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merry christmas

FRiDaY, DEcEMBER 25, 2015 • VOl. 18, nO. 38 • FREE

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Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.

• A PUBLICATION OF ACE III COMMUNICATIONS •

Shaq-a-Claus
in town
by Ashley Oglesby
ashley@dekalbchamp.com

A

n invitation-only Shaq-A-Claus event aimed
to increase diabetes awareness and promote
healthy living was recently hosted by the
American Diabetes Association with Feeding America, in collaboration with Atlanta Food Community
Bank and other organizations.
Rena Cozart, executive director at American
Diabetes Association, said, “We are so grateful to
be working with the food bank in DeKalb County
and all the support that we get. In DeKalb County,
if trends continue, one out of two children will have
diabetes in their lifetime and it’s preventable.”
Columbia Middle School leadership said they invited 400 families to the event. More than 33 families
participated. The event was held on Dec. 19 inside
Columbia Middle School’s gymnasium.

See Shaq on Page 13A

Families attending the Shaq-a-Claus event received toys, food and took photos with NBA All-Star and TNT Broadcaster
Shaquille O’Neal. Photo by Travis Hudgons

Avondale Estates holiday decorations awarded
by Carla Parker
carla@dekalbchamp.com
Every Christmas, many Avondale
Estates residents and business owners display their brightest lights and
the best decorations competing in the
annual Christmas and Holiday Spirit
Awards. The contest is open to all residences and businesses.
Judges who live outside of Avondale Estates, drove around the city the
night of Dec. 15 “looking for a variety
of traits including attractive use of
light and color; overall effect; originality and creativity; creative display of
theme; animation; use of non-lighting
decorations; yard decoration; and entry and window décor,” according to
the city.
On Dec. 16, the winners of Christmas and Holiday Spirit awards were
announced and eight awards were
given, including one business awards.
Award categories include “Children’s
Appeal,” “Sparkle and Pizzazz” and

This home on Lakeshore Drive was award the Children’s Appeal award. Photos by Carla Parker

CHAMPIONNEWSPAPER

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CHAMPIONNEWS

See Decorations on Page 13A

CHAMPIONNEWSPAPER

CHAMPIONNEWS

12/22/15 3:42 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

local

Page 2A

NAACP keeps Jubilee
Day tradition alive
by Kathy Mitchell
Throughout the United
States and other places,
Jan. 1 is New Year’s Day,
and for many Americans
it is a double holiday as it
also is the anniversary of
the day President Abraham
Lincoln’s Emancipation
Proclamation took effect in
1863, changing the status
under federal law of more
than three million enslaved
persons.
“We used to call it
Emancipation Day, recognizing the legal freeing of
the slaves,” explained John
Evans, president of the
DeKalb County Branch of
the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “At
some point it was changed
to Jubilee Day because it’s
considered a celebration of
the strides we’ve made in the
area of civil rights. We look
at where we’ve been, where
we are and what we still need
to accomplish.”
As it has for many years,
the DeKalb County Branch
of the NAACP will on
Jan. 1, 2016, hold a Jubilee
Day program. “It’s always on
Jan. 1, no matter what day of
the week that falls on,” Evans
said.
Information from
NAACP explains the date’s
significance. “Although the
Emancipation Proclamation
did not immediately free a
single slave, it fundamentally
transformed the character of
the war,” an article that appears in several Jubilee Day
programs states. “After
Jan. 1, 1863, every advance of
federal troops expanded the
domain of freedom. Colony
after colony, territory after
territory and state by state,
heard of the signing of the
proclamation. Moreover, the
proclamation announced the
acceptance of Black men into
the union Army and Navy,
enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end
of the war, almost 200,000
Black soldiers and sailors
had fought for the Union and
freedom.”
Noting that such celebrations were once common in Black communities
throughout America, Evans
said it is regrettable that few
Emancipation Day or Jubilee
Day programs are held to-

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day. “The NAACP strongly
believes that we as a people
should remember and honor
our history. Too often our
history has been misrepresented, distorted and even
falsified. It is imperative to
pass on to the next generation our rich history of culture, perseverance, determi-

nation and achievements,” he
commented.
Although some aspects
of the celebration vary year
to year, others are standard,
he said. For example, each
year’s program includes
two items that for decades
traditionally have been part
of such celebrations nation-

See Jubilee on Page 8A

happy
holidays

12/22/15 3:56 PM

AroundDeKalb

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

AVONDALE
ESTATES

State legislator to host town
hall meeting
Georgia House Rep. Karla
Drenner, whose district includes
Avondale Estates, will hold a town
hall meeting at Jan. 5 to discuss legislative issues. The meeting will be
held at Avondale Estates City Hall,
22 North Avondale Road, from 6
p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.avondaleestates.org.

City to host ‘Bring One for the
Chipper’
Avondale Estates will participate
in the “Bring One for the Chipper,”
Georgia’s annual Christmas tree
recycling program. Residents are
asked to recycle their Christmas
trees on Jan. 9, bringing the trees
to the old compost area by the lake,
near Wiltshire Drive and Berkeley
Road. Signs posted by the lake will
mark the drop-off location. For
more information, visit www.avondaleestates.org.

ATLANTA
IMAX film to be featured at
Fernbank
Fernbank Museum of Natural
History’s IMAX theater will show
National Geographic Entertainment’s screen film Jerusalem, 767
Clifton Road, Atlanta, through Jan.
7.
Jerusalem explores on the intersection of science, history and
religion in this ancient, enigmatic
place. Special access is one of the
unique aspects of the film. Filmmakers were granted permission to
capture aerial images over the Old
City of Jerusalem, and throughout
the Holy Land.
IMAX tickets for the 43-minute
large-format film are $13 for adults,
$12 for seniors, $11 for children 12
and younger, and $8 for museum
members.

CHAMBLEE
City’s finance department
receives award
The city of Chamblee has been
awarded a certificate of achievement

free 12-25-15.indd 3

local

for excellence in financial reporting
by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for the
city’s 2014 Comprehensive Annual
Financial Report (CAFR). An award
of financial reporting achievement
has been awarded to Chamblee’s
finance department and presented
to Travis Sims, finance director.
This is the second year the city has
received this distinction.
The certificate of achievement
is the highest form of recognition in
the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting and its
attainment represents “a significant
accomplishment by a government
and its management.”
GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately
17,500 government finance professionals. The CAFR was judged by
an impartial panel to meet the high
standards of the program including demonstration of a constructive
spirit of full disclosure to clearly
communicate its financial story and
motivate potential users and user
groups to read the CAFR,” according to a news release.

City council amends traffic
rules around Chamblee Middle
At the December Council Meeting, Chamblee’s City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution to amend the schedule of traffic
rules, regulations and orders to
provide for parking restrictions surrounding Chamblee Middle School
during certain hours on school days.
The resolution prohibits parking on one side of Vanet Road, Teal
Road and Hamlin Drive during designated times on school days.
Staff recommended the resolution to add no parking, stopping or
standing on the east side of Vanet
Road from Teal Road to Sandlewood Lane; on the north side of
Teal Road from Sexton Woods
Drive to Vanet Road; and on the
south side of Hamlin Drive from
Sexton Woods Drive to Keswick
Drive.
The prohibition will be in effect
on school days from 3:30 p.m. to
4:30 pm.

DECATUR
Catholic school to hold open
house
St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School will hold its open house
Jan. 31 1-3 p.m. for parents interested in enrolling their children in the

school. The community open house
will be held on Jan. 31 from 1 to 3
p.m., 2560 Tilson Road, Decatur.
Parents and prospective students
will be given tours of the academic
buildings and hear a special presentation from the principal. To schedule a tour, call (404) 241-3063.

Parents invited to speak with
school superintendent
DeKalb school superintendent
Stephen Green will meet with
stakeholders in conversations about
what the district is doing well and
what it needs to do better.
“On the Scene with Dr. Green”
launched on Sept. 29 at Stone
Mountain High School, where
Green lead an hourlong conversation with parents, teachers and others wanting time with him. The next
session will be held on Jan. 21 from
7 until 8 p.m. at Columbia Middle
School, 3001 Columbia Drive, Decatur.

DUNWOODY
Police to hold free car seat
safety class
The Dunwoody Police Department, located at 41 Perimeter Center East Suite 100, is hosting a free
car seat safety class on Jan. 14, from
1 to 3 p.m.
for families currently expecting a child or families with children
riding in rear-facing car seats. The
class is instructed by certified child
safety seat technicians. Topics include current facts and statistics,
Georgia Law for car seats, selecting
the appropriate car seat for children
and correct installation for rearfacing car seats. 
Space is limited. Please RSVP by
Jan. 11 to (678) 382.6918 or at carseatcheck@dunwoodyga.gov.

STONE
MOUNTAIN

City to hold ART Stroll
Stone Mountain and ART Station will hold its annual ART Stroll
Jan. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. For more
information, call (770) 469-1105.

Page 3A

Countywide
DeKalb announces holiday
residential sanitation
collection schedule

The Sanitation Division has announced its 2015 Christmas Day
and 2016 New Year’s Day sanitation
collection schedule.
In observance of Christmas Day
on Friday, Dec. 25, and New Year’s
Day on Friday, Jan. 1, garbage, recyclable materials and yard trimmings
collection for DeKalb County residential customers will be based on
the following collection schedule:
• Friday, Dec. 25: Christmas Day
observed; no sanitation collection
service.
• Monday, Dec. 28, to Thursday,
Dec. 31: Residential customers will
be serviced based on a normal collection schedule.
• Friday, Jan. 1: New Year’s Day observed; no sanitation collection
service
All Sanitation Division administrative offices, including customer
service, will be closed Friday, Dec.
25, and Friday, Jan. 1.
For more information on this
collection schedule or any sanitation-related services, contact the
Sanitation Division’s customer service team at (404) 294-2900 or sanitation@dekalbcountyga.gov, or visit
www.dekalbsanitation.com.

Remodeling organization
recognizes two DeKalb
contractors
NARI Atlanta, the local chapter
of the National Association of the
Remodeling Industry, has named
its 2015 CotY (Contractor of the
Year) award winners. Awards were
presented at a black-tie gala Dec. 8
in 20 categories which showcased
residential remodeling projects including new or upgraded baths and
kitchens, remodeled home interiors
and exteriors, additions, landscape
design, remodeled basements and
whole-home renovations.
The 23rd Annual Atlanta 2015
CotY awards categories and winners
from DeKalb County are: residential
bath costing $25,000 to $50,000—
Modify Atlanta with Team Entrant
Dove Studio, Druid Hills; and
residential exterior $100,000 to
$200,000—Mosaic Group Architects
& Remodelers, Chamblee.

12/22/15 3:56 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

Opinion

Page 4A

Are we no longer the home of the brave?
The recent mass killings
in Paris and San Bernardino,
Calif., have put many in our
country on edge and again
pitted Americans against
each other in hotly contested
debates over immigration,
gun control and refugee admissions policies.
We have read and heard
voices of condemnation and
voices of support on the subject of admitting Syrian refugees into our country.
Some say the vetting
process is not comprehensive
enough to weed out possible
terrorists from entering the
country under the guise of
a refugee, which is entirely
possible. Anything is possible.
Some say Syrian refugees are no less of a threat
than fellow Americans now
known as homegrown terrorists. This is also a distinct
possibility.
There are others who

FREEPRESS 12-25-15.indd 2

John Hewitt
johnh@dekalbchamp.com

Chief Operating Officer

quote statistics of the number of Americans killed annually by fellow Americans
and others who will quote
stats of crimes committed by refugees. Some will
quote statistics of crimes
committed by those of the
Muslim faith. Whatever one’s
preferred position on these
topics is, there are statistics
that can be manipulated to
support it.

What troubles me is how
a national tragedy has so
deeply divided our nation.
We hear those who profess
to be of good moral character saying it is acceptable to
refuse assistance to others in
need because they might be a
danger to our society.
We face a multitude of
dangers every day of our
lives. An unhealthy lifestyle
is dangerous. Driving in
Atlanta traffic can be dangerous. Participating in sports
can be dangerous. Guns can
be dangerous. We can’t live
our lives in fear.
I’m certainly no biblical scholar but at an early
age I was taught the book of
Psalms and specifically chapter 23, which reads in part
“Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil.”
Ironically, many who are
against our federal and/or
state governments allowing

refugees from Syria seem to
be more of the religious persuasion and most arguments
that support curtailing the
influx of refugees are based
on fear—fear that the refugees will bring harm to our
nation.
How is it that people can
allow fear to influence their
decision-making processes to
the point that they can justify
inhumane treatment of others based on their fears? How
can logical people think it is
acceptable behavior to discriminate against an entire
group based on the actions
of few?
I’m a product of the rural
South—what many would
refer to as the Bible belt. I
was taught compassion for
others. I was taught to help
anyone in need in any way
possible. I was taught to trust
everyone until they prove
that they can’t be trusted. I
was also taught to do unto

others as I would have them
do unto me.
Somewhere along the
way, many of our fellow
Americans have allowed fear
and hatred to guide their
thoughts and actions. Some
would willingly discriminate
against others because of
fear.
Discrimination of any
kind is unacceptable. Limiting, or completely denying,
immigration into our country based on national origin
or religion is absolute discrimination.
Our national anthem
ends with these simple words
“the land of the free and the
home of the brave.” It’s time
we allow others to experience the freedom that we
have and that they deserve.
It’s also time for us to be
brave enough to put aside
our fears and open our
hearts.

12/22/15 3:42 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

OpiniOn

Page 5A

ONE MAN’S OPINION

Proud of our neighbor; you would be, too
“I decided I was going to
be a businessman.  I didn’t
want to go into the field and
pick cotton,” Gregory B.
Levett, founder and CEO,
Levett & Sons Funeral Home,
recently quoted by American
Funeral Director magazine,
and profiled by The Champion Newspaper and On Common Ground News.
Our little family was
growing in the spring of
2007, and I wanted us to stay
in DeKalb County, in Decatur or Avondale Estates, but
home prices and much higher property taxes were telling
us otherwise. Thankfully,
half a mile from the Avondale Village, in unincorporated Scottdale, we found our
home. Scottdale has a steel
mill, the DeKalb Farmer’s
Market, a growing number of
successful small businesses
and some residential areas
affectionately referred to as
the ‘hood. We live along the
PATH Trail and on one of
Scottdale’s two main drags. 
Our home was new, in
an older and established
neighborhood, on an in-fill
formerly vacant lot. Across
the street and a few doors
down were several smaller
businesses...there are even
more today, a florist, HVAC
contractor...and a longtime
stable, staple of our neighborhood, the original chapel
and first funeral home of

ter and while serving as
President of 100 Black Men
of DeKalb, the mentoring
nonprofit was named the
nation’s top chapter. Levett
is again being recognized
and honored by his peers
by being named as national
Funeral Director of the Year
by American Funeral Director
magazine. 
Bill Crane
Levett opened his Avonbill.csicrane@gmail.com
dale chapel and funeral home
in 1980. When we arrived
Columnist
in 2007, his property was
an island of prosperity, and
our neighbor, Gregory B. Le- since then, block by block,
vett Sr. Levett has grown his
house by house and street
reputation and business to
by street, Scottdale has been
four locations in DeKalb and on the rise. The nearby Toby
Rockdale counties, with 135
Grant Homes public housfull and part-time employees.  ing community is undergoI had learned in the early
ing a complete redevelopdays of my reporting career
ment. The DeKalb Farmer’s
that successful funeral home Market is on the front end
owners in the Black commu- of a 2-million-square-feet
nity often enjoy a standing
expansion, the Laredo Drive
and leadership role in the
Industrial District is being
community which often sufilled with artists and new
persedes the clergy.  Names
enterprises and area houssuch as Haugabrooks in Ating stock is being rehabbed,
lanta, and now Levett in our
rebuilt and renovated...not all
DeKalb, are proof of that.
overnight, but steadily and
Greg Levett, his wife and following the maintenance
family are seriously comand steady example long ago
mitted to giving back to
set by Levett and his famthe community which they
ily. The Levetts own another
serve. Levett is a leader and
adjoining parcel, including
chair of many nonprofit
a long-abandoned home,
boards. The entrepreneur
slated for demolition to alchairs the DeKalb Hospital
low for chapel and parking
Authority, is on the board
expansions.
of the DeKalb Medical CenIf there is leading go-

ing on in DeKalb County,
you can almost bet that the
Levetts are nearby. And as
much as I admire and have
pride in the many accomplishments of my neighbor,
I can also say, that we don’t
always see eye to eye. Our
politics are a bit different,
and even when agreeing on a
significant community challenge, we don’t always see the
same path to solution...but
like good neighbors we respect and watch out for each
other...as well as the others in
our communities.
The Levetts are also renowned for their kindness
and consideration for the
families they serve, often
during their most difficult
time, following the loss of a
loved one. And though Greg
Levett had been in business
for nearly 30 years in Avondale/Scottdale when we arrived...his sons, family and
team have grown that success
into Rockdale County, where
Levett’s brother, George
Levett, is the elected county
coroner, and his nephew,
Eric J. Levett is the sheriff.
Early in the New Year, a
reception honoring Levett for
his many accomplishments
will be held from 4-6 p.m.
at St. Philip AME Church at
1240 Candler Road, SE, Atlanta on Jan. 31. I plan to be
among those attending and
I assure you it will be a large

crowd, the sanctuary at St.
Philip can hold thousands...
there to shake the hand, salute, thank and congratulate
our neighbor, Greg Levett
and his loving, lovely wife
Betty, for all they have done
for so many and for all they
are still doing to help make
our DeKalb County a better
place. 
 

Bill Crane also serves as a
political analyst and commentator for Channel 2’s Action
News, WSB-AM News/Talk
750 and now 95.5 FM, as well
as a columnist for The Champion, Champion Free Press
and Georgia Trend. Crane is
a DeKalb native and business
owner, living in Scottdale. You
can reach him or comment on
a column at bill.csicrane@
gmail.com.

F REE P RESS
Let Us Know What You Think!
THE CHAMPION FREE PRESS encourages opinions from its readers. Please
write to us and express your views. Letters
should be brief, typewritten and contain
the writer’s name, address and telephone
number for verification. All letters will be
considered for publication.
Send Letters To Editor, The Champion Free Press, P.
O. Box 1347, Decatur, GA 30031-1347; Send email
to Andrew@dekalbchamp.com • FAX To: (404)
370-3903 Phone: (404) 373-7779 . Deadline for news
releases and advertising: Thursday, one week prior
to publication date.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions written by columnists and contributing editors do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the editor or publishers. The
Publisher reserves the right to reject or cancel any
advertisement at any time. The Publisher is not
responsible for unsolicited manuscripts.

Publisher:
John Hewitt
Chief Financial Officer:
Dr. Earl D. Glenn
Managing Editor:
Andrew Cauthen
Production Manager:
Kemesha Hunt
Photographer:
Travis Hudgons
Staff Reporters:
Carla Parker, Ashley Oglesby
The Champion Free Press is published
each Friday by ACE III Communications,
Inc., • 114 New Street, Suite E, Decatur,
GA. 30030 • Phone (404) 373-7779.

www.championnewspaper.com
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STATEMENT FROM THE
PUBLISHER
We sincerely appreciate the
discussion surrounding this and any
issue of interest to DeKalb County.
The Champion was founded in 1991
expressly to provide a forum for
discourse for all community residents
on all sides of an issue. We have no
desire to make the news only to
report news and opinions to effect
a more educated citizenry that will
ultimately move our community
forward. We are happy to present
ideas for discussion; however,
we make every effort to avoid
printing information submitted to
us that is known to be false and/or
assumptions penned as fact.

FREEPRESS 12-25-15.indd 3

12/22/15 3:42 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

Harriet Ribbons
Harriet Ribbons grew up
in a place called Silverdale, in
the north of England.
She said growing up her
grandparents owned eight
golden retrievers.
“My mom was a huge animal person. We used to rescue labs but my mom would
pick the oldest ones. One was
an 11-year-old with cancer.
We had him for nine months,
but we gave him the happiest
nine months of his life.”
Ribbons also grew up
with horses and used a lot of
what she learned from training horses to help with dogs
and cats.
“I was probably about 6
when I began, and rescuing
was just something my mother and I loved and shared
together.”
Following Ribbons’ move

to Atlanta she began interning and looking for opportunities to volunteer.
She said, “I really wanted
to work at a horse rescue, but
the closest was an hour away.
So I Googled “animal rescue
in Decatur” and Paws Atlanta

local

came up. I put in my application, and then I harassed
them. I wanted to get started
so badly.”
Ribbons started volunteering at Paws Atlanta everyday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“It was the staff and the
volunteers. They just became
my family. I really didn’t have
anybody here in Georgia.
They let me into their world,
and they taught me so much,”
Ribbons said.
She added, “I learned
how to look after animals,
how to give them medication. The staff is so caring
and they’re so loyal. You kind
of become a part of a cause
instead of a group. You’re all
there for the animals, and all
there for the same reason.”
Ribbons has been volunteering with Paws Atlanta for

Page 6A

more than two years.
Currently, she manages
the foster program, as a volunteer.
“I make sure the animals
that need a foster [family]
go into a foster home, and
that we find the right people
who want to help. It’s a lot of
work, but a lot of fun,” she
said.
Ribbons also visits local
animal controls to find pets
that Paws Atlanta can help.
She said, “I’ve probably
fostered between 20 and 30
cats and dogs, mostly dogs.
When I foster, I know where
the animal come from. So, I
get to see their full story.”
Ribbons said, “It’s nice
to see their personality come
out. And, when they’re ready,
you put them into the shelter
and see them go to someone

who will love that animal for
the rest of their life.”
She added, “I think it’s a
great process. Everyone who
fosters gets to help an animal
who really needs their help.
And they also get to bring a
little bit of light into the life
of an animal who feels abandoned and left behind”
Through her work at the
animal shelter Ribbons said
one of the most rewarding
aspects was working with a
pit bull mix, Tequila. “He was
my all-time favorite.”
Ribbons said she’d never
worked with a pit bull mix
before because pit bulls are
banned in England.
“I’d never met one. He
opened my eyes a little bit, to
not judge a dog until you’ve
met it, no matter what the
breed. He was the best dog.”

If you would like to nominate someone to be considered as a future Champion of the Week, please contact Andrew Cauthen
at andrew@dekalbchamp.com or at (404) 373-7779, ext. 117.

GM plant redevelopment depends on county schools support
by Andrew Cauthen
Andrew@dekalbchamp.com
The DeKalb County Board of
Commissioners voted unanimously
to partner with the city of Doraville
to help redevelop the former General
Motors plant.
But the superintendent for the
DeKalb County School District, a
critical partner in the proposed partnership, has reservations.
Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman
said city officials are “just really, really excited.”
“It means everything,” Pittman
said after the commissioners’ vote.
“It’s a game-changer for the county,
the region, the city.”
“We have taken a significant step
forward in supporting smart growth
and job creation in this corridor,”
said interim DeKalb CEO Lee May.
Under the plan, Doraville, the
county school district and county
government would create a tax allocation district (TAD) that includes
the former GM assembly plant and
portions of the city of Doraville.
The proposed TAD would raise
an estimated $247 million for infrastructure improvements such as
roads, a tunnel and other public projects.
Doraville councilman Robert Patrick said the proposed
development is expected to
create 14,000 jobs and generate

$600 million in annual salaries.
“This is really a unique opportunity,” said Ken Bleakly, representing
Doraville. “The estimated value of
this project when completed will be
over $1.8 billion.
“I don’t think there has been any
project of this scale in the county in
recent memory,” Bleakly said. “This
is truly an engine of future growth.”
Bleakly said that under the
intergovernmental agreement between the county and Doraville,
the county could receive more
than $100 million of additional tax
revenue over the next 20 years.
“Once the TAD is completed, the
county’s revenue from the project
each year will be 12 times greater
than it receives today,” he said.
“I know the county worked really hard on this and we’re looking
forward to partnering with them
and also…to work with the school
board,” Pittman said. “The focus will
be on the school board now.”
In a Dec. 15 statement, DeKalb
County School Superintendent Stephen Green said, “We are expected
to be good stewards of our resources
and I think making a 25-year commitment to freezing the school tax
digest does not fulfill that commitment.”
Green stated that he has “several
serious reservations about committing school resources over the course
of the 25 years of the TAD for this

project.”
“Our core business is teaching
and learning, not speculative, unpredictable real estate projects,” Green
stated.
“Two of the three current TADs
in DeKalb County have not succeeded in meeting their tax revenue projections,” Green stated. “The Kensington and Briarcliff TADs have decreased in tax digest value since their
inception with Kensington showing a
decrease in excess of 20 percent.”
Another reservation is that “after
several years, the ongoing inability
of the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta
Public Schools to fulfill their intergovernmental agreement based on a
TAD for the financing of the Beltline
project demonstrates how unforeseen pitfalls can be costly to the local
school system,” Green stated.
Green also said that under the
proposed agreement “the school tax
digest for the Doraville TAD would
be fixed for 25 years with a best case
scenario of nine additional years before the school district would recoup
taxes that had been given up.”
Another negative is that the
debt, including debt service of approximately $600 million for these
improvements, would be paid with
tax revenue above what is collected
currently in the area, Green stated.
A school district spokesman said
Green has no plans to present the
matter to the board unless requested

by the board, and the county’s support is contingent on school district’s
participation in the TAD.
In the intergovernmental agreement with Doraville, DeKalb officials
stated that they “would withdraw
their support if the school district
did not approve it,” said Doraville
City Manager Shawn Gillen.
“So it’s really hinging on [the
school district] right now,” Gillen
said.
Without the TAD, there is no
second plan, Gillen said.
“There are not many options for
funding infrastructure, so this is our
big moment,” Gillen said. “So we’ll
have to see what happens.”
Gillen said the school superintendent’s reservations mean Doraville
officials “have a lot of dialogue to do
to try to get [school board members]
to a comfort level that they need to
be at. It took a while with the county
to get them to that level.”
“We want to be able to tell our
story and show them the numbers
and correct any misconceptions they
might have and get them to a comfort level they need to be at to make
it happen,” Gillen said.
Doraville officials are “eternally
optimistic about [the Assembly project] because this is the future of our
city,” Gillen said. “This is more than
an economic development project,
this is the future of a community
that’s at stake here.”

thechampionnewspaper.com
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12/22/15 3:56 PM

local

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

Page 7A

Laura Balzer has supported her best friend Dana Geiselmann, who has
two children with a rare disease. Photos provided

Pastor’s wife raises awareness
about Batten disease
by Deanna Cauthen
Laura Balzer, of Stone
Mountain, and Dana Geiselmann, of Memphis, Tenn.,
have been best friends since
they met in high school years
ago in Birmingham, Ala.
They went on to graduate
and attend college together at
Auburn University and lived
together after college. Like
many friends, they celebrated
all the important milestones
together—engagements,
weddings and the birth of
each other’s children.
In August 2013, Milla,
the middle daughter of Dana
and Frazer Geiselmann,
began to have seizures and
in October 2014 was diagnosed with Batten Disease,
a fatal, inherited disorder of
the nervous system. Due to
the genetic nature of the disease, the Geiselmanns were
advised to have their other
two daughters tested. As a
result, they learned that their
youngest daughter, Elle, also
had Batten Disease.
“[Milla] had been suffering with seizures for over a
year, so I had already come
to terms with the fact something was going on,” said
Balzer, who is a trained OB/
GYN nurse. “When we got
an answer, it was kind of like,
‘OK, this is what it is.’
“It was about a month
later that I got a text from
Dana which said that Elle’s
diagnosis was positive, too,”
Balzer said. “We just sat on
the phone and cried. It was
crushing and shocking when
you have another one that’s
going in the same direction.”
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, Batten Disease
typically begins in childhood. Early symptoms of
this disorder usually appear
between the ages of 5 and 10,
when parents or physicians

free 12-25-15.indd 7

notice that a previously normally developing child begins to develop vision problems and seizures. Over time,
children with the disease will
lose their sight, suffer mental
impairment, have increasingly worse seizures and suffer a
decline in motor skills.
Balzer, who moved to Atlanta from Birmingham last
year when her husband, David, became the new pastor
at Grace Church for All Nations in Stone Mountain, still
struggles with the diagnosis
of her best friend’s daughters.
“Being so far away has
been hard for me, but I do
what I can do,” she said. “I
visit whenever I can. I’ve
been going every couple of
months.”
She stressed that people
who have friends who are
dealing with difficult health
issues can help by doing the
“small things.”
“[When I visit], I unload
the dishwasher, play with the
kids, and spend time with
their oldest daughter, Ann
Carlyle,” Balzer said.
Another way that Balzer helps is by getting the
word out about a new book
entitled Voyage to the Star
Kingdom that was written by
her sister, Anne Riley, and illustrated by her cousin, Amy
Grimes.
Balzer has started an
email campaign to help raise
awareness of the disease and
support for the book. Proceeds from the book will be
used to help offset expenses
the Geiselmanns have incurred as a result of their
daughters illnesses.
The official release date
is Jan. 12, 2016, more information about Batten disease and the Geiselmanns’
story can be found, at www.
theprowritersstudio.com/
bookproject.

In 2013 Dana Geiselmann learned that her daughter
Milla has Batten disease.

Balzer’s sister wrote a book about Batten disease. The
book is illustrated by Balzer’s cousin.

Notice of Public Hearing
The Mayor and City Council of the City of Chamblee, Georgia will hold a public hearing
on Thursday, January 14, 2016, at the Chamblee Civic Center, 3540 Broad Street,
Chamblee, GA 30341 at 6:00 p.m. to receive public comments regarding the following
matters:

Comments on proposed amendments to the occupational tax business profitability
classifications.

Fred Milani of Hadi Homes, Inc. requests approval of an Amendment to the Official Zoning
Map rezoning property from Neighborhood Residential -1 (NR-1) to Village Residential (VR)
and approval of a Planned Unit Development in accordance with City of Chamblee
Ordinances, Appendix A, Unified Development Ordinance, Chapter 280 for the purpose of
constructing 46 townhomes on 6.5 acres of property located on the following 3 parcels in
Chamblee GA: 2605 Chamblee-Tucker Road, 3229 and 3235 Stratford Arms Road, being
DeKalb County Tax parcels 18-281-03-013, 18-281-03-019 and 18-281-03-018, respectively.

John Roegge of Hilton Displays requests approval of variances for signs to be located on
property zoned Mixed Use-Business Center (MU-BC) at 2901 Clairmont Road (Sam’s Club),
Chamblee, being tax parcel 18-196-02-016. The subject variances relate to Chapter 260 of
the City of Chamblee Code of Ordinances, Appendix A, Unified Development Ordinance, for
two signs, as follows:
o Sec. 260-7(b)(3) to increase maximum sign height from 8 ft. to 18 ft. (2 signs)
o Sec. 260-7(b)(5) to increase maximum sign area from 64 sq. ft. to 156 sq. ft. (2 signs)
o Sec. 260-7(b)(5) to vary required distance between a sign and a driveway (2 signs)
o Sec. 260-7(b)(4) to locate one sign in the restricted corner sight distance triangle set forth
in Sec. 230-15; and
o Sec. 260-7(b)(6)c. to locate one sign that is greater than 64 sq. ft. such that it is closer
than 2000 ft. from another sign greater than 64 sq. ft. on the same side of the street.

Matt Wilson of Wilson Development requests variances of the following provisions of the City
of Chamblee Ordinances, Appendix A, Unified Development Ordinance with respect to a lot
consisting of 0.585 acres zoned Village Commercial located at 5485 Peachtree Boulevard,
Chamblee, GA being parcel 18-308-15-021:
o Sec. 250-2(a) to reduce the required minimum number of off-street parking places;
o Sec. 230-5(a); to reduce the required minimum façade height of a building of 24 ft.
located on a Storefront Street;
o Sec. 230-30(b)(1) to reduce the required minimum interior floor-to-ceiling height of 18 ft.
for a building located on a Storefront Street;
o Sec. 350-2(c) that requires interparcel access to adjacent commercial, office or
multifamily property.
o Sec. 230-29(a)(2) that requires a sidewalk from the front of the building to the sidewalk
adjacent to the street.
o Sec 250-22(2) that requires that dumpsters shall be placed a minimum of 5 ft. from a
property line.

12/22/15 3:56 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

local

Page 8A

jubilee

Continued From Page 2A

After 36 years working for DeKalb County, Tax Commissioner Claudia Lawson will retire on Dec. 31. Photos provided

Retiring tax commissioner honored
by Andrew Cauthen
andrew@dekalbchamp.com
DeKalb County Tax
Commissioner Claudia
Lawson thought she was
to attend a budget meeting
Dec. 15. Instead, the Board
of Commissioners surprised
her by recognizing her
36 years of service to the
county.
“I never had any intention of being your tax commissioner, just a good public
servant,” Lawson told the
audience at the commissioners’ meeting. “I say to
all elected officials, that’s
who we are. We are public
servants and I have truly
enjoyed the awesome journey I have had with DeKalb
County. I’m humbled by the
experience.”
A Florida native who
earned her bachelor’s degree
at Florida State University,
Lawson moved to Georgia
in 1977 when her husband’s
job transferred him to metro Atlanta.
Lawson, who will retire
Dec. 31, began her career
with DeKalb County in
1979, working in the vehicle
registrations division and
as deputy tax commissioner
and chief deputy tax commissioner before becoming
the county’s first female and
Black tax commissioner in
2006.
Under her leadership,
the county’s tax office became the first in the state to
have implement an imaging
system for property tax and

free 12-25-15.indd 8

Tax Commissioner Claudia Lawson, center, was recognized Dec. 15 for her service to the county.

motor vehicle records, and
computer storage for permanent records.
Commissioners had
much praise for Lawson.
“You have always been
so available to everyone, not
just to the commissioners,
but the public as well,” said
Commissioner Kathie Gannon.
Gannon said Lawson,
who replaced long-serving
Tax Commissioner Tom
Scott after his death, “took
over a position with some
pretty big shoes to fill and
made those shoes even bigger for the next person that
comes along.”
Commissioner Mereda
Johnson said Lawson is
her “friend who is not only
good at her job, but...she’s a
good-hearted person and I
think that we all can learn

from her.”
“She is my shero and
I’m going to miss her and I
hope that her successor has
learned a lot from her. I love
you, Claudia, and I’m going
to miss you,” Johnson said.
“You can’t say enough
good things about Claudia
and her wisdom,” said Commissioner Sharon Barnes
Sutton. “I found myself
talking to her a lot. She’s always there for you with kind
words, with sage advice and
she just tells it like it is.
“Thank you for being
you, Claudia,” Sutton said.
Commissioner Jeff
Rader said the difficulty of
being a commissioner “is
nothing compared to the
job of a tax commissioner
because it has been Mrs.
Lawson’s job...to separate
people from their tax obli-

gation with a smile on her
face. And she succeeded in
doing that.”
Additionally, Lawson
“has had the success of being able to collect almost
100 percent of the taxes that
are owed to the county and
to not engage in some of the
practices that have become
popular of selling liens and
disrupting peoples’ lives in
that way,” Rader said.
“Thank you...for setting
such a high standard,” Rader
said.
Lawson said, “I’ve seen
tremendous changes in this
great county. Even though
we have a hiccup here and
there, we are still...the greatest county in the state of
Georgia.
“Thank you for allowing
me to be your public servant,” Lawson said.

wide. One is the reading of
the Emancipation Proclamation. The other is the singing
of Lift Every Voice and Sing,
an anthem written in 1901 by
brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson for an emancipation celebration in Jacksonville, Fla.
Typically, a keynote
speaker brings inspiration and
historical information.
The speaker at this year’s
NAACP program, Hank
Thomas, was one of the original Freedom Riders, a group
of seven Black and six White
bus passengers who traveled
through the South in 1961
to challenge segregation of
buses and bus terminals. The
Supreme Court in a 1960 decision had ruled that segregation in interstate transportation facilities, including bus
terminals, is unconstitutional.
Despite the ruling, many cities in the South continued to
maintain separate restrooms,
waiting areas and lunch counters for Black passengers who
also were allowed to sit only in
the rear of buses.
John Lewis, who is now
Georgia’s 5th District representative in Congress, also was
among the original Freedom
Riders, who were subjected to
violence in some cities.
“Many of our young people may not know about this
important event in our history. In fact, we have to educate
some of our older people who
may not know about it,” Evans
said.
Evans added that Thomas
is now a businessman and an
expert in economic development. “He’s not just qualified
to talk about history. He’s
qualified to give us economic
information that we very
much need today.”
In addition to honoring history and informing
the community, the Jubilee
Day program spotlights the
NAACP and reminds people
that it still seeks support and
membership, Evans said.
“We’re the biggest civil rights
umbrella in the country. We’ve
been around for 107 years so
we must be doing something
good.”
The NAACP DeKalb
County Branch will hold its
2016 Jubilee Day program
Friday, Jan. 1, at Rainbow Park
Baptist Church, 2941 Columbia Drive, Decatur. For more
information, visit www.dekalbnaacp.org.

12/22/15 3:56 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

local

Page 9A

Brookhaven Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams thanks volunteers for their work in the city.

Brookhaven city officials celebrate the city’s third birthday Dec. 17.

Volunteers and city officials sign their well wishes on a whiteboard.

Brookhaven celebrates
third birthday
by Carla Parker
carla@dekalbchamp.com
Brookhaven officials
celebrated three years of cityhood Dec. 17 by recognizing
volunteers who have helped
make the city what it is.
After a reception with
refreshments and a birthday
cake, the city recognized
more than 100 citizen volunteers serving on advisory
committees, boards and focus groups.
While thanking volunteers, Mayor Rebecca Chase
Williams also acknowledged
some of the highs and lows of
the last three years.
“As any mother knows,
it’s hard giving birth, and
birthing a city has been really
hard,” Williams said. “People
don’t understand what it took
to start from nothing, to now
we’re three years old. I feel
like we made it through the
terrible twos and now our
toddler is up and running
and strong.”
Williams, whose mayoral

free 12-25-15.indd 9

term ends soon, said she is
proud that she, other elected
officials and volunteers have
built a “strong” foundation.
“We have a great team
in place,” she said. “I am so
proud of the fact that our
police answer calls within
three minutes—we didn’t
have that before, we’ve paved
almost 20 miles of roads, new
sidewalks, the parks are in
so much better shape—we’ve
spent millions of dollars just
to turn around the neglect
that we inherited.
We have rolled back our
millage rate three years in a
row, so when people say the
new cities are going to cost
more money or whatever, no,
they don’t,” Williams said.
“We really truly run it like
a business and we try to bid
out and get the best services
for the best value, treat our
tax payers like the valued
customers that they are.
We’re proving that all of that
works. Yeah, we had some
stumbles along the way but
we’ve learned from them and

grew stronger. I’m so proud
and I’m so honored to have
been a part of this founding team. I’ll miss it, but I’m
going to stay involved with
some of the projects going
forward.”
Williams said her message to the incoming mayor,
John Ernst, is to continue to
listen to all people.
“Make sure you’ve heard
all sides,” Williams said.
“Listen to all sides; get all the
facts before making a decision.”
Williams said she hopes
Brookhaven will grow stronger and better in the coming
years.
“We have a lot of developments coming down the
road, including the big MARTA transit-oriented development,” she said. “It’s going to
take a lot of good guidance
and smart decision making. I wish the new mayor
all the best. We have a good
city council and the city is
in good hands. I think we’re
only going to get better.”

12/22/15 3:56 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

Ivy Preparatory Academy students dress for pajama day.

local

Page 10A

Ian Knighton, a former contestant of The X Factor, leads the Ivy Preparatory Academy
choir.

Reality TV singer leads DeKalb school choir
by Ashley Oglesby
ashley@dekalbchamp.com
Dozens of students, parents and
teachers gathered at Ivy Preparatory
Academy’s Kirkwood (IPA) campus
for the school’s holiday concert “When
Genres Collide” on Dec. 17 and 18.
The performances were led by IPA
Music Director Ian J. Knighton who
was formerly chosen by judges in Sacramento, Calif. to be a contestant on The X
Factor, a British reality talent show.
The classically trained singer performed original compositions with more
than 200 of his students and coworkers
Tulani Prince-Brackett and Rashell
Frazier.
This is Knighton’s first year directing
the music department at IPA.
He said the students have “proven
to me that being a musician and being a
singer is important.”
Before taking the position at IPA,
Knighton worked in behavior therapy
and said he “didn’t want to teach music
anymore.”
He added, “This opportunity was
presented to me and I decided to take it
and it’s the best time of my life.”
Knighton became a household name
in 2009 when he landed a spot on BET’s
Sunday Best music competition and The
X Factor on the Fox television network.
Knighton’s holiday show at IPA combined voices from Ivy Preparatory Young
Men’s Leadership Academy and Ivy Preparatory Academy Kirkwood School for
Girls for the first time in a mass choir.
The students performed what Knighton called an “operetta” of songs in English, Latin and German.
One of the contemporary songs
featured holiday lyrics over Grammywinner CeeLo Green’s hit Forget You.
Another tune featured an international
twist on the Temptations’ classic Silent
Night.
The students have been rehearsing
and learning choreography for the show

free 12-25-15.indd 10

since October.
Knighton said he wants to continue
to work with the students and teach
them to appreciate music.
“It has been my vision since I got
here to have a Saturday arts academy
that will incorporate music, theater,
dance and drama. I want to have an arts
academy because I’m changing students
next semester and I want them to continue on,” Knighton said.
Knighton teaches his students how
to read and compose basic rhythms, and
sing with wide mouths so that every syllable is heard with perfect diction.
He added, “Not only are my students
trained in singing but they’re trained
in the education of music —history,
rhythmic patterns, writing music, singers voice and all of the body parts, that’s
the most important thing in training a
singer.”
Knighton began singing in front of
audiences at age 4 in Cuthbert, Ga. He
performed gospel songs in his neighborhood church in grade school and sang
opera by age 17. “I was asked to enter a
literature and arts competition in high
school and performed an aria in German,” he said in a statement. “I knew
nothing about the language or reading
music. I was surprised when I won the
contest.”
Knighton said the win inspired him
to study music at Albany State University
where he continued to pursue his passion as he worked as a music and special
education teacher in his hometown.
Knighton continues to perform as
a singer. He has appeared in numerous
stage plays with professional artists including two-time Grammy Award winning gospel star, Jacky Clark-Chisholm,
of The Clark Sisters; hip-hop singer
Tamika Scott from Xscape; and 1990s
R& B superstar, Christopher Williams,
a stage and screen actor.
He is currently working on a solo
project – a contemporary Christian album.

The holiday program featured dancers who performed for teachers, students,
parents and administrators.

Rashell Frazier, vice president of the parent leadership organization, led a song
during the holiday program.

Knighton’s holiday show combined voices from Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s
Leadership Academy and Ivy Preparatory Academy Kirkwood School for Girls.

12/22/15 3:56 PM

In

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

WEEK

loCAl

Page 11A

PICTURES

The 2015 Cedar Grove track-and-field team received its Class AAA state championship rings Dec. 17. Photos by Travis Hudgons

National and local organizations supported the cause of former professional basketball star Shaquille O’Neal’s, right, by providing school supplies for students, coats and toys for children, healthy food for families and educational pamphlets on creating healthy lifestyles. Photos by Travis Hudgons

Photos brought to you by DCTV
DeKalb County begins one-day-a-week sanitation collection service July 6, 2015
Residential customers will have same-day garbage, recyclable materials and yard trimmings collection
For more info, call or visit:

(404) 294-2900
www.rollingforwardtoone.com

free 12-25-15.indd 11

12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

Avondale Estates,
Brookhaven adopt
budgets
by Carla Parker
carla@dekalbchamp.com
Both Avondale Estates and Brookhaven have adopted their city budgets for the 2016 fiscal year.
The Brookhaven City Council adopted its $32.9
million budget on Dec. 15. According to city officials,
the city shifted more than $700,000 from the general
fund to the H.O.S.T. special revenue fund.
“We have a million dollars more in the general
fund, and so it is a good time to tuck some of that
away,” Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams. “I think our
expectation has always been that we will be prudent
throughout the year and be able to look at the fund
balance at the end of the year. I do like some of these
cuts that we’ve made.
“We’re not cutting personnel, we’re not cutting
back on [information technology] or some of the
other things that are big budgets,” Williams added. “I
think we all kind of understood that there are some
necessary expenses ahead of us in terms of running
this city. I’m okay with this budget.”
The city has a proposed $20.8 million in the general fund for 2016 and $4.8 million in H.O.S.T. funds.
The Avondale Estates Board of Mayor and Commissioners adopted the city’s $3 million-plus budget
Dec. 16. The budget includes an increase for the
police department from $1 million in 2015 to $1.1
million.
“The city staff and the department heads did
an excellent job, as they have been doing for several
years,” Mayor Pro Tem Terry Giager said. “We didn’t
have any questions this year. This is a real clean document. It looked good, it was balanced.”

loCAl

Page 12A

Decatur police:

Eight car break-ins in one night
by Carla Parker
carla@dekalbchamp.com
Decatur Police responded to a rash of car break-ins
that occurred in one night.
Lt. Jennifer Ross of the
Decatur Police Department
said officers responded Dec.
18 to reports of eight car
break-ins during the previous night.
“Five vehicles were entered in the 600-700 block
of Clairemont Avenue and
three vehicles were entered
in the 300 block of Lamont
Drive,” Ross said. “Some of
the vehicles were unsecured
and some were believed to
have been left secured but
there were no signs of forced
entry.”
Ross said the thieves
stole sunglasses, loose
change, a laptop and a cell
phone.
On Dec. 15, police also
responded to reports of four
car break-ins during the previous night. Ross said three
vehicles were entered in the
400 block of Oakland Street
and loose change was stolen.
“One vehicle was entered
in the 200 block of Wilton
Drive and a child’s bicycle
was stolen,” she said. “The
vehicles were in driveways/
carports and unsecured.”

Picture Yourself

Ross said a vehicle was
stolen from a driveway in the
500 block of Ponce de Leon
Place between the morning
of Dec. 14 and 15 and was
later found abandoned by the
Atlanta Police Department
around the time the owner
reported it stolen.
Ross said there are several things motorists can do to
keep their vehicles and other
possessions out of the hands
of thieves, including doublechecking the vehicle to make
sure it is locked.
“Remove valuables from
your vehicles and store anything you decide to leave in

your vehicle out of view,”
Ross said. “Call [the] police
immediately if you observe
someone looking into or entering vehicles and provide
a detailed description of the
person and which direction
they are traveling.
“Do not disregard unusual noises such as dogs barking, car alarms, glass breaking and car doors opening or
shutting in the middle of the
night,” Ross said. “Discreetly
look out a window to see if
you observe anyone on your
or a neighbor’s property and
if so, call police immediately.”

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To learn more about getting fit or eating healthy
OR to get involved in DeKalb County Board of
Health initiatives to improve the overall health
and wellness of our community, go to
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or contact Anika Norwood at
(404) 294-3896 anika.norwood@dph.ga.gov

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free 12-25-15.indd 12

12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

local

Page 15A

Children attending the Shaq-a-Claus event received toys and took photos with NBA All-Star and TNT Broadcaster Shaquille O’Neal.

shaq Continued From Page 1A
NBA All-Star and current TNT
broadcaster Shaquille O’Neal, who
made an appearance at the event and
took pictures with local residents
said, “This is about helping out.”
In recent years, O’Neal has educated at-risk people, especially children who are creating habits that will
last into adulthood, about how to
make healthy choices to live well and
delay, prevent or manage diabetes.
O’Neal said in a statement, “Children are the greatest priority and are
God’s gift to us and our future.”
National and local organizations
supported O’Neal’s cause by providing school supplies for students,
coats and toys for children, healthy
food for families and educational
pamphlets on creating healthy lifestyles.
DeKalb County Superintendent
Stephen Green said, “This really is
an outstanding job of feeding our

families and being an outreach to the
community.”
He said the event exemplifies his
core mission for the district which is
to “deal with the whole child which
includes the families; especially at
a time like this, during the holiday
when things may get tight—it’s a
good spiritual uplift.”
Green added, “It’s more than just
giving food and taking pictures—we
want students and parents to know
that we care about them, we care
about what happens to them and we
believe in them.”
Feeding America and Atlanta
Community Food Bank provided
fresh produce and 27 pounds of nonperishable foods to each family.
Atlanta Community Food Bank
CEO Kyle Waide said, “This is a
great event. This is a great opportunity to connect families in DeKalb
County with nutrition and other gifts

and items that they really need in
this time of year.”
He added, “There are 900,000
food insecure people in North Georgia and metro Atlanta; nearly 40 percent of them are children. This event
is just one small way we can make a
dent in that huge need in our community.”
Nonprofit Clothes4Souls and
Macy’s provided 300 winter coats.
O’Neal distributed children’s toys
donated by Toys “R” Us and Jakks
Pacific, Inc.
The American Diabetes Association provided healthy snacks and
local resource information, as well
as gave children an illustrated story
from the Calliou series that focused
on the broad needs of someone with
diabetes.
Novo Nordisk, a Danish multinational pharmaceutical company
distributed children’s activity books

and pedometers.
Volunteers from local clubs and
business, as well as teachers and students assisted with handing out supplies to attendees.
Theo Ratcliff and Kevin Willis
assisted with the event through NBA
Retired Players Association. A local
Omega Psi Phi fraternity chapter, as
well as local Walmart representatives
also helped with the event.
Columbia Middle School Principal Keith Jones said, “This is very
important for the middle school. I
work in a population where some
of our students are afforded the opportunities to come out and receive
items for free and their families aren’t
as fortunate to give them Christmas
items. I wanted to make sure that
I’m doing my part along with some
of the people I’m associated with to
give back to our community and our
kids.”

Decorations Continued From Page 1A
“Avondale Elegance.” The “Business Award” was award to
Finders Keepers Furnishings on East College Avenue.
Ben Canon and his family won in the “Sparkle and
Pizzazz” category.
“It feels pretty good,” Canon said. “All of the hard work
finally paid off.”
This was the first time he and his family participated in
the awards in several years. “The last time we [participated] and won an award was probably six years ago,” he said.
“Then we kind of took a drop where we didn’t do a lot and
then spiked back into it.”
Canon said it took him and his father six hours to put
the decorations up, including building a tree of lights.
“I built some of the [decorations] and did most of the
stuff,” he said. “It took me a couple of days to build the tree
and the sign. I love building stuff.”
He said getting the lights up were the hardest part.
“You know how Christmas lights are—one bulb goes
out, then they all go out so it was kind of that thing.”

One of the decorated homes featured a deflated Santa Clause
hanging from a sleigh. Photos by Carla Parker

This S. Avondale Road home won an Avondale Elegance award.

FREEPRESS 12-25-15.indd 4

City Manager Clai Brown knocks on the
door to greet a winner.

12/22/15 3:42 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

education

Page 14A

Agnes Scott alumni
elected as chairwoman

GSU gets head start on merger
by Ashley Oglesby
ashley@dekalbchamp.com
Georgia Perimeter College
(GPC) students and faculty
observed workers making
changes to the college’s signage in preparation for the
merge with Georgia State University (GSU).
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
(SACS) Commission on Colleges gave its approval on Dec.
8 to the consolidation plans
of GSU and GPC which were
first announced by Chancellor Hank Huckaby. The new
institution in slated to open in
January 2016.
Huckaby said in a statement, “Georgia State is a recognized national leader in improving student success and
will be able to apply its best
practices to a broad student
body from across the state.”
He added, “Combining
these attributes with Georgia
Perimeter College’s leadership in providing access to
students across the metro
area presents a significant opportunity to improve student
success. I thank the Southern
Association of Colleges and
Schools Commission on Colleges for its thoughtful assessment and approving, once
again, a new university system
institution.”

free 12-25-15.indd 14

The new institution will
maintain its access mission
through Georgia Perimeter
College, offering associate degrees while the main campus
of Georgia State University
will continue its research mission.
With the completion of
the consolidation, the number
of institutions in the University System of Georgia will be
reduced from 30 to 29.
Officials from SACS
Commission on Colleges,
the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting
higher education in the
Southern states, announced
the approval of the prospectus
submitted for the new institution during the organization’s
annual meeting in Houston.
SACS Commission on
Colleges’ approval represents
the final step needed for the
Board of Regents to review
and grant authorization for
the consolidated institution to
officially operate as the new
Georgia State University. The
board is scheduled to review
the final recommendation
for consolidation at its Jan. 6,
2016 meeting.
During his visits to Georgia Perimeter’s five campuses
Georgia State University President Mark Becker, who will
lead the new institution, said,
“I’m pretty excited about this.”

At each visit, GPC academic
and student service deans
presented Becker with information about the campus.
Following the presentations,
Becker spoke and answered
questions from students, faculty and staff.
Becker said, “As you
engage in this [consolidation] process, we will have a
blending of cultures,” Becker
said. “There will be some
simple things—like combining manuals—and there will
be some very hard things, like
combining the Banner (data)
systems.”
Combining the data systems of both institutions is
essential by January 2016, he
said.
“The initial success of this
consolidation will be measured by whether students can
enroll in classes, receive financial aid—and you [faculty and
staff] get paid.”
The official unveiling ceremony will take place on Jan.
13 at 10 a.m. on the Clarkston
Campus.
Members of the Georgia
State University band and
cheer squad will perform at
the event. The ceremony will
also welcome Dr. Peter Lyons
as the new vice provost and
dean.

Elizabeth “Beth”
Daniel Holder has
been elected as the next
chairwoman of Agnes
Scott College’s Board
of Trustees. Holder will
officially begin her term
on July 1, 2016. A class
of 1982 alumna, Holder
received a degree in
economics at Agnes
Scott and pursued an
early career in banking
at First Atlanta Bank
(now Wells Fargo). She
is a noted philanthropist and active community leader in Atlanta
who previously chaired
the board of the Atlanta
Ballet.
Holder will succeed
Clyde Tuggle, senior vice president and chief public
affairs and communications officer at The CocaCola Company, who completes his board term on
June 30, 2016. Portia O. Morrison, an attorney in
Chicago, will continue as vice chair.
“I’m deeply honored to be elected to chair the
Board of Trustees. As an alumna, I understand and
appreciate the value of an Agnes Scott education,
and my appointment represents an opportunity to
give back to the college in a meaningful way,” Holder
said. “This is an exciting time at Agnes Scott as we
have just welcomed our largest-ever first-year class
and launched SUMMIT, which provides every student with a focus on global learning and leadership
development. It’s a privilege to help shape the future
of an institution that is on the move and committed
to preparing students to be leaders in a global society.”
Since joining the Agnes Scott Board of Trustees
in 2008, Holder has chaired the board’s college advancement committee and its committee on trustees.
She is also a national co-chair of “The Greatness
Before Us: The Campaign for Agnes Scott College,”
which has raised $97 million toward the $100 million goal. The campaign concludes December 2016.
“Beth Holder is a highly respected leader in our
community who brings incisive strategic intelligence,
grace and extraordinary dedication to everything
she does,” Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth
Kiss said. “Her many connections across Atlanta and
beyond, her passionate commitment to Agnes Scott’s
mission and strategic direction, and her legendary
ability to persuade people to support causes she believes in make her the ideal board leader for the next
chapter of Agnes Scott’s history.”
In addition to Agnes Scott and the Atlanta Ballet,
Holder has served on the board of the Camp MerrieWoode Foundation, Georgia Center for Children,
the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs and the
North Georgia Chapter of the March of Dimes. She
is currently on the advisory council of the St. Simons
Land Trust and is president of the Kelin Foundation.
She is married to Thomas M. (Tommy) Holder,
chairman and CEO of Holder Construction Co., and
they have two adult daughters.
“Clyde Tuggle has been an exemplary board
chair for Agnes Scott and has helped recruit a highly
effective and distinguished group of trustees,” Holder
added. “So it is with great enthusiasm that I commit
to continuing his model of fine work for the board
and college.”

12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

BUSINESS

Page 15A

Harken introduces new health care model
by Kathy Mitchell
One of America’s newest
healthcare systems comes to the
Atlanta area with the start of the
new year as Harken Health opens
a network of centers.
“I’m very excited to introduce this unique model of health
care to the Atlanta area. We call it
health care reimagined because we
asked people what they want when
they seek health care and what
they find frustrating. Then we designed a system from the ground
up that’s aligned to people’s needs.
Our goal is to simplify and improve the health care experience,”
said Tom Vanderheyden, Harken
Health CEO and a member of the
team that created the system.
Vanderheyden and other Harken representatives held an open
house Dec. 3 at the downtown
Decatur center, where tours of the
facility were conducted and information distributed. The event
also included free yoga classes as
a demonstration of the types of
wellness events that are to be held
regularly at the center. In addition
to yoga, strength training, healthful cooking classes, diabetes management classes and similar sessions will be offered at no charge
to members.
Atlanta is the second area to
have Harken Health centers. The
system was introduced in Chicago
earlier in 2015. Harken plans to
expand to other communities
soon, Vanderheyden said.
“The nationwide health care
conversation has never needed to
be more personal or poignant,”
according to Vanderheyden, who
added, “It touches all of us and
particularly affects Atlanta’s small
businesses and thousands of residents searching for quality care.”
Describing the model as “relationship-based,” Vanderheyden
said a health coach who works
with the patient and his or her
healthcare providers to make sure
each is fully informed is part of
each member’s care team.
Describing the health coaches
as the team’s “quarterback,” Vanderheyden said they help members
form and maintain plans for their
health and well-being. “Typically,
they sit down with patients and
review what they want to talk with
the doctor about on that visit so
the patient doesn’t forget to bring
up questions that he may have,” he
added.

Vanderheyden said not all
health coaches are health care professionals, “But they are all experts
in listening,” he said.
“Strong relationships and a
home base for high-quality primary care have been shown to
improve patient satisfaction and
lower overall medical costs. Team
members are empowered with the
time to listen and build authentic
and trusting relationships with
members,” Vanderheyden said.
Harken integrates care and
health insurance so there are
no claims to file and no bills for
primary care visits. “We believe
this not only makes health care
simpler for the patient, but it also
keeps it competitively priced,”
Vanderheyden said. The monthly
premium covers unlimited visits
Tom Vanderheyden, CEO of Harken Health, also is a cofounder who helped design the system.
and gives the member seven-day-a
week, 24-hour a day access to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants,
health coaches and other care
givers who can be reached by telephone or email.
“We have behavioral health
specialists on staff,” Vanderheyden
noted. “That’s something most
places refer patients to another facility for.” He said online prescription drug ordering is also part of
Harken’s service.
Harken members also are covered for urgent care when they’re
traveling with access to approximately 850,000 physicians, medical professionals and hospitals.
For routine care, members can
come to any one of Harken’s locations, including ones in Decatur,
Brookhaven and four other Atlanta area locations, where space One of the new centers is located in downtown Decatur.
is used differently from the way
health clinics are typically configured.
“We have sought to make the
space warm and inviting. This is
a consulting room,” Vanderheyden said, pointing to a parlor-like
room in the Decatur center with
chairs and a sofa. “A doctor and
patient don’t always need to be in
an examining room.”
The name was chosen for two
reasons, Vanderheyden explained.
“First, harken means listen and
we feel that listening to patients is
a crucial part of providing quality healthcare. Secondly, ‘harken
back’ means to return—and that’s
what we do. We return to a simpler time when doctors knew patients by name and took the time
to listen to and understand them.”

A silent auction at the Decatur open hose featured health-focused artwork created by local artists.
Proceeds benefited the Decatur Education Foundation.

Globally aware

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce • Two Decatur Town Center, 125 Clairemont Ave., Suite, Decatur, GA 30030 • 404.378.8000 • www.dekalbchamber.org

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12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

The

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Page 16A

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12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

sports

Page 17A

LaBron Morris (RB) – Cedar Grove

Rahsaan Crawford (OL) – Tucker

DeKalb Co. Coach of the Year: Jermaine Smith

Daniel Gothard (OL) – Dunwoody

2015 Coaches All-DeKalb County Football Team
DeKalb Co. Team of the Year: Cedar Grove • DeKalb Co. Coach of the Year: Jermaine Smith (Cedar Grove)
All DeKalb County Offense

All DeKalb County Defense

DAP

Tray Tice (SR)

Decatur

DL











Antonio Showers (SO)
Antwuan Jacksonn (SR)
Deangelo Malone (JR)
Aaron Sterling (JR)
Michael Pitts (SR)
Jordan Smith (SR)
Dennis Wonnum (SR)
Ty’Qquee Carter (SR)
Rasaan Johnsonn (SR)
Tate Lasher (SR)
Darian Bernard (JR)
Hakeem Enis (SR)
David Maldonado (SR)

Tucker
Cedar Grove
ML King
Stephenson
Stephenson
Lithonia
Stephenson
McNair
Columbia
Chamblee
Stone Mountain
Druid Hills
Cross Keys

LB








Ellysee Mbem-Bosse (SR)
Amari Andrews (SR)
Terray Bryant (JR)
Michael King (JR)
John Mathis (SR)
David SanFratello (SR)
Stevie Gebhardtt (SR)
Jordan Stewart (SR)
Javier Lee (SR)
Geovonni Rene (SR)

Cedar Grove
Stephenson
Arabia Mountain
Redan
M.L. King
Lakeside
Dunwoody
Decatur
Druid Hills
Arabia Mountain

Jeremiah Shelley (SR)
Shaun Jolly (JR)
Eugene Brown (JR)
Will Tomlin (SR)
Darryl Moody (SR)
Semaj Williams (SR)
Tre’ Shaw (JR)
Ty’Heem Freeman (SR)
William Dean (SR)
Jabari Meyers (SR)
Jordan Eastling (SR)

Tucker
Stephenson
Stephenson
Columbia
Redan
Miller Grove
Cedar Grove
Lithonia
Chamblee
Arabia Mountain
SW DeKalb

Michael Tanks (SO)

SW DeKalb

All-Purpose Grant Holloman (JR)

Calvin Farley (SR)

Torrance Marable (SR)

St Pius X
Cross Keys
Towers

QB




Jelani Woods (JR)
Jordan Douglass (SR)
Reed Egan (SR)
D’Vonn Gibbons (JR)
Jack Dinges (JR)
Justin Tomlin (SO)

Cedar Grove
M.L. King
St Pius X
Stone Mountain
Marist
SW DeKalb

RB







Jaylen Marcin-Knight (JR)
LaBron Morris (SR)
Chris Broadwater (JR)
Rodnell McCree (SR)
Ezekio Gouch (JR)
Michael Hector (SR)
Josh Hudgins (SO)
Grant Walker (JR)
Michael Addicks (JR)

Stephenson
Cedar Grove
Tucker
Redan
Miller Grove
Columbia
Dunwoody
Decatur
Marist

WR




Jesse Reverio (SR)
Tirice Cramer (SR)
Brennan Garrison (SR)
Christian Holmes (SR)
Tylon Patterson (SR)
Demetrice Gilbert (SR)

Cedar Grove
Redan
St Pius X
McNair
Lithonia
Towers

TE

Tabarius Peterson (SR)

Tucker

OL






Daniel Gothard (SR)
Rahsaan Crawford (SR)
Chet Lagod (SR)
Chad Nelsonn (SR)
Eric Long (SR)
Natori Johnson (JR)
Kameron Smith (SR)
Justin Shaffer (JR)

Dunwoody
Tucker
Marist
St Pius X
St Pius X
Cedar Grove
Stephenson
Cedar Grove

DB









St. Pius X

P

K
Nick Jones (SR)

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12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

BASKETBALL

SPoRTS

Page 18A

Miller Grove pulls out
win against SWD
by Carla Parker
carla@dekalbchamp.com

Miller Grove’s Aidan Saunders goes up for a layup over Southwest DeKalb’s Keith Gilmore. Photo by
Mark Brock

Southwest DeKalb guard Daisa Alexander dribbles past Miller Grove’s Alexia Strong. Photo by Mark
Brock

free 12-25-15.indd 18

A jet-lagged Miller Grove
team was able to hang on and deliver a tough Southwest DeKalb
team its first loss of the season.
No.1-ranked Miller Grove
Wolverines (8-2) defeated No.
10-ranked Region 6-AAAAA foe
Southwest DeKalb Panthers (81) 76-69 Dec. 15 at home. Miller
Grove returned home Dec. 13
from Highland, Utah, after participating in the FreeTaxUSA.
com Shootout tournament.
The Wolverines lost to Lone
Peak (Utah) 73-71 in the final
game of the tournament on Dec.
12. Coach Sharman White said
the road trip had an effect on his
players.
“We just got off a flight Sunday evening and we didn’t even
practice yesterday [Dec. 14],”
White said. “That’s how important it was, I thought, for them
to try to get their legs back. They
just stayed the course and just
kept fighting. I knew their legs
were tired from that long trip. I
was just proud of the way they
hung in there.”
Miller Grove played well in
the first half, going into halftime
with a 37-27 lead. The Panthers
came out in the second half
strong behind forward TiQuan
Lewis, who scored five consecutive points to bring the Panthers
within four points (45-41) midway in the third quarter.
Guard Mandarius Dickerson gave Southwest DeKalb a
one-point lead later in the quarter after hitting a three-pointer.
The Panthers led by as many as
three points before Miller Grove
charged back and ended the
quarter with a two-point lead.
The lead changed seven
times in the fourth quarter before the Wolverines pulled away
from the Panthers. With the
game tied at 66 all with 3:10 left
to play, Miller Grove went on a
10-3 run behind free throws and
clutch baskets to close out the
game.
White said the run his team
went on in the final minutes of
the game says a lot about his
players’ mental toughness.
“We preach mental toughness because the game is 90 percent mental,” White said. “We’ve
played some tough games these
last three weeks. We’ve played
against two of the top-ranked

players in the country, we’ve
played against ranked teams and
we went toe-to-toe with everybody. Just being able to maintain
that and then coming in and
playing a rival school in a big
region matchup it just says everything about what we’ve been
preaching—mental toughness.”
Miller Grove guard Alterique Gilbert led the team with
24 points, while forward Colin
Young had 19 points. Forward
Raylon Richardson had a double-double of 11 points and 10
rebounds and guard Aaron Augustin had 11 points.
Lewis led the Panthers with
a double-double of 19 points
and 11 rebounds. Guards Keith
Gilmore and Nathaniel Ambersly each had 13 points, and guard
Darius Hogan had 12 points off
of four three-pointers.

Girls’ basketball: SWD 59,
Miller Grove 49
The No. 4-ranked and undefeated Southwest DeKalb Lady
Panthers held off the Miller
Grove Lady Wolverines for a 5949 Region 6-AAAAA win Dec.
15.
Southwest DeKalb came back
from an early 6-0 deficit to take a
31-21 lead at halftime. The Lady
Panthers extended their lead to
42-28 in the third quarter before
Miller Grove rallied to bring the
score within six points (48-42) at
the end of the quarter.
The Lady Wolverines tried to
keep the game close but Southwest DeKalb stepped up its defense and forward Cori Bostic
and guard Daisa Alexander hit
some crucial shots down the
stretch to seal the win.
Southwest DeKalb coach
Kathy Walton said her team
lacked consistency throughout
the game.
“We’re just up and down,
up and down, and we have to
learn how to play hard the whole
time,” she said.
Alexander finished the game
with a game-high 20 points.
Guard Jada Walton had 11
points, Bostic had 10 points and
center Ogheneruona Uwusiaba
had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Forward Chrystal Ezechukwu led Miller Grove with
15 points and guard Imani Richardson finished with 13 points.

12/22/15 3:57 PM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, December 25, 2015

sports

Page 19A

Cedar Grove defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson committed to Auburn over Ohio State, Georgia and
Florida Dec. 17. Jackson finished his senior year with 96 total tackles, including 52 tackles for a loss
and 10 sacks. Photos by Travis Hudgons

Cedar Grove’s Antwuan
Jackson heading to Auburn
by Carla Parker
carla@dekalbchamp.com
Cedar Grove defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson will play college football
at Auburn University.
The 4-star recruit and Army AllAmerican announced his commitment
to Auburn Dec. 17, selecting the university over Ohio State, Georgia and
Florida.
“I love the coaches, I love the community and I can’t wait to play for Auburn,” Jackson said.
Auburn has been one of Jackson’s
top schools for a while, but college
scouts and recruiters wondered if Auburn fell out of the running after former
defensive coordinator Will Muschamp
left Auburn to be head coach at South
Carolina.
Jackson said Muschamp’s leaving did
not sway his decision.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said.
“Auburn is still going to get a new defensive coordinator. They’ll get the right
one.”
Jackson graduated from Cedar
Grove Dec. 18 and will enroll at Auburn
mid-January. He finished his senior

year with 96 total tackles, including 52
tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He also
earned honors in his senior season including Class AAA Preseason All-State,
All-DeKalb County, All-Region 4-AAA,
DeKalb County All-Star Game selection
and Army All-American honors.
“[Auburn is] going to get a great
player and I’m going to develop to be the
best,” Jackson said.
Cedar Grove football coach Jermaine Smith said he is very proud of
Jackson.
“He’s a great kid,” Smith said. “Auburn is getting a great kid. No matter
where he was going he was going to be
okay. I’m just blessed that I get to see
him right down the road.”
Smith said Jackson has been an
impressive player since his ninth grade
year.
“When he came in as a freshman,
he showed the kids what hard work and
effort can do,” he said. “When he came
in he understood the game, which was
very surprising, but he worked hard every day to get better and better. Now this
is just a testament to how well our kids
grow here. It’s a process and we really
develop our kids.”

happy holidays

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NEW YEAR’S

BOWL
NEW YEAR’S

VS.

IT’S A SHOWDOWN!
Grandma’s smoky greens vs. Mama’s black-eyed pea salad.
What a delicious and exciting way to ring in the new year. Publix has all the fresh ingredients
you love. The entertainment... we’ll leave to you. Happy New Year from Publix.
Log on to publix.com/aprons and check out some additional recipe ideas.

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