Shamrockin’ Around

Above: Drum Corporal Will Ingraham, Drum Sergeant Anthony Green, and Alpharetta’s own, Ashley Frost, of North Georgia Pipes & Drums. Photo: Raftermen Photography

By Tara Gary

I view it as an excuse to wear green, drink beer, and pinch people who forgot to wear green. Wherever did I get the notion to do these things on the 17th of March each year? I’m sure if I took a random poll of St. Patrick’s Day patrons, the majority of individuals wouldn’t know why they are gallivanting through Irish pubs wearing t-shirts that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish.” I decided to do a little research to figure out how it all began and here’s what I found, while shamrockin’ around.

  • St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish, it is believed he was born circa 386 in Roman Britain, an area that included England and Wales.
  • Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
  • Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as a secular holiday was an American tradition before it spread to Ireland.
  • Historically, Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day. (You may want to check with your parish priest:))
  • 13 million—the number of estimated pints of Guinness to be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day.
  • 45 pounds of environmentally-friendly powder are used to turn the Chicago River green. Savannah tried it too, back in 1961, but the tide dissipated it too quickly to be worthwhile. Now they dye the water in their famous fountains instead.

So, how should you spend your time on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not planning to travel to celebrate near any green rivers or fountains? How about Shamrockin’ around ATL to some of the many local celebrations!

Luck of Avalon brings out the Irish in everyone. Photo: Raftermen Photography

It’s never too early to start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day especially since the day of green falls on a Sunday this year. Start the weekend Friday, March 15 at the 5th Annual Luck of Avalon celebration. The King O’Sullivan School of Irish Dance kicks off the festivities at 5:30 p.m., followed by a proper bagpipe and drum introduction performed by the North Georgia Pipes and Drums, who will continue to parade through the streets of Avalon while the plaza transforms into a dance floor. Enjoy the live music, dancing, Irish flair, and green beer during this family-friendly event.

If you’re planning on heading downtown for the festivities, start with the Green Mile Block Party in Midtown. I suggest taking Marta since it starts at 7:00 p.m., and 2,000 party-goers are expected to attend. That’s a ton of green! There are 20+ establishments involved so there will be plenty of food and beverages for everyone to overindulge in and kick-off the holiday weekend.

The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable has been wowing spectators in parades, concerts, and festivals since 1974. The band supports events and fundraisers of all kinds.
Photo: Alan Sandercock/Creative Commons

Wake up Saturday morning and run or walk those calories off at The Junior League of Atlanta Shamrock ‘N Roll Road Race in Atlantic Station. The 5K and 10K are AJC Peachtree Road Race qualifiers. You can bring the kids, strollers are welcome, and furry friends can participate as well. After the run, cross over the 17th Street Bridge to see one of the South’s biggest and oldest celebrations of its kind, the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Midtown. The family-friendly parade features more than 2,000 Irish dancers, musicians, balloons, floats, local and Irish dignitaries, the Clydesdales, and the world’s largest Irish walking flag. What’s not to love about the world’s largest flag?!

The Irish Lights Party is just down the road at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park. It’s an all-day festival featuring the band Lost Kings with several different areas of entertainment. It’s an adults only party so leave the little leprechauns with a sitter.

Not done yet? Take a breath, refuel, and head on over to paint The Battery green at Live! at the Battery Atlanta. The St. Patrick’s Day Live! Takeover features live bands all afternoon, Irish cocktails, green beer, and plenty of games. If you’re looking to stay further north of town, head over to the Suwanee American Craft Beer Fest from 1:00 p.m. –  5:00 p.m. happening in Town Center Park. Unlimited tastings of over 350 beers! There’s even a home brew contest for those of you brew enthusiasts.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will be attending Mac McGee’s MacFestivus March 16 in the heart of Historic Roswell. When this section of Canton Street shuts down you can let your inner leprechaun shine. Proceeds benefit Roswell’s The Cottage School, which is a great reason, as if you need one, to have a convivial experience while giving back to the community. This is another family-friendly event with live music beginning at 1:00 p.m., Irish dancers, balloon artists, and all the fun you can macmuster.

Early risers, if you’re up or rather down for a Pub Crawl Brunch Party, head to Virginia Highland for Kegs and Eggs March 17. If you don’t know by now you will… Virginia Highland has some of best brunch spots in Atlanta. Participating bars and restaurants are Limerick Junction, Diesel, Bar-Bacoa, Tiki Iniki, George’s, Moe’s & Joe’s, Fontaine’s, Dark Horse Tavern, Neighbor’s Pub, and The Warren City Club.

There is no excuse for being unable to find something to do the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day. It would be impossible to list the endless number of events surrounding the Metro area. I did a quick search for “Irish pubs near me” that resulted in a flood of options including: Mac McGee Irish Pub, Harp Irish Pub, Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub, Keegan’s Public House, Royal Oak Pub, Meehan’s Public House, Johnnie MacCracken’s, Tilted Kilt, Fado Irish Pub, and Ri Ra Irish Pub which are all located in various areas within reach. You know each of these establishments will have numerous festivities. I know Keegan’s will be hosting live music Friday and Saturday night and all-day Sunday.

So, for a Leapin’ Leprechaun, Shamrockin’ good time this St. Patrick’s Day, you need not search for the end of the rainbow when you live around ATL. The pot of gold is right at your feet. ❍

When not writing, Roswell resident Tara Gary is busy making industrial furniture, charcuterie boards, and local art. Most nights she can be found with her friends at local breweries and pubs drinking craft beer.

North Georgia Pipes & Drums

Above: Pipers Kari Olsen of Milton and Mark Lamont. Photo: Raftermen Photography

Both exciting and mournful, there is nothing quite like the sound of the bagpipes to stir emotions. That’s why North Georgia Pipes and Drums is hired for events ranging from parades and parties to funerals. They’ll perform at Luck of Avalon this year on March 15.

When asked about performing for St. Patrick’s day with Scottish bagpipes, Tom Crawford, Pipe Major, replied, ”The bagpipes are indeed Scottish. The full name is the Great Highland Bagpipes. However, Scotland and Ireland are very close neighbors and cross migration was common. So the Scottish pipes are used in Ireland as well. It’s all Celtic, so we celebrate that.”

For a dozen years, North Georgia Pipes and Drums have held true to their philosophy: Good Music, Good Will, Good Fun! Members hail from all corners of the North Atlanta/North Georgia region, including Alpharetta, Athens, Buford, Covington, Dahlonega, Gainesville, Johns Creek, Woodstock and beyond. “We have ten pipers, seven drummers, and one drum major, said Crawford. “We’re always looking for new members, too.”

The band was founded in 2007 as North Atlanta Pipes & Drums, by four seasoned musicians: pipers Brad Beaton, Mark Blihovde, Robbie Rogers, and drummer JJ Hayden. Their vision was, and remains, to bring together a core of accomplished pipers and drummers who love to play, who are ready to compete, and who will welcome and nurture developing players. In 2016 they changed the name of the band to North Georgia Pipes and Drums to better reflect its burgeoning and wide-ranging membership. The band uses competition as a motivation tool to improve their playing, and has taken many first place wins. They perform for the public at reasonable rates in order to subsidize the costs involved in maintaining their organization, a charitable 501(c)3 organization.

They practice weekly at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church and they welcome visitors to come and observe at a rehearsal. Contact them at the website to be sure that the rehearsal is on the calendar. Look for them at Luck of Avalon and visit North Georgia Pipes and Drums, to learn more or call 678-718-KILT (5458). ❍

Yard of the Month in 3 Easy Steps

I was surprised and more tickled than I ever thought I’d be to come home one day last November and find the “Yard of the Month” sign in my front yard. So I got to thinking about how to share the wealth and came up with three steps to make your landscape noteworthy.

Neatness Counts

• Staying ahead of yard chores is one key to keeping the landscape neat. A schedule helps with efficiency and keeps autumn leaves or summer weeds under control.

• Edges are another important key to any landscaped space. They delineate boundaries between different areas such as sun and shade, woods and lawn, lawn and driveway. Humans navigate by edges, so crisp, well-maintained edges promote a feeling of well-being and safety.

• Mulch suppresses weeds while it unifies the landscape. Choose an organic mulch like ground pine bark, pine straw, or compost that will help replenish the soil and repeat the same mulch throughout your yard for continuity. This will help the eye move around your landscape.

Feature a Focal Point

• A welcoming front door and entryway is perhaps the most logical spot to emphasize. Improve the walkway from street or drive and keep it level and clear for curb appeal.

• Elevate the architecture on your home with detailing to open it up.

• Make the point of entry pop and add personality with paint and accessories to invite people in.

• Light the way with low voltage landscape lighting for beauty and safety.

Feature a Focal Point

• A welcoming front door and entryway is perhaps the most logical spot to emphasize. Improve the walkway from street or drive and keep it level and clear for curb appeal.

• Elevate the architecture on your home with detailing to open it up.

• Make the point of entry pop and add personality with paint and accessories to invite people in.

• Light the way with low voltage landscape lighting for beauty and safety.

Color is Appealing
On morning walks with my coonhound, Lily, we often pass a neighbor that has planted colorful flowering ornamentals for every month of the year. Daffodils beginning in early spring, followed by several clumps of iris, through Atlanta’s azalea season, roses and daylilies midsummer, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums in fall, and finishing up with holly berries and hellebores over winter. Each of these are permanent and do not need too much attention. There is something going on each and every month, and it is fascinating to see what’s next.

Have you been chosen the ‘Yard of the Month’ for your neighborhood? What have you done differently? Let me know by commenting beloew or email me.

Geri Laufer lives in Atlanta, where she, graphic designer husband David, and English Coonhound Lily are working on designing and installing a never-finished landscape. You can reach her at Geri Laufer

Luck of the Irish

Above: Tap & Six co-owner Holli Hutson with her dad, Ernest Hutson, at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah.

By Ethan Craig

Growing up here in Roswell, St. Patrick’s Day was never much of a big deal for me. Sure, we had fun wearing green for a day and making leprechaun jokes, but the celebration moved on pretty quickly. For Holli, my business partner at Tap & Six, St. Paddy’s Day is quite a different story. She was born and raised in Savannah where there is a higher level of appreciation for celebrating the Irish and their patron saint.

Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day revelry rivals New York City and is one of only two places in the United States that celebrates March 17 as a legal holiday, Suffolk County, Massachusetts being the other. Hundreds of thousands of people gather and celebrate the annual parade. Holli’s dad, family, and friends gather on the evening before the parade and strategically position themselves along the parade route waiting until the police give the okay. With that signal, there is a mad rush to claim a space on one of Savannah’s many squares as they stake-out their territory for a party that will include hundreds of people coming and going throughout the day. The celebration includes a massive spread of food, Bloody Marys, green Krispy Kreme donuts, and a wide selection of beer.

St. Patrick’s Day is a reminder of the many Irish-style craft beers that are available this time of year. For those of us who are looking to celebrate closer to home, I’ve got a few suggestions that will allow you to support your local brewer as well as enjoy the luck of the Irish.

Irish Red I Jedeye from Cherry Street Brewing is a dark, ruby red Irish red ale with a light body and slight malty, crisp finish.

Nitro Dry Irish Stout from Breckenridge Brewery is jet black and true to style. The malt and an English ale yeast bring complexity to an otherwise simple, yet traditional beer.

Drafty Kilt from Monday Night Brewing is a roasty Scotch ale (not Irish, but pretty close) with a hint of smoke. Here’s what Monday Night has to say about it… “Full-bodied, but not overpowering. Smokey, but not in a creepy bar kind of way. Sweet, but not obnoxiously so. Sound like your ideal mother-in-law? Fair enough, but it also is a pretty dead-on description of our Scotch Ale.”

And of course, there’s always a Guinness Stout to be had.

Wherever you are on the 17th:

May the luck of the Irish 
lead to happiest heights 
and the highway you travel 
be lined with green lights.

We’ll toast to that! ❍

Ethan Craig is Craft Beer Curator at Tap & Six Craft Beer House, a craft beer market and bar in Historic Roswell at 23 Oak Street. Tap & Six.

Duke’s Bar & Grill in Milton

By Joe Duffy

I was a faithful groupie of one-time Atlanta Chef Richard Blais previous to his ascension as a celebrity via Top Chef. My grubbing Golden Rule is, if I claim I don’t like something, you know I’ve tried it. Blais’s inventiveness and cutting-edge creations, such as the famed foie gras milkshake, paired perfectly with my adventurous wheelhouse.

However, there is ample space in my heart and stomach for familiar, well-executed, timeless dishes. Enter veteran Chef Todd Hogan. The James Beard recurring guest chef, DiRona award winner and Johnson & Wales-trained master chef isn’t endeavoring to reinvent the wheel. He’s too occupied with perfecting it. I’ve delighted in at least six of Hogan’s current and former restaurants.

Even including his brief stint at the incompetently-managed, squandered potential of Slate, all of his enterprises have demonstrated that Hogan cooks both comfortable, American casual and fine dining as well as anyone. Going from one extreme to the other, Hogan transformed high-end, special-occasion restaurant Indigo (the second incarnation) into his most casual concept—Duke’s Bar & Grill.

“I overdid it with design,” Hogan said, in confirming the high-end Indigo redux limited patrons in family-oriented Crabapple to being only a special occasion place. “If I can only see you on your birthday or anniversary, that’s not what I want.”

Pat & Gracie’s in Columbus, Ohio tops a short list of restaurants rivaling Hogan’s tater tots as the best I’ve ever had. Duke’s version incorporates cheddar cheese, trotting them atop the tot lot. Yes, I’ve supped ITP’s Fox Brothers, Roswell’s Lucky’s, and Alpharetta’s The Nest Cafe. All are credentialed nominees, but Duke’s is peerless this side of the Buckeye State.

Also quintessential are his humongous onion rings, drizzled with spicy honey and topped with white cheddar. But the topmost appetizer may be his lightly fried lobster poppers.

Frying a delicacy is a risky proposition. Deep frying is always the first option for masking lower-quality fish like catfish and tilapia. Mind you, I love fried catfish (you can keep the tilapia) but there is the inherent peril of the unintended consequence of concealing the greatness of lobster. Then again, the fried lobster tail at McKendrick’s ranks among the greatest foodstuff I’ve ever had. Clearly when well-executed, high-quality fried lobster has a high payoff.

Oh hell, Hogan has already proven at sister restaurant Branch & Barrel at Avalon that he knows exactly what he’s doing with the corn fried lobster sandwich. He successfully administers the embodiment of fried marine life with the mentioned small bite at Duke’s.

Wife’s monthly gossip… err I mean book club members report, Duke’s fried pickled green beans should be on my bucket list. My wife is obsessed with fried pickles, giving two thumbs up on the closest plate at Duke’s to said infatuation.

Todd’s record shows he formulates first course items skillfully. At his sister restaurants, Branchwater in Cumming and the aforesaid Branch & Barrel, Hogan has the loftiest beer pretzel OTP. Oh gosh, procure that horseradish sour cream dip if you are keyed up by life-changing eats. At his three currently open restaurants, Hogan parades many contenders for the best American staple dishes I’ve ever had. In saying Duke’s fried chicken is a slight notch below Table & Main’s as my bride’s and my favorite is hardly damning with faint praise. It’s merely an homage to another of the area’s restaurant giants. Hogan’s fried yard bird is better than 95 percent you’ll find. That’s serious acclaim in these parts.

Nothing says American like a mushroom Swiss burger and mac and cheese.

Duke’s pecan-crusted grouper is luscious. This Milton/Crabapple eating house also outperforms most with family-friendly comfort food such as meatloaf, rosemary roasted chicken, burgers, and salads.

Yes, sous vide, nitrogen food, nouvelle cuisine and whatever future cooking techniques evolve, all have appeal to me. But unlike many of my fellow food snobs, I don’t want to be all chic, all the time. There’s no need to outsmart the room. Some dishes are timeless. Hogan made it clear that he prefers time-proven techniques such as braising and roasting over “dummy proof” sous-vide.

God willing, I have at least 35 years of gluttony ahead of me. Yes, my life is complete if I never consume rice pilaf again. But whichever blockhead determined beef stroganoff, Swedish meatballs, and chicken Kiev are no longer worthy of appearing on menus can kiss my grits. Thankfully, Hogan excels in dishes that were great in decades past and likely will be for posterity. There is no better “old school” chef. ❍

When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website Offshore Insiders. His bride’s gift site, Duffy Gifts is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from My Thirty One Gifts. 

Behold the Neighborhood Trash Monitor

Yes, ’tis I who holds that title in our little enclave of townhomes here in Historic Roswell. Like a school hall monitor who is endowed with the responsibility based upon good behavior, I have proven my value when it comes to the management of trash collection. I feel honored to be the garbage crier, monitoring crazy pick-up schedules; and running after emptied trash cans that roll downhill and rest smack dab in the middle of the street. Fretting over packed cans that have been knocked over, spewing forth (come on, there’s no room for delicate language here!) contents none of us really want to see.

“Not delicate” describes this topic, but fess up, y’all. You’ve undoubtedly had the pleasure of these experiences. Haven’t you chased your trash can as it rolls down the driveway and into the street? Haven’t you sat on your can (both of them!) to smash down the contents so nothing will spill? Haven’t you stomped in a tantrum when garbage pick-up missed your can? Haven’t you tried everything to get your old recliner to fit into that thing?

How often have you done the “dumpster run” after a holiday or birthday, or when you miss the trash pick-up? Gentlemen, I believe this is a right of passage. Dads and husbands must clandestinely sneak to a dumpster where there might still be room after every other man has snuck over and secretly deposited his trash under the cover of night. You probably line up with every other dad in the area, giving each other a nod, as you throw in boxes, old furniture, and trash, when it’s your turn. Every American with a Y chromosome knows his job. I dare to guess that boys ride along, encouraged to accompany their grownups to apprentice for their own future duties.

These are downright All-American prerogatives.

Where do I fit into this narrative? No, not the dumpster run. I don’t have that Y “dumpster-some.” Here’s my story:

It all started last Thanksgiving. I live in the gold standard of neighborly neighborhoods. We enjoy chatting with each other in the street and cooing over neighborhood canines in our little dog park. We watch over each other’s homes on vacations and assure that the garbage goes out to the curb. There’s no fear of snooping, digging around, or raiding anyone’s can. I’m just sayin’.

Di, the Trash Monitor.

So, it’s Tuesday morning before the holiday. I’m having coffee and get a text from my neighbor.

“Di, everyone has their garbage cans out, and it looks like the truck has already been here!” Did we miss the memo?”

“What the heck,” I texted back. Our garbage day is Wednesday, and honestly nothing ever falls on a Wednesday, so garbage day has never changed, even with holidays. So we both had bulging containers in our garages, desperately needing to be emptied. Ewwwww. But how and what did our neighbors know?

“I’ll research this,” I texted back. Sure enough, Roswell garbage collection has a website with all kinds of information, including contact info. Who thought garbage cans could be so complicated? I dialed the number for the department, convinced that I’d get an answering system.

“Roswell Solid Waste Division.” A human! I immediately dove into my name and where I live and questioned, “I’m confused. Our normal collection day is Wednesday, but you collected it today instead. Even in a holiday week, you’ve never done that before.”

Him: “Well, ma’am, Thursday is Thanksgiving. We always move pick-up days based on holidays.”

Me: “But you’ve never done that for Wednesdays, not since I moved here nine years ago. How were we supposed to know that you’d do it this year?”

Him: “Ma’am, we always move collection days during a holiday week. Your Wednesday moved to Tuesday, and Thursday moves to Wednesday. Friday stays the same, Tuesday moves to Monday.” (OOOOkay then. “Who’s on first?” Anyone?)

Me: “Why didn’t you send out a written notice?”

Him: “It costs too much money.” (Oh.)

Me: “So, how was I supposed to know this?”

Him: “Ma’am, you need to follow us on Facebook.” (Say what?) “If you don’t want to do Facebook, you can follow us on Twitter.” (I have entered the Twilight Zone.)

Me: “Sir, I rarely use them. It never occurred to me to follow our garbage services that way!”

Him: “Ma’am, stop yelling at me.” (Oh, dear. Wasn’t me! Wasn’t me!)

Me: “I apologize, sir. Thank you for your time.”

Him: “Ma’am, wait! We expected to miss people, so we’re sending the trucks back out this evening. Put out the garbage.” (NOW he tells me?)

Folks, nobody is happier than I am that we can put a bunch of junk on a curb to be whisked away. Honestly, God Bless America. But never in my dreams did I think I’d have to follow our “Garbage/Sanitation/Solid Waste” information on Facebook.

I laughingly texted my neighbor and told him to put out his cans for pick-up later. “And, by the way,” I said, “You must ‘friend’ the garbage service on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. Cross my heart and hope to die. I’m now officially the trash monitor.”

His response? “LOL!”

Then and there, I acquired a wealth of garbage collection information. I studied it, paragraph after paragraph. I mastered the lingo. I memorized the news. For example, new cans were coming out. They’d be delivered with the next pick-up. We must dispose of our old cans ourselves. Really? With what? My 2-seater sports car? Hmmm. I wondered if it would fit in the passenger seat with the top down for a dumpster or dump run. I was all over the “who’s on first” at Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s time for you to fire up Facebook, y’all. It will save you angst over a bloated can. I know these things. I’m the trash monitor. Questions, anyone? ❍

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it! Contact Di at

STAT Lung Clinic Opens

Above: Celebrating the January opening of WellStar North Fulton Hospital’s STAT Lung Clinic are, from left: Mark McLaughlin, M.D., radiation oncologist; Carey Baumann, RN, lung cancer navigator at WellStar Kennestone Hospital; Theolyn Price, M.D., thoracic surgeon; Qin Zhang, M.D., medical oncologist; and Pam Plasket, RN, OCN, oncology navigator at WellStar North Fulton Hospital.

When lung cancer is diagnosed or suspected, WellStar North Fulton Hospital is the place to turn for a quick, comprehensive treatment plan. The new Specialty Teams and Treatment (STAT) Clinic, which opened in January, enables patients to start treatment faster, increasing their chances of beating the disease. This innovative concept, unique in metro Atlanta, allows patients to meet with a multidisciplinary team of physicians and specialists in one day, in one setting. Treatment is typically started within days instead of weeks or months. The concept was created at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in 2006, and expanded to WellStar Cobb, Douglas—and now North Fulton—hospitals. North Fulton Hospital is also home to a STAT Clinic for breast cancer, which opened in 2016.

The North Fulton Hospital STAT lung clinic team includes Sachin Lavania, M.D., pulmonologist; Theolyn Price, M.D., thoracic surgeon; Qin Zhang, M.D., medical oncologist; Mark McLaughlin, M.D., radiation oncologist; and Pam Plasket, RN, OCN, oncology certified nurse navigator. “They work collaboratively to develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient in one visit, as opposed to having the patient make multiple visits to each physician’s office,” said Sarah Bentley, RN, oncology services manager, North Fulton Hospital. “Pam, our nurse navigator, will be available to patients and their families during their visit and while receiving treatment, providing information, resources and support.” WellStar also offers genetic tumor analysis, the latest treatment technology, counseling and an oncology registered dietitian.

The STAT clinic is taking appointments for the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. Physicians may refer or patients may self refer. To make an appointment, please call 770-410-4556; fax referrals to 770-410-4557. ❍

Who will stop to help?

Above: “There are countless rewarding moments at the STAR House. But my favorite days are when my son Jordan is able to join me in helping out the kids.” —Joe Duffy

By Joe Duffy

“I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address delivered at Mason Temple in Memphis on April 3, 1968.

I’m proudly into year three as a volunteer and evangelist for STAR House. Located in Roswell, we are a non-profit organization that assists and tutors at-risk children with schoolwork. “Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed” is the motto of the STAR House. There is no dispute that success begins in the classroom.

I gild the lily not in the least when I say the hardest I’ve ever laughed at the STAR House was at the first words any child said to me, other than introducing ourselves. “You look like a white guy,” she declared. That works out well, because most of my life I’ve identified as one. I had no response, but I did guffaw. She then observed, “Did you know when you laugh your entire head turns red?”

The STAR House kids are like kids everywhere. They have that universal gaze of longing to learn. I’ve observed it in their eyes and in their faces.

Last year, upon telling me she was going to retire after 16 years as Site Director, Ms. Noura (Noura Abdi-Tabari) asked me if I planned on volunteering the next year. “Definitely,” I said, in expressing my desire to continue to support the students. In a somber tone, she responded, “Good, because I worry about these kids.”

I do too. Among the reasons is because not enough people are concerned about them. I believe they should be. We could use a lot more people to become one of the thousand points of light. Volunteer, donate, help at STAR House.

There are countless times when I have to peel myself away from trying to squeeze out every last dollar of revenue at work. There is sacrifice involved. I hope the great MLK would not object if I paraphrased him to reflect on how his quote (at right) resonates with me concerning STAR House. Instead of asking, if I stop to help these children, what will happen to me? I’d rather reverse the question. If nobody stops to help these children, what will happen to them? ❍

About STAR House

“STAR House provides after-school mentoring and summer camp for at-risk children throughout North Fulton County. Our mission is to promote academic success and empower lifelong achievement for children in need. We currently serve over 300 children within four Title 1 North Fulton schools, with a growing unmet need,” says Executive Director Stephanie Christiansen.

After-school volunteers read and listen to a child read, help students review for tests, teach good study habits, check homework for accuracy, tutor a child in a favorite subject, or assist with special school projects.
STAR House will match you with the program that best meets your expertise, interest, and availability. In addition to staff, dedicated volunteers enable STAR House to reach each student in a more meaningful way, encouraging their academic potential.

You can stop to help. To learn more, visit STAR House or call 678-384-4550.

A Divorce? Then what?

By Robert Fezza and Steve Siders

A divorce may be the most stressful and hardest experience of your life. Any life event that disrupts your personal and financial well-being will cause hardship and concern. You may be faced with taking on new responsibilities that aren’t your strengths, so making good decisions is paramount to avoiding completely derailing the best of intentions. With time, patience, and quality advice, you can and will overcome this.

To help you be in control of your financial situation, let’s walk through some essential steps to take if you’re facing, or just concluding, a divorce.

Money Date: Your first step is to open your calendar and book a two-hour “Money Date,” an appointment with yourself where you’ll take a detailed look at your finances. This will need to be repeated for weekly paying of bills and monitoring your cash flow, but first, it is good to take to look at the big picture.

Get Clear about your Goals: Your short-term and long-term goals will provide perspective and motivation to stick with your budget. Write down all the things you’d like to accomplish in the next year and estimate what they’ll cost (e.g., new furniture, a trip to see family, therapy, or continuing education expenses). Now, look at the bigger picture and list your long-term goals and dreams (e.g., retirement, a child’s college tuition, or making a long-distance move).

Add Up Your Income: Next, list every regular source of income. If you work, include your take-home pay after taxes and deductions, and then list alimony, child support, and any other sources of income.

Write Down Your Expenses: Even if cash flow isn’t a concern, it’s vital to know where your money is going. Start with non-negotiable fixed expenses: rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, loan and credit payments, and groceries. Next, list variable expenses. These are the discretionary, flexible categories like clothing, entertainment, dining out, and savings.

Prioritize and Adjust as Needed: Fine-tune your budget, cutting what you don’t need and adjusting it to fit your lifestyle and goals. Live within your means, with a goal of having some extra money to spare after all expenses are paid. Revisit your budget monthly and adjust according to your priorities.

Make It Practical: To stay on track, create a practical approach to follow regularly. Consider using simple budgeting software, such as Mint or YNAB (You Need A Budget). Reach out to your support team regularly, and be sure to call an advisor to help put numbers around the saving you’re doing for those long-term goals.

Remember: change might be tough, but you are too. By keeping to a budget and staying focused on your goals, you can run the divorce marathon and cross the finish line stronger, wiser, and more financially prepared. You’ve got this! Your troubles can be overcome with time, patience and quality advice. Life is a journey. Navigate it wisely.

Robert Fezza, CFP® and Steve Siders, CFP® own Odyssey Personal Financial Advisors, 500 Sun Valley Drive, Suite A-6, Roswell, GA. Their firm specializes in working with people who are serious about making progress toward financial goals. Odyssey manages portfolios greater than $250,000. 770-992-4444, Visit their site at www.odysseypfa.comOdyssey. Securities offered through Cetera Financial Specialists LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cetera Investment Advisers LLC. Cetera entities are under separate ownership from any other named entity.

2019 Roswell Beer Fest is “not bigger, just better!”

By Jessica Diamond

The Roswell Beer Festival is celebrating its seventh anniversary this March 23 with an event that is self-described as “not bigger, just better!” This year’s event is expected to sell out yet again, but the beer fest does not plan to increase its headcount in 2019. Rather, the event is kept intentionally intimate and exclusive to maintain quality of experience and keep visitors returning for years to come.

Ticket revenues completely cover the cost of the event, so 100% of donations from sponsors and other sources will go directly to the STAR House Foundation, a nonprofit after school program for at-risk youth.

The STAR House team has diligently recorded feedback each year and made adjustments to the festival to ensure a top-tier experience. Based on said feedback, this year’s festival will feature food from C&S Chowder House, 1920 Tavern, Peach & the Porkchop, The Mill Kitchen, Roux, and a handful of other Roswell favorites. The festival boasts 400 different kinds of beer, two live bands, and an opportunity to purchase the VIP Experience with access to an exquisitely furnished tent with unlimited food and drinks as well as access to private, luxury restroom facilities. What’s more, some of the featured beers are exclusive local brews that can only be found at the event.

Back by popular demand is the selection of beer fest merchandise, such as t-shirts, growlers, hats and more that can be purchased with festival tokens.

Roswell Beer Fest Revelers at the 2018 event.
Revelers at the 2018 Fest

In many ways, the beer fest has stayed true to its roots, resisting the urge to conform to similar events in other areas that often stretch resources in an effort to pack in as many guests as possible. This small but mighty nonprofit team is determined to make the most of their success and optimize the reputation they’ve built to protect the longevity of the beer fest as a fundraiser.

“Our goal is always to be strategic about this event,” festival chair Jeff Bridges said. “We want to provide the best possible experience to maintain our reputation as one of the top beer festivals in the area. At the same time, we need to balance our primary goal of earning as much money for our STAR House kids as possible. We do this for them, and each dollar we earn will go directly into the program.”

Profits from the beer fest allow STAR House Foundation to further execute its strategic plan to expand into more Roswell schools and provide more students with a safe and supportive after school learning environment.

The event is run entirely by STAR House board and staff members with help from more than 350 volunteers, amassing over 4,000 hours of service. This year’s festival is expected to raise $230,000 through generous sponsor support, which will provide hundreds of students with new program materials, computers, staff and more.

Each year, as demand grows, STAR House is forced to place at-risk students on a waiting list due to lack of resources. Profits from the beer fest allow the program to further execute its strategic plan to expand into more Roswell schools and provide more students with a safe and supportive after school learning environment. There are also plans in place to create a STAR House summer camp.

“We already see a huge amount of community support for the STAR House program,” Bridges said. “But the great thing about this festival is that it draws in those who may have never heard of it. We are appealing to a whole new audience each year, many of whom come from outside the community. This allows us to expand our reach. Also, it’s a pretty good bargain! You’re getting to try a lot of beer, much of it local craft beer and some of it exclusive to the event, for a very reasonable price.” Learn more about the the Roswell Beer Festival and purchase tickets for the event.

To find out more about volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, email the beer festival folks. To learn more about the STAR House Foundation visit STAR House Foundation.