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How to better manage post-acute care services and equipment in a changing world [Podcast]

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Brightree, acute-care managment

As technology continues to advance and more people are working from home, companies like Brightree are making life and at-home healthcare easier. Join Peachtree Corners Life podcast hosts Rico Figliolini and Patrizia Winsper as they sit down with Matt Mellott, CEO of Peachtree Corners based Brightree and expert on the improving technologies this company is providing healthcare workers everywhere.

Brightree is a leader in cloud-based patient management software for the out-of-hospital care industry. We provide software and services to manage patient intake, scheduling, inventory, delivery, billing, clinical, resupply, and collections to facilitate better patient care.

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[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:03:06] – New Offices
[00:05:14] – About Brightree
[00:09:05] – How Business has Changed
[00:11:14] – Information and Data
[00:14:20] – Types of Equipment
[00:16:52] – Client Base
[00:17:49] – Modules
[00:20:10] – Consumer App
[00:22:18] – Moving to Peachtree Corners
[00:24:27] – Keeping People Engaged
[00:31:02] – Closing

“I think we’ve all been amazed and proud of our teams who have just stepped up to the cause. I mean, the collaboration, the things we’re doing, the speed we’re doing them, has just been really incredible, you know? The exciting part for me is, that we’ve learned some things here. We’ve learned how to do things more efficiently, or maybe we don’t need to do all those steps we did in the past. So how do I capture what really came out of this? That’s a great positive. I want it to be part of our culture and our DNA going forward. So we’re having some great conversations around that right now, which is exciting.” 

Matt Mellott

Podcast Transcript

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life podcast, one of several in a family of podcasts here in the center in Peachtree Corners. So appreciate you guys showing up whether you’re watching this live or you’re paying attention to this on demand video wise, or the audio podcast for Apple, iHeart Radio, Spotify. I appreciate you being here. Follow us. Give us some reviews. Well rise up in the search when they’re looking for us. Before we get into our guests today I want to introduce our sponsor for the show and the family of podcasts and that’s Hargray Fiber. They are our lead sponsor of the company. They provide innovative solutions to a broad range of Southeast companies. They’re a fiber optic company, but a bit more than that, they provide unique solutions to businesses, both small businesses and enterprise levels, giving bundle services and a variety of other services to be out there with these large companies and smaller ones. So they’re involved in the community. They are certainly a member of the community through the chambers and other places. I’ve seen them at high schools and such. They’re very involved. They’re not the cable guy. So when you’re looking for local support and this type of work, Hargray Fiber is the company to be with. They also provide, right now, if you want to work remotely, they provide quick collaboration tools. So check them out. HargrayFiber.com and you can call them at 1-800-613-8495. So now that I’ve done that part of it, let’s get into the show. I’m going to, Patrizia Winsper my cohost for this episode is going to introduce our guests. It’s a follow up to an article that we did two issues back by a vibrant company in Peachtree Corners. Patrizia?

Patrizia: [00:02:19] Good afternoon everyone. It’s such a pleasure to see you all again today. And the man of the hour for this podcast is our cover story for Matt Mellott, who is the CEO of Brightree. Now, Brightree was originally located in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and they recently moved their headquarters to the city of Peachtree Corners. Peachtree corners has always been known for its vibrant technology, and we’re so pleased to have Brightree join us. Matt, how are you doing?

Matt: [00:02:51] Doing well. Good to be with you today.

Patrizia: [00:02:53] Thank you. It has been a while and it actually seems like a lifetime ago since we last spoke at your offices in January.

Matt: [00:03:02] With what’s going on out there. It seems even longer, doesn’t it?

Patrizia: [00:03:06] It really does seem like decades ago, but, but Matt, let’s talk about the beautiful headquarters your company has built here in Peachtree corners. It was formerly the 1970s building. It was the Honeywell property and you stepped in, Brightree stepped in and tell us a little bit about what you did there with that property.

Matt: [00:03:30] Sure. Yeah. You know, the developer really had a vision that we bought into and you know, really probably came here based upon a rendition and a picture of what it could be. Cause as many know who live in the area, it was one of the older buildings, a bit run down and hard to envision what someone could do with that property. We’ve been thrilled with what’s
happened. Parkside, you know, is the company that did the development here. We poked pretty much a sprawling complex and kept the one three story tower. That’s all that remains in a complete renovation. I think we maintained two walls and three floors. And after that, it might as well be a brand new building and, you know, very open a bit of a, you know, a loft open feel to it, much different than the space we left. You know, it’s just, it’s been incredible. Our employees are enjoying it, having spaces they can congregate in, collaborate in. So we’re just thrilled we could make the move. Unfortunately, with the current crisis, you know, we weren’t into too long until March. We ended up having to send all employees to work from home. So I know our employees are excited to get back here when we finally can bring people back to the office.

Rico: [00:04:37] It’s a beautiful office. We were there for the grand opening and it was just, that’s a great place with a lot of open space, quite frankly. So…

Matt: [00:04:46] Absolutely

Rico: [00:04:46] You should be actually in compliance with the guidance.

Matt: [00:04:51] We’re going through that now and actually get that, that’s helping. It’s actually amazing. You know, a lot of these more open, denser, places that we’ve all moved to with development actually, unfortunately are some of the problems now when we come back in and you know, it’s sort of the old offices and high cube walls are the things that would be helpful now. But you know, we’ll get through it. Hopefully it’ll be several months and things can be pretty much back to normal here.

Patrizia: [00:05:14] Absolutely. I’m sure your employees are waiting to get back and your decorators did a wonderful job. With bright, lively colors in the common spaces and that industrial two story or three story staircase pulling up that wall. It’s just gorgeous. So Matt, let’s talk about the technology behind Brightree and what exactly Brightree does. Now I can say in a nutshell that it is software based, cloud based software sorry, that helps HME companies home medical equipment companies to run more efficiently or streamline their whole business process. Why don’t you tell us in more detail about Brightree, nuts and bolts.

Matt: [00:05:54] Sure. So we’re the most widely used solution out there for HMEs to run their business on. So, as you mentioned, we’re a cloud based software solution that HMEs, home medical equipment companies will run their, almost our entire business on. Everything from the intake they take with patient referrals, referrals from physicians, scheduling their staff, scheduling patients, logistics on trucks, trucks roll out of our customers to deliver equipment to patients in their homes. Also inventory of all that equipment. And then at the end of that process is to bill payers, Medicare, commercial payers, so our customers get paid for the services they provided. So our solution really touches all aspects of that. Pretty much our solution goes down our customers are in a lot of trouble. They need it to run their business every day.

Patrizia: [00:06:46] I have to be honest, and it’s certainly within the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking of bright tree solution and wishing we could implement it on a sort of federal level, with Cuomo mentioning, you know, the huge issue of the movement of needed much needed PPE and ventilators. And he made the very wise conclusion that hospitals could no longer in, in our day and age function as separate entities, but they all needed to somehow be connected, implement communications. And they needed to be able to move the necessary ventilators and PPE on the hospitals that didn’t need it, to those who do need it. And I wonder if a solution like that would be applicable.

Matt: [00:07:36] Sure. Yeah, probably my parent company ResMed who makes respiratory devices is playing actually a role right in the middle of what you’re describing. You know, two issues that have come up through this crisis. One, not enough ventilators. And then secondly, when the ventilators are found and purchased, are they getting to the right place? So our parent company ResMed’s, they’ve actually retooled production lines to make more ventilators and actually have been recognized in the news, a contract with FEMA. So resume is playing a key role in getting ventilators, both to the US healthcare system, but ResMed’s a global company, so they’re actually know doing this to help save lives really all over the world right now. Heavy in Europe, heavy in Asia, and then preparing for other parts of the world where we’re seeing the pandemic start to take hold. On the Brightree side, you know, our customers being the home medical equipment providers. Our customers are seeing the COVID patients as they’re discharged from the hospital. You know, they’re coming home with a variety of needs. They’re needing oxygen from an oxygen concentrator. They may need a hospital bed, and they may need a walkers and wheelchairs as they recover from, you know, having COVID and being in the hospital for sometimes many weeks. And our customers are the ones now on the front lines of that aspect of the care. And we’re helping with, whether it’s home health agencies or families, you’re helping them bring equipment into the home to care for these patients as they recover.

Rico: [00:09:05] Matt, are you finding this? Have you found that the business has changed since your company has brought in all these solutions? It’s almost like an on demand, right? Someone’s leaving. You gotta have the equipment there. Everything’s all specked out on schedule. Do you see any innovations that have come along the way since you guys started doing this since your company’s been there?

Matt: [00:09:28] Yes. I’ll speak specifically in this crisis. We’re seeing, you know, probably everyone’s heard very broadly, telemedicine really taken off through this, you know, meeting with physicians and doing a telemedicine visit. So imagine now we’re, we’re seeing the same thing where equipment needs to be put into the home. Our customers, they’re being very careful with their staff. They’d like to avoid going in the home if possible. We’ve seen things like knowing the patient’s about ready to be discharged from the hospital. Our customers have requested, let us get in and out of the home before the patient comes home. Patient might still have active COVID-19. So the people who really have had a hard time getting a lot of personal protective equipment have been home medical equipment companies because the acute systems fighting for them, the nurses and all that. So the home medical equipment companies
are sort of at the bottom of the rung of getting the necessary equipment to care for these patients. So when that happens, getting in and out of the home prior to the patient getting home is key. The other thing we’re seeing happen is that they can do remote training for patients on some of this equipment. So they’re using telemedicine now in different solutions to help the patient get set up, train them, interact with the patient and their family. So I, it’s been interesting and I think, I hope medical equipment industry will see what the position industry is seeing. A lot of this technology is probably here to stay. The efficiencies of doing this are being realized and a lot of our customers are saying, we’re not going to just turn this off when this crisis is over. This really is a better way to care for patients and much more efficient. So as you can imagine, we’re a software company. We need to now work with them on those solutions. That might be done during a crisis, but there are the beginnings of what long term will be some of the solutions that we’ll have probably going into the next year and a half.

Rico: [00:11:14] Let me ask you something, because you are a software company, because it’s like, it’s almost like an IT company in a way, right? Because you’re, you’re managing all this information, right?

Matt: [00:11:23] Right.

Rico: [00:11:23] Does the information that you gathering, is that making it more efficient? Is that also helping you tweak your software to be able to address the, the demands and the challenges out there?

Matt: [00:11:33] Oh, it absolutely is. So we have an analytic slate for that we built out over the last two years that really sits on top of our platform that helps us for internal purposes, analyze utilization of certain modules or parts of the system. Because you get to kind of touched on this, through this crisis we know there’s parts of our systems that utilized, very robustly can help customers through some of the challenges they’re having. So we can help on that aspect of you really should be using the resupply, you know, for medical supplies or other portions of our system. In addition, our, we have a very rich analytics tool for our customers. We’ve created a free version of that that we rolled out for all of our customers, giving them a quick dashboard. Packing their revenue, their cash payments, sort of also to monitor the productivity of their staff. Because as you can imagine, our customers sent all their administrative folks home as well. So the manager is no longer in the room with their employees, so they now have people all over, they’re trying to say, are they efficient? Have they processed enough orders? So we’re getting analytics to help them manage that through this time.

Rico: [00:12:41] Isn’t that funny how, how the world is with computers in a room, you’re even, like you said before, with the cubicle, you can either be there, it could be somewhere else. It almost, doesn’t matter. You’re still in front of that computer right? So, I mean, measuring that efficiency is important and probably will actually not only save money for the company, but maybe reposition some of those employees in a different way.

Matt: [00:13:04] A hundred percent agree. And with our software being cloud based, that really was a plus for our customers. They literally could tell people on Thursday, pack up, go home Friday, they have an internet connection at home. They’re up and they can be seeing, you know, they’re logged into the system and seeing their cues and the work they need to do. We’re feeling it internally as Brightree as a company, and I think our customers are that, there’s probably a whole new view on work from home when this is said and done, knowing that we all made the transition. We survived, and actually in many cases as productive as we work. So I think we’ll see our customers will, that will put some demands on us to support them in that endeavor, to let more work from home. And as a business for Brightree, I think we’re going to have a much more liberal view of working from home in the future.

Patrizia: [00:13:50] Well, the circumstances are certainly unfortunate, but I’m certainly glad that you’re able and you have the capacity to do what you have been doing. And you know, today it’s the Coronavirus, and tomorrow it might be, who knows what? So, I don’t think we’re ever going to be really in the clear from whatever new virus comes out and hits the world.

Matt: [00:14:13] We’ll probably be in a whole different place of preparedness next time after, you know, hopefully we, we learned from this one and we have everything in place if this were to happen again.

Patrizia: [00:14:20] Matt, let’s dial it down just a little bit for our listeners and our viewers who aren’t even really sure about the home medical equipment that is available for being to people’s homes. Let’s talk about what types of equipment you, your clients are taking to people in their homes after a hospital stay, after a surgery, even after COVID treatment, like you just mentioned.

Matt: [00:14:43] Sure. Yeah. I’ll first cover the broad range of products provided by our customers. It starts at one end of the spectrum of the medical companies that are focused on medical supplies. This could be wound care, ostomies supplies, incontinent supplies, diabetic supplies. So we have customers are a hundred percent focused on shipping those products into the patient’s home. Then you start moving into the delivery of equipment or equipment patients might come into a retail site and pick up and take home talking about oxygen concentrators, oxygen tanks, C-PAP equipment, C-PAP supplies, walkers, wheelchairs, bedside commodes, hospital beds. And then the range goes into the complexity of power mobility. So you’ve probably seen, you know, the power wheelchairs that have all the equipment needed for folks with special needs. You know, that could be a very expensive, complicated piece of equipment. So that also falls into what some of our customers do as well. So a patient discharged from a hospital, coming out of a COVID experience in the hospital could use a variety of that equipment I just mentioned. That needs to be taken into the home needs to be assessed, you know, to make sure if there’s training involved and the patient can’t receive that training, is there a caregiver or relative? So really assessing that the home environments even conducive to the equipment that’s being taken into that home. And then the ongoing therapy or adherence to that therapy if they need to be using the device every day on that, making sure that the patient’s
using it, and a lot of times there’s a lot of data coming from those devices that our customers can monitor that and they know when to, you’ll go to the home or call the patient that if there’s an intervention necessary.

Patrizia: [00:16:25] I also recall you mentioning medical experts or people who help with rehabilitation professionals are coming to visit the home as well as the equipment.

Matt: [00:16:38] That’s correct. So, respiratory therapists in particular with a lot of this respiratory equipment and also related in the COVID patients as well, will be ones who will care for the patient in the home and assess how they’re doing on that equipment.

Patrizia: [00:16:52] And your client base is interesting. You have everything from the small mom and pop HME companies to large companies with a coast to coast presence. Tell us a little bit about your client base.

Matt: [00:17:05] Sure. No, I think you’ve covered it. Brightree really got its start from helping the small mom and pop home medical equipment company and then it’s just grown over years as the product has more features and functionality to the point now, as we’ve talked before, two of the national HME companies utilize Brightree you know, for running their operations. Just as you can imagine, very different needs from a, you know, a large national coast to coast company than one who has two or three users on our system. So definitely, you know, makes managing and also making sure the right features for the right customer there as a complexity to it. But, you know, we’re, we’re thrilled that, you know, that much of the industry can really find use and value in our system.

Patrizia: [00:17:49] To be able to serve such a diverse base of companies you have come up with modules to actually, address the specific needs of a certain company. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your module?

Matt: [00:18:02] Sure, sure. So Brightree as its core component, if you will, that can take the intake of patients, manage inventory and get those out the door. But we have a variety of modules that customers can pick and choose if they need one for example, being for those who sell over in the medical supply business. If you do a lot of diabetic supplies or incontinent supplies, we have a special module that does the automated phone call to a patient and a patient can order by responding to that phone call. We have solutions that are just for C-PAP resupply that call centers can use to call patients and help them with their resupply needs. We have another module that our folks who, customers who run trucks can use, helps them with logistics on route planning and also helps them with a paperless interaction with customers. you know. So no paper, they can come back and just, you know, the files are automatically uploaded into the system. In addition, we also have a variety of services we offer our customers as well. Some have outsourced their billing to our revenue cycle management services, and then we also have, call center services. So some customers can outsource their call center for a medical supply replacement. We can help them with that as well.

Rico: [00:19:15] Are there any areas that you’re planning to add into this as well that you’re looking forward to?

Matt: [00:19:20] At the moment we also have a rather rich ecosystem where if we say don’t build it or buy it from a module standpoint, we look for folks that might be best in class in the industry, and we will work with them on an integration. Since Brightree is, you know over 50% of the market is using Brightree. That’s an attractive proposition to someone who comes to the home medical equipment industry and says, Hey, I have a great solution. So we’re looking at those out there. We recently did one with a company that does nothing but focus on equipment repair, which has actually been a very manual process for our customers. They’re doing an integration with a company like that. Don’t own it, it’s just a partner relationship. We allow our customers to live within Brightree, get access to other modules and features and services by just linking them up to the Brightree ecosystem through an integration.

Rico: [00:20:10] That’s an excellent value added. You know, you know what I’m also thinking that an app would be a great thing as well for those individuals that are receiving this stuff to be able to track it themselves. The consumer facing app that would be able to like look at the equipment coming to them and stuff.

Matt: [00:20:26] So about a year ago, we actually released that the trade show for home medical equipment are App, patient engagement app called Patient Hub. What it is, it’s a Brightree generated app, but when our customers use it, you know, it’s basically personalized and their logos go onto it. The patient can do direct, secure messaging with their provider. They can do appointment checks, they can pay a bill, they can order supplies. So yeah, it’s funny you do mention that we’ve seen an uptick in the interest and the adoption of that feature through this because of the inability to really interact face to face with customers.

Patrizia: [00:21:05] They really thought of everything, Rico haven’t they?

Matt: [00:21:12] We’ve been doing this for a long time.

Patrizia: [00:21:14] America needs you. When I last spoke with you, Matt, you had just publicly launched analytics. How has that worked out for you? I understand that it was adding functionality and access to data for your customers. How has that been working?

Matt: [00:21:32] It’s gone very well. And I, you know, customers who have bought that module or that solution are really getting all kinds of new insights into their own data. And we provide benchmarking as well, so they can compare how they’re doing to others in the industry. And as well, as I mentioned earlier on, we created sort of a scaled down version of that, that we’ve rolled out to customers for free during this crisis saying, just please use this solution. You’ll find tremendous value in monitoring your business and how it’s doing. So, to be quite honest with you, the web, once we get to the other side of this crisis, I’m expecting quite a bit of interest or
along, it’s already happening along the way of, you know, could they look at the full blown solution? You know, even before we get to the end of this.

Patrizia: [00:22:16] Fantastic.

Rico: [00:22:18] What about the challenges? You know, obviously let’s, let’s take it a little broader now. You’re centered in Peachtree corners. You guys moved from Lawrenceville. What other reasons also are, not that a major reason, but employees, right? They have to come from somewhere. Sometimes it’s easier to pull them up from Atlanta this way or from Alpharetta. It’s a little closer than Lawrenceville. Of course. You live in Peachtree Corners, I think?

Matt: [00:22:43] I do, yes.

Rico: [00:22:44] That’s even better. But, so how, has it been the challenges? I’m sure all the businesses that might be listening to this other business owners would like to know the challenges you’re facing with teleworking, putting your people out to the, we touched on it a little before, but maybe we get a little bit more into that.

Matt: [00:23:04] Sure. And this started for us when we made the move. As you can imagine, when you move anywhere, in no traffic probably 25 minutes from Lawrenceville, where our old office was. And as you could imagine, people have moved to the other side of the office further out into, you know, Grayson and areas like that. So when we moved, we put a commute or a transportation burden on many of our employees who lived even, even further out. So at that time to you know make sure that everyone was excited about the move. We actually started adopting a rather a more liberal work from home policy than we had before. So in a way, it was a bit of a dry run for what happened in March when we had to turn that on for 550 employees, 150 of which were here in Peachtree Corners. So recommendations for an office move, if you know that being, the question is the ability to be flexible with the workforce. You know so that we don’t lose people just for the sake of, I’ve added 25 minutes to their drive. You know, we really were able to do things to allow them to work from home, be in the office during certain hours where teams do need to meet, you know, discuss what they’re doing, in software development, for example. But it gives them a lot of freedom outside of that. I think when this is over, we’ll find many other departments who would say they didn’t think that would work for them. They found it’s working for them. So I think we’re going to have some very interesting dialogue when we get back together on how we do this longterm.

Rico: [00:24:27] How are you keeping, how are you, how are you keeping them engaged and excited about what they’re doing? I mean, zooming all day long could be, could be a problem with some people, but we’ll keep…

Patrizia: [00:24:43] You in the studio right now in Atlanta Tech Park, but you know, we’re social distancing and doing the right thing for our well-being. So, yeah. Good question, Rico.

Matt: [00:24:52] Yeah. I am, I’m sure many people are in the boat I’m in. It’s back to back zooms all day. And that has its challenges. You find if you don’t schedule time for lunch, you know, you’re not eating it or you’re eating it on a zoom, which isn’t ideal. So you got to just think through the small things. But what we’ve done though, to connect with the employees during this time, you know, your question is, we do town halls quarterly, you know, where it’s an all employee and we get on and we do a presentation. We’ve gone to every two weeks on that. And the reason being is, you know sharing a lot of what we talked about on this call is, what’s going on with our customers? What are we doing to help our customers? What’s the impact this is having on Brightree? So we’ve just been very transparent and doing that every two weeks. And so that’s been great. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that they appreciate that. The other thing we’ve done is we’ve got. A group out there who’s constantly surveying our employee base. So what’s the thing they want to know next? What should I answer on the next town hall? We just did one recently said, what are you thinking about when we ask you to come back to the office so we can get all the concerns from the employees. We’re hiring through this as well. And that’s a challenge. You’re hiring an employee that we’ve maybe have interviewed the hallway through. Made an offer and they’re starting and we’ve never been face to face, so those employees were keeping a real close eye on. We’re hooking them up with mentors who are not their supervisors, so they can reach out and say, you know, how do I use the solution to get on the zoom call today? Or, you know, whatever the case may be, that they’d be embarrassed to ask that they’ve got a link to the organization other than their supervisor. We’re trying to hold a virtual, I normally have a lunch with all new employees every month. We’re going to try to do that virtually here very soon. The welcome to the company, tell them about the mission of the company. And in our parent company is great at this type of collaborations. So they produce a lot of ideas and schools were able to adopt because they’re doing this with about, you’re well over 7,000 people globally have this challenge and keeping them connected. But it’s been a challenge, but we’ve learned a lot of great things to do to just keep that connection.

Rico: [00:26:55] Yeah, it has been. I’ve been talking to a few people that handle team building leadership building and how leaders should deal with their, with their employees. And it is a challenge, right? I mean, you know, there’s one company out there in Peachtree Corners, they do a Toastmasters. I think it’s kinda neat. Now they’re doing it virtually. I mean, it’s still like you’re doing this. They’ll bring things on just in a virtual environment.

Matt: [00:27:24] Right. I know departments having virtual happy hours or they have their morning coffee together and we’ve really stressed with all of our supervisors. Make sure you’ve had at least one touch point with your employees during the week. Because I mean, as we all hear the stories, you know. Working from home, sounds good at first until there’s three kids there as well. Trying to do homework and you’re maybe trying to help them with that. You have a spouse at home as well. You know, we start adding all of these things up. Work for a lot of people at home has not become the best experience and it, we’ve been very honest with our employees. We understand that. You might tell us you can’t be as productive as you maybe were in the past. And we’re in a time where that’s okay. So let’s just, you know, we keep an eye on folks and look forward to the day we can get back into the office.

Rico: [00:28:08] I think I also find people are actually working harder and longer. Sometimes it just depends on the person because they don’t have that nine to five break. And so they’re either working earlier or later and just shifting how they’re doing some of this.

Matt: [00:28:23] Right, right. But yeah, that also comes with a downside. You know, the employee, and he’s working til midnight to make up for it because the kids distracted them during the day. And that’s the employee we want to say, don’t do that. Let’s not do that, right. Let’s, your mental health, your physical health. Ours, first of all, take care of yourself and your family, but then we want to get the best of you as well. You want to make sure that they’re in the right place.

Patrizia: [00:28:45] Nice that you say all that, Matt. Especially today on May day, it’s known as the day of the worker and workers’ rights, so. Nice of you to think of your employees that way. And my, my heart certainly goes out to all the parents who are trying to do full time or have little children in the home at the same time, true.

Matt: [00:29:01] I’ve heard this story from the other CEOs I’ve spoken to. I think we’ve all been amazed and proud of our teams who have just stepped up to the cause. I mean, the collaboration, the things we’re doing, the speed we’re doing them, has just been really incredible, you know? Now the, the exciting part for me is, you know, we’ve learned some things here. We’ve learned how to do things more efficiently, or maybe we don’t need to do all those steps we did in the past. So how do I capture what really came out of this? That’s a great positive. I want to be part of our culture and our DNA going forward. So we’re having some great conversations around that right now, which is exciting.

Patrizia: [00:29:37] Well, no one could have foreseen what would happen soon after your move to Peachtree Corners, but hopefully we’ll come out the other end of this tunnel in a somewhat reasonable amount of time. Let’s talk about why you did choose Peachtree Corners, though. I know that it increased your pool of employees, right? You can now draw from Midtown or from Alpharetta, and people did have more convenient commute, but what were some of the other perks about becoming part of the Peachtree Corners community for you?

Matt: [00:30:06] Sure. You know, definitely we weren’t very close to anything with great shopping and restaurants. You know, what’s been going on and be street corners with town center was a huge plus. You know, just being welcomed into the community and being part of Tech Park and what’s going on, you know, over here, you know, in terms of that it’s been great. So I think there were a lot of just attractive features to it that the employees were really able to appreciate. And just what we were able to do with the building as well, have large areas that we could gather, an outdoor area. You know, features we just did not have in the old building, which was a, you know, a typical five story office building. And we had two floors, you know, very, very different environment here. So I think people really enjoyed the building as well as being part of Tech Park. And as well as, you know, Peachtree Corners

Rico: [00:30:51] Well we’d like to have you here and thank God you fixed that building. I can say that I’ve lived here since…

Patrizia: [00:31:02] He’s allowed. He’s absolutely allowed and we’re really, truly glad to have you as part of the community. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Matt.

Matt: [00:31:12] Absolutely, appreciate it. Enjoyed spending time with you.

Rico: [00:31:15] Same here. So let’s wrap it up. We’re at our end of our time, so I do appreciate you guys being on Peachtree Corners Life. I want to say thank you again to Hargray Fiber for being our lead sponsor. And to those people that have been watching us, there’s more shows. We’ve been podcasting way more over the last few weeks, as you can imagine. So there’s a couple of other companies, CEO’s, we’ve interviewed a lot of other people that are out there in the community. Like Jay Hackett the pastor of Peachtree Corner Baptist. The head of school at Wesleyan, principal at Paul Duke high school. Lots of podcasts. Check out the YouTube page, the LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com and look for the next issue of Living in Peachtree Corners magazine at the first week of June. I think we’ll be out. Lots of good stories. So thank you guys, hang in there with us Matt, I’m going to close right now. Thank you Patrizia for being on with me.

Patrizia: [00:32:10] Thank you stay safe everyone.

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

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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.”

Mom-preneur

“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

Vitals

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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Business

City of Peachtree Corners to celebrate safety-conscious businesses

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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.

Source:

Jennifer Howard, Economic Development Manager- City of Peachtree Corners

Email all entries to jhoward@peachtreecornersga.gov

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Business

Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager Chosen for 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class

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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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