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

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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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Community

Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA Relaunches Manning Playground Fundraising Campaign

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Playground rendering courtesy of Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA.

YMCA of Metro Atlanta announced September 18 that it has relaunched the John Manning Playground Fundraising Campaign to raise an additional $25,000 to reach its $200,000 goal for a new state of the art playground for the Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA, an initiative introduced in fall 2019 that was halted due to the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic. 

John Manning was a dedicated YMCA volunteer, active church member, respected family and corporate lawyer and Peachtree Corners community member who left a legacy of service and friendship. The new playground will incorporate educational and creative-based play structures for all ages. Landscaping in and around the playground will provide a new park-like setting for families to enjoy. The Y is looking to volunteers, members and business for their support in bringing honor to Manning and his legacy through the new amenity.

“We are excited to safely welcome back our members and children into our daycare programs,” said Mark Thornell, executive director, Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA.  “The Manning playground is something for us all to look forward to as we are on schedule to break ground in the fall.”

A featured donor is Manning’s 12-year-old granddaughter Caroline, who has instructed acting camps for her peers the past three summers to raise money for the playground. Caroline aims to raise enough money to reserve a “Camp Caroline 2020” brick on the park grounds in memory of her grandfather.

“We are blessed with an amazing playground committee who has worked tirelessly to secure donations to make this dream come true,” said Sarah Manning Locke, playground committee co-chair and Manning’s daughter.  “We are so close to our goal and are having to get creative to see everything to completion due to the coronavirus uncertainty.  I love that Caroline is on board to pitch in with her Camp Caroline donation.”

Those interested in donating or purchasing a brick to help pave the way for Y children, can do so on the organization’s website ymcaofmetroatlanta.givingfuel.com/john-manning

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Community

Flood Awareness in Peachtree Corners

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As we approach the tropical storms and hurricane season, the city would like to bring awareness to the various resources provided by the city of Peachtree Corners for floodplain awareness.

Peachtree Corners is bordered by the Chattahoochee River to the north. Additionally, tributaries and streams run throughout the city. Flooding damage can occur due to large rainfall events or when the natural flow of water is redirected.

A wealth of information can be found on the city’s Floodplain Management webpage that pertains to:

• Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) – the only legal document allowed to be used by lenders to write a flood insurance policy.
• Floodway Data – Properties located in or near the floodplain have special regulatory requirements for development. Prior to any building construction, please apply for a building permit
• Special flood-related hazards – such as local drainage problems, areas predicted to be flooded in the future, and erosion
• Approximate Depth of Flooding – information about how deep flood waters can be anticipated on a property can be provided
• Historical flood information – to find out if a property has been flooded in the past or is a repetitive loss
• Wetlands and Natural Conservation Data – areas mapped in the: National Wetlands Inventory, critical habitat by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, areas receiving natural floodplain functions
• Flood Insurance – it is mandatory for a property located in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) to purchase flood insurance

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City Government

Gwinnett County Burn Ban Ends Sept. 30

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The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) imposes a total ban on outdoor burning in Gwinnett County annually from May 1 to September 30.

Once the Burn Ban has been lifted on Oct. 1, please note you MUST first check with Gwinnett County Fire Marshall as to whether it is an allowable burn day. Many factors such as atmospheric conditions come into play that affect whether you can burn, and this can change daily.

A few of these factors are – prevailing winds that are predicted to be, or are, in excess of 15 miles per hour, air pollution episodes, the National Weather Service issues a “Red Flag Warning” or a “Fire Weather Watch,” when there is fog, rain, or a cloud base that is diffused or ill-defined – these are just some of the factors taken into consideration as to whether it will be an allowable burn day or not.

The burning of leaves, limbs, and natural vegetation on one’s property shall not be less than fifty (50) feet from any structure and not less than twenty-five (25) feet from the property line. No burning of solid waste or household garbage is allowed. Burning is NOT allowed on Sundays or at night.

This is not the full content of the Gwinnett Department of Fire and Emergency Services “Outdoor and Open Burning” and “Outdoor Burning Ordinance Restrictions” and should not be interpreted as such. For the complete content please visit the Gwinnett County Fire Marshal site then select the tab on the left marked “Outdoor Burning.”

Remember BEFORE BURNING check with Gwinnett County Fire Marshal first at either of the two contacts below:

Burn Information Line– 678-518-4979 or www.gwinnettfiremarshal.com
The Burn Information line and website are updated daily by 9:00 a.m.

If you suspect someone is improperly burning, please report it by calling 770-513-5700.

*Remember: Do not bury the fire. The fire will continue to smolder. Tree roots could catch on
fire which will eventually surface and start a wildfire. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to
leave!

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