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NWGA's Premier Feature Magazine / December 2016

Bright Lights, Big City Atlanta Botanical Garden

invites Northwest Georgia to see what happens when Mother Nature is sprinkled with over a million holiday lights. v3 magazine


We care completely

for happy holidays, cheerful celebrations & winter wonderlands.


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V3 December 2016

Columns 10

What could be at the top of J. Bryant Steele’s Christmas list, you may ask? For the man who is lucky enough to have free ice and plenty of mismatched socks, shopping for him can be a heck of a task.


Holly Lynch encourages those who may face their darkest holiday yet to find room for joy in their stockings this year.


This year’s MLB World Series of baseball will live on past the last pitch, and Jim Alred explains why the 108-year-old broken curse hits home for him.

Features 22

Dealing with dementia can be a challenge for seniors and their family members as well. That’s why Dr. Jay Schecter and The Harbor at Renaissance Marquis recommend letting professionals help with the details.


The Exchange Club and a local Freedom Seeker Chapter is making sure that all tots will have a toy under their tree on Christmas morning.



magazine From4The v3 Atlanta Botanical Gardens

With a project started as far back as July of this year, Atlanta Botanical Garden is thrilled to bring us Garden Lights, Holiday Nights. Our yearly visitor, the Elf on the Shelf, is back and has some wise words for those who wish to impress Saint Nick, all year long.

Merry MerryChristmas Christmasand andaaHappy HappyNew NewYear Year from fromthe thestaff staffand andresidents residentsatat

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Publisher’s Note

The calorie count has risen across the nation in the past few weeks, which means the holiday season is running full tilt. With visions of leftovers dancing through our heads, decorations laboriously put in place and shopping lists that make the purse strings sweat, it’s time for Christmas. While that may sound like a humbug’s intro, I happen to love this Ian Griffin Owner and CEO holiday. As a parent, you have to learn to enjoy it through your children since the burden of putting the show together falls on your (and Santa’s) shoulders, but creating the magic can be fun if you let it. Traditions take effort and the more you have, the more responsibility parents have to uphold them. We have too many to write in this column, but the one my wife and I enjoy the most is forcing our favorite Christmas movies on our children. While this is a year-round practice we have with all the great movies from our childhood, this concentration of family downtime happens but once a year, so we buy extra popcorn and hit play when the cries of boredom begin. So in the ultimate cop-out for a Christmas column, I give to you...

Ian Griffin’s Top 10 Christmas Movies & Specials: 10. “Raymond Briggs, The Snowman” (1982)

 or a season where wishes come true, this 27-minute F winner of Best Animated Short Film delivers on just that. While I don’t recall a Christmas decoration in the book or film, it is fitting for the holidays regardless.

9. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)

 o, I’m not talking about the abomination that was the N live-action, Jim Carrey-led film from the year 2000. The animated version of the Dr. Seuss classic is the only version in my book and a must watch this time of year. I wouldn’t touch the other film with a 10 ½-foot pole.

8. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

I think this might be the defining movie for those that find themselves on the fringe of being a millennial or Generation X kid. If you were around when there weren’t enough cable options to avoid the marathon of this film, you fall into the latter category. And really, it’s a beautiful story. “Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings” is a line you never forget.

7. “Elf” (2003)  ill Ferrell has always been hit or miss for me, but his W portrayal of Buddy the Elf is Christmas comedy gold. Laughter is great medicine for the stresses of the holidays, and this movie delivers the laughs.

OWNER & CEO Ian Griffin


MAG ART & DESIGN Ellie Borromeo


WRITERS J. Bryant Steele, Oliver Robbins, Erin deMesquita, Holly Lynch Corinna Underwood, Tripp Durden, Greg Howard, Lauren Jones-Hillman, Jim Alred




AD DESIGN Laura Allshouse Ellie Borromeo

PUBLISHER V3 Publications, LLC

CONTACT One West Fourth Avenue Rome, Ga. 30161 Office Phone 706.235.0748 v3publications@gmail.com

CREATOR Neal Howard

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From Our Family To Yours, Happy Holidays!


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6. “Scrooged” (1988)  here are a million versions of “A Christmas Carol” and I could have T put several on this list, but I chose Bill Murray’s TV Tycoon version of the classic because how could I not? Murray nails the humbug attitude the part requires with an abundance of dark humor, putting a twist on a story we all know too well. 5. “Die Hard” (1988)  k … so this is No. 1 on the movies-for-guys-who-like-movies ChristO mas list and one I won’t share with my kids until they are of age, but who doesn’t love a story about a New York cop trying to save his marriage only to get caught up in a serious hostage crisis in a Los Angeles skyscraper? He wins, by the way, and saves the hostages and his marriage. Yippee ki-yay, Santa Claus! 4. “Home Alone” (1990)

 ollywood loves to make parents look stupid, and while I watch this H now and say to myself, “There is no way any parent would make it to the airport without one of their children, let alone board a plane to Paris and take off before realizing he wasn’t with them,” I still enjoy this film every time I watch it. It’s the ultimate children’s fantasy covered in Santa Claus wrapping paper. Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, and his adventures with the world’s dumbest criminals are still as entertaining as they were when I watched them in the theaters 15 times in 1990. Keep the change, ya filthy animal.

3. “A Christmas Story” (1983)  here are too many one-liners in this classic to quote. It gets multiple T views every Christmas at our house, and any movie that can make a leg lamp a collector’s item deserves its place in movie history. 2. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965)

 ou can hear it, I know you can …Vince Guaraldi’s score for this Y film is my personal Christmas soundtrack and it sets the tone for my favorite of the Charlie Brown holiday films. It captures the message of the holidays on all fronts, and though he always struggles to find his way there, Charlie Brown finds acceptance in the end.

1. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)

 his says a lot about who I am and when I grew up, but there wasn’t a T question about which film was No. 1 on the list. Clark Griswold loves Christmas more than any fictional character I’ve ever encountered and he is willing to die trying to pass that enthusiasm on to his family. My favorite scene has to be when Clark gets stuck in the attic and stumbles upon his old family movies. No scene in cinematic history goes from so touching to so funny as when Beverly D’angelo opens the attic door on which poor Clark is sitting. I would quote Cousin Eddie, but I’ll just let you do that at home.

So there you have it … my personal top 10. There are many I love that didn’t make the cut, but if you have somehow missed any of these, I highly recommend you take the time to watch them this holiday season. May yours be merry and bright.

Ian Griffin, Owner


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M Socks from Santa

Cents & Sensibility with J. Bryant Steele 10

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emo to family and friends: Please don’t give me socks for Christmas. Or ever again. You see, I went through my sock drawer the other day (I’d been putting it off for years), and I realized that while there were only five pairs of socks that actually matched, there were about 60 orphan socks. Yet many of those were kind of close in resemblance. So I painstakingly paired them up, as close as possible. (I may start a dating service next.) I mean, who notices socks? Not even the women we sleep with. So how precise do you have to be in your sock wear? Nobody’s going to say, “Those socks are both black, but the weave is slightly different.” Cotton and the hosiery industry were foundational in the economy of this region and are still important, so I anticipate the PR pushback to my plea will be that you must at the least have seasonal socks with Santas (or jack-o-lanterns or Valentines). No, you mustn’t. Black socks just happen to go with everything.

Like everyone else, I am puzzled by this: How do socks become orphans? How can you put two matching socks in the washing machine and wind up with only one when the dryer cycle is done? It’s a question that’s been pondered by commoners and intellectuals alike, to no avail. I think the only answer is that socks are like kittens and women. They’re just apt to wander off without explanation. But back to my original thesis: If I don’t want socks for Christmas, what hints can I give? I like to choose my own ties, and (thanks to ex-girlfriends) I’ll never have to buy boxer shorts again. So, everybody, stay away from clothing when you shop for me. Nobody has made a good pie since Aunt Emma Kate died or divine, hand-churned ice cream since Kebo Tuggle followed her to Sugar Overload Heaven. So don’t expect thanks from me for your desserts. I would wish for books, of course, but only if you haven’t given me a right-wing extremist author in the past in an attempt to convert my thinking. I would ask for art, especially original creations from local folks, but first it would be more practical for me to receive nails so I can hang the art I’ve collected and stacked on shelves and not yet hung on my walls. So, nails would suit me. (I’ve already got a hammer, thanks.) Best Christmas present I ever got? An electric typewriter from my parents when I was a teen, which sped up my writing immediately and for years until affordable personal computers came along. Now, I do not want an iPad or any other tablet computer. It seems superfluous, what with my smart phone and laptop. I suppose the analogy might be, if you have a bicycle and a car, why would you want a skateboard? I like to think I have put some thought into choosing gifts for others. But I have, with good intentions, screwed up and suffered backlash. Let’s just say I’ll never be able to read Zane Grey or listen to Diana Krall in the same way again. I won’t go all hippie on you and ask for Peace on Earth, since that seems beyond the reach of mortals. So I am out of ideas. On second thought, I am also fresh out of Santa socks.

him, are wondering if President Trump will be like candidate Trump, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” to quote Billy Shakespeare, who was an actual poet. If I were forced to liken Trump to any poet, it would have to be the dark Edgar Allan Poe. I also liken a line by Canton poet David Bottoms to Trump’s supporters: “It’s the light they think kills.” The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Even if you don’t follow baseball, you’ve heard what a big deal that is: a 108-year drought ended and a curse broken. My takeaway is that Theo Epstein is the next business genius I want to have lunch with. As general manager, he took a forlorn Boston Red Sox franchise to a World Series title. Now he’s taken the even more forlorn Cubs to a championship in arguably the most dramatic World Series ever played. And he’s only 42. So I have a lot of life experience I could pass along to him, if he takes me up on my offer to let him buy me lunch. The three-decades-old Georgia-Florida water wars have taken a twist: oysters. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill threatened to kill all the sea life in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida oystermen rushed to harvest every oyster, legal or not, in Apalachicola Bay. Florida now says

J. Bryant Steele has won awards for business reporting, feature writing and opinion columns, and is based in Rome. *The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

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Biz Bits Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo once said, “You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose.” Now, I have too much respect for folks like Robert Frost and David Hightower to liken Donald Trump to a poet. But right now, all of America, even those who voted for

the insufficient fresh water coming downstream from Georgia is why the oyster population is diminished. Here’s the amusing part: In order to be fought on neutral ground, the court case over the water wars is being heard in Portland, Maine, famous for lobsters, not oysters. I assume I’m not the only person who received an online offer of a portable ice maker discounted to $124. First, I asked myself a pragmatic question: Where would I plug in a portable ice maker? Then I did the math. My icebox in the kitchen makes ice cubes for free (that’s what I keep trying to tell the electric company), and I can transport those ice cubes in my $3 Walmart cooler whenever and wherever. So, I deleted the email about the portable ice maker. Then I mailed $124 to the electric company. It’s a vicious cycle.

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H al H l P P a Jo ra ppeaeluj Lo y ise y ce ah ve


Trends & Traditions with Holly Lynch


hile racking my brain for a great topic for December’s end-of-the-year issue, I am still faced with a sadness from having lost a very good friend a few short weeks ago. I think of his wife, newly widowed and also a dear friend, and I hear her shock at some of the comments made to her. I considered writing about all the things you should and should not say to a grieving widow, but it all feels too fresh. But I think about her, and how the holidays are going to be different. Not just for her, but for so many. So, in this season of thanks and holiday joy, I paused to consider those who feel this season is more about sadness than happiness. I wrote about child-like joy last year, but this year I want to talk about finding joy in the sadness. When Leonard Cohen died a few weeks ago, his achingly beautiful “Hallelujah” was played a time or two. It’s a song that can get stuck in your head, and the lyrics often shock those who haven’t heard the song before. To me, the beauty of the lyrics, with their dark biblical allusions, is about claiming hallelujah when you’re just not feeling it. When all the powers of the universe seem to be against you, there’s still a need to praise. Hallelujah is translated from Hebrew as, “Praise God.”

In English, it’s an example of the interjection part of speech, like, “Wow.” In the Cohen song, even in dark and trying times, there’s still praise. There’s still a reason to interject a thought or conversation with an exclamation of thanks. While praising in the midst of darkness seems contrary to a season of joy and hope, I don’t believe it is. For my friend, in the middle of her sadness, it is still the holidays. Proof that time marches on, and life continues. Joy will come again. And while sadness may be in your life, joy is happening in someone else’s. And in the future, the cycle of joy will come around to you again. If you’re willing to stick with me for another Biblical reference, my ladies’ group at church is studying joy. We’re reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In this letter, Paul is in prison, yet joyful that his work is still taking place outside his confinement. And he’s encouraging others to be happy, even though he is in prison, and not likely getting out any time soon. I often wonder if I would have the mental and emotional fortitude to encourage others to be joyful, and be joyful myself, while in prison. So, in the Christmas season, when I know that many feel melancholy and downright depressed, how can I selfishly encourage joy? I know that many feel the loneliness that comes

from adult children not coming “home” anymore. I know that those who have lost loved ones during the year, or in previous years, feel that loss all the more during days when family should be present. When it gets dark at four in the afternoon, it’s easy to forget that the sun does shine. Somewhere. In the spirit of exclamations and interjections that praise, even when we’re feeling low, I suggest another “Hallelujah”, another shout of joy, from “Joy to the World.” Let Heaven and nature sing! When we’re in our low and dark places, looking around to see the natural world still carrying on can bring comfort, and possibly joy. To see it rain (finally!) when we most need it, to see a dog get excited over a bone, to watch the gingko change colors – all of these natural and spontaneous occurrences are reminders that there is joy out there somewhere. Even if you’re just not feeling it this year, you can still proclaim that it exists. And frankly, go ahead and sing about it – make noise and be loud! While this isn’t my most uplifting column, I do hope you, dear reader, can claim happiness this season. If only for a minute or a day, I pray you can find a reason to sing and a reason to praise. If I’ve learned anything from my sweet friend, it’s that time is short. So, find all the joy you can while you have the time. Holly Lynch is the owner of The Season Events, a full service catering, event planning and design company located at 300 Glenn Milner Blvd. in Rome. *The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

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while you were sleeping... v3's taste&toast

On Friday November 16th we celebrated the winners of the 2016 Taste&Toast Restaurant Awards of Northwest Georgia with an evening of food, live music by AJ Ghent Band and awards. If you missed the event this year, we look forward to seeing you there in 2017.


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Merry Christmas from



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Cubby Love

For the Love of the Game with Jim Alred


omething crazy happened the first week of November – something people will talk about for years, if not decades, to come. Those loveable losers, the Chicago Cubs, won a World Series for the first time since 1908. They did it in dramatic fashion, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the crown. And they did it in what will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, game seven of all time. On the morning following the Cubs’ victory, my bleary-eyed coworkers and I gathered around the coffee pots and talked. Not everyone in the room was a Cubs fan, but everyone had a story of a friend or a relative

who rooted and pulled for the Cubs over the years. Many talked of a loved one or a friend who had passed away and had always pulled for the Cubs. I can’t remember ever seeing so many people with so many connections to one team. In a day and age where teams build state-ofthe-art stadiums and then tear them down 20 years later to build new ones, the Cubs and the cherished Ivy Walls at Wrigley Field serve as a throwback to how baseball should be played. For more than a century, Cubs fans knew they were going to lose. They didn’t revel in the losses, but they accepted them better than any fan base in the history of sports. Although I’m not a Cubs fan, I respect them.

Like so many people talking around the coffee pot that morning, I too have my own Cubs stories. I jumped to my feet and cheered when backup catcher David Ross belted a home run in the sixth inning. Two decades ago, I was a sports writer for Auburn University’s campus newspaper. Covering the baseball team that year, I interviewed and wrote about a slew of players. One of them was a pitcher named Tim Hudson, who no one knew. Another was a nice guy named David Ross, who no one knew. The two helped carry the Tigers to the College World Series the next season and went on to have solid Major League careers. So when Ross cranked the home run, becoming the oldest player to homer in a World Series contest, I leapt to my feet and smiled. The outpouring of love and respect for the Cubs and the stories that filtered in across the days after the series were amazing. A man took a radio and sat at his father’s grave to listen to game seven because he had promised his dad they would be together when the Cubs won. Fans flocked to Wrigley Field during the World Series to chalk good luck messages on the stadium’s brick wall. After the win, people took to social media, asking friends or relatives in Chicago to add the name of a loved one who had passed away to the wall. And sportswriters, fans, and others waxed eloquently about the win and what it means to a fan base. Cubs fan and comedian Bill Murray, in the midst of the champagne-soaked Cubs’ locker room, had a microphone or three shoved in his direction. And his five sentences sum up what I believe to be the epitome of being a Cubs fan. “You believe in something that is true and beautiful, and the whole city, all its fans, they’re sort of validated. Their dream came true, it’s okay, and dreams come true. People believed in it, and the great thing about it was we became such great losers. Good sports, good losers – I just hope we’re good winners. I hope we’re good winners." While Ross’ homers brought me to feet. My other Cubs connection runs a bit deeper. My great grandfather, Grandpa Bill, was a lifelong Cubs fan. He was born in 1900, so he was 8 when the Cubs last won a World Series. He watched and pulled for the Cubs his entire life. He passed away in 1992. As the Cubs celebrated, I heard his laughter and imagined the big smile that lit up his face as somewhere he watched his Cubs lift the World Series trophy. *The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

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Fromleft to right: Brenda Bolt, Dr. Muller, Josey Edwards, Meagan Edmonds, Becky Trotter, Kortnee Self, Linda Shepherd, Melissa Ferguson, Alice Twilley, Holli Bramblett, Teresa Gossett. 20

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Learn more about stroke symptoms or tell us your story at

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Merry & Bright

May your days be

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Helping Hands

Dr. Jay Schecter


here is a tremendous burden on the families of loved ones who have Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” says Dr. Jay Schecter. “The patient usually has little to no insight that he or she has any problems with their

experiences with dementia that affected both of his parents and his mother-in-law who spent the last few years of her life at The Harbor, the 24 bed memory unit at the Renaissance Marquis. “I have been so impressed with the staff at The Harbor,” says Dr. Schecter. “They really put their hearts in their work and take excellent care of the residents. It is very challenging work, as you can imagine, but it is such a relief for the families of the residents to know that they are being cared for physically, emotionally and even spiritually. My mother-in-law had moderately advanced dementia which progressed while she was at The Harbor, but she maintained her physical health, nutritional status and emotional well being due to the caring staff.” Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common form of dementia, and currently affects about 48 million people worldwide and over 5 million Americans. Other common forms of dementia include vascular dementia, which is due to multiple strokes, Lewy body dementia and frontotemporal dementia. The diagnosis of the different forms of dementia may not be easy and often presents a diagnostic dilemma for the treating neurologist. The cause of Alzheimer’s dementia is still not

and problems performing daily activities such as bathing, grooming, or dressing. When the person starts to become unable to care for him or herself it is much more demanding on the family. According to Dr. Schecter, this is when he discusses alternative living arrangements with the family and recommends considering either constant care from family members or assisted living or nursing home placement, depending on the individual circumstances. “Unfortunately,” Dr. Schecter states, “sometimes it is too late when the patient’s family inquires about placing their loved one in an assisted living center and it becomes more difficult to do at that point.” Dr. Schecter often tries to anticipate when the family will need help and starts the discussion at that stage of the disease. “In both my professional and personal experience, it is a very tough decision to make. But when the family does finally agree to alternative living arrangements there is a real sense of relief. When you have as caring a staff and pleasant a living environment like The Harbor at Renaissance Marquis, that decision is much easier to make.”

Where the Heart Is with Renaissance Marquis

cognitive functioning. In fact, a new neurologic sign has just been shown to be fairly specific for Alzheimer’s as opposed to other forms of dementia and this is known as the ‘head turning sign.’ This is when the patient turns his or her head to their spouse to answer the question.” Dr. Schecter, Medical Director of Renaissance Marquis and a neurologist at Harbin since 1988, has diagnosed and treated thousands of patients with dementia over the past 28 years. He has also had personal

known, but there are abnormal proteins that accumulate within the brain of patients with the disease, eventually causing the nerve cells in the brain to stop functioning normally. A patient with Alzheimer’s dementia progresses through several stages of the disease with initial mild forgetfulness involving shortterm memory. The later stages are characterized by personality changes which may include apathy, defiance, paranoia, delusions or hallucinations, difficulty with language function

Visit RenaissanceMarquis.com or drop by the facility at 3126 Cedartown Hwy. SW, Rome. Or, call ahead for an appointment at 706-295-0014.

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Story TEXT Greg Howard and Lauren Jones-Hillman PHOTOS Cameron Flaisch

With all the things we have to be thankful for, local Toys for Tots organizations make sure Santa leaves no one off his list, especially those who’ve been a good boy or girl all year.

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or some children, Santa sports the traditional holiday red, snow-white beard, and sleeping cap. He is sure to be waiting at the end of a long line of children at the mall, with the familiar rosy-cheeked smile and hearty chuckle. Though for other children - those less fortunate boys and girls who may expect a little less under the tree this Christmas - Santa Claus is sporting a new set of boots and leather chaps. Old St. Nick is trading his miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer for the chromed-out growl of a Harley-Davidson V-twin engine. For several years, the Rome chapter of the Freedom Seekers Motorcycle Club has held a toy drive-themed motorcycle run to help the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots ensure every child gets a present under the tree this Christmas. The Freedom Seekers have decided to increase their presence with this yearly run, and called on the community to join their mission. “This is our first year doing an event this big,” says Corey Camp, a four-year member of the Freedom Seekers Motorcycle Club. “This year, we wanted to get the community behind us to do something that would strengthen the entire Roman community, all the while helping out with the children who are in need during this time of the year.” Starting things off at Rolater Park in Cave Spring, Ga., the motorcycle convoy paraded through town, escorted by the Rome Police Department as the crew made their way to the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds. Over 70 motorcycle


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enthusiasts roared through the Floyd County streets, wielding only goodwill and toys to donate to the cause. The event welcomed all of the community to attend, featuring bounce-house inflatables for the kids, a barbeque food truck for lunch, an antique car and truck show, and the local fire department performing simulations of fire safety tips. But how does this charitable event go along with the free-spirited, often mysterious lives of Rome’s most notable group of motorcycle enthusiasts? According to Camp, it’s all about brotherly love. “We’re here for the community, this is what we do.” Camp explains. “Of course, there are a lot of people who watch too much TV and get the wrong impression of us, but we’re just like other folks. We all have full-time jobs and hosting an event like this can costs us out of pocket. We love helping the kids in our city. We do it for the cause; it’s about brotherhood.” This is not the only charitable work that the Freedom Seekers has been a part of. In fact, the Rome Chapter of this club volunteers and raises money for the local homeless shelter and celebrates their Thanksgiving by feeding the hungry. Oftentimes, members of the community who are struggling to find a helping hand have found the Freedom Seekers there to support them. Still some, with the influence of today’s pop culture, choose to see these noble men and women as renegades. Just as the Freedom Seekers strive to live a life free of judgement, and devotion to a

common love for riding motorcycles, they also realize the importance of building up the entire community. Some members of the organization know what it is like to grow up wondering if Santa will bring presents to put under the tree for Christmas, making the reason for a toy drive important to them. For this club, it all comes down to utilizing their community to better the lives of another. Because of the hard work and dedication of the men and women supporting this year’s Freedom Seekers Toy Run, a pile of new Christmas toys has been donated to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Organization. Children will have toys under the tree that would otherwise see a holiday come and go with nothing from Santa left behind. And though they may not have clean white beards or a red fur coat, these leather clad men and women set an example for how a community should take care of each another, especially during this season of brotherly love.


s ecstatic kids give their new toys and gadgets a spin on Christmas morning in living rooms strewn with crumpled wrapping paper, Toys for Tots organizers are already gearing up to shop for next year’s Christmas. Local Toys for Tots volunteers are closest thing in Rome to Santa’s elves. They work tirelessly for donations, they continuously raise awareness of the charity, and they constantly scour the internet and newspapers for notices of toy store sales.

For Marti Robles, Floyd County’s Toys for Tots coordinator, the quest for Christmas morning magic never ceases, because when stores announce sales and discounts – even day-afterChristmas-sales – Robles is there to snag up deals for children for the next holiday season. “After Christmas, when the toys go on sale, I start buying,” she says. “When stores have big sales, I go in and try to purchase what I can. I’m buying all through the year, trying to collect toys.” That’s been the case for many other Toys for Tots coordinators during the more than six decades since the organization's beginnings in post WWII America. In the late 1940s, Diane Hendricks, wife of Marine Maj. Bill Hendricks, tried to donate a Raggedy Ann doll to a child for the holidays, but couldn’t find a charity through which to do so. She urged her husband to help her establish an organization for needy children at Christmastime, and Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 in Los Angeles. Maj. Hendricks, who was director of public relations at Warner Brothers Studios, used his influence to garner support from celebrities, leading Walt Disney Studios to design the iconic train logo.

To this day, the non-profit organization is run by the United State Marine Corps Reserve, but since the late 1990s, the charity can be coordinated by civic groups in towns that lack Marine presence. For the past seven years, the Exchange Club of Rome has organized Floyd County’s Toys for Tots program. Additionally, each year the Rome High School ROTC helps with distribution. But it’s not easy to secure enough toys together for the community’s kids, Robles says, and often locals only start to think about holiday-focused charities in mid-October. “We get tremendous support in toys, but it’s quite often not enough,” she explains. “It’s difficult to get enough toys collected; last year we served 2,300 children here in Floyd County.” Toys for Tots serves kids from newborn to the age of 12. According to Robles, the charity doesn’t go above age 12 because teens typically want electronics, which goes beyond what Toys for Tots can do financially. And while other Christmas charities accept toiletries and clothes, Toys for Tots focuses solely on procuring toys. Anyone who demonstrates a need can sign up for Toys for Tots. Recipients can be families who fall below the poverty line or families v3 magazine


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who have recently suffered a loss – a job, a loved one, a home – that has resulted in tight finances. Robles said families can sign their children up at Good Neighbors Ministries during a designated week in November. And because so many do sign up, there is a constant need in Floyd County for Toys for Tots. “We need toys, we need donations to buy more toys, we need adult volunteers for the sorting time, and we need bilingual volunteers for distribution day,” Robles says. Buzz Wachsteter, an Exchange Club member, volunteers with Toys for Tots each year. “We adopted it with open arms,” he says. “It’s a wonderful community service project.” The former city commissioner says it’s important to donate volunteer services to our community whenever one can. “Everyone needs to give back and serve the people,” he says. “When you have the opportunity, you need to give back.” Toys for Tots, Wachsteter explained, is a 12-month-project, and he has a lot of adminis-

We get tremendous support in toys, but it’s quite often not enough. It’s difficult to get enough toys collected; last year we served 2,300 children here in Floyd County. trative duties. He keeps track of toys that have been donated by sorting them by gender and age. He also enters all the information into a database to better keep tabs on the charity’s year-long progress. “But I like to do the hands on things, too, like registration and distribution,” he says. “It does your heart good when you’re registering

these families and parents come up to you, grab your hand, and hug you and say thank you. It’s amazing, their sense of relief.” Both Robles and Wachsteter said that the public can share this joy by donating a toy, money or even batteries. “How many times have moms that aren’t using Toys for Tots bought toys and forgotten batteries for them? It happens,” chuckles Robles. “We always try to give two sets of batteries for each toy that requires batteries because on Christmas morning, we don’t want a child to get a toy and not be able to play with it. We try to eliminate that frustration on Christmas mornings.” Because Toys for Tots is often only remembered during the latter part of the year, when money is tight for most families trying to scrounge and save for the holidays, Robles offered some creative strategies for people to collect toys throughout the year. I like to encourage people to think of unique ways to do drives for Toys for Tots,” she says. “Say Grandma and Grandpa are celebrating their 80th birthdays. They don’t need gifts, so why not ask guests to bring a toy for Toys for Tots instead?” Robles added that if, by the end of the year, a company happens to have more money than it anticipated, they can donate to Toys for Tots, and that money will go toward helping kids the following Christmas. “If you’re buying a birthday present for your child, your niece or nephew, whomever, and it’s a good sale, and you think, ‘Oh, they’ll love this!,’ go ahead and buy two, one for the child and one for Toys for Tots,” she says. “It’s a good time to buy in the middle of the year, while it’s on sale. That way it doesn’t hurt so bad when you’re trying to provide Christmas for your own family.” She also suggested that companies or departments compete with each other throughout the year to see who can raise the most toys. To make it convenient for the public, there are drop boxes stationed at various local businesses where people can deposit a toy donation. Companies who are interested in hosting a Toys for Tots drop box can register at toysfortots. org, and you can also visit the website to find one near you. A small donation of a toy, some batteries or money with which organizers can buy toys will make every difference for a family in Floyd County this Christmas. “Imagine the smiles on kids’ faces on Christmas morning because the people of Floyd County have given,” Wachsteter says. “It makes it all worthwhile.” v3 magazine




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Starry Night TEXT Greg Howard

PHOTOS Cameron Flaisch

It is hard to imagine the holidays without lights and love, and maybe a cup of hot cocoa along the way.

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he holidays serve as a time to focus on family and, together, observe the beauty that makes this season special. The city of Atlanta, Ga., teems with excitement during the holiday hustle and bustle as families make preparations for Christmas Day. Between visits from the in-laws, last-minute mall runs and selecting the perfect tie your dad may never wear, it can be difficult to find a peaceful place to get away with loved ones. However, right in the heart of the city, the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s annual Garden Lights, Holiday Nights event offers a beautiful escape for the whole family. Since 2011, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has illuminated the city with a symphony of celestial lights, opening the eyes of visitors to sights and sounds that have become a true holiday tradition. Inside the gates of the garden, families find themselves surrounded by over 2 million lights, easily making Garden Lights, Christmas Lights one of the most-anticipated holiday attractions


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inside the city limits. Last year alone, Garden Lights, Holiday Nights brought over 168,000 guests to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Each year, new attractions are added and displays enhanced throughout the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s 30 acres. This year, guests will notice a larger display of giant stars suspended throughout the treetops of the Southern Seasons Garden, forming a galaxy of red and green above their path. Also new this year, the garden debuts

its Walk of Flames pathway. Illuminating the Camellia Walk, it features 21 flames flickering in three different sizes and varying colors to form a candle-lit pathway. At the end, guests find themselves standing at the Tunnel of Light, a 100-foot-long, picture-perfect tunnel blanketed in an array of red, orange and white light. In addition to the new exhibits, many old favorites have returned. The Orchestral Orbs, which decorate the Great Lawn, once again

dance to holiday music and display over 1 million color variations, depending on the song’s rhythm. Also returning is the Ice Goddess, with over 25,000 lights cascading down her hair into a small reflective pond. For those in search of a spot for the perfect family photo, the vibrant red Poinsettia Tree in Orchid Center will more

“It’s like a winter wonderland in the middle of Atlanta. They really make this place magical year round, but the lights just make it all more special.” than suffice. Plus, children of all ages can enjoy the Holiday Model Trains as they travel through a specially created train garden. Among the spectators, Amy Bailey and little Charlie are amazed as they tour the event for the first time. “It’s like a winter wonderland in the middle of Atlanta,” she explains as Charlie points at one of the overhanging stars. “They really make this place magical year round, but the lights just make it all more special.” One of the many unique features of Garden Lights, Holiday Nights is the interaction between guests and the exhibits. As opposed to the drive-through light show found most frequently, this event allows guests to walk at their leisure, experiencing the show instead of simply observing it. For visitors seeking refreshments along the way, the route features several cash bars, hot chocolate stands and s’mores pits. However, those looking for a full dining experience can make a reservation at Linton’s. This new, on-site

restaurant offers a unique, farm-to-table-style dining experience, even using certain ingredients from the garden itself. “It all started when our CEO, Mary Pat Mershon, who moved to Atlanta from Utah, began her first Christmas here in the city,” explains Daniel Flanders, public relations manager, who has been with Atlanta Botanical Garden since the first Garden Lights, Holiday Nights show in 2011. “She was surprised that there wasn’t more going on for Christmas, and though there were some light shows going on at that time, none of them gave Atlanta a true holiday tradition. So, she had the idea to start a light show at the gardens, but not a traditional light show with v3 magazine



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Santa Clauses, snowmen, and elves – a more contemporary and unique show. The project took eight years of planning and raising funds to bring about the show we see today.” To put on such a spectacle of lights is no small feat. In fact, it takes almost five months to fully decorate the garden for this unique event. The show features over 362,000 feet (69 miles) of light strands, which put into perspective is about the same distance between Atlanta and Athens, Ga. Simply storing these lights between shows requires 4,000 square feet of space. During the preparation months, it takes 30 workers to handle stringing lights alone, and outside contractors are often hired.

“It’s hard to believe, but we start putting up the lights in late July,” says Flanders. “It can be 100 degrees outside and we have people hanging up Christmas lights in the trees; it really takes that long to put together a show like this.” The mission of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation, and enjoyment, and in accordance with its goal of sustainability, the show uses low energy-consuming LED lights powered by renewable energy sources. Garden Member Nancy Collop, a yearly visitor of the Garden Lights show, appreciates the attention to detail. “The meticulous effort

needed to construct the brilliant lights never ceases to amaze me,” she says. “Marveling the lights with my family has become a tradition that will continue for years.” Whether this is your first time experiencing Garden Lights, Holiday Nights or it has become one of your family’s Christmas traditions, this year’s light show is not to be overlooked. The show will be open though Jan. 7. For more information, call the Atlanta Botanical Garden at 404-876-5859 or visit online at atlantabg.org.

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Shelf from the

TEXT Erin DeMesquita

PHOTOS Ellie Borromeo

Our smallest holiday house guest has the biggest heart, and has left us the blueprint to a very merry Christmas.

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To the children,

To the parents,

“I’M BACK!” are the words I’ve written quite tall, spelled out with marshmallows on your living room wall. In red velvet and white fur, I’ve come to see you, bringing great tidings from ol’ You Know Who! Don’t you remember? I’m here with a plan; it’s a mission of sorts from a far-away land. ’Twas jolly Saint Nick who assigned me my post – to spend time with you, my favorite holiday host. Can you hear the bells jingling and the songs of great cheer? Christmas is coming and soon will be here! Can you handle the wait?! I’m sure that you can’t. I wonder what wishes you’ll ask Santa to grant. It’s my job to see to it that you’re good girls and boys; trust me, if not, you may not get toys. Now, in the mornings you might find me dangling from the tree, or zip lining on green garland; it’s not easy being me! I’m like a Christmas ninja; I tend to move quite fast. The things that I get into are varied and vast. Now I may get into mischief, as I often tend to do, but don’t let yourself be fooled; I’ll keep my eye on you. I watch you by day as you learn and as you play, and I watch very closely how you act and what you say. By night I report to Father Christmas himself regarding what I have seen from my warm, wooden shelf. Are you polite and sincere to your family and peers, or have you been naughty, causing them tears? Don’t fret, my friends, if you haven’t been good; there is still enough time to do what you should. It’s actually quite easy to be good and be kind. You simply must love; it’s how you’re designed. If you see someone hurting, don’t giggle or stare; just give them a smile, for you too could be there. Be sure to be sharing in all that you do for when you’re kind to others, they’ll be kind to you. Know that you’re special and that Santa knows, too; it’s not hard to tell that there’s good inside you. So, Christmas is coming, and it will come with much bliss. But if you remember one thing, I hope that it’s this: You have a chance to be the best you can be, and you must do it year-round, not just for Santa and me.

So we meet again, my parental partners in crime; the Christmas season has come and we don’t have much time! Let the shenanigans begin and let the mischief ensue; the kids think it’s me, but it’s totally you! Break out the flour and the action heroes, too. Be sure to buy more candy; Hershey’s Kisses are tried and true. Get ready to brew the coffee and plan our little schemes, such elaborate little scenes your kids have only seen in their dreams! Snow angels made in salt or a wild adventure indoors – with Chewbacca, Luke and Leia from our favorite movie, Star Wars. I could ride a big T-rex through a jungle of strewn clothes, or decorate the dog with red ribbons and green bows! The options here are endless, and the kids will love it all, but sometimes you kind of scare me; you’ve got a lot of gall! Duct tape on my feet? Do you know how bad that hurts?! I admire your wild spirit, but it’s aggressive in small spurts! Like when you hang me upside down from the ceiling or the range; my head gets pretty heavy and I end up feeling strange. Anyway, no big deal, I know that you mean well. Let’s just keep it clean out there until we say farewell. So, I’ve been watching your children for a little while now, and I must say you’ve done well, even if you’re not sure how. They’re learning much from you and they’re taking it all in, but don’t fail to be a pupil because you can learn from them. The simple things in life are always the very best; sometimes you have to see that and just forget the rest. P.S. Buy more toilet paper, too – the kind with lots of layers; I just like to climb in the tube and roll it down the stairs!

To you with love and with lots of good cheer, Your favorite scout elf (the one from last year)

Elf on the Shelf 42

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With much appreciation and happy holiday cheer, Your sneaky scout elf (the one from last year)

Elf on the Shelf

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227 Broad Street 227 Broad Street 227 Broad Street 227 Broad Street Rome, Georgia 30161 Rome, Georgia 30161 Rome, GA 30161 Rome, Georgia 30161

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Hours:Mon-Thurs: Mon-Thurs: 11:00am-9:00pm 11:00am-9:00pm Hours: Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11:00am-9:00pm Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11:00am-9:00pm Fri-Sat: 11:00am-10:00pm Fri-Sat: 11:00am-10:00pm Fri-Sat: 11:00am-10:00pm Fri-Sat: Curlee’s offers casual11:00am-10:00pm dining, Curlee’s offers casual dining, Curlee’s offers casual dining, fresh fresh seafood, hand-cut steaks, Curlee’s offers casual dining, fresh seafood, hand-cut steaks, chicken and more!steaks, It is located onand fresh hand-cut seafood, hand-cut steaks, seafood, chicken chicken and more! It is located Broad Street in more! the center theon city,on chicken and It isofStreet located more! It is located on Broad Broad Street in the center of the and it has a family-friendly atmo- city, Broad Street in the center of the city, and it has a family-friendly insphere! the center of the city, and atmoit has a and it has a family-friendly atmosphere! Takes Reservations, Walk-Ins family-friendly atmo-sphere! sphere! Takes Reservations, Walk-Ins Welcome, Good For Kids, Take Takes Reservations, Walk-Ins Takes Reservations, Walk-Ins Out, Catering Waiter Service Welcome, Goodand For Kids, Take Welcome, Good For Kids, Take Welcome, Good For Kids, Take Out, Catering andWaiter Waiter Service Out, Catering and Service Out, Catering and Waiter Service

3401 Martha Berry Hwy Rome, GA 30165

PH: 706-291-1881 Hours: Sun -Thu: 11:00am-10:00pm 3401 Martha Hwy Call or Text YourBerry Order to: Fri - 30165 Sat: 11:00am-11:00pm 3401GA Martha Berry Hwy Rome, PH: 706-237-8320. Dine in, Take out, or delivery... Rome, GA 30165

PH: 706-291-1881 Lunches: Wed/Thurs/Fri in Downtown Rome Authentic Italian is what we do! We PH: 706-291-1881 Hours: Sun -Thu: 11:00am-10:00pm Food Truck Friday: 11am-2:00pm have enjoyed great success by @ 2nd Hours: 11:00am-10:00pm Fri Sun - Sat:-Thu: 11:00am-11:00pm providing our guests a casual, Ave.with & 2nd Street Friout, - Sat: 11:00am-11:00pm Dine in, Take orand delivery... friendly atmosphere excellent Friday Nights @ River Dog Outpost Dine in, Take is out, or delivery... Authentic Italian what we do! We service. In addition to Broad the healthy Saturday Late Nights on Street Authentic Italian is what we do! We have enjoyed great portions of our food,success you will by see our Delivery through Roman Food Delivery have enjoyed great success by providing our guests with a casual, entrees range from homemade Checkproviding out our full weekly schedule & our guests with a casual, sandwiches, pizzas and to friendly atmosphere and calzones excellent rotating menu at: eatspeakcheesey.com pastas, chicken, veal and seafood dishfriendly atmosphere excellent service. In addition to theand healthy Contact us about booking, catering, and es. www.romamiagrill.com service. In addition thesee healthy portions of our food, youtowill our private events at : hillery@speakcheesey.com portions offrom our food, you will see our entrees range homemade MULTIPLE GOOD EATS to entreesTRUCKS. range homemade sandwiches, pizzasfrom and calzones sandwiches, pizzas and calzones to pastas, chicken, veal and seafood dishpastas, chicken, veal and seafood dishes. www.romamiagrill.com es. www.romamiagrill.com

Make it a meal worth remembering. Where to eat in Northwest Georgia.

Make it a meal worth remembering. Where to eat in Northwest Georgia. magazine 47 Make it a meal worth remembering. Where to eat in Northwest v3Georgia. Make it a meal worth remembering. Where to eat in Northwest Georgia.

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