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From Broadcaster to Real Estate Agent to HGTV Spot



Tonia Luster, left, with the homeowner and her friend.

Peachtree Corners’ Tonia Luster overcame tough obstacles to fulfill a dream.

If you’d have told Tonia Luster while she was in her 20s that she’d appear in a nationally viewed TV show, she’d probably believe the prediction, but she’d have no idea that her time to shine would involve real estate. Through a circuitous journey that included an on-air radio career, Luster was recently featured on the HGTV series “House Hunters.”

As a licensed real estate agent based in Peachtree Corners, Luster helps her clients upsize, downsize, move into metro Atlanta or even find their first home. That was the case with her HGTV client.

The episode is called “From Homelessness to Queen of Her Castle” and follows an Atlanta woman who overcame major hurdles, including homelessness. The single mom and her daughter are ready to buy a home, but she doesn’t want to compromise on what she wants. Given the area’s hot real estate market, finding the right place proves to be a challenge.

“House Hunters” takes viewers behind the scenes as individuals, couples and families learn what to look for and decide whether or not a home is meant for them. Focusing on the emotional experience of finding and purchasing a new home, each episode shows the process as buyers search for a home.

Luster’s episode originally aired Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, but is available on-demand through streaming services.

Believe in yourself

Luster always had big ambitions. While she was growing up in a tiny east Texas town, her mother always pointed out that Luster’s dreams where bigger than her residence. The family later moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to get closer to fulfilling those dreams.

As a kid, Luster would see young Black performers like Michael Jackson and his sister Janet and realize that she, too, could end up on TV.

“I didn’t want to do [the singing and dancing] but I wanted to be on television and radio, or both,” Luster said.

In college, her instructors cautioned her about reaching for something so far out of her grasp.

“They’d tell me to get something that I could fall back on,” she said. “It happened so many times, but I wanted to believe in myself, not in their discouragement.”

Through her own determination, Luster landed an interview with the local Fox TV affiliate and got the internship. She used that opportunity to get a paid gig at a local radio station — all before she completed her sophomore year.

“That was the wheel that started everything,” said Luster. “There were so many people telling me not to hope for the best; these days we’d call them haters. My mom called them Dream Dashers and told me not to let those people detour me. …My mom would always say to me, ‘If you want it, you can do anything. Put your mind to it.’”

Texas-Georgia connection

Dallas/Fort Worth was the fifth largest media market in the country, and Luster’s detractors warned her that, even with her foot already in the door, she’d have to go to a much smaller market to launch a radio career.

Luster stayed in Dallas and supplemented her income with apartment management. Some of her coworkers questioned why she was hosting her own gospel radio show and working at an apartment complex.

“There was just something about it that I enjoyed — the commission checks,” she said.

Luster soon saw that the people making the real money were the leasing agents. And that made her realize that Realtors were the biggest winners. They worked with clients buying and selling properties.

In the meantime, Luster’s husband took a job in metro Atlanta. Although she had been splitting her time between the two markets for a while, she was ready to pull up stakes and make the Peach State her permanent home.

Obstacles slow progress, but don’t stop the dream

Soon after moving to Georgia, Luster’s husband’s job fell through. To make matters worse, she began having problems with her voice.

“I started going to specialist and it got so bad that I had to take myself off the air,” said Luster. “We had a little savings, but not enough to support us.”

She went back to what she knew — real estate. And she relied on God to see her through.

Her husband took a lower-level job and met someone who introduced her to another specialist. This one diagnosed her with a condition called spasmodic dysphonia and recommended surgery.

The more common name for the disorder is “shaky voice.” Spasmodic dysphonia affects the voice muscles in the larynx, or voice box. When a person speaks, air from the lungs is pushed between two elastic structures — called vocal folds — causing them to vibrate and produce a voice. In spasmodic dysphonia, the muscles inside the vocal folds spasm and interfere with vocal fold vibrations.

“The procedure hurt like heck, because we’re dealing with long needles going into your vocal cords and your throat and you have to be awake,” she said.

Despite the pain, the operation worked.

“I can’t explain how good it was to have my voice back!” Luster exclaimed.

Although she was significantly better, she wasn’t back to 100%. Her radio career was pretty much over. The spasms still come and go to this day, though they aren’t often detected in everyday speech.

Radio, however, magnifies everything – especially that kind of disorder. While there are treatments that work in many cases, there is currently no cure. Scientists haven’t discovered why spasmodic dysphonia occurs. Many believe that it could be hereditary.

Another direction

With radio off the table, Luster hadn’t given up on her dream of being on TV. She already knew real estate. She worked to become even better at it and obtained her Georgia real estate license.

“I did a lot of working in the multifamily residential area and I also work with Realtors helping them to find …an apartment or temporary living,” said Luster.

She kept up with her sources in Texas and helped two players for the Dallas Mavericks find housing. Luster eventually decided to branch out on her own and start her own real estate office.

“And from there, I haven’t looked back,” she said. It was right before the pandemic and her timing couldn’t have been better. People were looking to move from small urban spaces to single family homes in places like Peachtree Corners.

To the world, Luster is a confident businesswoman, but inside was scared that she wouldn’t succeed. It was her mother’s strength and support that helped her through. Then the unthinkable happened. Her mother died during COVID.

“I was starting to see the fruits of my labor, but my number one support wasn’t there to share it,” Luster said.

Don’t stop dreaming

Through referrals and word-of-mouth, HGTV became interested in Luster for an edition of “House Hunters.” She was so right for the job that she was told at the audition that she’d gotten the job.

What aired on “House Hunters” was a made-for-TV version of how Luster handles clients. It was 100% who she is. The same advice and tough love she gives to her client on the TV episode is the same kind of treatment and advice she gives everyone.

Luster said she keeps up with trends and counsels her clients based on that knowledge. But there’s one piece of advice she never compromises on.

“I always tell clients, whatever you do, no matter how badly you want it, never waive your home inspection,” said Luster. “What looks good on the outside isn’t necessarily good on the inside. So, you can be going in with a dream and end up with a nightmare.”

With any luck, this first experience with HGTV won’t be Luster’s last. “I can see myself on a show where I work with a contractor that’s building and I’m the realtor for the show,” she said.

Luster admits that her own TV show is a big dream, but she doesn’t know how to do it any other way.

“I don’t ask God for small things. I always ask God for things that are big because just knowing where I came from, pushing myself and praying and meditating constantly, [I know] I’m looking for more great things in my life.”

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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Five For Fighting Comes To Peachtree Corners For A Free Show On May 25



To date, Five For Fighting, has released six studio albums, including the platinum certified America Town and The Battle for Everything

Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling artist, Five For Fighting (aka John Ondrasik) will be playing a free show at Peachtree Corners Town Green for one night only on May 25. 

Ondrasik will bring along his band, drummer Randy Cooke, bassist Sean Hurley, and guitarist Peter Thorn, to play the songs his fans have loved for over two decades, along with recent hits. 

To date, Five For Fighting, has released six studio albums, including the platinum certified America Town and The Battle for Everything as well as the top-10 charting Two Lights, along with other EPs and live albums.

Ondrasik has penned major hits, including 100 Years, The Riddle, Chances, World and Easy Tonight, which have earned tens of millions of streams and place him as a top-10 Hot Adult Contemporary artist for the 2000s. 

Five For Fighting’s music has also been featured in more than 350 films, television shows, and commercials, including the The Blind Side, Hawaii Five-O, The Sopranos and the CBS drama, Code Black

Ondrasik’s passion for supporting humanitarian efforts and freedom has been a longstanding commitment for the artist as well.  

Recently, he’s been taking a non-political stance on key events around the world, writing songs from a humanistic perspective. He recently released OK in response to the October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, while addressing the cultural aftermath both in America and around the world – watch the video here.

Hours before Iran’s missile attack on Israel on April 13, Ondrasik performed OK in Tel Aviv. The singer/songwriter also performed his 9-11 anthem song, Superman (It’s Not Easy).  Watch the performance and listen to his comments here

Ondrasik has been one of the few in the entertainment industry who has spoken up after the October 7, 2023, Hamas attacks on Israel. You can read more about in this Wall Street Journal story.

Ondrasik penned the track for OK in the same vein as his previous songs, Blood On My Hands, about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Can One Man Save The World?, which was recorded in Kyiv in support of Ukraine.  Ondrasik, says “’OK’ is not a political message, but a moral one. A call to action.” 

Tying in with “Music In Our Schools Month,” Ondrasik teamed up with The Tullman Family Office, through its operational philanthropic wing Tullman Community Ventures, for the Music Matters Challenge.

The national online music challenge asks Americans to create an original rendition of the song Let Music Fill My World, a song recorded and written by Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik and students of the Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois.

The challenge is designed to spotlight the magic of music and bring awareness to the generational impact of removing music from schools.  The Grand Prize winners will be announced on May 31.  More information can be found here.

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Local Business Events in Peachtree Corners



Peachtree Corners Business Association

4989 Peachtree Pkwy., Ste. 215, Peachtree Corners

peachtreecornersba.com, 678-969-3385

PCBA Connecting Over Coffee Morning Meetup

Tuesday, December 13

8:30-9:30 a.m.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, 5215 Town Center Blvd., Peachtree Corners

Free admission for PCBA members and their guests. Please register online since space is limited.

            Connect over coffee with other PCBA members and business professionals in a positive atmosphere on the second Tuesday of the month. Business cards will be shared with all attendees.

Rotary Club of Peachtree Corners

Norcross Cultural Arts & Community Center

10 College St., Norcross

peachtreecornersrotary.org, 770-330-7477

Club Holiday Banquet

Thursday, December 15

6-9 p.m.

            Members enjoy a holiday celebration.

Rotary Club Meetings

Mondays, December 19, January 9 and 30, and February 6

12-1 p.m.

            Special guests speak at some meetings. On Dec. 19, District Governor Gerry Taylor will be the guest of honor.

Career Exploration Night

Wednesday, January 18

6-9 p.m.

            Business professionals help high school students explore potential career paths.

Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce

Office in Atlanta Tech Park

107 Technology Pkwy., Peachtree Corners

southwestgwinnettchamber.com, 470-482-1899

SWGC Coffee Connections

Friday, December 9 and 16

8:30-9:30 a.m.

Free admission for SWGC members and visitors.

            Meet up with local business professionals to enjoy coffee or tea and conversation to expand professional relationships. Meetings are held in the large meeting space behind the SWGC office at Atlanta Tech Park.

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How to obtain a building permit in the city of Peachtree Corners 



If you are planning a building or remodeling project in the City of Peachtree Corners, chances are you will need to apply for a building permit. Applications for building permits are required to be submitted for installations regulated by the Georgia State Minimum Building Codes if any owner or authorized agent intends to:
■ construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure
■ erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert, or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system

The building staff reviews building plans and inspects all residential and commercial structures built or remodeled within the City. Permits issued include, but are not limited to, the following:
■ buildings and accessory structures
■ decks/porches
■ pools/spas
■ demolition
■ interior finishes
■ remodeling and additions
■ retaining walls
■ Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC, roofing, or other specialty trade
■ any additional permits required

Depending on your type of project, you or your contractor will need to submit the appropriate applications and forms to obtain a building permit. You will be able to submit electronically. You will find the link on our building website. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Building Permits (residential and commercial)
■ Building Permit Application (pools and retaining walls have separate applications and requirements)
■ If not submitted electronically, 2 sets of site plans and architectural drawings (drawn to scale) submitted to the permit counter
■ State of Georgia Contractors license and business license
■ Trade affidavits with required license

*All commercial projects require a design professional stamped drawing and a Gwinnett Fire stamp of approval on all plans PRIOR to submission. Food service establishments also require a Health stamp of approval from Gwinnett Environmental Health.

Trade Permits (such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc.)
■ Trade Permit Application
■ Business License
■ State of Georgia Trade Contractors License (not required for Limited-Service Specialty Contractors)

A homeowner may act as a general contractor for their own property by submitting a Homeowner Affidavit in person, with proof of residency (you must live in the home as a full-time resident).

Building permit fees vary according to the type and size of construction. General building permit fees are usually based on the valuation of the project, but always in accordance with the adopted schedule of fees located on our website.

Building permits are required by City ordinance. Work without a permit may be subject to removal or other costly remedies. In addition, permits help protect property values and homeowners’ insurance policies may not pay for damages caused by work done without a permit. Lastly, when it comes time to sell your home, listing associations require owners to disclose any home improvements or repairs and whether permits were obtained. Many financial institutions will not finance a purchase without proof of a final inspection.

For a more detailed list of submittal requirements and access to our forms, please visit peachtreecornersga.gov/government/community-development/building-permitting. Building permits are accepted Monday – Friday 9am to 4pm at City Hall, 310 Technology Parkway, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092.

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