens Estate

BENEFACTOR EXHIBITION SERIES SUPPORTERS Anne Cox Chambers Foundation Robin and Hilton Howell AMBASSADOR EXHIBITION SERIES SUPPORTERS The Antinori Foundation Corporate Environments Elizabeth and Chris Willett


CONTRIBUTING EXHIBITION SERIES SUPPORTERS Farideh and Al Azadi Sandra and Dan Baldwin Lucinda W. Bunnen Marcia and John Donnell Helen C. Griffith Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation Joel Knox and Joan Marmo Dr. Joe B. Massey Margot and Danny McCaul The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust Wade Rakes and Nicholas Miller The Fred and Rita Richman Fund In Memory of Elizabeth B. Stephens Michelle and Stephen Sullivan USI Insurance Services Mrs. Harriet H. Warren

GENEROUS SUPPORT IS ALSO PROVIDED BY Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949), Norco Cumulus Cloud, Shell Oil Refinery, Norco, Louisiana, 1998, printed 2012, pigmented inkjet print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H. B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust, Lucinda W. Bunnen, and High Museum of Art Enhancement Fund, 2012.6. © Richard Misrach 1998. Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, Pace/MacGill Gallery, and Marc Selwyn Fine Art.

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Dunwoody resident and AJC political reporter Greg Bluestein has written a book called “Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power,” which comes out in March 2022. (Isadora Pennington) BY BETH E. CONCEPCIÓN Dunwoody resident Greg Bluestein wears many hats: Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter, host of the Politically Georgia podcast, and moderator of political forums, to name just a few. One of his most important roles is that of a dad. Immediately after moderating a recent Atlanta mayoral forum, he was helping his daughters Brooke, 7, and Nicole, 10, with homework. “Brooke, am I good at subtraction?” Bluestein asked his daughter. “No!” came the quick and definitive answer. But Bluestein is good at writing about Georgia politics – a job he has had for nearly 10 years at the AJC. He’s also written for the Savannah Morning News, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Greg Bluestein Press. He traces his interest in journalism back to the fourth grade when I.J. Rosenberg, former AJC sports reporter and broadcast personality, visited his class at Hebrew Academy in Sandy Springs. “I told my mom, ‘I want to be a reporter.’ She said, ‘Cool. You have to learn how to type,’” Bluestein said. He said that concerned him enough that he went down the medicine path for a bit. His interest in journalism returned when he was a junior at North Springs High School after he met a classmate’s CNN-employed father. Bluestein started

writing for the Oracle, the student newspaper. He went to University of Georgia, double majored in newspaper journalism and political science, and wrote for the UGA student newspaper, The Red & Black. He covered student government and larger stories such as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s 2002 Senate race. “It’s a perfect preparing ground for real-life journalism, because it is real-life journalism,” he said. “You are writing stories that affect lives.” Bluestein became editor in chief of The Red & Black in his senior year. He earned an internship with the Associated Press after his 2004 graduation. He then worked for the Fulton County Daily Report before returning to the Associated Press. He started at the AJC in 2012. “No matter where you work, you’ve got to write to your audience,” he said. “You’ve got to understand who your readers, your listeners, your viewers -- whoever they are – and write stories that affect them.” Bluestein covered the 2016 presidential election from the road. “I was everywhere around the country covering the presidential race. It was a great race, and I was covering it through a Georgia lens. But part of the reason I was there was because the story was not really in Georgia,” he said. “Georgia was seen as a Republican stronghold.” It was 2017 when things started to

“You’ve got to understand who your readers, your listeners, your viewers — whoever they are — and write stories that affect them.” BK

Bluestein’s wife, Sheryl, and daughters, Nicole and Brooke. (Isadora Pennington)

At right, Bluestein, who moderated a recent discussion with U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff. change. Democrat Jon Ossoff gave Republican Karen Handel a run for her money in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which had been reliably Republican since 1979. Then came the Kemp and Stacey Abrams matchup for governor in 2018. “I was thinking about writing a book then,” Bluestein said. “But it’s harder to sell a book when what the conventional wisdom says will happen happens.”

Two years later, Georgia became frontpage news. “When Democrats defied that conventional wisdom, when they flipped the state for the first time since 1992 … it is the story probably of a lifetime,” he said. Bluestein turned that story into a book: “Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power,” which comes out in March 2022.

“It opened up a door to me of how fun and interesting this type of storytelling can be,” he said. What has not been fun is the fallout from his coverage. “Any reporter working for a major outlet right now has faced threats and just negativity,” Bluestein said. “Often I don’t want to look at my email.” Sometimes the venom comes from the

candidates themselves. But that’s part of the job. The media’s role is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable – a phrase attributed to a fictional character created by Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne. Bluestein’s solution is simple: “Your duty is to be fair and responsive. If you mess up, to fix it and to communicate.” It’s a duty he takes seriously because of his ties to the community. “That’s kind of the cool part about being the hometown reporter. You’re not a national reporter just ‘parachuting in’ and leaving. You have a relationship with both sides of the aisle because you’ve known them, you’ve covered them,” he said. “I always tell candidates, ‘Look, I was there before this became a crazy, nationally watched race. I’ll be there during it, and I’ll be there after.’” He’s also visible as a soccer, softball and basketball coach. He and his wife Sheryl attend all of their daughters’ events. “We try to play an active role because this is our home,” he said. He has taken Brooke and Nicole on the campaign trail. They have a presence on YouTube with the politics-focused Bluestein Blogs. And perhaps they will follow in their father’s footsteps as a journalist and author. Bluestein is proof that you are never too young to know your calling.

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The Atlanta-Journal Constitution is committed to facilitating conversations on the topics important to aging well in Atlanta and providing you resources to live your best senior life — especially in today’s challenging environment.

The Ironman Duo: Kyle and Brent Pease advocate for disabled athletes

Aging in Atlanta has returned with monthly print sections this fall featuring more local content than ever. We also launched a monthly Aging in Atlanta newsletter this spring. Visit us at to access a recording of our fall virtual event, sign up for the newsletter, and learn more about our special print sections. You’ll find plenty of 55+ focused content there as well as links to our previously published sections and events. At left, Kyle Pease with his brother, Brent. They started the Kyle Pease Foundation – a nonprofit that helps disabled athletes participate and succeed in sports – in 2011.

BY SAMMIE PURCELL The first time Kyle Pease watched his brother, Brent, complete an Ironman, it was 2010. The Pease family had traveled to Louisville, Ky. to watch Brent compete, and Kyle was feeling particularly proud of



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himself. “I felt like a grown up,” said Kyle, 36, a Buckhead resident. “It was the first time that I organized my own trip, with my caregiver. I booked my own hotel. I felt like I had a lot of swag. Like nobody could tell me anything.” Watching his brother compete in the race, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run, Kyle said he felt something more than a sense of kinship or support. The concept of fighting against his own body felt all too familiar. “The Ironman is what I go through everyday,” said Kyle, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was six months old and now uses a wheelchair. “They were pushing their bodies until they couldn’t go anymore, to find the finish line. I was like, that’s what I go through on a day-today basis.” Kyle, Brent, and Kyle’s twin brother, Evan, grew up in the Morningside area of Atlanta, where sports were a daily part of life. Growing up, Kyle said, the brothers watched sports like other kids watch Saturday morning cartoons. “We grew up in a very inclusive household,” said Kyle. “Sports was our primary love.” That combination of inclusivity and a love of sports is part of what led Kyle to graduate from Kennesaw State University in 2008 with a degree in Sports Management. It’s also what led Kyle and Brent to start the Kyle Pease Foundation – a nonprofit that helps disabled athletes participate and succeed in sports – in 2011. The inspiration and love of athletics had always been there. For Kyle, watching Brent complete his first Ironman was just the final straw. “When I want to do something, nobody’s going to stop me from doing it,” Kyle said. While that first Iron Man in Louisville BK

was deeply personal for Brent, what happened afterwards pushed both brothers towards the creation of the Kyle Pease Foundation. “Kyle’s experience watching [the race] created a conversation that really continued for six, seven months after we did that event, because then Kyle wanted to go do a race,” said Brent, who lives in the Brookhaven/Chamblee area. “And when we did that race, Kyle wanted other people to do races, too.” But of course, to run an Ironman and to run a nonprofit, you need a fair bit of support and advice. So, Kyle said the brothers decided to consult the experts, Rick and Dick Hoyt. The Hoyts are a fatherson duo who have competed in everything from the Boston Marathon to the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Rick, the son, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. For decades, his father Dick – who passed away in 2021 – would push him in races. Kyle said the Hoyt family offered a lot of great advice, and he and Brent were itching to get racing. They tried to find an easy triathlon to get started, but after some advice from mom – “start small and build your way up” – they settled on the Charles Harris 10K in Atlanta. After completing the 10K in 2011, the brothers found themselves running their first triathlon in Florida a few months later. Kyle said crossing the finish line was like a dream come true. “That’s when I kind of had the ‘aha moment,’ because I wanted to share the gift … with other people that had similar disabilities to me, and give them hope,” he said. “So that’s really how the Kyle Pease Foun@reporter_newspapers

dation was born.” The moment hit a bit differently for Brent, who remembered breaking, adding, or changing rules when the family played sports as children – anything they could do to include Kyle, they did. “We always had to change things,” Brent said. “For the first time, we were doing something together that didn’t require that anything be changed. It was just this exhilarating experience.” So, in 2011, the Kyle Pease Foundation began in earnest. Since the foundation started, it has had 140 athletes cross over 2,000 finish lines, and has raised over $4.3 million to help people with disabilities participate in sports, according to a press release. At Atlanta’s Publix Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K in 2020 – just before the world shut down because of COVID-19 – 65 running teams represented the foundation. Kyle and Brent have gone on to be a pretty formidable team themselves. In 2018, the brothers completed the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, and they competed in their first Boston Marathon on Oct. 11, along with two other Kyle Pease Foundation teams. “We both love Ironman. Ironman is this behemoth for both of us, and it challenges Kyle physically and mentally, which is what he loves,” Brent said. “But I think what Kyle is really going to appreciate is how special something like the Boston Marathon is.” One of the foundation’s teams consisted of Buckhead resident Bentley-Grace Hicks and running partner Chris Nasser. They finished the race at 2 hours, 50 minutes and 20 seconds. Other opportunities outside of racing have arisen for Kyle and Brent, including one the brothers didn’t expect – a photoshoot feature for Hyundai with renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz. Leibovitz has photographed celebrities like Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. “She has quite the credentials,” Kyle said. “So it was a blessing to meet her and see her talent go way beyond the camera.” From Kyle watching Brent run his first Ironman to striking a pose for Leibovitz herself, the brothers have come a long way. On Oct. 2, the foundation celebrated its “Ten Years Together” celebration at the Ballroom at the Carlos Center in Atlanta. About 125 people attended, celebrating the athletes who have accomplished so much. “To look back ten years and to see the impact that the foundation has had on my life, on Kyle’s life, and especially on the hundreds of families that have come through, it was really powerful,” Brent said. “It was emotional for me. It’s what I spent the last ten years of my life doing, and perhaps most importantly, sharing with Kyle.”

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NOVEMBER 2021 | 23


Female players make a mark on NYO baseball diamond ton, Emma Simon and Katie Goldberg have played baseball through Bronco (NYO leagues are named after horses: Shetland, Bronco, Pony). Currently though, no girls are expected to play in the league next year. Last year across the state, 43 girls made their high school baseball team. Only six girls across the entire country made college baseball rosters. None went on to play in the minor leagues. For now, Overdyke is having too much fun improving to think about giving up the sport she loves. “You practice more so that you are better at the game,” she said. “Then it becomes even more fun for you.” ‘The best times’ Many girls at NYO, with the guidance of their parents, continue to play baseball as long as they can. One reason: Goldberg, among the best in her age group when she played in Bronco and a familiar name to many boys and girls still playing NYO baseball today. Goldberg broke into Bronco in 2011, selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the coach’s draft. During her two seasons, she made the all-star team, leading it in home runs both summers. “It was some of the best times of my life,” Goldberg said. “Baseball made me more athletic and just a better player.” Goldberg applied those lessons at Marist High School, where she became a star on the softball team and earned a college scholarship. Today, she is attending the Universi-

Carmen Overdyke, 9, at an offseason baseball workout at Buckhead’s Northside Youth Organization. (Chesny Young)

BY CHESNY YOUNG Beneath the lights of ‘Jane Wilkins’ field, Carmen Overdyke joins about 20 players practicing their double plays, her brown pony tail flowing from her cap as she spins and whips a throw to first base. Overdyke makes the play look routine at this recent offseason baseball workout at Buckhead’s Northside Youth Organization, one of the country’s largest youth sports programs. But, in the big picture, what


Overdyke is attempting is uncommon. At 9-years-old, she wants to play in the Bronco League, home to the NYO Titans, a premier all-star team that plays against some of the most talented 12-year-old baseball players in metro Atlanta. Bronco is filled with boys learning how to make the transition from recreation to high-school baseball. Overdyke could become just the sixth girl in the last decade to play in the league.

Plenty of inspiration Playing baseball against boys feels, “different,” Overdyke said. Then, after thinking about it for a second, she laughed and said different “but in a good way.” For most girls her age, continuing to turn double plays on the infield means switching to softball, but she has plenty of inspiration if she wants to keep playing on the baseball diamond. Since 2011, girls such as Olivia Bailey, Katie Harpring, Lelia Langs-




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ty of Virginia, where she still plays softball and studies economics. Goldberg said playing in the Bronco league helped her learn how to compete. She later leaned on those experiences when pursuing her goal of attending a college as academically revered as UVA, “a school that I most likely wouldn’t have gotten myself into otherwise,” she said.

The 13th annual 20 Under 20 will appear in our January 2022 issue. We are now seeking nominations of students from public schools, private schools, and colleges ages 19 and younger who have contributed to the community in a significant way. Nominations are welcome from teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, siblings, fellow students or community leaders.

When the time is right

Here’s the information we need:

Most girls who play NYO baseball do not stick with it long enough to play on Bronco’s ‘Jane Wilkins’ Field, named after the organization’s longtime executive director who retired just a few years ago. But NYO parents see the pursuit of playing in Bronco as a useful balance between getting comfortable and staying competitive. The challenge ­­­­ can also prepare them to confront and overcome future adversity. “I hope she can look back on this the rest of her life and remember that hard work helped her accomplish something,” said Eddie Overdyke, Carmen’s father. He said it’s also just as important to let Carmen know it’s OK whenever she decides to move on. “Baseball for Carmen is a one-year contract,” her father said. “When the time is right for her to leave baseball, we will know.”

Nominator (name, relationship to nominee and contact information) Nominee (Name, age, grade, school, parent or guardian names, contact information) Characteristics and service: Please provide a paragraph describing why this nominee deserves recognition. Include service projects, goals, and areas of interest to help illustrate your point. A high-resolution photograph (1MB in size or more) of the student in any setting. The deadline for nominations has been extended to Nov. 15, 2021. Please email your nominations to editor Amy Wenk at

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‘Restaurant of the Year’ Bishoku attracts loyal following BY AMY WENK Right at 5 p.m, just as Bishoku opened for Friday dinner service, Sandy Springs couple Louise and Tom Wells grabbed their spot at the bar. The Wells have been coming to the Sandy Springs Japanese restaurant since owner Jackie Fukuya Merkel opened the doors in 2009. And before that, they ate at her family’s former restaurant Sushi Huku, which they sold in 2008. “The food is fabulous,” Tom said of Bishoku, located in Parkside Shops off Roswell Road. “They take so much personal pride in taking care of customers. You become friends.” Buckhead resident Judy Bentley was also at the bar. The owner of design firm

Interior View Inc. is a Friday night regular. “I’ve known Jackie since she was a kid,” Bentley said. “She is wise, loyal and very hospitable.” It’s not Merkel’s only glowing review. Bishoku was just named Restaurant of the Year by the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber, one of its annual awards to honor local businesses. Merkel is originally from Osaka, Japan, and came to the U.S. at age nine. She grew up working in her family’s restaurant. She recalls her first job was peeling onions. While she didn’t much like the restaurant biz as a kid, after stints in the corporate world and retail industry, she realized it was her calling.


Bishoku owner Jackie Fukuya Merkel with chefs Amilcar and Edgar Sebastian.

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Merkel with long-time Bishoku patron Judy Bentley, who is a Friday night regular at the Sandy Springs restaurant.

“It just came naturally,” Merkel said. Over the years, she’s built a loyal following at the restaurant, so much so even the COVID-19 pandemic seemed like just a “blip,” she said. “It’s really humbling to meet [my customers] and for them to really, truly have an impact on me and my success,” she said. “It’s really rewarding, especially during COVID. Everybody came out and was always concerned, charitable and generous to my staff. And they made sure I survived.” Today, about 90% of the customers at Bishoku are locals, Merkel said. “They live in Sandy Springs. It’s a close-knit community. I know their names. I know their family history.” Merkel also has other businesses. For the past six years, she has run hair salon Parkside Parlor in the same shopping center as her restaurant. During the pandemic, she also opened Westside Market Maison at the Westside Market near Topgolf on Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard. She’s also active in the community.

She’s been involved in the Restaurant Council of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber, which works to promote and market the city’s eateries. “Sandy Springs has become a destination for a lot of restaurants,” Merkel said. “We need to build the restaurants we have now and see what we can do to elevate the dining scene.” Merkel also teaches an annual culinary program at Riverwood International Charter High School. And she loves to rescue animals, from fostering cats and dogs to saving injured squirrels. Looking ahead, Merkel said she’s passionate about reshaping the dining experience. “I feel like the whole perspective of hospitality has lost its love and purpose over convenience, quick service,” she said. “It’s become transactional, versus experience. And I’d like to see that come back. I do take pride in details like … always having fresh flowers in the front. Not many people notice, but I notice.”

Quick Bites: New rooftop bar, health-focused restaurant Dunwoody’s new rooftop bar, Bar Peri, opened in October on the seventh floor of the new AC Hotel Atlanta Perimeter. The rooftop lounge is a first for the city. Bar Peri will offer Spanish-style tapas, wine, beer, and cocktails. “We are thrilled to be debuting Dunwoody’s first rooftop lounge, an exciting addition to the neighborhood,” said Adam Hill, general manager of AC Hotel Atlanta Perimeter Center. “Bar Peri will provide locals and guests with a lively indoor and outdoor oasis for craft cocktail connoisseurs.”

cation in Buckhead.

mont Atlanta Hospital. The buildout for the nearly 4,600-square-foot restaurant could cost almost $900,000, according to a permit. Original ChopShop was founded in 2013 and is based in Plano, Texas. “Our success in two very historically competitive restaurant markets – Dallas and Phoenix – gives us confidence as we enter our third major market – Houston – later this month,” Jason Morgan, CEO of Original ChopShop, said in a statement. “We are also excited to announce that Atlanta will be our fourth market, with the first Shop opening in early 2022.”

■ A health-focused restaurant that serves protein bowls, salads, sandwiches and juices is planning its first Georgia lo-

Original ChopShop is planned for 2274 Peachtree Road, just south of the Peachtree Battle area and north of Pied-

■ Alon’s Bakery & Market has opened its third location on level one at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead offering gourmet sand-

Inside Dunwoody’s Bar Peri.

wiches, freshly prepared foods, handmade pastries, and baked goods. ■ Prepared foods brand Fitlife Foods opened a brick-and-mortar location in Tuxedo Festival shopping center in Buckhead. Chef-prepared, fresh meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks will be available for pick-up in pre-portioned small, medium, and large sizes. ■ Midtown’s Lyla Lila is included in The New York Time’s 2021 Restaurant List. The newspaper selected 50 restaurants from around America that it’s excited about. Named after co-owner Billy Streck and Chef Craig Richards’ daughters, the eatery was praised for its pasta and seafood concoctions that “reads more Italian than Southern.”

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4360 Chamblee Dunwoody Road Suite 260 NOVEMBER 2021 | 27


A ‘Cheers’ for Dunwoody: New bar opening soon BY SAMMIE PURCELL The first restaurant in the Dunwoody Village’s new entertainment complex is expected to open up in early November. Bar(n) – a craft wine, beer, and whiskey bar – will open around Nov. 5, said David Abes of Dash Hospitality. It will be the first piece of a new entertainment complex in the Dunwoody Village, a shopping and retail center at 1317 Dunwoody Village Parkway. The complex will be located at an open courtyard in the village, and it will include four additional restaurants, a plethora of outdoor seating, and a stage and outdoor screen. “We had to start with Bar(n), because we thought it was the right fit for people to come to the community,” Abes said. “I just want this to be ‘Cheers’ for Dunwoody.” If residents go see Bar(n) right now, they would find it still under construction. But the spirit of the bar is still starting to shine through. The space is expected to have a rustic feel. It features large, garage doors that open up and create an easy flow from the indoors to the outdoors. Patrons will be able to order from the bar from both the outside and inside, enjoying light bites like charcuterie while they drink. Project Manager Cyndi Sterne said the menu isn’t ready to be shared yet, but all the meat will be locally cured and the cheeses will be from the Southeast. Sterne, who came onto the project in July, said the plan is to take the communi-

ty that Dunwoody already has and build around it. “We’re trying to bring a little bit of that Beltline feel, a little bit of that Chattahoochee Works feel, a little bit of that to Dunwoody,” she said. “All the bones are here, all the structure is here. The community’s here.” Bar(n) is the first spot to open in the courtyard, but it won’t be the last. When Bar(n) opens, so will a food truck from Cuco’s Cantina, serving up Mexican street food for residents. Abes said Cuco’s and a barbeque restaurant called Morty’s Meat Supply are expected to open up physical locations around the courtyard in May 2022, and two other restaurants – the Mediterranean Yoffi and a seafood restaurant called Message in a Bottle – are expected to open in the fall of 2022. Bar(n) and the four restaurants will be situated surrounding a courtyard, where patrons will find four-tops, picnic tables, club chairs, and the like to relax in. Sterne said visitors will be able to choose a table in the courtyard and order from any restaurant they wish. “The beauty of it is you can be sitting at a table with a carnivore, an herbivore, and a little kid, and everybody’s going to

have something,” she said. Abes envisions the courtyard as not just a place to eat, but an event center as well. The courtyard will have a stage located at the top of the stairs, where bands

and singer-songwriters will be able to play on weekends. There will also be a large screen so patrons can catch the latest Atlanta United, Braves, or Falcons game on a night out. Sterne said she would also like to host family-friendly events on the weekends, such as music classes for kids, or gingerbread-making classes with the holidays coming up. There are also a few workout centers in the Dunwoody Village area, and Sterne said it’s possible residents will see outdoor yoga or barre classes in the courtyard in the future. As far as a grand opening party? That might be a little off in the future. Sterne said Bar(n) plans to keep things a little quiet for a while as they get staff trained and the spot up and running. But residents can look forward to more next year. “We’re hoping in the spring that we’ll have a really big party for the community,” Sterne said. For Abes, this city center has been a long time coming, and he hopes it will help bring a little bit of the “fun” back to Dunwoody – an effort that he’s trademarked and calls “Funwoody.” “It’s just what Dunwoody needs,” he said. “They need that city center.”

Food photographer shares his Top 5 iconic dishes Photographer Andrew Thomas Lee’s work revolves around food culture and the role it plays in people’s lives. “Beautiful plates are always nice, but learning what it took to get there is what really interests me,” he says. “I love shooting food, working with cooks, and being a part of the Atlanta restaurant scene and food community.” Lee also shoots portraits of musicians, and other creative work. His photographs have appeared in publications such as Esquire, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, People, Atlanta, Garden & Gun, New York Times, and The Wall Street


Atlanta, and I order it every time I’m there. Caviar, egg yolk, potato crumble, and preserved lemon on top of creamy Carolina gold rice grits. The pro move is to also order the fried chicken skins for scooping. It’s gluttonous and amazing. 2. Comfy Chicken Biscuit at Homegrown. If you don’t already know– this is a must-have for anyone living in or visiting Atlanta. Fried chicken served on top of biscuits with sausage gravy and orange slices on the side to add some acid to this rich, indulgent breakfast gem. If you have time for a nap, then by all means get the whole order. The pro tip is that you can order a “half comfy” and pair it with eggs or something lighter.

Journal. He has also shot 14 cookbooks with various authors and chefs. Lee shared his list of his Top 5 iconic dishes in Atlanta:

1. Caviar & Middlins at Kimball House. If you would have said caviar and fancy grits, there’s a chance I’d say that wouldn’t work. I’m definitely wrong on that. This dish is one of my favorites in

3. Smoked Chicken Wings at Fox Bros Bar-B-Q. Everyone has their opinion on chicken wings, and mine is that these are my favorite in Atlanta. I order them every time I’m with friends watching sports (Go Braves!), or my wife and I will split an order of 24 for takeout dinner. My tip BK

over at this Inman Park pizza window is amazing.

here is sauce on the side, and get some Alabama White Sauce for dipping. 4. Black Spaghetti at BoccaLupo. Bruce does an incredible job with pasta at this Inman Park staple, and this dish is a classic example. The spaghetti is black from using squid ink in the dough. The sweet, red shrimp and hot, Calabrese sausage

crumbles give this pasta just a little heat. I could eat it by the bucket. I always tell myself I’m not going to order it and try something new, but it always ends up at our table.

I love their classic cheese with a side of pizza ranch. Their giant pies use great ingredients and have that crisp that I find is missing from other local places. Pro tip: heat up the leftover slices on a pizza stone in your oven. Almost as good!

5. The 20″ Cheese Pie at Glide Pizza. We have no shortage of good pizza in Atlanta, but the pizza Rob Birdsong is doing

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Blackhall Americana hopes to rival Netflix BY MARIA SAPORTA Fresh from selling Blackhall Studios, Ryan Millsap is developing a streaming service – Blackhall Americana – that will cater to the action-adventure market. Millsap on Oct. 19 announced Blackhall Americana, which will develop its own content. He is in the process of a $300 million capital raise, which he plans to complete in the first quarter of 2022. “We will spend a year making content, and we will start releasing content in the first quarter of 2023,” Millsap said in a telephone interview before a scheduled press conference. “We will produce 10-episode series and movies that we will release exclusively on our streaming service.” Millsap said action-adventure content is one of the most popular segments of the entertainment industry. Think Black Hawk Down. Think Fast & Furious. Think of characters like Rambo or actors like Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis. “It will be drama that escalates to some sort of physical danger,” Millsap said. “This is definitely PG-13 and above. It’s fast cars, big guns, beautiful men and beautiful women. I think there’s a mas-



sive amount of money to be made to these kind of shows to the marketplace.” Millsap, who moved to Georgia from the West Coast eight years ago, has become a leading booster for the state and the local film industry. “Georgia is the place to do this,” Millsap said. “It is an Americana-friendly state, a military-friendly state and a gunfriendly state.” What might be the most significant

aspect of Blackhall Americana is its plans for vertical integration for the entertainment industry. Up until now, Georgia has been primarily a state where movie productions are shot. But the industry is much more complex than producing the content. “We are going to be developing the content here,” Millsap said. “The writers will be here. The development teams will be here. The capital will be based here. We will make as much as we can in Georgia. We will distribute it from here, and we keep all the profits here.” That also includes expanding the post-production services for movies and television shows. “The idea behind this is to control the entire ecosystem” Millsap said. “We will

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

raise the money, make the content and develop the streaming service – our distribution platform.” Millsap, who founded Blackhall Studios in DeKalb County, sold the controlling interest in the Black Hall Studios – Atlanta in April to a Los Angeles private equity firm for about $120 million. “A significant portion of my wealth is going into this,” Millsap said. “Right now, almost all of entertainment wealth is coastal wealth. I would love for that wealth to be Southern wealth.” Millsap has never been shy about his ambitions or ideas. “If I’m right about this, we are talking about something on the scale of Netflix,” said Millsap, who did not announce where in metro Atlanta Blackhall Americana would be based because he had not yet closed on the property. But it is obvious Millsap has become enamored with Georgia. “I have embraced this place,” said Millsap, who has a farm in Social Circle and a second home in Buckhead. “I’ve been all over the world. Living in the South is better than living anywhere else. This is a damn good life.” BK

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