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Capitalist Sage: How Estate Planning is More Important in the COVID-19 World [Podcast]



Capitalist Sage Podcast about Estate Planning

The hardest part may be imagining the world without you in it or without a healthy and capable you in it. There’s never a better time to start thinking about estate planning than right now.

No matter who you are as a business owner or individual, planning for the future is an important step. In this episode of Capitalist Sage, Rico Figliolini and Karl Barham are joined by Estate Planning Attorney Jim Miskell. Listen as they discuss all the details you need to know to start planning now.

Website: LetsTalkEstatePlanning.com

“The reasons to do it are, and I’m sort of joking that if you don’t do it, somebody else will. That’s really the heart and soul of it. If you want to control how what you’ve worked so hard to build, benefit your family in the future. Make the plans.”

Jim Miskell


[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:59] – About Jim and Estate Planning
[00:05:58] – Risks and Benefits
[00:08:41] – What’s Entailed
[00:11:21] – For Business Owners
[00:14:14] – Why doesn’t everyone do it?
[00:16:30] – Sheltering
[00:19:22] – Navigating Partnerships
[00:22:59] – Starting the Conversation
[00:28:32] – Younger Estate Plans
[00:30:17] – Closing

Podcast Transcript

Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and expert to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my cohost is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets Digital Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine, which is out.

Rico: [00:00:54] Yes, in most places. And if you haven’t received it, let me know, but it should be out there in your mailboxes. And I, you know, while we’re doing this, we’re going to obviously, we’ve been getting some technical difficulties. So bear with us as well. Everyone’s on, everyone’s online, so it’s the world out there, right? So I might as well introduce our sponsor Hargray Fiber. They are, in fact, they’re doing a great job those guys, they’re in the Southeast. They’re doing work with many small companies, midsize companies, and enterprise larger companies as well, providing internet services. IT management services as well, and they’re doing several promotions. And right now they’re there to be able to help you work remotely and collaboratively for free. So reach out to them at HargrayFiber.com and find out the sources, the solutions they have for you, and it’d be a great place to be. Thank you Karl for letting me do that.

Karl: [00:01:59] Absolutely. Well, let’s get right into it. I am so honored to have our guest today, Jim Miskell, who is an attorney, an estate planning attorney that has offices both in Johns Creek and Lawrenceville, Georgia. I got a chance to chat with Jim a couple of times. And he just was a wealth of knowledge in the area of estate planning, in ways that people may not have realized. So we wanted to have him come on today to talk a little bit about what all these business owners that are going through. This may be a good time through all the business owner that are going through. Sit back and think about some of the things that they should be putting in place to help protect their legacy as they go forward. So with that, I’d like to welcome Jim Miskall. Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself, Jim.

Jim: [00:03:03] Thank you, Karl. Thank you, Rico. It’s pleasure to be here. Always appreciate the opportunity to speak to people about the importance of estate planning. Our practice is estate planning and elder law as you said Karl, we’ve got two offices, Lawrenceville and Johns Creek. Of course now, with the way things have been the last little bit, the physical offices are a little bit less important. We’re doing the entirety of our meetings with clients remotely, either by phone conferences, facetimes, zoom, some other mechanism of that kind. Signing ceremonies for our plans we’re handling in person, usually in the parking lot so that everybody stays safe and socially isolated. But we get those documents witnessed and signed. We offer estate planning services from folks that may not even think they have an estate. An estate plan that’s for rich people. No, if you’ve got spare change in a jar on your dresser. You have an estate. And it’s worth planning for. So we have clients that range from young couples who just had their first child to older folks. We do a lot of elder law planning for long term care benefits, which might be Medicaid or VA benefits. We handle the aid and attendance, preparation to be qualified for that. And so along that we’ve got some clients for which we do will plans, some clients for which a revocable living trust plan is the way to go. Some folks that in conjunction with those things, use an irrevocable living trust that gives them asset protection. We’ve used that not only in the areas of elder law, but also for clients who own small businesses. Because it gives a, an additional
layer of asset protection that you don’t get with just an LLC or a corporation. You can still retain control and income interests in your business. So for some folks that that’s a really good fit. It’s an area of practice that I love. I started out my career 12 and a half years as a prosecutor. And left prosecution in 2005 and realized pretty early on I wanted to focus on this area of practice because I noticed that the folks that were coming in for estate planning. Only came to see me for one reason, and it wasn’t because they were mad at their spouse and it wasn’t because that’s so-and-so who had a store in the same strip mall. Their clients were parking in their parking spaces. It wasn’t because they were mad at anybody. It wasn’t because they created a bad situation by committing a crime. It was because they loved their family. My clients only come to see me for one reason. That’s because they love their family and they’re trying to avoid problems in the future. And for a small business owners really fall into that category because they work so hard. They work so hard, and those with foresight don’t want that work to be lost.

Karl: [00:05:58] So Jim, let me ask you. That’s one of the things that I realize, you know, every day a small business owner is really busy running their business. And during this time of the pandemic, there is a pause for a lot of people where they have time to think about the future. And it’s becoming really real. And I see that in the conversation with people and people love their families. Why should someone than, consider putting together an estate plan. What are some of the risks they have out there if they choose not to do that or delay it too much longer?

Jim: [00:06:34] Well, the great thing about estate estate planning is that it’s optional. And if you don’t do it, if you don’t make the decisions for you and your family. Somebody else will do it. So if you’re comfortable with somebody else making those decisions and handing over control of those things and letting somebody else, another family member, or hopefully not a judge, make those decisions, then you bypass estate plan. Say, it’s not for me. That doesn’t fit the profile of most small business owners. As you say they work so hard every day. And we were talking earlier, I think Rico made a remark that we all see ourselves as the star or the lead in our own movie. And I think that’s especially true for small business owners because the person that picks up the trash, the person that cleans the bathroom and sweep the floors. You’ve done that job. You can do that job. People that are in the clerical and answering the phones. You could do that job and it needs to be done the way you want it to be done. Estate planning, the difficulty to get small business owners to do it is realizing that it’s something that needs attention. The reasons to do it are, and I’ve sort of joking that if you, if you don’t do it, somebody else will. That’s really the heart soul of it. If you want to control how the, what you’ve worked so hard to build, benefits your family in the future. Make the plans, make the plans. One of the things, that is a great opportunity in the time we’re in right now is it is giving folks the pause as you said, Karl. That, you know, you’re not on, on, on, and it gives you a minute to think, you know what? Tomorrow’s not guaranteed for me any more than it is that person across the street or the person I heard about on the news.

Karl: [00:08:21] So when folks introducing estate planning, how do you describe what it is? What, what’s entailed in estate planning? What does that actually look like?

Rico: [00:08:35] And, you know what, make a comparison to someone’s will because some people think they have a will and that’s good enough.

Jim: [00:08:41] Okay. A will is a good concrete place to start with estate plan, and that’s that. That’s a great, great place to start. Every estate plan needs to take into account a couple things. And the will does covers one of those bases as, who gets your stuff when you die? And that’s all well and good. The will says this is what happens, but the will is a death document. What I mean by that is it doesn’t do anything for anyone while you’re still alive. The person, you make your executor, they don’t have any authority while you’re alive. You can get sick, be in a coma, be critically ill. It doesn’t give them any authority to do anything for you. So what are you, how do you cover that disability portion, which is also really important state plan. That’s where we’re talking about powers of attorney and healthcare directors at the basic level. Powers of attorney allow you to extend your power to someone else to act for you when you cannot while you’re alive. So you can designate who is it that runs the business if you’re not able to be there. If you get laid up, collect an Aflac or your disability insurance, who’s going to the office and making sure that things get done to your specifications? The beautiful thing about power of attorney is you get to select the person that does that. I have a lot of folks and it happens with elderly folks and it happens to detail, with detail oriented, driven people who may be A type, they get to the power of attorney and they think, Oh, I don’t want to do that cause I’m giving up power. I’m giving up my independence. In the elderly folks, that’s a big issue also with business owners. I don’t want to give up any of that authority. The beautiful thing about power of attorney is you don’t give up one wit of authority. You’re just extending your authority to somebody else to act for you when you need them. So at base you need somebody, you need to think about not only may I just, not only is there a possibility the eventuality that you’re going to die. But I may not be well and able and competent the day I die. I may have dementia, I may have a head injury. I may have something that makes it difficult for me to do the things that need to be done. You need to address that as well. So the estate planning really needs to cover both of those situations. Because your estate can be squandered, misused, lost, argued over in either situation, you can prevent all those things from happening with planning.

Karl: [00:11:21] But can I ask a question? You mentioned a couple of things. We said the term will, and we said the term power of attorney. So within the state plan, what are some of the other documents and or devices or tools that are used that makes up a good estate plan for most people that might own a business, for instance.

Jim: [00:11:44] So for most people that own a business or even folks that have, some accumulated a state, a great option for many folks is a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust has a couple strong advantages where you hear about it most, and you may hear Susie Orman on TV on the PBS thing, or she says, you got to have a living trust. You’ve got to stay out of probate. Well, she lives in California and I, if we lived in California, I would say, yes, absolutely. You got to stay out of probate, Georgia probate, we’re very fortunate. It’s less expensive and less onerous, than probate in other States. But at the same time, it’s a court process by which your executor has to prove that the will is valid. And to do that, he has to
present it to the judge. Your executive has to show it to all your heirs, whoever would inherit from you, if the will is no good, get them to sign off or they can raise a complaint. Your executor can act for 30 to 45 days at minimum after that petition for probate is filed. To avoid that, you can build a revocable living trust. And the idea here is, isn’t that great with the retirement accounts where you can set a beneficiary designation? Isn’t that great with insurance? You just write down who they’ll pay and those companies are bound by contract. When you die to pay who you told them to, you don’t have to go through that probate process. I wish we could do that with my house. How am I, how can you do that with the house? You build a revokable living trust. It’s your own designated beneficiary machine. Every trust has three people involved as the person who makes it. That’s the set lore in Georgia. It’s got the trustee, that’s the administrative person. They have the rulebook and the checkbook. They have to manage the assets and they can write checks to the beneficiaries when the rule book says it’s okay. With living trust, you’re all three. You build the trust, you put your stuff in it, you remain the trustee as long as you’re able. When you’re no longer able, this is a great question, who’s trustee when you can’t? Whoever you pick. In the order you pick them. And they’re not just flying by the seat of their pants like they would with the power of attorney. Power of attorney’s long on powers, but it doesn’t have any instructions in it. It says, if I get in trouble, and I can’t do it, you can go do my banking. Well, how do I do that? Well, just go, go do my banking. A trust can be very specific. This is how I want you to run the business. This is how I want you to distribute the quarterly earnings. This is how I want it. You can make a rule book very specifically with the trust.

Karl: [00:14:14] Why do you feel that more people, that sounds pretty, pretty simple to understand. What do you see as the barriers where a lot of folks choose not to do that? And I’m going to put aside any myths and perception around cost for a second, but that seems like a more sensible way for someone with assets like businesses or considerable to handle that.

Jim: [00:14:41] Well, that’s, that’s a great question and a lot of folks, when we’re doing a webinar or a live presentation, folks ask me that question. Why doesn’t everybody do this? Well, I don’t know, but I can tell you a story about a client that I spoke with last week who had done a will plan with us 2014 maybe. And was just calling up to check and have sort of a, a little checkup. He’d been, had seen some of our online content and gone through the education process again and he had a lot of questions about revocable living trust. He said, well, that’s definitely for us, and definitely the surviving spouse, one of us dies, the surviving spouse is going to go do that. I said, well okay. That’s a plan, but what if you’re both in the car? He said, what do you man? I said, well, what if you get killed and she gets a head injury? She can’t do it. He said oh, yeah. I said, well why would you want to make a grieving spouse have to redo your estate plan after one of you dies. When you guys can set up now? So I don’t know. There’s an inertia to it. There’s a resistance, and I think there is a perception that that’s for rich people. And that, Oh, it’s complicated. When it’s actually simpler. It is more complicated to set up. It takes more work now. I don’t think the answer is that people are lazy, but everything that you do, setting up your revocable living trust takes pressure and work off your agent when you die. It’s things the executor would be doing later with a little plan. You do it now so that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted and things weren’t run very smoothly for the family. I don’t know why people don’t
do it all the time, but I do know that very often the folks that do it say, I don’t want my kids having a fool around with that other stuff when we can make it really easy for them right now with a little extra work.

Rico: [00:16:30] Let me ask you something, doesn’t it also shelter the assets of an estate though. Doesn’t it shelter it from taxes and all that, as well? Doesn’t it provide some protection for family inheriting, if you will.

Jim: [00:16:46] The a, I’m going to give you the lawyer’s answer is it depends. A basic revokable living trust? No, it’s transparent. It’s like a see-through entity. The way you might think about a S election on a corporation or LLC where it flows through everything that happens there. The basic rule or the way I explain asset protection and the way I think of it is asset protection is based on the principle, that anything that I can get for me they can get from me. If I can get it for me, they can take it from me, so if I run over your foot in the Kroger parking lot, I got $15,000 in my pocket, you’re going to be able to get it. So to build a trust that gives you asset protection and the rule that that trust must have, and it must be irrevocable, is that whatever you put in that trust, you can’t get back out for yourself. So you can build a trust that gives you asset protection. But it’s a different mechanism and you would never put everything you have in a revocable trust only what you reasonably calculate. You’re never going to have to spend on yourself during your own lifetime.

Rico: [00:17:56] Or is it property that you not selling? So some, I know from my family up in New York, New Jersey, some of them have estate plans like this where property is in it. Because the property’s not going to be sold. It’s something that they feel it’s going to be out there for the rest of the family. So stuff like that, I guess. Those types of assets probably.

Jim: [00:18:16] Sure. Residence is a great first, first thing you would think of. That’s the prime candidate, and the beautiful thing is you might even be able to be trustee of that trust. You can’t violate the rules. You can’t sell the house and put the money back in your account. But you could as trustee sell that house and buy a condo on the 18th fairway in Myrtle beach. Yeah. All inside the trust. So you may not give up control, but you’d give up your ability to benefit from it. And you might set it up to where even though you can’t take money out for you, you could take money out for your kids. Pay tuition. Yeah.

Rico: [00:18:54] So there are good advantages for a business owner to really like, really think hard about doing this.

Jim: [00:19:00] Oh, absolutely.

Rico: [00:19:01] You know, just waiting. Okay.

Jim: [00:19:03] Another place that it really appeals. Is that idea of crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s myself. I’m gonna make sure this thing runs right, because I may be, I may think I’m
George Washington some point in the future, but I’m going to get this thing right today. So even my knuckleheaded brother-in-law can’t mess it up.

Karl: [00:19:22] So you brought up the topic of children. And so I got to think about succession planning in business. Not only when it’s children, but also what if there’s partners that are not part of your family? What role does estate planning and helping people navigating exits when there’s a partnership in a business. Where does that end and where does something else begin from the business side?

Jim: [00:19:48] Yeah. I see it as a slow transition where you can’t even tell where the business planning and the estate planning ends. I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast line. One of the things, an idea to get used to in estate plan, and I think also business succession planning is that it’s possible to separate control from benefits. You may want your spouse to continue to benefit from the business after you die, but your spouse has never worked in the business, so you don’t want her running it or him running it. So it’s possible to separate those two things, which are very often it’s children. There may be one child that has worked in the business and three children that haven’t. You may want them all to have a profit interest, but the one who’s familiar with the business to continue to work in the business and make the decisions. And you don’t want a vote of those fours. What the right thing to do is you want that one child, your daughter, who you’ve taught the business to make those decisions. So that, to get going a long way around to your, your question is those are operating agreements. And buy-sell agreements with the partners. You know, you don’t want to…

Karl: [00:21:01] What’s a buy-sell agreement if you can.

Jim: [00:21:04] So a buy-sell agreement is where if you and I are partners in a business, we did sit down and have this conversation. What happens if one of us wants out? What happens if death takes one of us out? What happens? An injury takes one of us out. How are we going to handle that? Do you want to be in business with my spouse? Do I want to be in business with your spouse? What are the rules and parameters around that?

Karl: [00:21:25] I feel like that conversations would happen in a ring somewhere when two people are having that. But I think it’s important though, realistically, to set aside time, and this could be a time like that where you’ve talked to your partners and you might start off together, but get someone to guide you through that conversation, which may lead to what happens with the business, but then leads into what happens with each family.

Jim: [00:21:51] I think that’s a great, a great point. And I boil it down this way for clients to give them a way to get their head around it. All estate planning, business succession planning, all this planning for the future comes down to the answer to a few questions is, who’s got the authority? Who’s in control? Who gets to benefit? How do they benefit? And when as things change? So right now, you and I are partners, who has the authority? We do. We make the decisions about how the business runs, we get to benefit and whoever else we say, however
they say right now, if one of us becomes disabled, then who’s got the authority? Do you have to consult with my spouse? You know, how does that work? It’s just walking through those things. And the beautiful thing about estate planning and business planning is that there are very few must-dos. It’s a very highly personal and individualized thing. But it’s working through these, these questions who should be in control? Who should benefit as things unfold? And you sort of play the what if game.

Karl: [00:22:59] I’m curious. So, you know, we’re talking about estate planning and there’s a lot of legal, and I know folks have. I call it an allergic reaction, with things with attorneys or contracts and so on. So if there’s a responsible person in the family, how do they even begin to bring up this conversation with mom, dad, grandpa, uncle Willie, aunt Sue? How do they, what’s a good way to enter into that conversation with them?

Jim: [00:23:30] There are, it depends strongly on family dynamics. Listening for opportunities, how approachable people are in your family. One technique I’ve seen work very well for a lot of folks is, I don’t know how I’m going to talk to mom about this. But you know what? My wife and I, we haven’t done this. So we’re going to do that. And then at Thanksgiving we’re going to tell mom about the process we went through and all we were surprised to learn that if we hadn’t done this, this was going to happen. If we hadn’t have done this. Mom, did you and dad ever have that? You know, mom may be widowed now, but you say, mom, did you ever have that? Dad did you ever have that? Have you guys thought about that for you? Or have you thought about what if something happens to us, how are you going to take care of your grandkids? You know, very often you’re talking to a parent in these scenarios. So there are a lot of ways to get those emotional triggers going where maybe you can get that mind open a little bit to do it. But that’s a tricky one, you know? How do you start that conversation? Because I tease folks in the workshops, raise their hand. I have somebody raise their hand and say, Jim, I have a question. I said, great, what is it? And they’ll say, well if I die, and I say when. No ahead with your question. If I die, when? Say when you die. Oh, there are no exceptions here. It’s not going to happen to everybody else but me. It’s not going to happen everybody else, but you. There are no exceptions there. Now, some folks don’t want to see that. And you know, I love that we’re the lead in our own movie. I can’t imagine what happens when the movie ends.

Rico: [00:25:10] Unless you’re there.

Karl: [00:25:13] There are traditionally natural trigger points where people start this conversation. I know in a lot of religions when people get married, they have counseling with a minister or someone from their faith. And I know that it’s something that’s often covered in that as people going among other things. When people have children, it’s another point where it’s called kind of look at that to engage in the discussion. What I think is interesting that you’re starting to highlight here is finding ways to bring that conversation to the table in a safe way. Probably not a good time to do it just after a bunch of people finished an argument or there’s a lot of family drama going on. And I don’t know that it’s also good to do it, like on mother’s day or father’s day. We should leave those two days out to have that kind of discussion. But a good
way is probably starting by educating folks. And how can people begin to discover more information about this. So they can, they can start, you know, making good decisions for themselves and help bring others along to understand the importance and the process of how this is done.

Jim: [00:26:28] So for almost 10 years, we’ve been doing educational workshops as a way to get an entry point to, to have folks be, have some context and vocabulary to assert this conversation. So I believe strongly that education is where it’s at in getting this done, not just for families at home, but also for business owners and business planers. We do educational workshops. And now we’re going, we’re online and we’ve got an on demand version, and we do about two a month. We just did one April 7th. Our next one is, has not been scheduled for May yet, but we will. If folks are having difficulty finding that information, our website is, LetsTalkEstatePlanning.com. Just English, LetsTalkEstatePlanning.com. No apostrophe. You can contact us there. Joanne, who is our client service coordinator will get back with you and make sure that you’re able to access, all our online content. We’ve got the general workshop and then we’re having some specialized content going up in about the next week or two. But I think education is a great place to start. And I think you’ve highlighted that very often it’s life events, the birth of a child, a marriage, those sorts of things. Maybe for business owners is when you first form that business, when you incorporate. That’s a time where I hope business attorneys are bringing it up. When you get that third employee and you’re having to do worker’s comp insurance, that’s a time the insurance carrier should say, Hey, have you thought about succession plan? You know, those sort of analogous.

Rico: [00:28:03] Well, even when, when families have, you know, parents retiring a little earlier maybe they want to sell their big house, they want to downsize. That’s a good time too, to talk about that time.

Jim: [00:28:13] Yeah. Brilliant time, brilliant time. Also, you know, you’re getting ready to start a SEP or a simple at work or 401k that’s a great time. Anytime you’re thinking about that, that’s why I love to talk to CPAs, tax, for anybody that works with small business people. Just to keep this on their minds.

Karl: [00:28:32] So I’ve got, I’ve got a last question around that. So we’ve talked about this, and very often estate planning is associated with people that are older and have acquired more assets. Is there any advantage for millennials or younger people to start thinking about estate planning at any level. They may not have large assets accumulated, but would be a good time for them to start looking at some of these, these types of documents and concepts?

Jim: [00:29:05] Today is the right time to start. I love that question because it anchors back to where we started talking about wills, powers of attorney and healthcare directives. There’s who gets your stuff when you die? To a millennial who’s just beginning that accumulation phase, that may not be as important. But if there was a car accident and a head injury, God forbid they end up in the ICU, have they designated who can make those decisions for them? Do they have
their living will selections in order? I’ll tell you that we do something for our families. Well, I call it the 18th birthday package. When your child turns 18 they’re still your child, but legally you’re no longer their parent. You don’t get to go back with them to the doctor. You don’t get to say do surgery. You don’t get to say discharge and emit. They end up with meningitis at the health center at the university. You go over there, pick them up, you’re going to be in front of the superior court judge trying to get permission to do that. Or in front of the probate court judge. For the 18th birthday I think all kids should sign these documents designating their parents. We can also handle registrars that won’t talk to you. Oh, we can’t talk to you. We know you paid the tuition, but we can’t talk to you about the grades. There’s a waiver for that. We’ve got it covered.

Karl: [00:30:17] Well, I want to thank you and then I build on that. I would definitely say, I love the idea of 18, but if you were going to say anything later. If you’re going down the path of starting a life with someone. Adding, getting married or having a family. Just realize that your life just got more complicated and there are more people involved in decision making around it. And often giving your input by establishing the right power of attorneys and so on, to know your wife, your mother, your father, your brother, your sisters, what role people may play in your life, and what your wishes are. It’s probably the best gift you can give your family as being a responsible person. So, I want to thank you, Jim, for joining us today and talking about this really important topic. And you know, I hope everyone, and I hope you stay safe and your family stays safe as we go through. And so I want to thank Jim, principle attorney and founder of the estate law group, and he’s got offices right here in our community. If you want to reach out and just start educating yourself with a good starting point. Also Rico, why don’t we thank our sponsor?

Rico: [00:31:35] Sure. Let’s thank Hargray Fiber again for being a sponsor of these podcasts. Both Capitalist Sage, Peachtree Corners Life, the Ed Hour, which we just did this past Monday or Tuesday, actually with Jonathan Weatherington the principle of Paul Duke STEM high school. So I want to thank Hargray fiber. You can find out more information about them, bundled services, IT management and all that. They’re great in the community. They’re so involved in the community they are not the cable guy. So, you need someone that they are right there, right smack in the middle of your community, you can reach out to them and they’ll come out to you. So HargrayFiber.com is where you want to go.

Karl: [00:32:15] And I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors and proud to be a member of this Peachtree Corners and the greater Atlanta community. We help business people, you know, make the right decisions when it comes to starting their business, acquiring a business. When it comes to selling their business, we can help them with that. And I love that we talked today about how estate planning comes into that total planning process around your business. I think it’s really important that people take this time as we’re going through the COVID-19 pandemic. To just think about those things that you never had time to get to. If you love your family, and I think Jim said it well, this is something that you should make a priority to get right and do it the right way. So I want to thank, thank you for that. Rico why don’t you tell us a little bit about what’s going on? The magazine is out. What have we got coming up?

Rico: [00:33:09] Sure. Before we get to that, I want to thank Jim also, because I should know better. My parents had done the estate planning with my siblings. We all got together, we spoke to them and made sense to them. They had property in different states, so it made sense for them to be able to do that. So yeah, and yet, and yet I have not done it yet, so Jim may get that phone call from me at some point because, you know, especially with COVID-19 and all this stuff going on, I mean, it just meant, just puts it at the forefront of being able to take care of that. Well, Peachtree Corners Magazine should be in your mailbox by now. God knows in some places it seems it may not be. The post office is dealing with COVID-19 also. So I’m hoping that everyone’s gotten it. I’m actually going to be putting up a giveaway in the next few days to get people to hold their copy, post it on Facebook, put it on Instagram, hashtag us and I will give three winners from that giveaway contest. Either doing it as credit or a pass to one of the restaurants for takeout of, so, but we’ve been getting a lot of good response on that. I delivered copies to Simpson elementary cause they do have a central personnel there. So it’s gone there and I’m putting it out and it’s out there. MightyRockets.com just to, blow my own horn a little bit, we do social media marketing, online content. We’ve been doing branding and been doing some, besides these podcasts, other podcast productions. So if you’re looking for someone to handle your podcast productions or online content work. MightyRockets.com or just call me, email me.

Karl: [00:34:53] And don’t forget, you can follow us on Facebook, Living in Peachtree Corners on Facebook. What’s our other social media?

Rico: [00:35:02] So the Facebook page is Peachtree Corners Life that you would follow. You get updates, you get tweets or notification of when we go live. And then you could also go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. Follow us there. You can check us, Peachtree Corners Magazine, where I post all the podcasts on LinkedIn. So if you search on LinkedIn for the magazine, you’ll find that there. But anywhere you find podcasts, just Google the Capitalist Sage Podcast, you’ll find a ton of places including iHeartRadio and all that.

Karl: [00:35:33] And so everyone is taking a lot more walks right now. They have plenty of time to listen to more podcasts. So we just wanna thank you, Jim again. Really helpful.

Jim: [00:35:45] Rico, Karl, Thank you.

Karl: [00:35:47] I appreciate that. Everyone stay safe out there where we’re battling through this and we have to do it for a little bit longer, but this will pass and things will get back to more normal, more normal than it is today. So just stay encouraged and be good to each other. Thanks.

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The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City



Jay Patton, Traditional Master Barber

Gwinnett County is getting more and more culturally and racially diverse. Remember the old adage ‘Variety is the spice of life’? In today’s climate of social unrest and world-wide protests for racial justice, we should move towards healing by getting to know our neighbors and broaching some delicate conversations. It can be scary and cathartic — and it can be a little heartbreaking, too.

The heartbeat of Peachtree Corners is strong because of the amazing people who live and work here. I reached out to some from a variety of backgrounds. Each of their accounts will have you shouting, Vive la différence!

Jay Patton

Jay Patton

Traditional Master Barber Jay Patton moved to Peachtree Corners two years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He noted that his hometown is less diverse, primarily Caucasian, and he’s been enjoying the “good mix” of people here.

“In Minnesota, growing up, there was more racial tension,” Patton said. He felt a larger divide between the privileged and the underprivileged. “There’s less opportunity for certain people in certain states. You come down here and if you have a good credit score, you blend in as long as you’re putting out good vibrations,” he explained.

At your service

After working near Perimeter Mall for five years at Gino’s Classic Barbershop, he decided to venture out on his own. “One of my customers told me about Blaxican,” Patton said. The fusion restaurant serves food inspired by Southern soul cooking and Mexican classics. “Being biracial, I thought that concept was catchy. I came here, drove around a bit and I felt good energy,” he recounted.

Patton opened Traditional Shave Masters Barbershop at 5260 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. “This area is blowing up. I think it’s going to be bigger than Sandy Springs,” he said. He likes the plans for the area.

The barbershop offers “male services — straight edge razor work, blades, steam towels, shaving beard work. With different packages to choose from — like The Distinguished Man, The Exquisite Man, The Classic Man — there’s something for everyone. Female clients with short hairstyles are welcome too,” Patton said. “We have competitive prices and talented, diverse barbers.”

 Things had started picking up well, “and now we’re going through this Corona stuff. It’s pretty challenging,” he shared.

Cutting through racial lines

Patton prides himself on being able to serve the whole community, no matter what race, background or ethnicity. “Most shops are racially separated. People are more comfortable coming in when they see people who look like them,” he said. “I want everyone to look in the window and feel like they can come in. I play jazz music. Everyone likes the smooth, mellow stuff.”

Men have different ways to describe how they want their hair and beards trimmed, depending on their ethnicity, where they’re from, race and even social status, according to Patton. “It’s up to the barber to ask the right questions to really understand what the client wants so you can hook him up,” he said.

He noted that since the rock and roll era, when men grew their hair out, the white barber shop kind of died off as they gravitated to salons. “But now the traditional barber is back. It’s becoming more appealing to all men, of all races,” Patton explained. “Around Atlanta, men want to look good. That’s a good thing!”

No barber school teaches how to cut across racial lines, he said. “My instructor was an old school Irish dude. It’s all hair, but the way you approach it is different. One might use different tools.”

Wherever he worked, he sought to cut hair he was unfamiliar with and learn to cut all types of hair. “I’ve been to a Russian shop, a Puerto Rican shop, a black shop. I made sure to get out of my comfort zone,” Patton said.

Patton could pass for either white or black. “The way I look, people don’t know. I’m chameleon-like. My father is Creole and my mother is Puerto Rican. That’s a loaded soup bowl,” he chuckled. “I had a mother who respected me and explained everything. She watered my seed and I had self-esteem. I love all people. We’re all connected. We’re all on this Earth together.”

He thinks a lot of people would be surprised if they did their 23andMe genetic reports. “I did it and I was mind-blown,” he reported. “I grew up Puerto Rican, but in actuality, I started off Indonesian! I have some Egyptian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Irish, German, Apache Indian, Sanda Gambian — things I had to look up! It was surprising to me. It opened up my eyes.”

He added that people mistake him for Egyptian all the time, “so it was interesting to find out I have some Egyptian in me. I love telling the dudes in Duluth, I started out Asian!”

Still, Patton said, at the end of the day, it’s all the indoctrination and cultural stuff that gets in the way. “We’re all the same color on the inside,” he said. “When we’re little, we play and hang out together. Somewhere in the mix, we get taught all these differences.”

All connected

“As soon as we figure it out and start loving each other again, it’s going to be alright,” he continued. “The message has to be delivered differently to the different communities, but it’s the same. I have to empathize with their situation first, then I can flip it around to some other perspectives.”

Patton believes that having exposure to different kinds of people is good and makes things easier. “Because of where I’ve come from, I’m able to communicate with different races,” he said. “My struggles have shaped and humbled me. I’m able to be around a lot of diverse cultures, probably more so than most people. That’s always helped me; I can mingle through racial lines.”

“Asian, Mexican, white, black — I see more people living harmoniously here. Maybe it’s southern hospitality, but people tend to be more polite here. They smile and try to be nice to each other, and that means everything. Being courteous is an initial connection with people.”

“I feel like I have a broader truth, a natural perspective in the spiritual world,” Patton continued. “We are all connected, but some people like the divisions. They’re capitalizing off of us: the red, the blue, the white, the black, and all that junk. As soon as we figure it out and start loving each other again, it’s going to be alright.”

Dr. April Hang, PharmD

Dr. April Hang, PharmD

Dr. April Hang, PharmD, hails from Petersburg, Virginia and is of Filipino heritage. Her dad was in the Army, so her family traveled a lot. She spent a long time in Germany, where she learned to speak a little of the language, and she studied at Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Hang is Catholic and attends St. Monica Church. Her husband is Buddhist and their three children have been baptized in the Catholic faith.

She opened Peachtree Pharmacy at 5270 Peachtree Parkway in 2012. It’s a compounding pharmacy were medications are customized.“Our clientele is diverse. We serve Hispanics, African Americans, white Americans, Asians. We have seniors all the way down to babies and pets that we take care of, ”Dr.Hang said.“We offer compliance packaging for convenience. It’s helpful for seniors. We put medications in labeled blister packs. They can be organized by day or sorted by morning, afternoon, and evening if necessary.”

And, she said, Peachtree Pharmacy delivers, which is especially important for high-risk patients.

“Compounding is an out-of-the box option for patients who have exhausted all their options and want to try something else. We do carry some traditional medications as well,” she explained. “It takes time to make everything. You have to make sure all the ingredients are included. You’re not just pouring pills out and counting them. You actually have to melt something down, make lollipops, gummies, lozenges or capsules. We have to do our math calculations carefully to make it the exact strength the physician wrote it for.”


“I’m first generation American, as well as the first person to start my own business in my family,” Dr. Hang said. She attributes her drive to her dad, who always endeavors to find a solution.

She said that she feels welcome here. “It’s like a small town. That’s why I love Peachtree Corners,” she said. “A lot of our patients are like family to us. This is a great city, a great place to have a small business, especially with Peachtree Corners expanding.”

THC and CBD advocate

One of the things Dr. Hang has gotten involved with is the effort in Georgia to make low THC oil (less than 5%) available to patients suffering from chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, HIV, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. “I feel like [CBD/THC] oil can help several patients,” she said. “It’s yet another alternative for people.”

She said that doctors can help a patient get a medical card for it. “Everything has been passed in Georgia, and there is a THC oil registry here now, but there’s no access. I think there are over 14,000 patients registered. They have the card, but there is no place where they can go buy it yet,” Dr. Hang said. “We’re just waiting for the infrastructure so people can start applying for manufacture and distribution.”

Unfortunately, the process to get access has been delayed due to COVID-19. It’s likely to be another year or two before access is available for patients.

Diversity at the pharmacy

Dr. Hang welcomes students of diverse backgrounds, some from out of state, who do rotations at her pharmacy. “Most of the time, I say ‘yes,’ because the students are up-to-date on the new things. They keep you updated,” she said. “I try to make it practical for them. They work in the store. I take them to a marketing event. I like to do a couple of little health fairs. I mix it up for them so that they see what we actually do. I didn’t get that when I was in pharmacy school.”

There have been times when a staff member has had an unpleasant interaction and they feel that some racism was directed towards them. “I have one full-time pharmacist, three part-time pharmacists and three full-time pharmacy technicians. One is Asian and the others are African American,” she said.

“When COVID-19 had just started [appearing here], there was a client looking for N95 masks; she wasn’t a regular. She was upset we didn’t have any N95 masks. She told my pharmacist, who is black, “I don’t know what you have to say that is going to carry any value.”

  As Dr. Hang was cleaning the store one day, an older lady came in, looked around and asked, “Why is everybody black in here?” She said, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. There are standards and testing that you have to pass in order to be in this position. Everyone here is qualified.” Dr. Hang added that she has never had issues with racial tensions personally. “It’s a little disheartening that it still occurs,” she said.

She suggested a city-wide cultural festival to help improve racial tensions. “If we can learn more about our neighbors, we’ll be able to understand them better. There are a variety of cultural backgrounds in Peachtree Corners, so let’s celebrate them!”

“When I’m at Peachtree Pharmacy, I post on Facebook, “Come by and see me. Come give me a hug!” Customers come in and tell me, “I miss you so much.” It’s nice to catch up with a lot of the regulars,” she said. “I always post: Free Hugs not Drugs!”

Maurie Ladson

Maurie and Ron Ladson

Maurie Ladson is a Program Director at Corners Outreach, an organization providing a multigenerational approach to helping underserved children with specialized tutoring. Parents are given assistance with career paths, workshops, unemployment and anything they may need to navigate in the education system. Their goal is to achieve a 100% high school graduation rate among the students they serve.

Ladson clarified underserved as “communities or people living amongst us who don’t have all the necessary resources.” She explained, “They may not be earning a living wage. A lot of them are immigrant families. There’s a challenge with education and the language.”

Elementary, my dear

By focusing on elementary school students, the intention is to prepare them for success in middle school and high school. “Then hopefully, to higher learning, either a four-year education or, sometimes, they prefer to do some kind of trade,” Ladson said.

“We’re not focused on one demographic,” she continued. “We welcome all the children who need assistance. The mix varies. In Norcross and on our DeKalb side, we have a high percentage of Latino children. At our Meadow Creek location, there’s a mix of children — Indian, American, Hispanic.”

The Corners Outreach offices are located in Peachtree Corners. Ladson said that Executive Director Larry Campbell liked the name, “as the goal is to touch “every corner” of the community.” The organization partners with Title 1 schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, including Peachtree Corners and the surrounding areas, and helps 450 families/children.

“We work with them during the normal school year; we provide after-school tutoringfor two and a half to three hours. We’re supplementing and enhancing what the school is teaching,” Ladson said. “There’s a big focus on reading comprehension and math. We then provide nine weeks of summer camp which focus on reading, math, games and a craft.”

School principals identify the children in most need. There is also input from counselors, teachers, teacher liaisons, center coordinators and ESOL [English to speakers of other languages] coordinators. “We also have volunteers that play a key role in our success. We’re so thankful,” she said. “Schools like Wesleyan, GAC, Perimeter Church and individuals in our wonderful Peachtree Corners community come out and volunteer their time.”

Masks with a purpose

Due to COVID-19, Corners Outreach was unable to tutor or assist families in person for some time. “We began communication via Zoom, WhatsApp, video chat, telephone calls. There was a big need to assist in setting up Internet. Many of the families didn’t have it,” she continued.

“Our organization was able to place Chromebooks in the community for children to be able to do their homework. It was still challenging because in a lot of cases they’re sharing either a phone or a hot spot. With two to four children in the family of various ages, needing to do homework with one device, that was difficult.”

To help underemployed parents, the organization developed Masks with a Purpose. After surveying the parents, they found they had 101 mothers with sewing skills that could be used to provide much-needed masks in the community.

“They sew masks and earn a living wage, $4 per mask,” Ladson said. “We launched the Corners Store on June 22 so people can go online and purchase a mask to support our cause.” To purchase a mask, visit cornersoutreach.org. If you don’t need a mask, you can help by giving a donation.

“We’re looking to donate 1,000 masks to farmworkers and 10,000 masks to children in poverty, who can’t afford to buy three or four masks or have the throwaways,” she said. It’s a great cause,” she said. You can donate masks to the effort through their website.

Beauty in all colors

“I’m Mexican American,” Ladson said. “I’ve been in Peachtree Corners for 20 years. My husband is black, dark-skinned African American. People might look at us a little differently. I’m different and I’m good with it.” She and her husband Ron recently celebrated 20 years of marriage.

Having frequented several places of worship over the years, they most recently identify as Protestant and have been attending North End Collective.

Ladson said she witnessed some social injustice in the workplace during her career in banking. A Peruvian teller was the number one salesperson in the bank, exceeding her numbers, yet it was an under-performing white American teller who inexplicably was moved to another location and offered a raise.

“I think in Georgia, Atlanta and in Peachtree Corners, we still have room to grow,” she continued. “I’ve seen a different level of acceptance, if we’re going to call it improvement, absolutely.”

Miriam and Ed Carreras

Miriam and Eddie Carreras
Miriam and Eddie Carreras

By pure coincidence, Miriam and Ed Carreras shared a similar history predating their marriage of 48 years. They both left Cuba with their families at a young age, and within five to seven years, they became naturalized U.S. citizens.

After a 20-year career as a microbiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Miriam is now a Realtor with RE/MAX Prestige. “I guess, given my name and former clients, I get quite a few referrals from Spanish-speaking buyers. I would say most of my clients right now are Hispanic,” she said. Hispanics, who can identify as any race, make up 15.2% of the population in Peachtree Corners.

Miriam works in residential real estate, both on listings — people selling their homes — as well as helping buyers find their dream homes. Being bilingual, she is a huge asset to the community. She is able to help English and Spanish speakers navigate the sometimes-challenging waters of real estate.

A home is one of the biggest and most important investments a family will ever make, and Miriam is happy to provide her clients with excellent customer service, every step of the way.

Ed was an attorney with The Coca Cola Company for about 20 years. He retired from the company in 2003 and joined a law firm. He retired from the firm in February of this year. “We were supposed to travel, and now we’re homebound because of COVID-19,” he said.

As an attorney, much of his work was international. “I dealt with a number of countries, like Japan, countries in Europe, in Latin America, and so on,” Ed shared.

He served on the Board of Goodwill of North Georgia for a number of years and was Chair of the Board for two years. “Goodwill had a significant relationship with the Hispanic community. One of the things I got involved in was developing a robust system for their strategic plan,” Ed said.

In studying the projection of population changes, he and his fellow board members identified the important growth of the Hispanic community and the need for more Hispanic contacts and people with language skills in the organization.

A home in Peachtree Corners

The Carreras family built their home in Neely Farm in 1998. Both are happy with the amount of diversity in Peachtree Corners. “I think there is a good mix of people. You see a nice diversity of cultures represented here,” Ed said. “My experience is more in the restaurants since I like eating. We’ve gone to a lot of different types.”

“I think there’s pretty good diversity,” Miriam added. “Even in our subdivision, we’re diverse.”

They haven’t had any negative experiences because of their ethnicity in recent years. As a teenager, Ed recalled an incident at a restaurant in Miami. His family was speaking Spanish, and a man at a nearby table addressed them, saying, “Go back to Cuba!”

“My father was surprised. He turned around and in perfect English said, “I’m sorry, does it bother you if we speak Spanish?” The guy ended up apologizing,” Ed remembered. “I was 13 or 15 at the time. It stuck in my mind because my father handled it so perfectly. The guy said, “You speak English very well.” My father said, “Yes, I was educated in the United States. I went to an Ivy League school.” The guy just kept shrinking.”

Ed said that everyone carries prejudices based on faulty stereotypes. “From my own experience, the best way to eliminate prejudice is to be made aware that the stereotype supporting the prejudice is not correct,” he explained. “Anything that helps an individual realize that the stereotype is wrong should help in reducing prejudice.”

“Education highlighting non-stereotypical members of a group could help,” Ed suggested, “as well as the promotion of events that bring members of diverse groups together in a social setting.”

Joe Sawyer

Joe and Kimberly Sawyer

As the city is building a physical pedestrian bridge over Peachtree Parkway, resident of 25 years and equity warrior, President and Cofounder of Bridges Peachtree Corners Joe Sawyer has been launching intensive volunteer efforts to build metaphorical bridges between races and social classes in the city. “I guess you can say it’s about black and white; we’re trying to bring equality up to where it needs to be,” he shared.

Bridges is a non-profit funded by grants and generous donations from the community. The board is made up of a diverse group who share Sawyer’s mission to close the gap between the affluent and the less affluent parts of town. They’ve been working on racial diversity and economic disparity since 2013.

Through school counselors, they identify needs at Peachtree Elementary and other area schools, assisting in any way they can — from electric pencil sharpeners in the classroom to Christmas dinners for families. They’re currently partnering with xfinity to provide internet access so children can do their schoolwork at home during the pandemic.

Affectionately known as Preacher Man, Sawyer would love to help more areas of the city reach their potential. He espouses the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Project , the city’s plan to revamp the area, and hopes it will get underway soon. “We’ve done the easy part, the Forum and Town Center area. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and do the hard part,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer comes clean

This is a man who will “tell it like it is.” He is refreshingly unafraid to level with you. Sawyer attends Life Center Apostolic Church in Dunwoody. His faith shines through in everything he touches, including his company name of 20 years, Alpha Omega Carpet Cleaning, inspired by the book of Revelation.

Since many are home with more time than usual on their hands, the pandemic has Sawyer busier than ever. “I build relationships with my customers. By the time I leave their house, I’m their friend,” he said. He also prides himself on his effective carpet cleaning services, which avoid harsh chemicals, as he is a cancer survivor.

The United Nations

Together with his wife Kimberly of 31 years (who is white), Sawyer has raised his two daughters, now 29 and 23. “She’s my backbone. She keeps me grounded,” he said. His daughters are now raising his five grandkids in Peachtree Corners.

The Sawyers have two blond, blue-eyed grandchildren and three who are light skinned black. “I’ve got everybody in my family — we have the United Nations over here,” Sawyer laughed.

In 1992 things were more challenging for biracial couples. Sawyer’s in-laws didn’t allow him into their home until two years after the marriage; now they’re the best of friends, despite many earlier battles. “They had to make sure I was going to take care of their daughter. I think that was one of the biggest issues,” he said. “Mixed marriages are more common now, and more likely to be accepted by both families, but you still have issues with certain people. I just try to keep it real and be myself.”

Sawyer shared a story from his senior year in high school (1982), when he was given an ultimatum: stop dating his white girlfriend or quit the football team. The young lady’s mom called the school because they had published a picture of them in the school magazine.

The girl’s mom had known about their relationship. In fact, they were among the few biracial couples at the time who did not hide it. But when other parents saw the photo, it became a problem. Sawyer elected to pass on what may have been a lucrative career and quit the team.

Sawyer noted that things have changed for the better. “It’s a new generation, we’re improving a whole lot,” he said. He’s unaware of any negative issues experienced by his daughters about being biracial.

While Peachtree Corners is very diverse, Sawyer said he still experiences some people who are prejudiced. During a recent job, a client had left the door open for him. It saddened him to learn that his client’s neighbor reached out to inform her, saying, “There’s a black man in your house.”

“[Racism] is still there, but overall, I think Peachtree Corners is a welcoming community. You might have some people stuck in their ways, but you just have to learn to overlook them. We stopped and we said a prayer for the lady,” Sawyer said.

He believes the cause of divisiveness is that some people don’t want to lose control of what they’ve got. “As long as we feel that one race is better than the other, we’re always going to have a problem. Both communities have work to do. Now is the perfect time for us to work on race relations in America,” Sawyer affirmed.

Preacher Man

When he was little, Sawyer told his dad, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” His father replied, “You don’t want to be like me, son, you want to be like Jesus.”

“So that’s what I try to do. As soon as we realize that we’re all made in God’s image, we’re going to be OK,” he said. “I don’t hate anybody. I try to get along with everybody. Don’t let politicians divide us any more than we’re divided. That’s the biggest problem. We listen to what’s on TV. I don’t need anybody to tell me who I like and who I don’t like.”

 “We have to come together,” he continued. “I’m thankful for the friends the Lord has put in my life. We have to change our perception of our neighbors. Not all people of a different race are bad. Be there for your friends.”

Sawyer added that everyone needs to work on racism as a society. “Both the white and black communities have work to do. Now is the perfect time for us to work on race relations in America. The whole world sees what’s going on, politicians fighting over this and that. We don’t have any togetherness,” he said. “Let’s take a stand and let’s be one. We claim to be one nation under God but how can we be under God if we’re at each other’s throats?”

Father Darragh Griffith

Rev. Darragh Griffith

Rev. Darragh Griffith is originally from Dublin, Ireland and has been in the U.S. for 24 years. Following 10 years at Holy Family in Marietta, he’s been the pastor at Mary Our Queen (MOQ) — the only Catholic church in Peachtree Corners — for four years.

“We welcome the community to come see our new church. It’s a beautiful, traditional church based on Saint Gerard’s in Buffalo. If you’re exploring questions about the Catholic faith, we’re here,” Father Griffith offered.

Though the present church is just a year old, the parish has been here since 1998. The pews, stained-glass windows and altars were taken from the old church in Buffalo, New York.

Mass during the pandemic

“We’ve been live-streaming masses on YouTube and our website. But now we’re back,” Father Griffith said. The church has an outdoor mass on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. for people who feel more comfortable outside, and services in the church on Sundays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m.

Masks and social distancing are expected at the indoor services. Seating is roped off to allow for every second pew to be occupied. “It’s working out for this time,” he said.

 The parish

The makeup of the MOQ parish is quite diverse. “We’ve got people from every continent. We have a lot of Asian people from Vietnam, for example. People from the African continent, Nigeria and other countries, Hispanic and white Anglo, as well,” shared Father Griffith.

MOQ provides spiritual and financial outreach to Peachtree Corners families through The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP). Volunteers make home visits with families and individuals who call the helpline seeking food or financial help.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, MOQ SVDP has assisted over 150 individuals. The help line number is 678-892-6163.

The domestic church

For Father Griffith, what happens at home is as important as what happens at church. “In these times, I believe the home is crucial. Parents have a great and joyful responsibility. The family has never been as important, from where we stand, as it is now,” he said. “That’s where you can lead by witness to your children. Not so much by words, but by example. The family is crucial.”

He said that the church has always taught that the home is the domestic church. “The home is where parents hand on the faith to their children. I think that’s crucial,” Father Griffith said. “My work, the church’s work is not going to bear fruit if it’s not happening at home.”

Spreading God’s love

“It’s sad to see some of the things that we see on TV, some of the violence. It is kind of sad and disturbing, what’s happening,” Father Griffith said. “The church believes in treating everyone with respect and love. We’re a universal church. We love and accept everyone. In the Catholic faith, we’ve got people of all sorts of cultures, backgrounds, traditions.”

For a solution to today’s troubled climate, Father Griffith leads with the suggestion that we respect one another. “We’re all made in the image of God. Everyone is precious in God’s eyes. Every person is created through God’s love,” he said.

Father Griffith said that he knows it’s been hard during the pandemic for people to meet up, interact and socialize. “If we can get together and have that as a base, we’ll not be afraid of each other,” he said. “And love, that’s what Jesus spoke about, loving all people. That’s what our Catholic faith teaches us.”

Faith is critical for Father Griffith. “If we’re living our faith, that informs our decisions and our behavior. As it says in Scripture, our lives should be based on faith and our relationship with God,” he said. “Hopefully people will be open to God and to His Spirit at this time.”

Karl Barham

Karl Barnham

Karl Barham, President of Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta, Peachtree, started the business with his wife, Ann, two years ago. They own a local office of the franchise in Peachtree Corners. 

“We relocated from New York City, got married and started a family here,” he said. “We found Peachtree Corners to be a fabulous place to live, work and raise a family.” They’re a Christian family and attend Close Perimeter Church.

Barham explained business brokers specialize in buying and selling businesses. “We do small, neighborhood businesses — any size, up to maybe about $25 million. We arrange to find the buyers and we help them get the deal done.”

Growing up black

“I’m first generation in the U.S. My family is from Jamaica, the third poorest county in the Caribbean. They came here, raised their kids and we’ve done well,” Barham said. “But I do see, for a lot of people who are very specifically black, they’re not looking for handouts or anything, they just want the proverbial knee off the neck.”

“When you’re in a minority, you always think about race,” he continued. “Jamaica is a mostly black country. When I spend time there, everyone looks like me. In the U.S., it’s the reverse, and as you move up in corporate America, it’s even more of the reverse. It’s always there to think about.”

Barham’s dream and hope for the future is that his kids don’t have to deal with the kind of discrimination that he’s seen in his lifetime. “Changes need to happen in this generation. Will it change in my lifetime? I don’t know. I thought it would,” he said. “When I was a young kid, my dad was saying the same things. I said, “Oh, by the time I’m your age, that stuff will all be solved.” I was wrong. It isn’t.”

Starting a conversation

When Barham received inquiries on what people could do in their companies about racial justice, he thought it would be a good topic for the Capitalist Sage podcasts that he regularly hosts with Peachtree Corners Magazine publisher Rico Figliolini. So, they began a series of podcasts about diversity and race.

“It’s been a topic discussed nationally, and we said, ‘what about here? Is there anything going on locally?’” he said. They produced three episodes, with two to three guests on each. “We talked about racial and social justice in leadership and in the local community,” Barham said. “We had stay-at-home moms, elected officials, church leaders and faith leaders, just talking about what it means and how they’ve been reacting to what’s happening with Black Lives Matter. We asked: what can citizens can do individually? What can local leaders do? We just wanted to start a dialogue.”

Barham said that one of the things that’s interesting about the South is that racism is part of the history that people don’t talk about because they’re trying to be polite, yet “there’s this undercurrent of race in a lot of conversations.”

“It wasn’t too long ago in the South that some [schools] had a black prom and a white prom,” he said. “Friends are so segregated; they get together sometimes for sports, school and some social activities, but they go home to dinner and they go to church in very separate worlds. They don’t get a chance to really learn about each other, so misunderstandings can happen more easily.”

Barham shared a little game he plays. “Whenever anyone talks about race — black, white — it’s hard; it’s too charged. I change “black” to “short”. If I were to say: What if short people, anybody under 5’10”, are not able to get all of the same opportunities as everyone else? A lot of people would be REALLY upset.”

“If I was sitting at a party and people were talking about, “Oh, those short people…”, I might say, “Hey, time out! Half my friends are short.”

A note of hope

Barham said he sees a lot of people coming together to help advance social justice, including racial justice. “I think we should lift those people up. We should elect them to office,” he said.

And he sees a lot of things to be hopeful for. “When I look at the community here, I see more people of color starting businesses,” Barham reported. “In the last 10 deals that we’ve done, more than 50% of them had a person of color on one side of the deal or the other. Things are changing in society — and things can and will continue to get better.”

Diverse perspectives, the same conclusion

It’s easy to see why niche.com gives Peachtree Corners an A+ for diversity. Let’s move forward holding hands (figuratively, of course), leaving injustice behind and making the fabric of Peachtree Corners stronger and more beautiful than ever before.

“We must continue to go forward as one people, as brothers and sisters.” ~ Rep. John Lewis


From the United States Census Bureau’s QuickFacts about Peachtree Corners, it’s easy to glean some of the latest statistics about the elusive 16.23 square miles that constitute the largest city in Gwinnett county. I say“elusive” as many citizens might have trouble envisioning our city’s borders. In our defense, it was incorporated just eight years ago, on July 1, 2012.

What makes our community a Top 10 best suburb, and one of the best places to live in the State of Georgia—besides quality education, low crime rate, desirable cost of living, employment, access to amenities and general livability? The great diversity in housing options, places to worship, the cultures represented here, the businesses and the amazing residents we share our community with, of course.

Population: 43,905

Median Household Income: $67,949

Poverty Rate: 9.9%

Employment Rate: 71.7%

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City of Peachtree Corners to celebrate safety-conscious businesses



The City of Peachtree Corners is preparing a list of all local businesses practicing the safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Those businesses taking steps to keep citizens healthy will be published on the city website, in the Shop and Dine app, and in the monthly business newsletter as part of the city’s “Stay Healthy” campaign.

The Stay Healthy campaign is getting creative in its approach to public service announcements related to Covid19. The city is working to promote staying healthy through the use of comic book superheroes and popular TV show characters. In the coming weeks, expect to see banners, signs, posters and billboards, as well as social media posts spreading the message to wash hands frequently, wear face coverings, and practice social distancing.

Take part in the campaign! If you operate a safe business, let Jennifer Howard from the city office know so it can be added to the list of safety-conscious businesses in the city. Let the community know what steps you are taking to keep your business, patrons, and employees healthy.


Jennifer Howard, Economic Development Manager- City of Peachtree Corners

Email all entries to jhoward@peachtreecornersga.gov

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Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager Chosen for 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class



Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager, Brandon Branham is among 42 local leaders chosen for the 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class. He will begin the nine month program in August.

Brandon Branham

Established in 1985, Leadership Gwinnett was created to ensure that the community’s most influential leaders are knowledgeable about issues pertaining to the county and region. The class will take an in-depth look at the many sectors of Gwinnett – infrastructure, economics, education, health and human services, justice and regional relations.

“We’re very proud that Mr. Branham was selected for this year’s class,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “Leadership Gwinnett has a great track record of success in leadership development. Those chosen for the class learn a tremendous amount about the many aspects of leadership as well as about our county and region. Perhaps one real benefit is the life-time relationships participants develop. This can only help our city as we face the challenges of the future.”

The program includes an opening retreat, seven learning days, monthly study groups, tours and hands-on experiences within the county along with a closing retreat. The class will study topics such as leadership in a world class community, infrastructure, economics, education, health & human services, and will participate in study groups, exclusive tours and hands-on experiences.

To ensure a well-rounded class, Leadership Gwinnett uses a selection process based on occupation, qualifications and a representation that reflects a cross section of the county.

“It is an honor to be selected to be a part of the Leadership Gwinnett class,” said Branham. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the people and issues that will shape our county’s future and the chance to network with some of Gwinnett’s top leaders.”

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