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Pen Pals in Quarantine: How a Peachtree Corners family and an Australian family connected worlds apart



Jennifer Whiddon and daughter Maddie

As the Coronavirus outbreak has seemingly closed the door to interpersonal interaction worldwide, it has left opportunity for new and old friends alike to connect through social media. One such example of online connection between friends is Jennifer Whiddon, Discipleship Assistant at Peachtree Corners Baptist Church (PCBC) and her Australian pen pal Sally Shaw who she has kept in touch with for over 40 years.

Their friendship began in the 1980s when Jennifer saw Sally’s mailing address in a newsletter for a band they both shared a common interest in and decided to write to Sally about the music. From there, the friendship blossomed.

“At that time, we’d talk about anything from boys, school and pop culture. That’s when she became more than just a pen pal to me, but really a very close friend,” Jennifer explained.
Jennifer went on to say that their friendship is unique because they could go weeks without writing, but when they’d hear from each other again, they could pick up right where they left off.

Sally Shaw and daughter Peggy

Growing up Together
As Jennifer and Sally began to mature, the pace of their conversations changed. Over the course of 10 years of friendship, they had gone from chatting about bands and boyfriends to work and kids. Luckily, as time progressed, new methods of communication became available. So the women began to use Facebook Messenger and started “pinging” each other and sending funny messages.

They even planned to meet up for the first time this spring in Melbourne, Australia, where Sally and her family live. The trip planning focused their conversations for many weeks as they worked out the details. Unfortunately, their plans would be interrupted with something unexpected: travel restrictions related to Coronavirus.

The pandemic and its effect on their individual families soon took hold of their daily talks. Jennifer said that, “We just decided to keep giving each other updates on how everything was going. The United States ended up being about two weeks ahead of Australia though, so when I started telling her about the shortages, she was really taken aback.”

They also discussed how the virus affected their work lives. As a discipleship assistant at PCBC, Jennifer made it her mission to stay connected to the church and used her time off to assist in her daughter’s digital learning assignments.

Meanwhile, Sally’s position as a first responder began to intensify. Sally told Jennifer about her difficult experiences as Head Nurse at a hospital in Melbourne.

“The nurses and doctors started to talk about what they would have to do in worst case scenarios, like if ventilators began running short. It was really heartbreaking to hear,” Jennifer said. “I just kept thinking about her having to deal with the stress of work and still having to be a mom and coming home and helping with homework or making dinner. It all just sounded impossible to me, but she’s doing it.”

The women have also discussed how their respective countries are responding to the crisis. In Australia, Jennifer said, “They have specific shopping hours for first responders and senior citizens so they can get what they need before the crowd rolls in. I thought that was really neat.”

They talked about the differences in their daughters’ schooling during the pandemic as well. Jennifer explained, “I told her about how we were doing school online and how we weren’t sure if we’d even be starting back normally in the fall. They’re doing things a little differently though. In Australia, school is going to start back up in June, and they’ll be staggering school days between students.”

A Legacy of Friendship
There is a bright spot in all the chaos. Amid all of this, a new friendship sparked between daughters Peggy and Maddie. Jennifer said she not only encouraged the correspondence between the girls, but insisted they do it the old-fashioned way.

“I thought it would be sweet if their friendship started out the way mine and Sally’s did, through letter writing. Once it started, though, my daughter Peggy realized how much she loves getting things in the mail, so that’s been really fun for her.”

The girls play video games with each other online to stay connected, and use their moms’ phones for weekly catch-up. They’ve also worked on planning activities for their trip once it’s safe to travel internationally again. In quarantine, the girls have been able to research fun activities to do in Melbourne, like visiting the local zoo.

All and all, Jennifer said the friendship between her, Sally and their daughters is so special because, “You can be continents away from someone, but still feel so connected to them because of the technology available to us today.”

She went on to say, “In times like these, when we feel so far apart, we can still make an effort to be close to someone through texting, calling or even Facetime, which is something special.”

Annie Fogle is a junior at Norcross High School and Copy Editor for the school’s yearbook. Her interests include traveling, non-fiction books, and spending time with friends and family. She would describe herself as a dog lover and Jeopardy enthusiast.

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City Government

Town Hall Hosted by Peachtree Corners Councilman Phil Sadd



Peachtree Corners Councilman Phil Sadd held a town hall meeting at the Winters Chapel United Methodist Church on Nov 2. It was attended by a group of approximately 75 residents.

As part of the presentation, Sadd invited Gwinnett County Police Department’s Major Edward Restrepo and Dunwoody Councilman Tom Lambert to be part of his panel.

The presentation included information regarding a variety of topics. They included:

  • The Forum current state / future vision,
  • Key Construction Project Updates (including Spalding Drive widening; Winters Chapel / Spalding Drive; River Exchange / Holcomb Bridge; New Town Farms neighborhood; and Winters Chapel intersection at Dunwoody Club Drive),
  • Multi-use trail update,
  • Peachtree Corners Town Center update,
  • Curiosity Lab Innovation Center update,
  • What is on the November 8 ballot, and
  • Peachtree Corners Crime Prevention Initiatives.

The audience had the opportunity to ask questions of each panelist. Major Restrepo gave them greater insight on how the use of technology has enabled the police to quickly apprehend criminals and prevent future crimes.

According to feedback from one of the attendees, Major Restrepo’s explanation of how law enforcement works to contain and control crime in our area was not only helpful but very encouraging. They said they went home feeling more secure and less concerned about crime control in the area and in the entire county.

Councilman Sadd began holding these town hall meetings in 2013. He believes that they are an important part of representing the city’s residents.

“I believe that it is very important to meet with constituents and residents to provide them with information regarding the city,” said Sadd. “These types of events not only allow me to provide our residents with information and answer questions, but also allow me to hear directly from them about their concerns, appreciation and what they expect from the city in the future.”

From left, Councilman Phil Sadd, Gwinnett County Police Department’s Major Edward Restrepo and Dunwoody Councilman Tom Lambert

In addition to the audience, there were several local leaders and elected officials that attended the town hall. Attendees included:

  • Georgia House Representative Beth Moore,
  • Peachtree Corners Councilman Eric Christ,
  • Peachtree Corners Councilman Joe Sawyer,
  • Board of Education District 3 Representative Mary Kay Murphy,
  • Georgia State House Candidate Scott Hilton,
  • Georgia State House Candidate Ruwa Romman,
  • Georgia State Senate Candidate Austin McDonald,
  • Peachtree Corners DDA Representative Tim Le,
  • Peachtree Corners Planning Commission Member Alan Kaplan,
  • Peachtree Corners Zoning Board of Appeals Member Marcia Brandes, and
  • Winters Chapel United Methodist Pastor Steve Ring.

As it is an election year, Sadd spoke about the importance of voting. Sample ballots were made available to those in the audience at the completion of the program.

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Gifts We All Want Holiday Market Pops Up Again at The Forum



Gifts We All Want Holiday Market is back for its second holiday season at The Forum Peachtree Corners. The pop-up will be open through Dec. 30.

Market hours are Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sundays, 12-6 p.m. It’s located next to Sugar Coat Nail Salon and across from La Parilla Mexican Restaurant in The Forum.

“All the community support was appreciated last year,” said Margie Hix, owner of Gifts We All Want. “We look forward to being here to delight the community again with unique, high quality and highly desired gift giving items.”

She noted that this year’s Holiday Market is bigger and better than last year, with 9+ locally owned businesses offering handcrafted and selectively sourced products. Eight of the businesses are owned by women.

“Everyone will have many opportunities to buy ‘Made in the USA’ products while shopping at the market,” Margie added.

Favorites from last year have returned, like the Braves National Championship and college team bourbon barrelhead signs from Konn Kreations and the Makeup Junkie bags from Gifts We All Want that was seen on Shark Tank.

Handmade jewelry is available from makers Lemon Street Box, Edgy Boho Jewelry and ali & bird jewelry. Holiday dresses, sweaters and jackets are offered by Nadia’s Boutique.

Sustainable items, like custom-designed sweatshirts and tees, as well as vegan leather/plastic bags that can be customized, are brought to the market through Right by Earth.

Arts and crafts are well-represented with artworks such as the repurposed glass on painted canvases by Art by Lainey. Other pieces include hand painted ornaments and canvas paintings by Heaven and Nature By HV and hand painted woodwork items by Southern Inspiration.

The aromas of the holidays are found in candles, sachets and home and spa products by Béau Vie, Tyler Candle Company, HydraAromatherapy and more. There are also gourmet food and drink specialties available.

“The Holiday Market is a great place to find items for yourself and for the gifts you have in mind for others,” Margie said. “We’re looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces and meeting new folks, too.”

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The Forum Annual Tree Lighting Set for November 18



With the holidays fast approaching, The Forum has announced the return of its annual tree lighting, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 18, 6-9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will occur in a new format with Forum Drive closed off so guests can stroll along street. The Forum is located at 5155 Peachtree Pkwy. in Peachtree Corners.

Everyone is invited to enjoy the start of the holiday season with a family-friendly activity row that includes face painting, holiday crafts and retailer and restaurant pop-ups. There will also be musical performances on the main stage as well as the arrival of Santa.

Gwinnett County Media Relations Manager Deborah Tuff will serve as host for the evening. Deborah and Mr. Claus will help the crowd count down to the lighting of The Forum’s tree. Then a live band will return to the main stage and perform holiday classics.

More holiday events at The Forum

Following the tree lighting, holiday happenings continue throughout the month of December. They include:

Cookies & Milk with Santa

Thursdays, December 1 and 15, 4 and 5 p.m.

Spend time with St. Nick at Peterbrooke. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Christmas Crafts with Santa

Thursdays, December 8 and 22, 4 and 5 p.m.

Create a custom work of art alongside Santa Claus while enjoying treats inside Swoozies. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Storytime with Santa

Fridays, December 2, 9, 16 and 23, 4 and 5 p.m.

Holiday stories are read by Santa Claus inside Pottery Barn. Be sure to bring a camera for photo opportunities. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Pancakes with Santa

Saturday, December 10, 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.

Start the morning with a pancake breakfast with Mr. Claus inside Mojitos. Tickets are $15 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

All experiences with Santa events require tickets purchased in advance. Tickets go on sale Thursday, Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.

Menorah Lighting at The Forum

Sunday, December 18, 4-6 p.m.

Celebrate the first night of Chanukah with the Chabad Enrichment Center of Gwinnett during a traditional Menorah lighting ceremony featuring activities for the whole family to enjoy. The event is free and open to the public.

Throughout the holidays, shoppers can also explore seasonal retailer pop-ups from Gifts We All Want and Go! Calendars at The Forum.

For more info on upcoming events at The Forum, visit theforumpeachtree.com/events. To stay up to date on the latest property news and happenings, follow The Forum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit theforumpeachtree.com.

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