);
Connect with us

Community

How’s Your Faith? Pastor Jay Hackett talks about faith, COVD19 and these times of crisis [Podcast]

Published

on

Pastor Jay Hackett, Peachtree Corners Baptist Church

How does a church ministry work when you have to practice social distancing? In this special
episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico Figliolini video chats with Pastor Jay Hackett from Peachtree Corners Baptist Church to talk about life, community, and keeping the faith during this
unprecedented time. Recorded socially safe in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia

Resources:

Social Media: #PCBChurch and @PCBChurch
Website: PCBChurch.org
Gwinnett Cares: ​https://www.cfneg.org/gwinnettcares/
American Red Cross: ​https://www.redcross.org
UNITE: ​https://www.uniteus.org/norcross-peachtree-corners/

“You know, I love the fact that, to me this is kinda like a moment in acts, you know, when the church was together, but then the church got scattered and it was when the church got scattered that things really started taking off and the gospel was spread. And so what I love is that we’re seeing the church be the church. And I think we’ve kind of had our hand forced in this. We’ve stayed inside the walls too long and now we have an opportunity to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Jay Hackett

Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:42] – Ministry amid COVID-19
[00:02:54] – Online Church
[00:10:12] – Activities in the Community
[00:13:23] – Smaller Groups in the Church
[00:20:35] – Making a Difference
[00:26:32] – Moving Forward
[00:32:26] – Closing

Podcast Transcript

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life here in the city of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, Georgia. So I appreciate you coming out. We have a special guest today. Before we get to him and what we’re going to be talking about, which is going to be about faith and how in this COVID-19 world, how ministry works. What is happening, how faith is being challenged and all that. So, but before we get to that, just want to thank our sponsor, Hargray Fiber. They’re a company that’s out there willing to help you and help your employees work in this world remotely and they have free small business solutions to help your team stay productive and connected. So reach out to them. It’s HargrayFiber.com and that tip is stay connected with your neighbors, make new friends. Use, you know, live call or video chat and just say hi to your neighbor and see if they need anything. So now let’s get on to our guest today, which is our pastor Jay Hackett from Peachtree Corners Baptist Church. Hey Jay.

Jay: [00:01:37] Hey Rico, how are you doing?

Rico: [00:01:42] Good, thank you. Appreciate you coming out. Tell, tell us, tell us how is it out there in this ministry work that you’re doing right now?

Jay: [00:01:50] It has definitely changed. I will tell you that. And, you know, a lot of times we get freaked out by change, but a lot of times actually change pushes us out to new adventures and try some things a little bit differently than we have done in the past. You know, we have joked around here at Peachtree Corners that, you know, we needed to go online. We needed to live stream with everything that we’re doing, but we just waited and waited and waited to pull the trigger, and now we’ve been forced to pull the trigger. So, it’s been a little bit different for us to be able to do this and to be exclusively in this format, you know, as we go forward. Because you know, so much of the church is gathering, right? It’s being able to see your friends. It’s being able to connect with new people, and it’s really about community and being able to hug people, shake hands, and really be a part of that. And that’s been a part of this that has been a little bit more difficult for us as we navigate some of these new waters.

Rico: [00:02:54] Now you, I think you’re, if you told me correctly, I think this is like the fourth Sunday, you’re going to be exclusively online.

Jay: [00:03:00] Correct. So we kind of, when things started initially coming out that were saying that people needed to kind of distance themselves and have, you know, I think the number was around 250 when it first came out. And we currently are blessed to have a few more than that that show up on a Sunday morning. And so we as a staff kinda got together and met with our elders and just said, Hey, let’s be on the front end of this and let’s see how we can, you know, kind of go along with what our government officials are asking us to do, what our president’s asking us to do, and how can we go ahead and launch this. And so this Sunday will actually be our fourth week that we are now exclusively online with nothing happening here at the building.

Rico: [00:03:44] So how do you do that? I, you know, I’m sorry, I’m a little remiss in not having watched the last few that you’ve done, but how do you do that? Is it just you? Is the team there? How does it go?

Jay: [00:03:59] Trust me, we have a wonderful team of people that are behind us that they’re able to put this together. Andrew Howard runs our tech team and so a lot of conversations with him and Josh Felons who’s our worship pastor, and just trying to figure out. Hey, you know, what’s the best way that we can do this? Because, you know, it can be awkward. You know, most people like, let’s take singing for instance. You know, we usually have just strained or not even strained, but we’ve shown the message during the week, but we’ve never seen music. And, and that was one of the questions that we had. You know, you’ve got some people that don’t want to sing out, when they’re in a congregation. You know, cause I hear themselves saying, and now you’ve got a husband and wife sitting on the sofa at home, or you know, their family that’s kind of sitting there. Are people really going to engage with worship? And really, you know, kind of reach out and do that. And we kind of unpack that for a little while and we decided that, yeah, you know, we want in a time where there’s so much chaos, we want to try to bring a little bit of stability. And, and so basically, you know, and this is kind of what we’ve heard from our people in the last month, there’s just this makes it feel like we’re there. And so we, we kind of made the decision early on that we were going to do our service just like we would if you were here in person on a Sunday morning. And, and so I’m going to reveal a couple of secrets. Some people think we are live here on Sunday morning. We’re not. We do everything during the week. As a matter of fact, today we just got done filming, for this Sunday. And so then they take that and put it onto our web server and then everything goes streaming live at both 9:30 and 10:45 on Sundays.

Rico: [00:05:36] And you have music going on.

Jay: [00:05:39] We do, we start to finish, just like you were here, welcome and offering, you know, three or four songs, and then I get to jump up and preach to an empty room. So it’s a whole lot of fun.

Rico: [00:05:53] There’s that connection thing that’s missing.

Jay: [00:05:56] Well, it is funny because that’s kinda how I’m wired. You know, Rico, I feed off of the congregation. So you know, when you tell a joke and you’re like, I don’t even know if that’s going to land or not because nobody’s in the room to give me any feedback from that. And I don’t know if people are tracking with me. And so, you know, I, it’s funny, I kind of sit around on Sundays and on the platform that we use through live church, you know, you have the comments that scroll up and down. And so I’m looking for people to heart or a man or, you know, give me something that I would have typically gotten you know, from the room on a Sunday morning.

Rico: [00:06:31] Can you interact with them on that, on that feed also?

Jay: [00:06:36] So what we do is we have two to three of our staff members that are hosts for each of the services that we launch live broadcast at 9:30 and 10:45 on Sundays. And so they’ll interact back and forth, with anyone that’s there through a chat feature. Thanks for any questions. And it’s, you know, the hard part, like I said earlier about being a church is we need connection. And so this kind of gives us that opportunity to, to be able to say, Oh, you know, Rico’s here. And they have, it’s so good to see ya. You know, even though it’s virtually, it’s still a connection, which I think is what any of us want more than anything right now.

Rico: [00:07:13] Yeah. You want to be able to see that, that there are people out there actually listening and absorbing what you’re signing. So they would, they would find this on your website or can you also find this like as a live feed on Facebook or anything else?

Jay: [00:07:29] Correct. So, what you would do right now is through our website, we broadcast it live as well as through Facebook live at 9:30 and 10:45. And then it just goes strictly to Facebook, or on our website following that for the rest of the week. And so, you know, we kind of played with the idea, do we just show it at 9:30 and 10:45 or do we allow it to be seen throughout the rest of the week? And what we found is a lot of our members. Chime in during our normal worship times, just so they can see people and connect. But then we’re getting probably three times as many views outside, what’s happening at 9:30, 10:45 on Sunday. And so, you know, I don’t know if people are just starving for content when they’re stuck at home right now. You know, a lot of questions, a lot of things that people are wrestling with. And so there’s, there’s a heightened sense of going, Hey, I want to know some more. And so let me just kind of see what, who’s out there and what they’re saying.

Rico: [00:08:24] Sure. It’s almost like faith on demand.

Jay: [00:08:27] Correct. The hard part, and, I kind of addressed this a little bit Sunday. The hard part for us pastors is we know that anytime somebody gets in a habit, it’s hard to change. And so I think that’s one of the things that we are kind of wrestling with and talking about now is, you know, not knowing when this ends, you know, people are going to get out of the habit of attending, you know, in person. I don’t know. There’s people that say, Hey, as soon as we can get back, everybody wants to be back. And maybe there will be a little bit of that at first. But I’ve had people say, I love watching you from home in my pajamas, you know, didn’t fight with the kids, didn’t have to argue with the wife on the way to church, and it just made it so much simpler.

Rico: [00:09:07] I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little bit of that. There’s like, maybe we can’t get there, but the good part is that we can watch here.

Jay: [00:09:14] Correct. And that’s the balance. I think that’s kind of where we’re walking through right now, going, okay, we’ll even, as we’re able to get back together, how do we, how do we
continue this? Because we are reaching you know, more people than we were able to reach actually in person. And so it’s, again, it’s a positive.

Rico: [00:09:30] Right? And you know what, if certainly your message is themed for each of these random. So some of them may want to go back and just re-listen to it. Cause you know, sometimes you want to do that and you want to, you liked what, what Jay said, maybe, and you want to hear it again because you might have missed something. There’s a benefit right.

Jay: [00:09:49] Exactly. That’s been fantastic. My wife loved that. Oh, my notes come up on the chat side and she’s like, man, it makes it so much easier when I have it written down right there and I could follow through with that.

Rico: [00:10:02] Like captions and stuff.

Jay: [00:10:03] Yeah, little captions and things like that. And she was like, man, well, they do that for me every Sunday and just threw me.

Rico: [00:10:12] That’s where we’ll get to augmented reality. People are coming in with these Google glasses and they can see that. Cool. So I mean, you guys are doing a lot. I mean, you know, Peachtree Corners Baptist church does a lot of things, lots of ministry work and a lot of its hands on stuff, but also a lot of it’s outside the church. Supportive local activities. For example, you have a blood drive coming up, for example, in April?

Jay: [00:10:41] Correct.

Rico: [00:10:42] That’s still, is that still happening?

Jay: [00:10:44] Yes, yes. We actually talked to the American Red Cross, today and they were like, man, please pump this up as much as possible. They are in desperate need of blood. They’ve had several of their sites have to cancel on them. You know, with some of the outbreaks and the things that have been happening, they sent us about a 13 page document of all the steps that the American Red Cross is taking right now to make sure that you would be safe in coming to give blood. Making sure that, you know, you hand sanitize before you come in. They check the temperatures, they’re, making sure that there are no symptoms whatsoever before anyone donates and gives. And so everything to, to make it as, as clean and as easy as possible on their end. And so we’re going to be able to host that from the 13th to the 17th of April, right here from in our fellowship hall. And so we just want to help out in any way possible. Cause I know that hospitals and blood banks and man, they’re all in desperate need.

Rico: [00:11:42] Yeah, that’s for sure. And obviously we’re going to, you’re going to be respecting the social distancing and all that stuff.

Jay: [00:11:48] Correct. Absolutely.

Rico: [00:11:50] You also work with a group called Unite. You connected with them. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jay: [00:11:55] Well you know, what I love about the heart of Unite is that, you know, Rico, a lot of times in the church world, we can get territorial. You know, us versus everybody else. And we kind of forget that we’re on the same team. And you know, God has just given us some different opportunities. But he’s placed us all in similar communities. And one of the things I love about Unite is that’s their heart. Their heart is, how do we unite pastors from different denominations across the city? And so I’m in the unite group that’s here in North Charleston, Peachtree corners. And, you know, their main heart is how can we pull resources and how can we kinda, you know, come together to address the needs that are right here in our community. And, and so we have Terry Hoye, who is our representative here in Norcross, Peachtree Corners area. And we’re getting, you know, daily if not hourly updates from her and just kind of sharing what the needs are and where we’re at. And, you know, their big thing right now is they put together a great resource at, GwinnettCares.org. And, and so through GwinnettCares.org you can go to sign up for any need that you have. Maybe it’s a food need, maybe it’s a financial need, a transportation need, childcare needs. Any of those things can be accessed right there on the site. As well as if you’re available to volunteer and to help out in any one of those areas. We would love to have people stepping in and helping with that.

Rico: [00:13:23] Excellent. That’s Gwinnett Cares. The other thing I was looking at too is, you know, obviously again, we go back to church and it’s a very individual, a very personal thing that you do out there. You try to reach people that way, and so there’s smaller parts of the church, right? You have divorce care, for example, and you guys are using Zoom on that. How does that work?

Jay: [00:13:51] It actually is. It’s working better than we expected. You know, I think one of the things that our church definitely thrives on, but I think church in general does, is that personal connection and when we’re not able to meet together, then it’s, you know, it gets to be depression. You know, especially if you’re going through something, you know, with like grief, divorce care, and we need to see a happy face. And, so what Zoom has given us the opportunity to do is actually meet still with these groups. And so we have several Zoom groups that are going out and not only with what we call our bridge ministries, which are those grief share, divorce care. But also with like our life groups, you know, kinda old school Sunday school if you would. You know, when you have a smaller group of somewhere between 10 or 30 that are reading together. And so they’re on Zoom now and so they get together, some of them on Sunday, some of them on different nights during the week. And it’s just an opportunity to kind of do what you and I are doing right now. See each other face to face and catch up on life. You know, really just see, Hey, how can we pray for you? Is there anything you need? What can we do? You know, I think that’s been probably the most exciting thing I’ve seen just from our body of Christ here, is that people are going, man, what? How can we serve? You know, what can we do? You know, I want to help those that are more vulnerable than I am. And how can we step in
and what can we do? And you know, so we’re just trying to bring in those things, collect. If anybody’s out there, you know, whether it’s a senior adult couple that can’t go to the grocery store or, you know, just need something delivered. We’ll just set it on the front porch, knock the doorbell, and you know, knock or ring the doorbell, and then walk away and make sure that we’re still social distancing, doing the things that we’re supposed to be doing. But, yeah. She’s looking for those ways to stay connected with people. And so platforms like Zoom and WebEx have been tremendous for us to offer this process.

Rico: [00:15:42] I’m sure it was a little growing pain, getting it all together, but so everyone’s using Zoom and WebEx. I mean, how do you coordinate all that going on? Or is it individual groups that are doing it and stuff?

Jay: [00:15:52] The individual groups are doing it. So my executive pastor, Brett Davis, is one of these guys that man, that his mind just thinks that way. And so he was able to kind of work with a lot of our life group leaders and a lot of the people that were in those leadership roles and get them set up with everything. You know, cause some of our classes are a little bit more technologically challenged and so they’re like, I’m not sure how to do this. You know, for our older classes, we do a lot more phone calls and you know, just kinda touching base with them that way. Some people are FaceTiming, some people are just, you know, I just, I’m encouraging everybody. Look, don’t let this be a time of isolation that you just lose all contact. But this is actually more than anything. And you know, I know we say send a text, send something, but it’s almost like they go, we’re like, call somebody, you know, we need that. We need to hear the voice. We need, you know, to have a connection with somebody and just check in on them and see how they’re doing.

Rico: [00:16:49] So how are you dealing with kids? Also, you have a lot of stuff going on with students and kids. I mean, there was a, you have the youth ministry. How is that working? Is it easy for them to work with the technology?

Jay: [00:17:01] I think it’s a whole lot easier for them to deal with the technology. You know, they’re showing all of us adults how to do it. So it makes it a whole lot easier for the rest of us. But, you know, we started walking through, we do both a Kids’ worship service and a student worship service on a regular Sunday morning. I saw all three of those running simultaneous with each other. And, and so we kind of have the discussion, do we continue to produce those services as well? But, you know, with some of the restrictions that have come out, we just said it’s going to be easier to just do our main service right now, but let’s make the content, if there’s video elements to that, if there’s game elements to that, the craft element. And let’s, let’s make that content accessible online for all of our parents because I know our parents are sitting at home. You know, I joked with you earlier that my wife and I made the decision, you know, we thought we weren’t homeschool parents. Now we know we’re not homeschool parents. And, you know, parents are kinda at their wits end right now with things. You know, not seeing an end in site. So we’re just trying to resource them and to be able to continue to share with their kids. We send out some videos that go along with our worship service for kids. And so I know some of
the parents, you know, will pull those up either after our service or some will watch them before the service and, you know, just continue to interact that way. And then our students, they’re online 24/7 and you know, my youth pastor Cody Jenkins, he’s been sending out daily devotionals to everybody and just kinda things that he would normally be sharing with them on Sunday and just trying to stay as connected as possible, so that they don’t lose hope here as we’re walking through some of these issues.

Rico: [00:18:41] And it’s very tough. I was noticing the other day that there was a Pinckneyville Middle School band using an Instagram app called Acapella where they were able to share. There was nine of them on the screen, and each of them did their part, their instrument. Then they compiled it and it sounds great. Actually, I think NPR picked up on the story at one point. So is this a good inventive way of everyone’s working together?

Jay: [00:19:10] Everybody’s getting real creative, which is what I love. Yes. Yeah.

Rico: [00:19:17] Yeah, and we don’t know how long this is going to play out, so I mean, at least we know it’s going to be until the end of April. It sounds like.

Jay: [00:19:26] Yeah. Well, and that’s, you know, some of the questions that we’ve got is going, okay, so how do we anticipate when we do come back and, you know, try to make it, you know, I know a lot of the things that we’ve looked at is like Easter, you know, Easter is a week from Sunday and you know, a Sunday that typically everybody gets dressed up and, you know, they’re able to come to church and, you know, kind of celebrate as a family, get together for a meal. And so this is going to be a different Easter for all of us. And there’s a lot of adjustments there. And so a lot of churches that I’ve been just talking to and other pastors have been talking about the fact that they’re actually going to make Easter the first Sunday back. And so they’ll still celebrate Easter next Sunday, but they’re going to try to do any of the things that you would normally see, quote unquote, on the Easter Sunday, which a lot of us go above and beyond that they’re going to actually wait and celebrate and make it the biggest Sunday possible. You know, kind of once everybody gets back and our new set of norms. Kind of begins to get laid out.

Rico: [00:20:23] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if we’re talking four weeks from now that you have to legally, right. I mean, maybe that becomes a homecoming, if you will.

Jay: [00:20:30] Yeah.

Rico: [00:20:35] Peachtree Corners Baptist Church is a big church in the community. It’s right at the, at that road where everyone sort of leaves a caravan of cars. Usually on a normal day of work, it goes past your middle, goes up to the Y and Peachtree Corners, and then everyone sort of splits goes their different ways depending on where they’re going. So being a big church, a lot of people, a lot of different types of people with different walks of life. You even have, I mean, you have a lot of people working in different ministries. I noticed that you talked to us a little bit, you mentioned like mops, moms of preschoolers. You mentioned life group class, some
individuals working at this. So maybe you could share a little bit about some of that and what those ministries are doing or some of the stories that you’ve.

Jay: [00:21:24] Yeah, absolutely. You know, I love the fact that, to me this is kinda like a moment in acts, you know, when the church was together, but then the church got scattered and it was when the church got scattered that things really started taking off and the gospel was spread. And so what I love is that we’re seeing the church be the church. And, and I think we’ve kind of had our hand forced in this. We’ve stayed inside the walls too long and now we have an opportunity to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus. And, I’m loving as I’m watching all of these different groups do their different things and meet needs in different ways. Our mops, which is our mother of preschoolers, they kinda got together and collected money. And, they knew that kids were without meals this week. Being here in Gwinnett County was spring break. And, and so they collected over $700, and that food went out, bought food, did that, and donated it to our Norcross co-op, which are able to help meet some of those needs that were there. Some of our ladies, I still don’t know how they did this, but some of them took different things that were around the house and they made masks, you know, face masks, more talent than I’ve gotten. And so as they kind of delivered those to some people, they helped the health indices through people that were here at our church. And I just, I love being able to see some of those things happen. Some of them bought snack bags together to carry to those in the hospital. We’ve got Jonathan and Lilly who owned the Ichiban steak and sushi up at the collection there in foresight. You know, one of the things they were doing was they were battling with, okay, how do we stay open? What are we doing? And that Jonathan, who’s a member here, that’s the owner of that said, you know what version of this food, we’re going to cook it and we’re going to deliver it over to the ICU unit here at Northside for PSI. Then we’re going to hand it to those in the pulmonary department. And you know, we’re going to just be the hands and feet of Christ and how can we continue to love on people and see some of those things happen. And so, you know, I mean, as a pastor, you always wonder, are people getting it, you know, is it clicking? And then when you start seeing some of these things happen, it’s just, it really does bring a smile to my face. And I’m just appreciative for people that are stepping up and doing some of those things.

Rico: [00:23:43] And it’s good to be able to share that so that people aren’t, because everyone’s home. So it’s like, what do you, what do you know what’s going on? If you’re not out there actively talking, or maybe you’re on next door, the app, or on Facebook, and you know. You know, getting your feed from there, maybe. So even companies have been out there, and I noticed that Firebirds you mentioned.

Jay: [00:24:10] Jennifer who is one of our administrative staff here at the church, got a phone call from Firebirds the other day and they were like, look, we have a ton of produce and things that we have that we would love to. So donate the give away, but every time we call a food pantry, they need prepackaged food. And so none of them can use that. And Jennifer reached out to one of the groups that Susan was a part of here at Peachtree Corners village moms and just offered that out. And so their families could benefit from it. And she said they went crazy
over it and we’re just able to, to really use that. They’re in their own homes. And being able to be a blessing. And so I’ve helped out Firebirds but it also helped out families right here in Peachtree Corners. And you know, just those were exciting things to me as we, you know, just see it play out.

Rico: [00:24:56] So if there are other businesses out there looking to help, maybe they should reach out to you.

Jay: [00:25:01] Absolutely. We’ll help out in any way possible. Or if we can’t, we can help point you in the right direction. You know, it’s, it’s all about who you know, and you get people connected with other people.

Rico: [00:25:14] Well for sure. And there are businesses out there that want to, that want to help. They want to do what, you know, be a good citizen in the community. Especially now. I mean, we all liked, you said, you know, sometimes we’re siloed. We’re all by ourselves. Maybe depending on what we’re doing. And even for where with our own family. We’re just here. It’s like having those horse blinders on. Sometimes, you know, unless you take a walkout, and I’ve done my walks and I’ve seen a lot of people out there though restrictions get more and more. The parks are closed. I mean, the certain places are close. You can’t get too far out there. Unless they completely lock us down in the house. I don’t know. We’re going to be people going out. So you know, and you guys are on like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I mean, you’re all over the place. So if people want to be able to do that, they can just find you anywhere on the monitor and follow you. #PCBchurch is the hashtag that people should follow.

Jay: [00:26:22] That hashtag we can follow. And we’re on Instagram, we’re on Twitter, Facebook, and definitely through our website at PCBChurch.org.

Rico: [00:26:32] Where, what, what else would you like to share with us that maybe we haven’t covered? You know, I mean, we talked a little bit about the ministry and how it is today to be able to do what you’re doing. And some churches have, like, you know, you have the big mega churches that have done that to a degree and stuff, but have been doing it prior to COVID-19. And even, I mean, I’ve seen your, your videos online a lot. Even had one great video I loved. There was a rock and roll video. That was a cool video. Love that video. I think I need to share that one online. But, so you guys are finding different ways to do things and so what, what can we expect over the next few weeks? What, what, what are you working out besides Easter, which is, you know, obviously the big guy.

Jay: [00:27:26] Yeah. Easter will definitely be a fun one as we’re going forward. You know, a lot of the stuff that we’re looking at is trying to figure out how we can get the best content and the best resources in people’s hands so that they can just continue to walk in their relationship with Christ and begin to be discipled in him. You know, we want things to look good, but production is not the overall. You know, the overall end all for me is that someone is able to take truth and begin to apply to their life and begin to see some things change. And, you know, I think what
we’re going to see in the days ahead and the weeks ahead is, you know, there’s more openness to that. You know, a lot of people are questioning. And a lot of people are finding themselves in a position of going, you know, well, why are we going through this? And, you know, one of the age old questions that everybody, you know, did God cause this, did he allow it? You know, there’s just an awareness, I think right now that’s really given us as a church here at Peachtree Corners, but as well as every church and opportunity to be answering some of those questions. And, just kinda, you know, sitting in it. With the people as they’re walking through it. And, and that’s just kinda what we want to continue to, to share and kind of be an encouragement. If we could, in the days ahead of going, look, you know, what? Life will return to some sense of normal. it may not be what we were used to. It may not be, you know, the way that we always did it, but we know that there will be an end to this. And in the process of it, you know, how do you continue to grow and, and become the man, the woman, the child that God desires you to become, through the process. You know, I think as we look at the future for us right now, our, our summers on whole. You know, as we’re looking through B camps and VBS is, and you know, a lot of the things that are more activity driven now, we’ve been forced to be away from each other. And so we’ve got to readdress how we do some of those things. And so we’ve got some great conversations that are coming towards us, but we’ve got some great people around us through Unite, rather passers Metro, you know, just trying to figure out some good ways that we can connect with each other and help each other. And at the end of the day, the, the good neighbors that, the gospels.

Rico: [00:29:43] I think, I agree with you. I mean, life is going to get pushed back a little bit. Maybe vacation Bible school instead of the first week in June happens the third or fourth week in June. You know, people are looking, it’s an interesting aspect to what we’re going through. Now you have the older generation that have been through tough times. The greatest generation is almost gone. So the generation that grew through the sixties and seventies. Right? Some mortgage rates, the Vietnam war, maybe a long gas lines, all that stuff. We’ve never, this generation really has not even with the recession, 2008 I mean, that was bad. For the most part. Our kids did not. Kids did not get affected by it. And this pandemic is really changing, I think. I mean, I see it in my kids, they’re sitting in the 16 year old seat and the 22 in the 25 year old, how they look at life now cause what’s going on, this is going to have a, a, an effect on them that will stay with them, I think for years to come.

Jay: [00:30:52] I agree 100% and I’m seeing the same thing in my 13 year old, 7 year old. You know, both from a different perspective, but, their questions, nonetheless. And they keep asking different things. And, you know, and, and as a parent, you, you want to stay informed with the things that are going on. But there are certain things that I’m trying to shield, you know, my first grader from so she’s not living in a constant state of fear and nightmares, you know, all these different things that any of us would be going through. And trying to, you know, keeps a stiff upper lip and is the father and the husband and the pastor, the leader in the midst of this. But the reality is we’ve, we’ve never been this way before. You know, so as we do it. For me as a pastor and as a father and a follower of Christ, I’m going to lean into him and just say, all right,
you know, I’m going to trust you in the process. You are my refuge and you’re never going to leave my side. And so here we go and let’s take it one step at a time.

Rico: [00:31:51] I like that. So this is a good point to probably segue into leaving the end of our time together. I do want to say thank you though for being here to talk, about how your ministry, how the church is doing. I’m sure all the churches are facing the same challenges. And some of the same things, maybe different things.

Jay: [00:32:13] Yeah. They definitely are. And all of them are doing it to the best of their ability. And all of us have kinda been forced into this together. But I’m just, I’m thankful for it. Thanks for the opportunity.

Rico: [00:32:26] This has been great. And, and people that want to be able to find out more information, where’s the best place? I guess we’ve mentioned that before, but.

Jay: [00:32:34] I’d go to a PCBchurch.org and be able to follow us. They’re on the website, all the resources that we offer, everything that we’ve got. Or being able to find that and then Gwinnettcares.org would be the second place to be able to find local things and ways that people can volunteer and serve.

Rico: [00:32:51] And if I can impose, and ask you one last thing because you are a pastor.

Jay: [00:32:55] Correct.

Rico: [00:32:56] I never, never, ever do this, but would you be able to say a prayer for us? For the community?

Jay: [00:33:02] Absolutely. Thank you.

Rico: [00:33:05] Thank you.

Jay: [00:33:07] Father. We thank you for this opportunity that we have just to come together and father, we thank you that you are with us through everything that we walked through. Father, your word tells us that we can cast all of our cares on you, all of our anxiety on you because father, you care. You’re not someone who is distant. You are someone who is right in the midst of it, walking through it with us today. And so father, I pray that you and your peace would come to each life. Father God, your comfort would come by those that are listening today that are overwhelmed with anxiety, that have fears and concerns, Lord, with what they’re seeing and what they’re in the midst of God, would they feel your presence right now? God those that are exposed to this disease, those that now have this virus, Father God, would you bring complete healing upon their lives? Father, those that work effortlessly, Father God in the healthcare industry and in the different areas, Father God, where they’re working day in and day out. God, would you strengthen them? Would you protect them? Would you watch over
them? And then Father would all of us, Father, be the children that you have desired us to be. Lord, will we be the neighbors that you called us to be and would we love on each other right now more than ever before? But father, I pray that that would be our new way of life as we go forward. Thank you for this opportunity today we prayed in Jesus name. Amen.

Rico: [00:34:29] Amen. Jay, hang in there with me for a minute while I close out.

Jay: [00:34:33] Yes, sir.

Rico: [00:34:34] Thank you everyone for being with us and I appreciate Jay and Peachtree Corners Baptist church and all the ministries out there, all the faith institutions. Be safe, hug your kids, your family. Cause they, you can, you can do that even though we have to be a distance from everyone else. But remember to reach out to those people that you think might need help or that might need to hear a good voice. So thank you. And, more shows to come. Appreciate you being with us.

Continue Reading

Community

The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City: Part 1, Jay Patton

Published

on

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

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.”

Continue Reading

Business

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

Published

on

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%

Continue Reading

Community

Harvest Gwinnett invites residents to be part of two new community gardens

Published

on

Here we grow again! Harvest Gwinnett invites gardeners of all skill levels to reserve a plot and be part of Live Healthy Gwinnett’s two newest community gardens.

Applications are now being accepted for 4-foot by 8–foot garden plots at Lenora Park in Snellville and Graves Park in Norcross. These raised beds are $35 each and are available for the 2020 fall and winter growing season.

Harvest Gwinnett, a program of Live Healthy Gwinnett, was launched in 2019 to connect community members with hands-on environmental education, to improve local access to fresh produce and to nurture engagement opportunities leading to improved health outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community gardens act as health promoters decreasing mental and physical stress levels in adults while enhancing mobility, socialization and community impact.

In response to a growing need for access to fresh food, Harvest Gwinnett works alongside community partners to close the meal gap by implementing community gardens, nutrition education, food distributions and more. Harvest Gwinnett’s first community garden in Lawrenceville opened in May 2020 and has already produced more than 400 pounds of fresh food alternatives that have been distributed to families served by local co-operative services, housing authorities and senior food distribution programs. Continued partnerships with Gwinnett Parks and Recreation and UGA Extension Gwinnett will provide important guidance for these two new community gardens. 

The Lenora Park Community Garden is located at 4515 Lenora Church Road in Snellville, and the Graves Park Community Garden is located at 1540 Graves Road in Norcross.

For more information, and guidelines, visit LiveHealthyGwinnett.com or contact HarvestGwinnett@GwinnettCounty.com

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Peachtree Corners Life

Capitalist Sage

Topics and Categories

Recent Posts

Authors

Trending

Get Weekly Updates!

Get Weekly Updates!

Don't miss out on the latest news, updates, and stories about Peachtree Corners.

Check out our podcasts: Peachtree Corners Life, Capitalist Sage and the Ed Hour

You have Successfully Subscribed!