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Get in the Game and Discover Gwinnett’s Parks This July



Summer is here, which means it’s time to get out and explore the great things happening at your local parks and recreation centers. This July Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation is celebrating Park and Recreation Month, an initiative of the National Recreation and Park Association, with events and activities for residents of all ages and abilities.

These special events feature activities including movies, arts and crafts, aquatic events and hiking:

·         Stars & Stripes Family Night on July 1 at 7 p.m. at Bethesda Park Aquatic Center and again on July 3 at 7 p.m. at Lenora Park Pool. Bring the family for patriotic celebration with a twist: it’s in the pool. No registration is required; all pool rules and admission apply. Bethesda Park Aquatic Center is located at 225 Bethesda Church Road in Lawrenceville and Lenora Pool is located at 4315 Lenora Church Road in Snellville.

·         Summer Movie Night on July 12 at 6 p.m. at Bogan Park Community Recreation Center. Free admission to watch “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” Popcorn and light refreshments will be provided. All ages, preregistration is recommended online with code BOP31630 or call 678-277-0850. Bogan Park Community Recreation Center is located at 2723 North Bogan Road in Buford.

·         Date Night Drop Off on July 12 at 6 p.m. at Lawrenceville Female Seminary. Children can enjoy the museum while parents enjoy a night out. Pizza, fun monster relay games and crafts will be provided. Ages 5 to 10, $10 per person. Must preregister by July 10 online with code LFS34001 or call 770-822-5178. Lawrenceville Female Seminary is located at 455 South Perry Street in Lawrenceville.

·         Hot Dog Pool Party on July 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Collins Hill Park Aquatic Center. Celebrate National Hot Dog Month with swimming and hot dogs. All ages, $5 per person. Preregistration is recommended online with code CHP35900 or call 770-237-5647. All pool rules apply. Collins Hill Park Aquatic Center is located at 2200 Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville.

·         Dinner and Cinema on July 12 at 7 p.m. at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse. Enjoy a catered dinner, popcorn and mock-tails while watching a film in the historic Superior Court Ballroom. Ages 18 and up, $20 per person. Seating is limited. Preregister online with code GHC11601 or call 770-822-5450. The Gwinnett Historic Courthouse is located at 185 Crogan Street in Lawrenceville.

·         Aquatic Think Tank on July 13 at 6:30 p.m. at West Gwinnett Park Aquatic Center. Swimming with a twist: games designed for educational fun in the water to engage math and reading skills. All ages, $3 per person. Preregister online with code WGP31901 or call 678-407-8801. West Gwinnett Park Aquatic Center is located at 4488 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Berkeley Lake.

·         Game On, Kids’ Night Out on July 19 at 6 p.m. at Mountain Park Activity Building. Swim and enjoy a night out with pizza, ice cream and lots of action-packed activities. Ages 7 to 13, $12 per person. Preregister by July 16 online with code MPA31403 or call 678-277-0179. Mountain Park Activity Building is located at 1063 Rockbridge Road in Stone Mountain.

·         Kids’ Night Out on July 19 at 6 p.m. at George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center. Have fun playing summertime games, and enjoy a delicious dinner with dessert. Ages 7 to 13, $12 per person. Preregister online with code GPP31602 or call 678-277-0910. George Pierce Park is located at 55 Buford Highway in Suwanee.

·         Scavenge-ART Hunt on July 20 at 11 a.m. at Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center. Gather fun items from nature to build a craft. Free for all ages. Preregister online with code PVP31410 or call 678-277-0920. Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center is located at 4650 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Berkeley Lake.

·         All American Day on July 20 at Noon at Mountain Park Aquatic Center. Bring the family for a fun-filled All American Day at our outdoor leisure pool with crafts, hot dogs and lawn games. All ages, $6 per person. Preregister by July 17 online with code MPA31101 or call 678-277-0870. Mountain Park Aquatic Center is located at 1063 Rockbridge Road in Stone Mountain.

·         Splash in Movie on July 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Lenora Park Pool. Bring the family to swim and watch “Trolls.” Appropriate for all ages, $4 per person. Preregistration is required online with code LEP35103 or by calling 770-982-5309. Lenora Pool is located at 4315 Lenora Church Road in Snellville.

·         Stargazing on July 20 at 9:30 p.m. at Harbins Park. Join our educators across the parks for an evening under stars. No experience in stargazing is necessary. Telescopes will be available or bring your own. Ages 5 and up, $2 per person. Preregister by July 17 online with code HRP34005 or by calling 770-904-3500. Harbins Park is located at 2299 Luke Edwards Road in Dacula.

·         Cowboy Day on July 27 at 10 a.m. at Collins Hill Park Aquatic Center. Spend national cowboy and cowgirl day at the pool with face painting, entertainment and swimming. Test your skills on the inflatable bull during safety breaks. Ages 4 and up. All pool rules and admission fees will apply. Collins Hill Park Aquatic Center is located at 2200 Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville.

·         Toddler Treks on July 30 at 10:30 a.m. at Lawrenceville Female Seminary. Finish the month off with a guided outdoor adventure for you and your little one. Spend time in the pollinator garden looking for flowers and learning about the honeybees. Ages 18 months to 3 years, $5 per child with one parent free. Preregister online with code LFS34502 or call 770-822-5178. Lawrenceville Female Seminary is located at 455 South Perry Street in Lawrenceville.

Parks and Recreation Deputy Division Director Chris Minor invites residents and visitors to explore the parks and recreation centers around Gwinnett.

“This year’s theme, Game On, encourages residents to embrace the fun and games provided by their parks and recreation centers,” said Minor. “While you’re enjoying this month’s great events, share your experience with the hashtag #GameOnJuly and invite your family and friends to get in the game with us.”

To learn more about Park and Recreation Month, visit www.gwinnettparks.com and www.nrpa.org/July.  

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City Government

City’s First Employee Steps Down



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



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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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier



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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