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: If you're heading West crossing the railroad tracks in downtown Lilburn, don't for a moment think this scene is a road. It's a painting on the side of a building near the roadway in Lilburn. For a look at how this came about from a local resident, read Today's Focus below.

Issue 14.72 | Dec. 9, 2014

:: Lilburn's mural

:: Community enrichment

Simmons, story challenge

Scholarships, more

Noonan, gifts

:: Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory

:: Distinctive U.S.

:: Georgia's estuaries

:: Several recognize bridge

:: Top Claw at GGC


ABOUT US is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

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Lilburn mural of a tunnel painted by one of city's residents
Reprinted with permission
| permalink

(Editor's Note: the following story first appeared in Lovin' Lilburn, an online newsletter distributed by the Lilburn Community Partnership.-eeb)

LILBURN, Ga., Dec. 9, 2014 -- This past year's mural painted on a building on Main Street is much more than just another public art piece. For those who followed the project from the initial design on paper and then watched the days, weeks and months of work that transformed the rendering into a work of art have truly been amazed of the effect that the "Tunnel" has had on Lilburn.

The detail incorporated into the mural has become so much a part of our landscape that some in the City have been concerned that someone not familiar with Lilburn might actually try to drive through it! Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed photographing themselves in the back-in-time scene. One resident has even been inspired to envision the other side of the tunnel as a framework for a historical novel of old Lilburn. Isn't that what art does - inspire?

So who is the artist behind Lilburn's first public art piece? Did the City of Lilburn pay big bucks to acquire a mural that was recently recognized as best in its class by Signs of the Times trade magazine? No, not an artist from the outside, but one from right here in Lilburn - an artist, business owner and resident who understands the value in giving back to his community.


Sonny Franks, owner of Sign Creations, is the artist behind the mural. Residents for 32 years, Sonny and his wife Peggy spend time together traveling the country painting murals or getting together with other artists to improve their skills.

Sonny grew up in Columbia, S.C., painting signs at a summer job. Painting honed his talent by studying graphic arts at Clemson and advertising design at University of South Carolina. He started his business, Sign Creations while attending Clemson.

Sonny has been an avid member of the Letterheads, a group of sign professionals who gather in different places to share techniques, ideas, and fellowship. Sonny has traveled to England, Greece, Canada and Scotland. The Letterheads are dedicated to the altruistic theory that seasoned veterans pass their knowledge on to others, elevating the quality of everyone's work. He feels that he has learned from the best in the business.

One Letterhead mural that he is proud of can be seen in Suwanee on the back of their amphitheater. It has 47 members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame featured in a concert setting. He is also a member of the Walldogs, who get together every summer to paint murals in a selected city. The group leaves a legacy of as many as 20 murals in a four-day span, with about 150 artists donating their time and talent.

Sonny's vision for art in Lilburn is that somehow we will harness the energy and tremendous abilities of the many artists living in the city. That vision fueled his motivation to put time and energy into helping to start Lilburn Arts Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting art appreciation in our community. How fortunate for Lilburn that Sonny Franks located his family here to pursue his dream and give back to the community. He has made an impact on our City that is both inspiring as well as motivating.

Thank you, Sonny Franks.

Wealth through private foundations makes communities better

Editor and publisher |

DEC. 9, 2014 -- How do you enrich any community in its arts and culture and transform it into a vibrant and caring area?


Traditionally in this country, with its tax laws, it's been some individual making a lot of money in private business, then recognizing that he owes something to give back to the community. Based on the tax laws, this has usually meant the creation of a foundation to oversee the accumulated wealth of this individual, and determine how best to give his assets to improve his interests in philanthropic activities.

All this came to mind last week when the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation announced that it would give $38 million to the Woodruff Arts Center, the largest gift in the Center's 46 year history. Not only that, but the gift will begin an $82 million Art Center campaign to boosts its endowment by $50 million, and raise $32 million in capital improvements to the Center.

You don't get announcements like that every day, if you are in Atlanta. Locally, Gwinnett County's arts and culture charities have never had such a gift.

All this emphasizes what it takes to benefit any community's culture: it takes people making money in private business, and having the capacity to realize that all this was not accomplished by them alone, but with the help of others, and therefore, they need to "give back" to the community. Without significant extremely successful business ventures in any area, there's no financial wherewithal to make large cultural and charitable gifts.

That's why the South, in particular, has been bereft of capital to benefit its geography. Compared to the industrial center of the North and Midwest, the South has suffered from lack of financial resources.

There are few foundations benefiting Gwinnett. The largest is the Scott Hudgens Family Foundation, with assets exceeding $100 million, which annually contributes about $5 million to cultural and charitable activities, mostly in Gwinnett.

The next largest foundation in the county would be the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia, which has $30 million in assets. We know of no more major large foundations in Gwinnett. (Other local foundations, such as the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation and Georgia Gwinnett College Foundation, are not in the same activity as private foundations, but set up mainly to receive donations to benefit that specific institution.)

But the point is that Gwinnett has few other private foundations awarding major grants.

Atlanta is a prime example of what it takes to have a major charitable foundation. The major Atlanta foundations came as a result of one product: Coca Cola, and its bottling companies. These foundations and their assets include:

  • The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation: $3.088 billion!
  • The Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, $1.302 billion!
  • The Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, $1,302 billion!
  • The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, $420 million!

You can see how these four foundations, all run from basically one office, contribute mightily to Atlanta.

Individuals in business who realize they "owe back" have stepped up and given of their treasures to make life better for others. The top five foundations in the country and their assets are:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: $37 billion.
  • Ford Foundation: $11 billion.
  • J. Paul Getty Trust: $10 billion.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: $9 billion.
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: $8 billion.

  • For a list of the 100 largest foundations in the country, visit this site.

Accumulating wealth is not easy, as we all know. But some people find ways to do it, and the good ones find ways to spread their wealth and improve communities.

Who's ready to step up next?

Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory

The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring to you at no cost to readers. Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory is a Buford based family owned-and-operated business. We serve all faiths and offer funerals, cremations, out of town services, as well as pre-arrangements. We also accept pre-paid funeral arrangements and insurance policies that were purchased at other funeral homes. We have parking for 150 cars at our site on South Lee Street in Buford. Our dedicated and caring staff's goal is to see that the needs of each family they serve have been met with distinctive, professional and compassionate service.

  • For a list of other sponsors of this forum, go here.

Remembers early days servicing Simmons Company on the river

Editor, the Forum:

Your recent comment on Simmons Mattress made me remember back years ago, when I worked with Burroughs and installed the systems the Simmons team used to run their business. I had many opportunities in working with Bob Magnusson, their CEO, to learn about the building.

Noted landscape architect, Robert Marvin, of Walterboro, S.C. did the exterior property design. After Simmons was acquired by Gulf&Western, they required the company move to Executive Park off I-85, with the comment that no one could do serious work in such a pristine environment. This was also a time when Gwinnett was a dry county with no restaurants nearby. Simmons had to take their clients and executives to DeKalb county if they wanted to entertain them with spirits after a long day of work.

The property sat vacant for nearly 10 years until Jim Cowart acquired it. Part of the property became Amberfield and the commercial area became the home of Larry Dean's company, Stockholder Systems. He used to ferry executives across the river to his home on Old Alabama Road.

-- Lorri Christopher, Peachtree Corners

Enjoy beginning of three stories taking off from same place

Three GwinnettForum contributors accepted the challenge to write 100 words off the start of a student's beginning words of a story, "The informant was late."

Enjoy these suggestions.

Now an additional challenge: Pick up the story from here, and we'll print those entries next week. Who knows? This serial writing could go on forever. Pick the story you want to continue in another 100 words.

* * * * *

The first is from Michael Wood of Peachtree Corners:

"The informant was late. I felt like a TV news reporter with a deadline, but I wasn't. I was a cop, but I still had a deadline. It was 11:29 at night, and I needed a lead now to stop the Midnight Bandit's next hit. The Midnight Bandit had robbed 13 homes across Gwinnett County last month, hitting all of them within 10 minutes after midnight. Stakeouts hadn't worked, so I needed the lead now. At 12:29 I gave up. The informant wasn't showing up tonight. So, I went home only to find that now I had been robbed."

* * * * *

Now the start of a story from Beverly Lougher of Lawrenceville:

"The informant was late. The Lawrenceville detective waited in the dark alley. He was sure someone was watching him. Only a few more minutes and he would leave. His hand stayed on his gun as every shadow held a menace. He was now sure something or someone was close that meant him harm. Suddenly a shadow moved down the alley toward him. His instincts told him this was not the informant and his grip on his gun tightened."

* * * * *

Finally, this entry from Karen Garner of Dacula:

"The informant was late. Henry paced back and forth, checking his smartphone, peering around the corner. Just as he was about to give it up and head back to the office, a slightly built young woman wrapped in a black trench coat, long red hair flowing from a purple knit hat, crossed at the light. Her large dark sunglasses revealed little expression, but as she passed Henry, she whispered, "He's not coming, he's never coming."

Henry caught her arm as she strode on, swinging her around to face him. "What do you mean?"

"He knew too much. You do too."

Rant, rave, send us a letter

An invitation: We encourage readers to submit feedback (or letters to the editor). Send your thoughts to the editor at We will edit for length and clarity. Make sure to include your name and the city where you live. Submission of a comment grants permission for us to reprint. Please keep your comments to 300 words or less. However, we will consider longer articles (no more than 500 words) for featuring in Today's Issue as space allows.

Walton EMC offering 32 scholarships of $4,000 to member students

Walton Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) is now accepting applications for Walton Electric Trust Scholarships. Up to 32 college scholarships of $4,000 will be awarded to graduating seniors and incoming college freshmen whose homes are served by Walton EMC electric power. Applicants must be 21 years old or younger, and the scholarships must be used at an accredited college, university or vo-tech school.

The scholarship award committee is looking for applicants who have demonstrated a dedication to community service, possess a strong work ethic, demonstrate extracurricular involvement and have triumphed over obstacles and hardships.

Applications are available at The deadline for submissions is Jan. 30, 2015. The money for these scholarships comes from unclaimed capital credit refunds. After all attempts to find the owners are exhausted, the money goes into a fund provided for by Georgia law.

Lanier High students plan first Winterfest in Sugar Hill

On Sunday, December 14, a team of Lanier High School students will be presenting the inaugural Winterfest in downtown Sugar Hill from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. to raise funds for the Gwinnett Children's Shelter.

There will be ice skating, face painting, a cake walk, cornhole tournament, and presentations from groups including the LHS Robotics Team. There will be performances from local bands, artists, and dance groups. Bobby Gueh, a counselor at Lanier, says "This is a great opportunity to get the band back together".

Although Winterfest started out as a simple school project for Lanier High School's new Academy initiative, it has now turned into a full-fledged community event thanks to Molly Kunkle, Lindsey Crawford, Frank Martinez, and Avery Evans. This group of seniors decided not to just talk about helping the Gwinnett Children's Shelter but bring the fundraiser for the amazing group to life.

Coach Ryan Proffitt says: "Events like this are the reason I love living in a town like ours." Sangeeta Solanki, manager of the Sugar Hill Tutoring Center, says she couldn't be more excited, "This is such a great idea! I can't wait to see how it brings our community together!"

Noonan recognized by March of Dimes for excellence in nursing

The Georgia Chapter of the March of Dimes announced that Pam Noonan of the Gwinnett Women's Pavilion at Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC)-Lawrenceville received top honors in the Women's Health category. The organization honored 16 outstanding local nurses at the 2014 Nurse of the Year Awards.


Through Nurse of the Year Awards, the March of Dimes recognizes nurses who demonstrate exceptional patient care, compassion, and service. Whether serving as a health care provider, educator, researcher, or chapter volunteer/advisor, these nurses have played a critical role in improving the health of Georgia's residents.

Gwinnett Medical Center nurses Nicole Lescota, Melissa Johnson, Beth Timberlake, Beverly Vick and Susan Childs were also nominated in various categories.

Sheila Ryan, state director of the March of Dimes Georgia Chapter, says: "Dating back to the polio era, nurses have played a critical role in advancing the mission of the March of Dimes. Today, nurses serve as volunteers, fundraisers and advisors to the March of Dimes. Nurses are critical to the mission of improving the health of babies -and are key in comforting families. We are proud to give recognition to Georgia's nurses who are heroes in the medical community."

Nurse of the Year Awards are given annually in approximately 16 award categories. More than 800 nurses were nominated in Georgia and of those, 240 were selected as finalists.

Leadership Snellville creates gift boxes for city Christmas tree

The inaugural class of Leadership Snellville helped create the Christmas Gift Boxes which were part of the 33rd annual Christmas Tree Lighting event last week. The boxes are currently under the Christmas tree on the Towne Green in front of City Hall. The leadership class teamed up with the Snellville Arts Commission on the community service project.

From left are Kirk Buis, Judy Leavell, Mack Brannan, Alisa Boykin, Tony Wallace, Beverly Powers and Brittany Washington. Not pictured are Constance Robinson of Leadership Snellville and Kathi Mardis, Jean Baldwin and Nedra Bailey of the Snellville Arts Commission.

Duluth seeking residents for focus group on Dec. 11

The City of Duluth is contracting with Rock Paper Scissors (RPS), a branding and web development firm, to examine the current marketing efforts of the city, and to map a strategy for the future. The goal is to join forces to explore all avenues of opportunity for Duluth.

A one hour focus group will be conducted at City Hall to gain a better understanding of current city perception. Residents who can commit to participate in this marketing initiative should contact Catherine Kimbro at 678-466-7027. The focus group will take place Thursday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at City Hall.

Can't make the focus group? No worries! Take just a few moments and fill out a survey by clicking here.

Send us your recommended books, restaurants, movies

We're hurting without recommendations from our readers. Tell us what books, restaurants, movies or web sites have you enjoyed recently? Send us your recent selection, along with a short paragraph (150 words) as to why you liked this, plus what you plan to visit or read next. --eeb

Most Georgia estuaries extensive, going inland for 20+ miles

(Continued from previous edition)

Most major estuaries extend inland as far as 20 miles or more, to the point where the river water becomes fresh. An estuary's area may depend on the point of origin, the average flow, and the size of the river entering it. For instance, median flow in the Satilla River is one tenth that in the Altamaha. As a consequence, one typically encounters freshwater about 12 miles upstream in the Altamaha as compared with more than 30 miles upstream in the Satilla.

Although greatly influenced by the tides, many Georgia estuaries are protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds, and storms by the barrier islands. For all of their importance, however, estuaries are not outlined on regular maps and do not have well-defined borders. Unlike sounds, bays, rivers, and creeks, estuaries are not accorded proper names.

No two estuaries are alike. Each is unique in its biology, geology, hydrology, and other characteristics. The circulation patterns and physical characteristics of only a few Georgia estuaries have been well studied. The extent of mixing between freshwater and saltwater dictates an estuary's most important characteristic-its salinity, or the measure of salt in the water. Seawater is about 35 parts salt per thousand parts water, roughly corresponding to a tablespoon of salt in a glass of water. Freshwater is less than one-half part salt per thousand parts water. If the salinity is less than sea strength, but saltier than freshwater, the water is said to be brackish-the hallmark of estuaries.

(To be continued)

Beautiful silhouette

This beautiful picture was caught just at the right moment by the photographer. But where is this?

Send your ideas for this Mystery Photo to, and be sure to include your hometown.

Several recognized the last edition's Mystery, even with decorations of Christmas around it. First in was Al Swint of Decatur, asking: "Is this the footbridge over the pond at Magnolia Plantation near Charleston S.C.?" It is, in a photograph taken by Michael Kaynard of Charleston, contributing photographer for, a sister publication.

Then came Ross Lenhart of Pawley's Island S.C. saying: "You honor our Lowcountry today. Magnolia Gardens really lies in corporate Summerville where I grew up."

Howard Williams of Snellville contributed: "Today's photo is from the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, S.C. Dating from the late 1600s as the ancestral home of the Drayton family, it holds the distinction of being the oldest public garden in the United States. It's located off Ashley Road and the Ashley River. Oh, yeah, Andy [Brack] lives in C town. That nailed it for me."

Ever the eagle eye were also Diana Preston, Lilburn; Jim and Etta Miller, Peachtree Corners; and Karen Garner, Dacula.

Top Claw

Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) recently presented the newly developed Top Claw Award to eight individuals who go above and beyond to make exceptional contributions in supporting the educational mission of GGC. This was the inaugural presentation of the Top Claw Award and is part of the Grizzly Recognition Program which is committed to fostering an "attitude of gratitude" through informal and formal recognition. From left are Melinda Spencer, senior associate provost for Operations and co-chair of the Top Claw Committee, Benjamin Shepler, James Helton, Jeff Eppley, Allen Clarke, General, President Stan Preczewski, Rolando Marquez, Binh Tran, Evelyn Bannock, Suzanne Biedenbach and Katherine Kyle, associate vice president for Human Resources and co-chair of the Top Claw Committee.


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2014, Gwinnett Gwinnett Forum is an online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.


Prime professional office space

If you're wanting to relocate your professional office to the Peachtree Corners, Norcross or Johns Creek area, you need to see this space. It's located in Technology Park, offers 4,770 square feet, and has its own easily recognized, private entranceway in a well-maintained, attractive office location. There's plenty of parking, and the building is situated well back from the street, with the office overlooking a beautiful wooded area with lake. This office space should go fast, so call 770-925-0111 before someone else grabs it. Ask for Lisha Stuckey.

Here's What Really Makes United States Distinctive

"In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is."

-- Author and distinctive personality Gertrude Stein (1874 - 1946).




Water Conservation Workshop, at Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, Tuesday, December 9 at 7 p.m. Residents who attend will receive a low-flow retrofit kit, outdoor water efficiency kit, do-it-yourself home water audit guide and information on how to apply for the County's toilet rebate program. Residents can register for the workshop by sending an email with their name, address and phone number or calling (678) 376-6722.

Dinner Theatre in Sugar Hill, Thursday and Friday, December 11-12 at 7 p.m. at the Community Center, 1166 Church Street. Presenting The Crudgemuffin's Christmas Traditions is a humorous look at the silly traditions families can perpetuate, as directed by local playwrights Ane Mulligan and Michael Wright with revisions by co-directors Bob Seelig and Marty Snowden. The dinner theater is catered by Catering for Atlanta, and is a fundraiser for Players Guild @ Sugar Hill, one of the City's newest arts groups. Tickets are $35 and are available at

Marry or Re-Marry at 10:11 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2014, (that's 10:11 on 12.13.14, FYI) by registering to take part in a free mass wedding ceremony at Pinckneyville Park Community Center. The ceremonies will be conducted by Chief Magistrate Kristina Hammer Blum and Gwinnett Probate Judge Christopher Ballar. Couples must have a valid marriage prior to the wedding, or bring their original license and identification. More info: 770 822-8250.

(NEW) Handel's Messiah in two performances by Goossen's Orchestra. Two different concerts: Saturday, December 13 at 7 p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 5575 Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree Corners; and Sunday, December 14 at 7 p.m. at First Christian Church of Atlanta, 4532 LaVista Road in Tucker. Admission is free. Guests are invited to attend receptions following the concerts. Produced by the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.


1/9: Gov's inaugural party
1/6: Our continuing objectives

12/31: Fun board game
12/23: Good news on Cuba
12/19: CIA's atrocities
12/16: Muddy, hilly roads
12/12: Drop box regulation
12/9: On philanthropy
12/5: Humor, writing contest
12/2: Simpsonwood save is good

11/25: Snellville bell tower
11/21: Remembering Carl Sanders
11/18: Talmadge House
11/14: Churchill paintings
11/11: Hudson cruise
11/7: Why it was a GOP year
11/4: Another election a possibility


1/9: Jones: Black-eyed peas
1/6: Berlo: NLT's choreopoem

12/31: Leonard: Andersonville tour
12/23: Havens: Rotary club's charity
12/19: Aurora wins big
12/16: Yarber: Safe harbor bill
12/12: Arrington: Hunger challenge
12/9: Preston: Lilburn mural
12/5: Witte: Simmons Building
12/2: Putnam: PC's community study

11/25: Okun: Robotic bariatric surgery
11/21: Calmes: Special Nutcracker
11/18: Urrutia: Primerica scholarships
11/14: Jones: GGC's growth
11/11: Johnson: Tesla ownership
11/7: New Brenau joint degree program
11/4: Two shows of A Christmas Carol


Gwinnett Forum publisher Elliott Brack suggests that Gwinnett County needs a long-range list of continuing objectives for improving the county. Read more.

  • Development of a two-party system for county offices
  • Moving statewide non-partisan judge election runoffs to the General Election
  • Light rail for Gwinnett from Doraville MARTA station to Gwinnett Arena
  • Extension of Gwinnett Place CID area to include Arena and Discovery Mills Mall
  • Banning of tobacco in all Gwinnett parks
  • Making Briscoe Field a commercial airport for jet-age travel
  • More diverse candidates for political offices and appointment to local boards
  • Physical move of former St. Gerard's Catholic Church in Buffalo, N.Y., to Norcross
  • Creative efforts to support the arts in Gwinnett
  • Advancement and expansion of city and Gwinnett historical societies
  • Stronger regulation of late-night establishments with alcoholic licenses
  • Requiring the legislature to meet once every two years.
  • Development of more community gardens.

ABOUT US is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

:: Contact us today
:: Subscribe for free
Buy the book on Gwinnett's history


2001-2014, Gwinnett is Gwinnett County's online community forum for commentary that explores pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

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