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Thankful and Grateful: Messages from Peachtree Corners

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It’s safe to say that Thanksgiving 2020, like everything else this year, will look a little different.
This is a holiday about togetherness, yet everyone is six feet apart with masks hiding their faces as they shop for sweets and fixins’. And maybe there is a chair or two that would normally be filled by a loved one, but for their safety, it sits empty. It’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel, microwave a TV dinner and watch the Macy’s Day Parade, the virtual edition.

But the Peachtree Corners community is better than that. Thankfulness is a choice, and we choose to be thankful for our blessings because they are many, despite the confusion and chaos.

We asked Peachtree Corners residents to tell us what makes them grateful, and we share their answers with you in hopes that it resonates and inspires you to find your own reasons to celebrate small victories. Happy Fall from Peachtree Corners Magazine.

I am thankful:
■ To live in a caring, progressive, innovative community where people care and support each other.
■ For my family and for neighbors who are more like family.
■ For our police, firemen, first responders, public servants, nurses, doctors, clergy and others who serve on the front line of defense during this pandemic.
■ For our educators who continue to adapt so students can learn safely.
■ For our citizens who are volunteering and generously supporting those who need help.
■ To you for sharing inspirational stories about our citizens and their good deeds.
— Lorri Christopher, City Council Post 5

I am thankful for my family and friends. My family and friends were there for me for graduation and the beginning of the next chapter of my life at college.
— Quinn Watch

I am thankful for having something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to — it’s that simple.

I stay busy with fundraising for United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia which does a wonderful job of ensuring our handicapped son Robbie’s quality of life in a group home. I enjoy baking banana bread as gifts for our postman and Instacart shoppers. It’s fortunate to be quarantined with the love of my life, the great guy I met on a MARTA bus in 1977 who has always treated me as an equal partner. Finally, our youngest son, Scott, became engaged in August to a perfect girl, and it is indeed wonderful to have their May 2021 wedding to look forward to!
— Lori Howard

This year has been a challenge but the one thing I am thankful for is my family. Family will always be there for you.
— Cliff Bramble, Founder of Hungry Hospitality

I am thankful for my family during the holidays. We always have a lot of fun whenever we are all together!
— Stevie Bramble

I am so thankful for my family. The pandemic helped us rediscover how much we enjoy spending time together outside. We have really enjoyed the Peachtree Corners Town Center outdoor spaces. I started my first vegetable garden, and it quickly became my therapeutic hobby. I am blessed to work as a RN at Elite Personalized Medicine, where I have the privilege of helping patients improve their health and wellness. We are grateful our children are students at GAC, where the faculty and community are committed to providing a safe learning environment.
— Rachel McComas

I am so thankful for what this year has provided me. I am thankful that I have gotten to spend more time with my family, whether it was playing games, watching movies together or spending time at the beach. I am also thankful for all of my teachers at GAC because they have worked hard to help students learn through the pandemic both in class and online. I am grateful for the fact that they are always willing to help us.
— Jenna Jackovich

I am thankful 2020 has provided time to slow down and do things we never seemed to have time to do before. We have definitely spent more time as a family trying new things. I’m thankful for the administration and teachers at both GAC and Cornerstone Christian Academy who have worked tirelessly to get my kids back in school in person this year. The smiles on their faces say it all. I’m also super thankful for the creativity and perseverance of Karl and Emily Krug and the Spartans Aquatics Club at GAC that got my oldest back to the sport she loves — swimming — before most any club in the nation!
— Carol Jackovich

GAC gave me the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic with my varsity baseball team last February. My favorite part of the trip was hanging out with young kids in their community, playing baseball and serving through the Lord.
— Trey, 11th grade, gratitude from the Woolley family

I appreciated time standing still for a while, quality time with our children and growing a vegetable garden. I celebrated a virtual COVID College 2020 graduation, grateful that this was enabled by technology. I had a college freshman 90-minute “Move-In” at NYU, and I am grateful that the college had the courage to open. Senior year at GAC with in-person learning and sports brings normalcy and fellowship for our son, so I am grateful to the technological and health care innovations the school has adopted. Grateful to Dr. Harsh of GAC for his daily videos, reminding us of the importance of family and an appreciation for life.
— Therese Bailey

2020 has been a year of perspective for our family. We have learned to appreciate long summer days, extra movie nights, board games that have collected dust and the joys of a simple vegetable garden. We’ve also enjoyed bird watching in our backyard. Since we’ve returned to school, we’ve learned to adapt to changes. We are thankful and blessed that GAC has provided us with innovative technology for synchronous learning and abundantly selfless teachers. Our children have thrived during this time and grown so much in maturity and resilience!
— Pam Cormack

During 2020, we are most thankful for our 8-month-old son, Emory. Having a newborn in the midst of a pandemic is no easy task, but he has been such a blessing to us this year. We love taking time to walk around our neighborhood as a family and enjoy the outdoors! We have also been especially thankful for Emory’s teachers at GAC. Emory attends five days a week in the Young Learners program and it is such a joy to watch how much he loves being dropped off each morning! He loves being a part of the “Happy Hoppers” class and we love that they are already helping him develop relationships. We are eternally grateful for the time they pour into him and the opportunities he has to learn about God’s love for us! While 2020 has been challenging for most families, we have appreciated the quality family time and quiet moments at home. We have so many things to be thankful for this year.
— Sarah, Michael and Emory Grant

What a year 2020 has been! Amid all the apparent chaos and turmoil, we are grateful for so much. 2020 has encouraged a slower pace, which has led to more quality family time. We are thankful that we have developed a deeper awareness of and appreciation for the little things: beautiful weather, training a new puppy, our kids learning to cook their favorite meals. We are grateful for GAC’s persistence, attentiveness and diligence in getting the kids back to in-person school, sports, fine arts and all that GAC has to offer. 2020 has truly been a blessing!
— Rachel Holsworth

Reflecting on 2020 makes me realize that this year has brought more hidden blessings than could be imagined. As the world around me shut down, I witnessed the hearts of many open up. Neighbors checked on each other, made scavenger hunts for kids and tried to make sure no one went hungry. Time slowed down and our family grew closer as we navigated academic technology, outdoor adventures and plenty of together time. I appreciate my boys’ teachers at GAC now more than ever. I am so grateful for the extra time they took to keep them grounded in faith and not fear during one of the most challenging years.
— Danelle Wilson

In these challenging times, I am so grateful for my family. I am blessed with an amazing wife who has taken the burden off of me so that I can lead Cornerstone through the pandemic. In addition, my kids bring me an amazing amount of joy and purpose. For me, there are no greater titles than dad and husband.
— Colin Creel, Cornerstone Christian Academy Headmaster

My family runs in different directions: my dad travels, my sister practices at night, I practice after school. Quarantine brought us together for dinner, game and movie nights, hiking, evenings around the firepit and daily walks. I’m so grateful for that time with my family.
I’m excited to be physically back at GAC! We’re lucky GAC gives us the option every day to choose on-campus or at-home learning, whatever works best for our family. I prefer learning in a face-to-face environment more than I do through my computer screen. I’m grateful to spend my senior year learning with my friends.
— Mitsue Ostapiuk

This is our first year at GAC, and everything that has transpired since has confirmed that it absolutely was the right decision. They have provided a near ‘normal’ experience while keeping the kids, faculty and staff safe. My daughter is socializing with her pod and participating in extracurricular activities all while being challenged to learn and grow in a loving environment. When touring GAC, someone said to me, “Everything GAC does, they do with excellence.” Truer words were never spoken. I am so grateful for GAC.
— Kristen Jones

Pandemic aside, the children at Bright Learning Academy are staying positive and thankful that they have their parents to keep them healthy and safe, that they can still play outside and have fun, that they have virtual learning school to stay connected with teachers and friends, that they have masks to keep themselves safe, and that stores are making it safe enough for us to visit. MOST IMPORTANTLY, we will be most thankful when the virus finally goes away!!
— Jialing Hsu, Bright Learning Academy Director

We are thankful for our healthy family and the time that we have had to continue to bond during this pandemic! Life slowed down considerably for us as a result of the pandemic, which was actually a welcomed change of pace for our family. As a long-time family at GAC, we are incredibly thankful for the Christian values and stellar education provided by GAC. We feel blessed to be a part of a school that prayerfully developed an effective plan to protect its students during this pandemic. GAC is not just a school but a family and we are thankful to be a part of the Spartan family!
— Dr. Brandy Blount

I feel so grateful to hold sacred space with hundreds of people each week. From Zoom gatherings, video chats, telephone calls, social media posts and livestream services, I have been able to connect with them, heart to heart, discovering new ways to encourage and inspire our community far beyond the Unity Atlanta church walls.
I also am doubly blessed that I work with a team of devoted staff and volunteers who remind me of my personal gifts and why I said, “Yes,” to this wondrous call of ministry.

Reverend Jennifer L. Sacks

— Reverend Jennifer L. Sacks, Senior Minister at Unity Atlanta Church

We are thankful for our health, and the well-being of our friends and family. We are thankful for our jobs which have given us the means to sustain a life close to normal. We are thankful for the time we have had to spend with each other, enjoying the time we have on the good ship Earth. We are incredibly thankful for our friends and family, who bring sanity into an insane world. Most of all, we are thankful for God blessing our family during these uncertain times.
— Amanda, Lola and Pete Chen

This year we have learned to celebrate every precious moment with our family. It was so easy to take so much for granted before COVID-19. Getting together with the family to celebrate my dad’s birthday this year was a treasured memory and a day we were all grateful for.
— Lisa Proctor, Peachtree Corners Business Association president

I am thankful for a school community of students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff who have rallied and risen to the challenges that COVID-19 has presented. It is a powerful reminder that much can be accomplished when the collective will of a dedicated group of people put their combined efforts toward a common goal. I am equally thankful for a heroic faculty and staff who have raised their own standard of excellence to reinvent our instructional model so that no student falls to the wayside as we strive to fulfill our mission to be a Christian school of academic excellence.
— Chris B. Cleveland, Wesleyan School, Head of School

I’m thankful for GAC’s immense efforts to provide a sense of normalcy in our educational environment throughout the pandemic. Whether students are learning while physically in school or from the comforts of their home, the new technology and thorough planning of GAC faculty allows Spartans to proceed the school year safely and efficiently. Despite the pandemic’s impeding effects on this generation’s typical high school experience, I am grateful that I am still able to participate in intrinsic school activities such as Friday night football games, lunch with friends, homecoming, and other extracurriculars safely and healthily.
— Cydney Merrick

I’m grateful for my community – my neighborhood community and the relationships formed and strengthened during quarantine, and my Wesleyan School community whose creativity and innovation has not only allowed us to open this fall, but continue to offer the special experiences that our students and families hold dear.

Meg Foster

— Meg Foster, Director of Fine Arts at Wesleyan School

I am excited to serve in my first full year at Simpson Elementary! The students, teachers and support staff work extremely hard to ensure every minute of the school day is meaningful for students! Thank you to the entire Peachtree Corners/Norcross Parent-Community for supporting our school with teacher incentives, snacks and encouraging notes. We could not do this without you! Thank you for all you do to partner with us to support your children. A message that continues to ring true today, more than ever, is Great Schools Build Great Communities and in turn Great Communities Build Great Schools! Thank you for keeping us Simpson Strong!
— Dr. Taffeta Connery, Simpson Elementary Principal

Wesleyan Artist Market “Thankful Thoughts”
By the 2021 Wesleyan Artist Market Team
artistmarket.wesleyanschool.org

2020 has been a year of challenge and reflection. We are grateful in all circumstances.
We remain as thankful as ever to the amazing Peachtree Corners community and their support after the unprecedented cancellation of the 2020 Wesleyan Artist Market.

Thank you to our friends, partners, sponsors and patrons encouraging us to come back strong for 2021.

Inspired by the resiliency and positivity of so many around us, we are thankful for the opportunity to redirect and #GoVirtual for the Wesleyan Artist Market, April 2021. Stay tuned for more information. Finally, we are thankful for good health, our families and the hope and promise we find through our faith.

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Backyard Escapes Pt. 5: If You’re Lucky, You’ll Discover Happiness in Your Own Backyard Like Bob and Lori Howard in Forest Hills

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What if you could feel like you were in the north Georgia mountains every time you stepped outdoors? That was the inspiration for Bob and Lori Howard’s posh backyard makeover upon settling into their retirement home.

An environmental engineer, Bob designed and supervised the transformation of their yard. A home designed for empty nesters doesn’t come with the largest yard, but every square inch of this one is gorgeous.

Taking advantage of the natural topography — their property slopes towards the back of the home — Bob had a vision of what could be there and brought it to life exquisitely. It’s difficult to believe their yard once consisted of privet and a few short pine and other scrubby trees. “There was no landscaping. It was a cosmetic disaster,” Lori recalled.

They were able to develop their outdoor space into a striking deck, a series of retaining walls and flowerbeds, a marvelous waterfall, koi pond and patio haven which they’ve been reveling in for 12 years.
“It’s a comfortable place to be. We turn music on, have the waterfall going, drink a margarita and life is good,” Bob said.

“We have under decking, ceiling fans, a fire pit and a warming light on the patio, so we can sit out almost year-round,” Lori added.

Color changing landscape lights illuminate the waterfall at nighttime. From the patio, one has a breathtaking view of the waterfall.

Most evenings you’ll find the Howards on their patio, listening to The Bridge on SiriusXM. “Bob also put in a sound system. I’ve had a live-in handyman for 40 years; I’ve been blessed,” Lori smiled.

Bob and Lori Howard

The Howards have been able to share their lovely surroundings with family and friends. Their friends were married here, they host neighborhood parties — not this year, of course. For their 70th birthday, they welcomed a large group of friends. A country western singer came from Nashville to perform for them.

“This is a good party house. It flows very nicely,” Lori said.

Extreme Remodel

The stonework in the Howard garden is impressive. “There are probably 20 or 30 tons of stone and rock on the slope. I laid out where I wanted it with spray paint, bought the stone and the contractor, Nick Carillo, built it,” Bob reported. The tiered, stacked stone retaining walls were built to create flat areas for planting flowerbeds.

Bob conceived the 3,500-gallon koi pond including the pumps, biological filter and UV light. “We have large koi. I designed it so the herons could not get access to fish,” Bob said. “They can stand on the edge, but they can’t get into the water to get any fish; it’s over four feet deep.”

A coyote’s attempt at catching the fish was captured on their security camera. The fellow almost drowned after falling in, but he was able to scramble to safety.

Knock on Brazilian Wood

They originally had a poorly made deck that was falling off the house with nothing but earth underneath it — but Bob had plans to rebuild it. He selected premium Brazilian cherry wood for the new, sturdy deck. “I like the reddish color and it holds up longer than pressure-treated pine,” Bob said. He designed and built the deck with his son’s help.

“On our last deck, we used Trex composite wood. We love the way it looked but it holds a lot of heat in the summer,” Bob said.

The new deck has a stair system with a boardwalk that goes over to the back slope. Steps lead to an area by the waterfall.

Carillo poured the foundation, reinforcing the sandstone patio for the posts. “I didn’t want to have that much weight on the sandstone patio without having a foundation underneath,” Bob said. “It has worked well. Knock on wood.”

Pandemic Relief —Backyards for the Win

The couple hosted an engagement dinner for their youngest son and his fiancée in August. They’ve been able to gather with friends, one couple at a time, socially distanced on their patio. “That’s how we’ve managed to do it, with people our age who have been quarantining and staying close to home like us,” Lori said. “They wear masks when they come in. Outside we serve drinks, hors d’oeuvres and talk.”

Gardening Is a Work of Heart

Amid a backdrop of hydrangeas, ferns, azaleas, Japanese maples and dogwoods, Carillo and his crew return every spring to plant annuals: begonias and impatiens. In the fall, they pull out the gardens and winterize the flowerbeds.

“Yearly, at the beginning of the season, I have to pressure wash and seal the sandstone patio,” Bob said. “It has a water finish look; it’s really quite beautiful.”

The Howards have had four different homes in Peachtree Corners since 1984. This is their last. “You really want to have a nice backyard, a retreat you can enjoy,” Bob said.

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Gwinnett Tax Commissioner awarded CARES Act grant to cover convenience fees for 2020 online property tax payments

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Gwinnett property owners have the opportunity to pay property taxes online using debit or credit cards without incurring added convenience fees, Tax Commissioner Richard Steele announced today.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to pay their property taxes safely,” Steele said. “Obtaining this grant helps us do that, and I sincerely hope people take advantage of it during the pandemic to pay online from the safety of home.”

The Gwinnett County Office of the Tax Commissioner was recently informed of its successful application for obtaining a CARES Act grant to cover the cost of convenience fees for online property taxes. Taxpayers who have already paid their 2020 taxes and incurred a convenience fee will automatically receive a refund of the fees via the card they used from payment processing vendor Value Payment Systems LLC.

Online payments can be made at GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com/pay and include these options:

· E-check, debit or credit card with no added convenience fees.

· Scheduling payments in advance, as long as the total is paid by the Dec. 1 due date.

Property owners who have questions or need assistance may contact the Tax Commissioner’s Office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays via email to Tax@GwinnettCounty.com, by phone at (770) 822-8800 or initiate a chat on any device from GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com.

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Backyard Escapes Pt. 4: Come Gather in the Garden of Jay and Jill Lowe in Peachtree Station 

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What if the weather couldn’t ever foil your plans to spend time outside? That’s the case at the home of Jay and Jill Lowe. Little remains of the teal green shuttered house they purchased 20 years ago. Their recent improvements include an architectural pavilion in the backyard— a sheltered center for gatherings and celebrations.

“This was Jay’s vision,” Jill said. “I gave him a hard time about the size of this space. I thought it was a little over the top. Actually, it’s my favorite room in the house. I love it. It’s big but it doesn’t feel overbearing. It’s perfect.”

Jay designed the 30-foot x 30-foot all-cedar structure, acting as general contractor. It’s equipped with LED lights in the ceiling, a granite bar countertop, a refrigerator, living and dining areas, a stacked stone gas fireplace, fans, heaters, outdoor curtains to enclose it, a Sonos surround system, two televisions and security cameras. The Lowes have this stunning space to entertain family and friends all year long.

“We put an aluminum roof above the support beams because Jill likes the pitter patter of the rain,” Jay noted. Insulation in the 17-foot-tall pitched roof helps to keep it from getting too hot in the summertime.

Their four dogs and kitten, Axel, like to spend time here as well. “We’ve had fires out here, watched movies and football games. I like the girls to have friends over, so I know where they are,” Jay said.

A 600 square foot patio extends around the pavilion to meet a large, level lawn which stretches to the back of the long yard. On the left side of the patio, there is a large hot tub, and to the right, another unusual backyard structure.

When Nature Calls

An outdoor bathroom complete with sink, shower, urinal and toilet is available for guests visiting the party pavilion.

This prevents “a bunch of kids running in and out of the house,” Jay said. Regarding using the outdoor restroom in colder weather, Jay said, “I like a wintertime shower; we use the hot tub a lot.”

Fire Pit

The end of the yard opposite the pavilion is rounded out by a fire pit surrounded by string lights and a trampoline, which gets regular use. Orange accents like the Adirondack chairs convey the family’s Tennessee affiliation.

Extreme Remodel

Originally, the Lowes deforested the backyard, removing 65 trees. In 2018, the demolition of a huge back deck and sunroom made way for Jay’s plans. His carpenter of choice is Mimi, a Taiwanese gentleman who has done plenty of work for the family over the years. “He’s the hardest working, most intricate woodworker,” Jill said.

From a muddy plot, to bringing in loads of backfill dirt, to laying the cement pad, the all-season pavilion was underway. Once the frame was up, Jay started building the fireplace. Then the interlocking brick patio was laid. The project was completed last October.

Pandemic Relief — Backyards for the Win

“We are so grateful for this space because it’s made [living through a pandemic] a lot easier,” Jill said. “We can come out here and play games: ping pong, corn hole, basketball.”

Jay and Jill Lowe and Family

She said that their oldest child graduated this year and noted that it was a rough year for seniors. “We were able to host a little graduation party for her. We had tables and chairs spaced out. There’s a lot of room. It’s been great for us. It’s been a blessing,” Jill shared.

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