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‘Scouting’ for Wholesome Youth Activities



Finishing Eagle Scout project – benches for Norcross High School tennis courts.

Scouts learn many life skills while have fun doing it.

With school starting for most students this month, it’s time to start thinking about signing up for extracurricular activities as well as educational ones. If scouting is on your radar, it’s possible you’ll be signing your child up for something recreational that imparts life lessons as well.

Peachtree Corners Troop 525 out of Simpsonwood United Methodist Church has been proving that Scouts BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America) is still relevant these days, even when kids can have busier schedules than their parents. Chartered with eight boys in August 1984, the troop prides itself on being boy-led, meaning that the youngsters are trained and then allowed to put those lessons to the test.

Proclamation from City of Peachtree Corners in April with Mayor Mike Mason and City Councilman Eric Christ

Although now is the best time to sign up and get in with the troop as the school year starts, boys are welcome all the time, said Scoutmaster Scott Donaldson. There may not be as many boys signing up now as there have been in the past, but they aren’t hurting for recruits.
“We’re at around 65 boys right now,” said Dave Burns, Committee Chair and Merit Badge Counselor. He’s the father of Will Burns, Eagle Scout #177, now a rising freshman at the University of Alabama. He also has another son/scout in the troop, Christian Burns.
The troop had more than 100 scouts just a few years ago and as large groups age out, large groups join.

From boys to leaders

Each scout is required to hold leadership positions as he advances in rank. “I was in Cub Scouts, did all Cub Scout stuff, got finished with Cub Scouts and was very much done with it,” said Joshua Farley.

He was encouraged to give Scouts BSA a try. “When I got to the troop, I immediately loved it,” he said.

Official Troop 525

Where Cub Scouts involves younger boys in a parent-structured environment, older scouts get the opportunity to flex their leadership muscles and make most decisions themselves.

“We go camping once a month, and it’s totally boy-led,” said Farley. “We get to decide what camp we want to go to, what …to eat on a campout — it’s a lot of fun.”

Scouts at Camp Woodruff Scout Camp in Blairsville, GA in July

Fellow scout Andrew West, agreed. “When we go and camp out, the adults kind of point and say, ‘Hey, you’re over there. We’re going to be over here. And then they go and drink coffee and make up stories about how cool they were when they were young,” West said.

Fly high as an Eagle

Some of the scouts go on to earn the highest possible rank of Eagle Scout. Requirements include actively serving in positions of responsibility, earning a total of 21 merit badges and leading a service project from planning to completion.

West slid in just before the deadline with his Eagle Scout project. “I built a picnic table for a local neighborhood HOA’s garden. I was originally planning on two, but the price of wood isn’t cheap and they were happy with the one. They like it and they enjoy it,” said West. “Honestly, it was a spur of the moment thing because I was coming down to the wire in terms of my aging out. It was May and I aged out in June.”

Boy Scout Leader Dave Burns at Camp Woodruff Scout Camp in Blairsville, GA

Farley didn’t play it as close. “I got my Eagle back in 2018. …I built some shelves for a dog rescue,” he said. “They were some pretty massive shelves. I think they were eight-foot by six-foot by four-foot shelves. Originally, they were designed to fit dog crates. The last time I was there, they were using them to store dogs inside of dog crates, as well as giant bags of dog food that they order in bulk. So they’re still getting used a lot.”

Unlike most boys, Farley was still in eighth grade when he earned his Eagle Scout rank — 13 years and 10 months old.

Andrew West works on his Eagle Scout project, a picnic table for a local neighborhood HOAs garden.

“I would say that out of the past 340 Eagle Scouts, two or three maybe fall in that category,” said Donaldson. And again, not to say anything at all negative about this, but Andrew chose the more common path, which we jokingly referred to as the ‘Hard Tech Eagle,’ which is basically, ‘I’ve got the merit badges. I turn 18 in 30 days, and I’ve got to get this done.’ So, it’s basically ‘get the project done.’”

Growth through adventure

Even though earning that ultimate rank is a major accomplishment, the troop leaders were quick to point out that scouting is about much more than earning badges and achieving ranks.
“I went to my first camp out in Cub Scouts …in an eight-man tent on two blow-up mattresses. And it was like 30 degrees and we’re like ‘How is it that we’re so cold?’” Farley recounted. Both he and his dad were novices at camping but liked the outdoors and the camaraderie of scouting.

“This summer, I backpacked about 105 miles in 10 days out in New Mexico at the Philmont Scout Ranch with our crews,” Farley said. “I’ve totally come full circle since then. Obviously, that was my first camp out. When I first joined the troop, I was showing up with a sleeping bag that came up only a little past my waist.

Joshua Farley earned his Eagle Scout rank in 2018.

“…A lot of the kids, they show up in their first year and they’ve got either these giant tents or they’ve got this super-duper high-tech backpacking tent that their parents got them from REI. They have no idea how to set it up. Then as they’re in it, they figure it out,” he added.

Joshua’s dad, Paul Farley, the Outdoor Chair and Merit Badge Counselor, nodded in agreement. He has another son/scout in the troop, Patrick Farley.

They both grew together in the Scouts experience. Although movies may portray all scout leaders as outdoorsy types, many learn along the way with their children. Paul Farley enjoyed it so much, he signed on to volunteer — and he kept volunteering. Now he’s in charge of logistics. He went along on the 105-mile hike, carrying a backpack to summit a 12,400-foot-high peak.

Scouts at Camp Woodruff Scout Camp in Blairsville, GA

“I also went to Sea Base Camp in Florida, where they get to paddle a war canoe out five miles to barrier island. There’s no power and you carry everything out with you,” said Paul Farley. “My job in the troop as the Outdoor Chair is to do the behind-the-scenes stuff so that the boys have the opportunities to have these adventures and experiences.”

Learn life skills

When it comes down to it, one of the most amazing things about Scouts is that the teens learn life skills, leadership skills and coping skills without realizing they’ve learned them.

Burns shared a story about a 12-year-old scout whose house caught on fire. “The stove caught fire,” he said. “He called 911, got the dogs out of the house and got the fire extinguisher and gave it to his mom and she put the fire out. We’re actually in the process of submitting him for a reward recognition for keeping a calm head and using his scout skills.”

Boys of 11 and 12 enter the troop as nervous tweens. They learn how to set up tents, cook over campfires, coordinate with other boys to get chores done and tie a bunch of knots — and they come out as confident, caring and cognizant young men.

Basic info

Scout BSA Troop 525 meets on Mondays, 7:30 p.m., at Simpsonwood United Methodist Church, 4500 Jones Bridge Circle, Peachtree Corners 30092. To learn more about the troop, go to troop525.org .

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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The Salvation Army of Gwinnett County Hosts Fundraiser Luncheon



Captain Paul Ryerson, commanding officer of the Salvation Army of Gwinnett County, thanks guests, donators and staff for supporting the mission of the Salvation Army.
Photos courtesy of the Salvation Army of Gwinnett County

Executive producers of the hit TV series “The Chosen” discuss the inspiration behind retelling the life of Jesus Christ.

Everyone knows that the Salvation Army is one of the largest non-profits in the world, with its main mission to offer life-sustaining services to families who need an extra hand. Among its charitable services are arranging emergency housing, rent and utility assistance; providing groceries; and disaster response.

But the giving comes at a price. That’s why its various divisions hold fundraising events. 

Last month, the Salvation Army of Gwinnett County hosted its 9th Annual Doing the Most Good Luncheon at the newly renovated Crowne Plaza Atlanta in Norcross. This year marks 158 years that the Salvation Army has been serving the needs of humanity, and 36 years in Gwinnett County.

As its major fundraiser, the luncheon supports year-round services such as housing, utilities, groceries and emergency disaster services to local families in Gwinnett County. In addition, local youth are served all year long through a free year-round School for Performing Arts, a summer camp and by providing school supplies to those who need them.

“The Doing the Most Good Luncheon is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Captain Paul Ryerson, corps officer of The Salvation Army of Gwinnett County. “The funds raised through this event each year allow us to serve as a resource for the community and bring hope to our neighbors in need.”

In 2022, The Salvation Army of Gwinnett County provided 60,843 pounds of food to 1,018 households and 2,717 nights of shelter; 267 households received rent / mortgage and utility assistance. Additionally, 566 families and 1,464 children received gifts at Christmas through the Angel Tree program, according to data shared during the luncheon.

“The Chosen” connection to Salvation Army

The afternoon included a discussion about the TV series “The Chosen” with Chad Gundersen and Chris Juen, the show’s executive producers, as well a live and silent auction and a seated lunch. One of the top items in the live auction was an opportunity to visit the show’s location, a Salvation Army camp in Texas that turned out to the be the perfect spot for filming.

“The Chosen” is the first-ever multi-season series about the life of Jesus Christ. The creators shared that it would have a total of seven seasons, with the fourth season beginning production in the spring. The free show is streaming on Angel Studios’ platforms with tens of millions of viewers.

Season 1 was the No. 1 highest crowd-funded entertainment project of all-time, raising $10 million from over 19,000 people. It raised over $40 million in production costs for Seasons 2 and 3 via the fan-supported model.

To date, “The Chosen” has been translated into 50 languages and offers viewers a new perspective of the life of Jesus. The story it tells dovetails perfectly with the mission and message of the Salvation Army.

“I have the privilege of putting this uniform on every single day, overseeing the operations of the local response here in our beautiful county. Our mission is simple — to be the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs, in His name without discrimination,” said Ryerson. 

He thanked the attendees and contributors for believing in the Salvation Army’s mission, and thanked the staff and volunteers for keeping it alive.

“Reaching these milestones doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when an organization stays focused on its purpose and that happens when a community captures the vision and pours themselves into the cause,” said Ryerson.

“We are in the business of giving,” he added. “The hope that we offer is not only for the physical needs of the body, but it’s also for the needs of the soul.” 

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Doing Good

Mercer University Senior from Peachtree Corners Awarded Critical Language Scholarship 



Mercer University senior Alexander John Paul Lutz of Peachtree Corners was recently awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study Azerbaijani in Azerbaijan this summer.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. Lutz — an international affairs, political science and history triple-major and religion and public diplomacy minor — will study at the Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku from June 12 to August 9.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate hard and soft skills — namely foreign language proficiency and communication across lines of difference — that will prove invaluable to me as I seek to engage in peacebuilding work in the South Caucasus (a region along the border of eastern Europe and western Asia) with a nongovernmental organization or the Department of State in the future,” Lutz said.

“I am honored to have been selected for the Critical Language Scholarship and hope to make the most of it,” he added.

Alexander John Paul Lutz
Alexander John Paul Lutz

Lutz’s interest in the Azerbaijani language began during a 2021 Mercer On Mission trip to Georgia, where he helped young Azerbaijani-Georgians in the south of the country practice speaking English. These conversations gave him insight into the complexities of identity in the South Caucasus.

“Motivated by a conviction to build bridges, break barriers and oppose injustice in all its forms, I hope to draw on my background in peacebuilding to advocate on behalf of the Azerbaijani-Georgian community, to work toward bridging the ethnic and religious divides that afflict the South Caucasus, and to prove to people like the Azerbaijani-Georgians that their identities are valid and worthy of celebration,” he said.

Working toward peace

As a future peacebuilder, he said he wants to better understand religious conflicts and challenge the misuse of religion by people who seek to provoke violence and hatred for political gain.

Lutz is a graduate of Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs. At Mercer, he is president of Bears Engaged Across Religions and the Mercer International Affairs Organization, head delegate of Mercer’s Model Arab League team, and an associate justice of the Undergraduate Honor Council.

He is a recipient of the Cox Scholarship for Excellence in Political Science; T. Raleigh Mann Scholarship for Academic Excellence, Campus Leadership and School Spirit; and Rick Love Young Innovators in Peacebuilding Award.

Lutz also has been named the recipient of the Walter C. Dowling Award for Excellence in International Studies, Carlos T. Flick Award for Outstanding Historical Research and Writing, and Phi Alpha Theta Outstanding Senior in History Award.

After graduation, he plans to attend Harvard Divinity School to obtain a Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in religion, ethics and politics. He has been offered a Harvard Divinity School Dean’s Fellowship, which includes a full-tuition scholarship and annual stipend.

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PCBA Awards $500 to Furkids at March Networking Event



Left to right, Monte McDowell PCBA Outreach; Donna Linden PCBA Board; Allison Reinert PCBA Board; Samantha Shelton Furkids; Lisa Proctor PCBA Board: Audrey Boyce PCBA Outreach, Matt Bettis PCBA Outreach (Photography by Richard Phillips)

The Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) March Business After Hours Event was action packed with opportunities for business networking at Anderby Brewing. Everyone enjoyed new cocktails and specialty beers while enjoying dinner from Latin Fresh as well as axe throwing from Moving Target ATL NE.

The PCBA also presented a check of $500 to Furkids in support of their efforts to care for animals while helping to find their forever homes.

“The PCBA is proud to donate a check for $500 to Samantha Shelton, CEO of Furkids in support of their efforts to rescue homeless animals, provide them with the best medical care and nurturing environment while working to find them a forever home,” said Lisa Proctor, PCBA President.

“Our Outreach Committee and Board are impressed with Furkids’ commitment to provide care and restoration for these special animals at their no kill shelters. With the PCBA’s continuous commitment to supporting our community in a meaningful way, we are excited to be a small part of their efforts,” she added.

Headquartered in Georgia, Furkids is a nonprofit charitable organization that operates the largest cage-free, no-kill shelter in the Southeast for rescued cats, and Sadie’s Place, a no-kill shelter for dogs. Furkids also operates one of the only facilities in the Southeast dedicated to the care of FIV positive cats.

Furkids has rescued and altered more than 55,000 animals since its founding in 2002. Approximately 1,000 animals are in the Furkids program today, in the Furkids shelters, 10 PetSmart and Petco adoption centers, and more than 400 foster homes in the Atlanta area.

Funds for the PCBA Community Outreach program are raised throughout the year from PCBA membership, sponsorship and the annual charity event. Donations and scholarships are awarded at monthly events so members can learn more about these organizations.

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