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Don’t Wait to Plan Summer Camp Fun

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summer camps

We’re coming up to those lazy days of summer more quickly than you might realize. It’s just a few calendar page flips until the last day of the school year will be here.

For Gwinnett County Public Schools and Cornerstone Christian Academy, the last school day is May 22. For Greater Atlanta Christian School, it’s May 23 and Wesleyan School’s last day is May 24.

That means weeks of students with time away from school. While they claim they can’t wait to get a break, we’re all too familiar with the “I’m bored…” whine that often starts within the first week. Or we notice the reddened, glazed eyes from too much screen time and think ‘There’s got to be something better for them to do.’ Of course, there is.

The summer camp solution

Summer camps are a time-honored solution for filling weeks of school break. Camps not only keep kids busy, they also keep them active — physically and mentally.

Traditional summer camps focus on sports and warm weather activities. These days, however, there are a wide variety of camps to choose from that feature topics like art, theatre and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Whatever camps are the best fit for your kid’s summertime, start researching and registering now. Summer camps fill up quickly!

Activity and nature camps

The classic concept of summer camp is a day spent outdoors, swimming and playing sports with the guidance of counselors. While many camps follow that pattern, they often add more.

The goal at Camp All-American is to build strong character in the lives of young people. The full-day camps they offer are available for kids aged 5 through 17 and include Bible study, physical activity, and specialty camps. Campers can also choose from a wide range of specialties like art, cheerleading, photography, and soccer.

Camp All-American runs for 10 weeks and is held at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek. Day camps for 1st to 6th grade students are also held at Dunwoody Baptist Church. Registration opens Superbowl Sunday; campallamerican.com is the place to get details.

Christ the King Lutheran Church offers Preschool Summer Camps that are designed for children aged 2 to rising kindergartners. Three sessions are available, June 24-28; July 22-26; and August 12-16. Go to ctklutheran.org/preschool or call 770-449-7217 for more information.

The 10 sessions of summer camp programs at Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA run from May 28 through August 2. There’s a lot to choose from, too: traditional camps, sports camps, specialty camps, teen camps and half-day preschool camps. Sports include baseball, flag football and volleyball, and specialty camps offer STEM, film, cartooning, dance and more. Go to ymcaatlanta.org/program-locations/summer-camp/norcross.php for more.

The summer camps at Autrey Mill Nature Preserve & Heritage Center in Johns Creek emphasize reconnecting kids with nature and history, allowing them a break from technology and competition. Campers are kept engaged with activities and learning opportunities, but they’re also given plenty of time to explore and imagine.

Autrey Mill has several options of full-day summer camps for campers aged 5 to 14 years, and half-day camps are available for 4-year-olds. Visit autreymill.org for camp themes, schedules and more.

Summer camps are not summer school

Several area schools offer camps during the summer months. Though many keep a focus on learning, they bring in a strong element of fun.

Wesleyan School has a long list of camps for kids aged 4 through 8th grade. There’s Summer Art Fun; Cooking and Forensic Science. Students interested in science and technology may especially enjoy camps like Movie Makers and Game Designers, Coding and Lego Robotics, Project Invention, STEAM for Middle School or Xtreme STEAM for Lower School.

Camps are offered over six weeks in the summer in a safe, nurturing environment. Registration began January 21, and you can get details at wesleyanschool/camps.

At Greater Atlanta Christian School, more than 30 summer programs in academics, arts, and athletics are offered through the seven weeks of camp, June 3 through July 26. Campers enjoy making new friends and exploring new talents in a secure, Christian setting.

Some of the camps have opportunities for field trips that take students to various locations in metro Atlanta for fun learning experiences. Visit gac.growcamps.org for the 2019 schedule and details.

The Primrose School of Peachtree Corners offers a Summer Adventure Club for children in kindergarten through 5th grade. The kids become artists, explorers and scientists as they’re guided through experiments, engineering design challenges and other themed activities. Call the school at 770-409-8732 or visit their website, PrimrosePeachtreeCorners.com, to learn more.

Pinecrest Academy in Cumming welcomes all children 5 and older to their summer camps, which begin in late May and run through late July. The school typically hosts over 25 camps each summer. A favorite, Camp Altius, features fun activities like scavenger hunts, team games, splash time and crazy crafts.

There are also many special interest camps with a focus on subjects like the arts, Spanish, science and athletics. For the budding techies and scientists, there are camps on Coding + STEM, Robotics, Rocketry & Aeronautics and Introduction to Engineering. Visit pinecrestacademy.org/page/campus-life/summer-camps for details and information on registering.

University summer camps

The University of Georgia holds its Summer Academy Camps a little further away, in Athens, Ga., for middle and high school students. Camp choices range from STEM and the arts to college and career preparation camps. Some of the STEM camps choices are Robotics, Engineering, Video Game Design, and even a Mini Medical School.

Kids interested in the arts can choose from Fashion Design, Photography, Screen Writing and more. The Career Preparation and Specialized Camps have focuses that include culinary skills and law. A residential option is available for students to stay in a college dorm during the week. Registration opens February 6; go to ugasummer.com to sign up.

Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology both offer summer tech camps through iDTech, focusing on STEM education including coding, game development and robotics. At Emory, the week-long camps and two-week academies are for ages 7 to 18 and run May 27 to July 26. Georgia Tech’s week-long iDTech camps, scheduled June 10 to July 19, are for girls only, aged 10 to 15. Get more info at idtech.com.

Tech summer camps

Summer camps with a technology bent is the perfect way to add some productivity to your kids’ screen time. Prototype Prime is introducing the Kids 4 Coding camps this year, and there are also more tech camps in the area.

Kids 4 Coding Summer Camps will be held at both Gwinnett Technical College locations. In Lawrenceville, the camp runs from June 3 to July 19, and in Alpharetta, from July 15 to 26. There’s a variety of tech-based camp themes, such as Microbit & Swift Programming, Mobile Apps + Augmented Reality and Game Design. Full and half day sessions are available. To sign up and see the full list of choices, visit kids4coding.com.

Club SciKidz has summer camp locations throughout the area, including Duluth First United Methodist Church. Children from ages 7 to 15 have 60 STEM and STEAM camp choices, including Young Scientist, F/X Zombie, Veterinary Medicine and Manga Maker. Details are at ClubSciKidz.com.

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) is offering a beginner’s Tech 101 camp for 1st and 2nd graders, Whiz Learning Kids, that runs from June 24-28. Campers will learn to use different design elements — images, text, color, and backdrops — to create digital scrapbook pages. They’ll even have the opportunity to design their own animations using basic programming techniques. See the full range of camps at mjccadaycamps.org.

At Fernbank Science Center, 4th to 8th grade students can sign up for a week-long Lego Robotics Camp that covers areas like programming and motors for Lego Mindstorm robotics. Find out more at fernbank.edu/roboticscamp.html. ■

Contributing Editor Kathy Dean has been a writer and editor for over 20 years. Some of the publications she has contributed to are Atlanta Senior Life, Atlanta INtown, Transatlantic Journal and The Guide to Coweta and Fayette Counties.

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City Government

City’s First Employee Steps Down

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At a City Council meeting on April 23, Diana Wheeler was recognized for more than 12 years of dedicated service to the city.
Diana Wheeler on stage at Town Center // Photos by Tracey Rice

Diana Wheeler starts her own consulting business

When a city is established, there’s a lot to do to get it going. One of the most important decisions is hiring effective staff. Diana Wheeler was one of those qualified employees who helped turn Peachtree Corners into the community it is today. She’s also credited with being the city’s first hire.

“I worked in Alpharetta for about 20 years as a community development director, and I decided that it was time to try something new and different, something I hadn’t done before. I was going to start up my own consulting business,” said Wheeler.

She was only a few days into her new career when the city of Peachtree Corners called.

“They said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to come and help us out. We’re starting up a new city, and we don’t really have any planners. We need a community development department,” said Wheeler.

So, she went back into city government work and put off starting her business.

Years of service

“I was the only employee for a while,” she said. “There were a lot of interesting times, and there were opportunities I’ve never had before, like setting up all of their programs and systems at the beginning.”

At a City Council meeting on April 23, Wheeler was recognized for more than 12 years of dedicated service to the city.

“A lot of things were accomplished, and after 12 years, I thought, well, you know, I still want that one last sort of professional challenge that I hadn’t ever done before, which was to go out on my own and take advantage of the connections that I’ve made over the years and work on projects that were of interest to me,” she said.

She let the city leadership know that it was time for that change and that she’d be making that change at the end of April.

“Diana’s daily presence was profoundly valued by her colleagues, who benefitted from her expertise, leadership, and perhaps most importantly, her composure in the face of the numerous challenges that the Peachtree Corners city government has encountered during her tenure,” read a statement from the city.

Don’t call it a retirement

As the community development director, Wheeler wore a lot of hats, metaphorically speaking.

“When I was community development director, I had four divisions: the building department, which issues permits and performs inspections; code enforcement, which basically enforces the city’s regulations in commercial and residential areas; planning and zoning, which does all the public hearings and all the zoning research work, and when we added the Town Center, we added special events,” she said. “It’s just a lot of different things. And the city has a very limited number of employees. So, everybody does multiple tasks.”

But she hasn’t entirely left the city. Through the end of the year, she’ll be coordinating the special events at the Town Center.

“We’ve got an incredible lineup. We have all sorts of really cool concerts …  and we’re also introducing a night market, which is like a farmer’s market,” she said.

The market will take place on the second Saturday of the month and will have about 14 different vendors selling produce, homemade products, and other items.

“We’re going to have a talent competition this year,” she said. “It’s called Peachtree Corners Has Talent, and we’re asking people to submit YouTube videos, and there are prizes for winners.”

Additionally, there’s a children’s festival and one for the canines in the new dog park.

“On December 4, we’re going to have the huge holiday glow event, which is our big holiday gala at the town center with a concert and Santa and all sorts of stuff for kids to do and a sing-along and lots of free hot chocolate and cookies and things like that,” she said.

Wheeler is unsure if she’ll continue working as a consultant with the city beyond December, but she’s excited about her next chapter. Her consulting business is focused on special projects.

A new journey as a consultant

“In communities where they have a limited staff but would like to take on a project, for example, the city of Jasper and the city of Milton have two different areas where they have projects that they would like to take on, but they don’t have the staff resources,” she said.

That’s where she’ll come in.

“They hire people sort of as a side project to work just on that project. And those are the sort of things that I would do,” she said. “I get to focus on a specific project and don’t deal with the day-to-day things.”

Wheeler said she likes that she gets to choose what she wants to work on and use her skills and experience to the fullest.

Highlights of Wheeler’s career with the city of Peachtree Corners:

  • She laid the groundwork for the establishment of Peachtree Corners’ inaugural City Hall.
  • She was instrumental in the development of the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Urban Redevelopment Plan, Livable Centers Initiative, Innovation Hub Master Plan, Winters Chapel Road Corridor Study and conceptual planning for the Multi-Use Trail network.
  • She established and nurtured the Arts Council, created the Arts & Culture Master Plan, and promoted other public art initiatives, bringing the residents enriching cultural experiences, artistic expression and a sense of community pride.
  • She played a pivotal role in the establishment and ongoing support of the Peachtree Corners Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Downtown Development Authority, Redevelopment Authority, Arts Council, and Green Committee.
  • She played a crucial role in securing the city’s Green Community Certification and its Tree City USA recognition.
  • She spearheaded the implementation of the city’s initial zoning laws and led the Code Enforcement, Building and Permitting and Planning and Zoning Departments.
  • She pioneered the city’s first Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
  • She played a key role in launching Special Service Districts, contributing significantly to their initiation and success.
  • She Diana guided Town Green and Town Center initiatives.
  • She organized and managed Peachtree Corners’ special events.

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Community

Rooted Interiors Unveils Largest Transformation Project Yet for a Family in Need

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Grandfather's bedroom before and after // photos courtesy of Rooted Interiors

Rooted Interiors, a new non-profit organization dedicated to transforming lives through design, has announced the completion of its largest transformation project to date.

With a commitment to providing complete interiors to individuals and families emerging from homelessness, Rooted Interiors continues to make a profound impact on communities, one home at a time.

The latest project marks a significant milestone for Rooted Interiors as it demonstrates the organization’s unwavering dedication to creating havens where families can plant roots and thrive.

Through meticulous planning, collaboration and the support of generous donors and volunteers, Rooted Interiors has successfully transformed a once hopeless space into a warm and welcoming home for a deserving family.

At the heart of this project is a single mother, accompanied by her two children and her father, who found themselves in dire circumstances after the mother fled from an abusive partner, forcing them to seek refuge at the Family Promise shelter in Athens, Ga.

Upon securing a new home, however, their relief was short-lived as they found themselves in a space devoid of warmth and lacking the essentials of a home.

With no furniture besides a dining room table, no washer and dryer and a malfunctioning fridge, their daily struggles persisted for three long months.

But Rooted Interiors didn’t just redesign the family’s space, they filled it with love and hope.

Through this project, the organization transformed the family’s house into a sanctuary, addressing not only their physical needs but also their emotional well-being. From carefully selected furniture to thoughtful décor choices, every detail was curated to create a space that felt like home.

“We are thrilled to unveil our latest project, which represents our continued commitment to serving those in need,” said Kristina McCalla, Founder and Executive Director of Rooted Interiors.

“Our Rooted in Renewal Program not only revitalizes physical spaces but also renews hope and stability for the family who calls this house their home,” she added.

Rooted Interiors offers a lifeline to families in need, empowering them to thrive and succeed in their journey towards independence.

“This journey is not just about creating aesthetically pleasing interiors; it’s about using the language of design to uplift and restore,” said Kristina McCalla, also Lead Interior Designer at Rooted Interiors.

“Rooted in faith and love, each project is a testament to the belief that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, deserves a place that reflects their humanity and worth. By providing a thoughtfully designed and fully furnished home, we aim to empower families to thrive and succeed in their journey towards independence,” she explained.

As Rooted Interiors continues its mission to fully furnish homes for those emerging from homelessness, this project serves as a testament to the organization’s impact and the generosity of its supporters.

Through ongoing partnerships and community engagement, the organization remains committed to building brighter futures for individuals and families in need. For more information about Rooted Interiors and how you can support their mission, visit rootedinteriors.org.

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Business

BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier

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Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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