Fayette County: Homes needed for kittens & puppies!

Meet Bo, a male kitten looking for his forever home.

Kitten season is still in full swing.  Fayette Humane Society (FHS), a 501(3)(c) nonprofit animal rescue group, is overwhelmed with requests from the community to take unwanted or stray cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies.

Meet Bo, a male kitten looking for his forever home.

FHS does not have a shelter, although a building fund has been started. The rescued pets live with foster families until volunteers can find them permanent, loving homes. When FHS lack foster space, callers are told we can only help them place the animals if they are willing to foster them.

Even if you can’t make the commitment to adopt a pet right now, consider becoming a temporary foster. FHS will provide food, supplies, and medical care for the animals; you provide the love.

For more information about becoming a pet foster parent or to adopt a pet, please visit our website at www.fayettehumane.org. To sign up, call 770-487-1073 or email us at info@fayettehumane.org.

Christian City’s Graceland Thrift Store Grand Opening

Shirley Ritchie, Christian City resident and faithful volunteer, at the new spacious and modern Graceland Thrift Store.

Shirley Ritchie, Christian City resident and faithful volunteer, at the new spacious and modern Graceland Thrift Store.

Join Christian City’s Board of Trustees, along with Mr. Truett Cathy and other special guests, as they celebrate the grand opening of the new and improved Graceland Thrift Store located on the Christian City campus at 7425 Red Oak Road in Union City. The event will be held on Thursday, May 23rd from 4:00pm-7:00pm with a ribbon cutting at 4:00pm followed by FREE refreshments, door prizes and 25% off everything in the store. All store proceeds benefit The Children’s Village at Christian City.

Graceland Thrift Store opened in 1984, and was named after “Mama Grace” Duke, who had recently retired from being a house parent  and began this ministry as a “yard sale” to raise money for The Children’s Village. The Children’s Village at Christian City has been caring for children in need since 1965. Over 1,000 children have called Christian City “home.” For more information about The Children’s Village, please visit www.christiancity.org or call 770-703-2636.

Cruise for a Cure! Relay for Life – Fri May 17th

cancer ribbon

Want to go on a cruise that you don’t have to worry about getting seasick or being stuck at sea?Then join us on Friday, May 17th as we go “Cruisin’ For A Cure” with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Fayette County.This year’s Relay For Life event is being held at Fayette County High School’s Football Stadium from 4:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.Our Cruise Director, Zach Stutts, has lined up a fun entertainment schedule with the Torch of Hope starting at 6:15 p.m., leading into our Opening Ceremonies at 6:45.Other events that you won’t want to miss include the Dollar Dude and Divas as they try to buy themselves a title by gathering the most donations from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and the lighting of our torches and luminaria starting at 9:15.Our Survivor Activity Director, Emily Stastny, has been busy coordinating with Piedmont Hospital’s Cancer Wellness Center to have fun activities for all of our survivors from 4:00 p.m. until 9:15 p.m. with a break for the Opening Ceremonies.We are thankful to all of our sponsors that help us put on this wonderful event, but want to especially thank Pain Care of Georgia and Piedmont Hospital for being our major sponsors.

Be dazzled as you get to meet our local Relay Celebrities:Lisa Hedenstrom, our 2013 Honorary Chair, and Ken Williams and Ryann Hayes, our 2013 Relay Ambassadors.Be starstruck as you spot our amazing “Dollar Dudes and Divas” strut their stuff to try to get your dollars/votes to win the crown.Have fun as you participate in games, have a chance to “Dunk a friend” in the dunk booth, jump in the jumpy Castle, and do as many other activities you can fit in.Let out your belt as you sample the culinary delights that are sure to be there:chocolate covered strawberries, popcorn, hotdogs, sodas, chips, bbq, baked goods, and much, much more.Visit exciting ports of calls and purchase souvenirs.Be a part of the touching Luminaria Ceremony as we honor all our cancer survivors and remember all of those we have lost to cancer.All of this fun can be yours for a few dollars, if you join us as we go “Cruisin’ For A Cure!”

It’s not too late to register a team, register as a survivor, or to make a donation.Go to www.relayforlife.org/fayettecountyga to find out more information.You can also call Jennifer, our Senior Community Manager, at the local American Cancer Society office at 301 Kelly Drive, Suite 3, Peachtree City, GA 30269, at 770-632-6932.If you have any questions about the American Cancer Society, please go to their website at www.cancer.org or call the 24 hour telephone line at 1-800-227-2345.

Guitars Not Guns: Changing the World, One Kid at a Time

Ray Nelson, Nick Nelson, Joshua Tysor, Cole Noltimier, and Daniel Sewell.

By Sharon Ricks

Music is powerful. It can fill up a restaurant on a slow night, bring joy to a child’s face, or send an urgent message to a violent world. On a Tuesday evening in early April, it did all three at once at the Pizza Hut Restaurant on Crosstown Court in Peachtree City.

Families gathered for their evening meal around a group of guys with guitars. And the magic began:

Ray Nelson, Nick Nelson, Joshua Tysor, Cole Noltimier, and Daniel Sewell.

It’s summertime and the living is easy
Fish are jumping and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich and your mama’s good-looking
Hush, little baby don’t you cry

Guitars and Pizza Night is hosted by Guitars Not Guns (GNG) music program, which provides guitars and free lessons in classroom settings with qualified teachers to foster kids, at-risk youth, and other deserving children in an effort to prevent violence in schools and on the streets. On this night, for every purchase, Pizza Hut donated two dollars to GNG. Customers won hats, t-shirts, art work, free pizza, and bumper stickers, and one lucky customer, Alec Duncan, walked away with a brand new guitar.

Founded in 2000 in San Jose, California by Ray Nelson, cousin to country singer Willie Nelson, the GNG music program has spread to 13 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. The Georgia Chapter started in 2006 and is led by Lt Colonel Robert Black (ret). Gibson and Guitar Center are key partners. “We have helped so many kids turn their lives around,” says Ray. “We are gathering new chapters and shooting for more and would love to be in every state. So far, we have provided guitars to 2,000 kids coast to coast.”

GNG classes meet for one hour a week for eight weeks. Each class has about 10 students, aged eight to 18, and three instructors, explains Robert. In level one, students learn the basics: how to hold the guitar, strum it, play songs, and play with others. They also learn perseverance, discipline and self-esteem. Robert says the discipline helps them focus better academically. It’s also a great social activity, he says, because it’s a lot more fun to play with other people.

Students who finish level one are encouraged to return for level two. They also enjoy a graduation party where they get to play for their parents, eat snacks, relax with friends, and welcome a distinguished visitor. Last time, it was the Mayor of Peachtree City. Both students and teachers receive a certificate at graduation, and each student receives his or her very own guitar. (That’s a secret, by the way. “The look on their faces when they find out they get to keep the guitar is priceless.” says Robert.)

GNG is not anti-gun, says Robert. In fact, he says Ray started his career as a sniper in the U.S. Army. Robert served 21 years in the Air Force including assignments in Iraq, Bosnia, and South Korea. He knows what it’s like to carry a pistol with a round in the chamber and the safety off to ensure that it’s ready when he needs to use it. He says both he and Ray still shoot recreationally.

But they are anti-gun violence. Ray says, “More people die from gun violence than have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.” He notes that there have been 31 school shootings in the United States since Columbine in 1999, when 13 people were killed. He also mentions the most recent tragedy where 27 people were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Reading the list of violent tragedies on GNG’s Web site (www.guitarsnotguns.org) is troubling.

But this night is different. Tonight, the bullets are songs and the guns are guitars, and troubled and deserving youth gather for picking and pizza, not gang violence and bloodshed.  “Yes, I love it,” says 11-year-old Daniel Sewell. “I get to learn all of these cool songs. There are a lot of instructors. There are teenagers, grown men and one professional player.” Daniel’s favorite song is “Smoke on the Water.” He says it has cool chord progression.

GNG teachers come in all ages, and they are all volunteers. At age 16, Sam Archbold is one of them. Last spring break, Sam took GNG international. He ran a marathon to raise money to go on a mission trip to Kenya with his church, and he asked Ray if he could take a guitar with him. “The mission trip has been the most incredible part of my life so far,” he says. He spent a few days with a man named Robert and noticed that Robert’s guitar was falling apart. So Sam did what any GNG volunteer would do: he gave Robert a brand new guitar. Robert was so appreciative that last November, Sam got an invitation to Robert’s wedding.

This spirit of giving is the hallmark of GNG. At the end of the day, it’s about giving the powerful gift of music to kids like Daniel. “When you get older and you outgrow baseball or football, and you’re not a professional, you can still have that skill of playing guitar like you did as a kid with sports,” says Daniel. “It’s gonna last a lifetime!”

GNG welcomes your support. You can start a chapter, teach a class or help out nationally. Visit their Web site at www.guitarsnotguns.org or call 770-861-2443 for more information.





Ronda Rich Speaks at Cancer Survivor Dinner May 10th

rondarich2012 PR

Ronda Rich to deliver keynote speech at American Cancer Society

and Piedmont Fayette Hospital Cancer Survivor Dinner


The American Cancer Society and Piedmont Fayette Hospital will host its annual Cancer Survivor Dinner on Friday, May 10, 2013 beginning a 5:30 p.m. at a new location for the 2013 event; New Hope Baptist Church South Campus, 1563 Joel Cowan Parkway located at the corner of GA highways 74 and 85.

This Cancer Survivor Dinner is a celebration to honor the lives of Fayette County residents who have survived cancer, while offering the hope of finding a cure. The theme for this year’s event—“Cruisin’ for a Cure” offers a complimentary dinner aboard a cruise ship atmosphere to each cancer survivor attendee and his or her caregiver/guest.

All Fayette cancer survivors are invited to attend regardless of when they were diagnosed with cancer— whether recently or many years ago. Reservations can be made now through May 1 by calling 770-632-6931 or email tricia.d.dunlap@cancer.org. Invitees are encouraged to RSVP early as seating is limited.

Special guest Ronda Rich, best-selling author and syndicated columnist, will share an emotionally inspiring message delivered with her signature heartwarming humor and southern charm. Cancer survivors and their caregivers will be inspired by Rich’s powerful and encouraging message of hope against all odds.

“The Cancer Survivors’ Dinner and Relay For Life brings the Fayette community together to celebrate life and give hope to those who have had a personal journey with cancer,” said Jennifer Gibson, senior community manager with the American Cancer Society.  We appreciate the support from Piedmont Healthcare and Piedmont Fayette Hospital to make this event possible; and so meaningful to cancer survivors in Fayette County.”

The event will be held at will be held in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, a community event bringing together teams of families, friends, churches, neighborhoods, and businesses – all with the same goal of curing cancer. The Relay for Life will be held on Saturday, May 17 at Fayette County High School from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more information or to register for Relay for Life visit relayforlife.org/fayettecountyga.

Living Water Resource Center Grand Opening


Living Water Learning Resource Center is proud to announce its Grand Opening, Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30am at the John C. Birdine Neighborhood Center, 215 Lakewood Way, Suite 108, Atlanta, Georgia 30315.

Living Water Learning Resource Center is a gender-specific, non-residential training program for girls and young women ages 16-26 who have survived violence, street life, prostitution and human sex trafficking. Living Water Learning Resource Center is a program of Circle of Friends: Celebrating Life, Inc. a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to serve, empower and equip women and youth to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

The Resource Center will offer:

  • GED courses
  • College education classes and a premiere Vision Tech Vocational training Program
  • Paid and Unpaid Internships
  • Counseling and Therapeutic services
  • Case Management
  • Life skills Training
  • Mentorship Program
  • Childcare connections
  • Community Service Opportunities


At the Learning Resource Center we believe:
…every girl and young woman has the capacity to create life goals and achieve academic success.
…when given the proper tools, girls and young women can ultimately provide for themselves and become self-sufficient.
…“access” is the necessary key to success and with it girls and young women can open doors that in times past were not only closed, but “locked”.
…education will not only change their lives, but will change the lives of their families for generations to come.
During this landmark event, the organization’s Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Williams will pay special tribute to the Mayor of Atlanta for his role in helping to secure the space the Learning Resource Center now occupy, as well as Presidents of local area colleges for their partnership, supporters, foundations and volunteers.
To learn more, please visit the web-site at www.cofcl.org

Sisters in Need, Friends Indeed

Pam Roy, Elizabeth Blessitt, Alice Kahl, CJ Bedgood, Candy Lacey, & Annette Wiggins at Valentine's Party, 2013

By Allison Meyer

The Great Depression was a devastating time in our nation’s history. Businesses and factories could no longer operate, banks were failing, and countless people were unemployed. It was during this time that Walter W. Ross founded Beta Sigma Phi, an international women’s organization and reading society. Through this association, women were brought together and introduced to social, cultural, and educational environments that would have otherwise not been accessible. By implementing these group activities, Beta Sigma Phi created friendships and a support network for women.

Pam Roy, Elizabeth Blessitt, Alice Kahl, CJ Bedgood, Candy Lacey, & Annette Wiggins at Valentine's Party, 2013

Although it started off as a reading society, the organization underwent a transformation during World War II when women worked together to raise $22,000,000 in war bonds. As the organization continued to grow over the decades, it became more community-service focused. Now, members all over the world are working together both to forge the bonds of friendship and to better lives of others.

In 1979, the Beta Sigma Phi Theta Theta chapter was formed in Peachtree City. Currently, this group consists of nine members. The BSP women have a formal meeting once every month and partake in at least six social events over the course of a year. They may go out to eat, attend plays, visit museums, or simply enjoy a game night with each other. Occasionally, the husbands, affectionately known as “the hots,” and children will even join in. “It’s a blending of families,” says CJ Bedgood, the group’s current vice president. “Our kids all consider each one of our sisters as aunts,” adds treasurer Candy Lacey, who has been a member since 1990.

As a Beta Sigma Phi, members of the group commit to various service projects to assist their local community. Internationally, Beta Sigma Phi raises more than three million dollars for local charities, contributing over 200,000 hours of volunteer work per year. Each chapter decides on the service projects they will partake in, ranging from support for families in financial need, donating to the food bank, providing meals for others, or helping the local animal shelter. When providing school supplies for local kids in need, “We just go shopping like we would for our own kids,” says CJ. “It’s a wonderful feeling that we can help impact their lives a little bit by helping them and just easing some anxiety.” However, they try to keep their actions low key. “We don’t have to be acknowledged for what we do,” says Elizabeth Blessitt, the group’s secretary.

The paramount aspect of the sisterhood is its acceptance of members from all ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. Members from age 18 and up can share in the “life, learning and friendship,” the motto of a BSP. While there are no requirements, the ladies value honesty, integrity, and a willingness to share. They also encourage others to visit before deciding to join one of the local chapters.

Members receive a variety of benefits such as social networks, life-long bonds, scholarships, disaster relief funds, and insurance programs. One of the greatest benefits seems to be that, according to Elizabeth, “No matter where you go in the United States, you will have a sister somewhere nearby.” The BSPs have many stories of members relying on each other in moments of need. Once, a member of Beta Sigma Phi, along with her husband and three small children, broke down while away on vacation and realized that they’d lost their traveler’s checks as well. Another Beta Sigma Phi member took them in and had her brother fix their vehicle. “Yyou always have support somewhere,” comments Elizabeth.

Candy Lacey agrees. “The group functions by helping others get through situations,” she says, adding that during trials in her life, “I didn’t have to call, and I didn’t have to ask. My friends were there to bring me through and they knew what I would need. They read my mind.” To these ladies, it’s not just a helpful hand in a time of need that they want to provide other women with. Instead, Candy explains, their goal is “to supply the strength to carry on.”

All members serve important roles that rotate every year, giving everyone a chance to take on a new role and develop diverse strengths. For vice president CJ Bedgood, one of those strengths has been gaining confidence. “I’m not as socially awkward as I was,” she says. Candy credits her involvement with the group with her finding the courage to become chairperson of the pastoral council at Holy Trinity. Being a member of Beta Sigma Phi also gave Elizabeth Blessitt the confidence to step into leadership roles at work and socially. Pam Roy, chairman of the group’s social committee and ember since 1989, sums it up: “It has been a positive experience for all of us,” she says.


Backyard Chickens in PTC?


Campaign Underway to Bring Backyard Chickens to Peachtree City

It was really just a fluke that got Peachtree City resident Julee Smilley keeping chickens: a friend was moving and could not find a place for her four pullets (young hens). Julee offered to find them a new home, but she soon became charmed by the colorful hens with appealing personalities, so she gave them names and decided to keep them. She and her husband, Richard, assembled an inexpensive chicken coop they had purchased online and set them up to live in her garden. For 18 months, the Smilleys enjoyed the benefits of their chicken companions and the fresh eggs they provided, but then they were “busted” by Peachtree City for breaking the zoning ordinance that prohibits keeping chickens.

Although chicken-keeping has been around for centuries, it is being rediscovered in urban gardens as people seek to “get back to their roots” and become more self-sufficient. While keeping chickens is now a popular trend, the practice had been out of fashion in previous decades as the emphasis moved to factory-raised chickens, warehoused in incredibly crowded and unsanitary conditions (not to mention cruel). It took trend-setter Martha Stewart to recapture the public’s interest in chicken-keeping when she featured her flock of rare-breed chickens and their colorful eggs in her books and magazine publications. She presented her chickens as family companions with endearing personalities that actually produce something worthwhile and beneficial.

Chickens in Peachtree City…Oh My!

Although she had to find another home for her hens, Julee has not given up on the idea of keeping chickens in Peachtree City and has spent the last few months doing research on the subject. Believe it or not, residents of the city of Atlanta can keep chickens, and other communities, including Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Roswell, Decatur and Duluth, have been successful in passing chicken-keeping ordinances.

On many Saturdays, you will find Julee at the Peachtree City Farmers Market talking to interested residents about keeping chickens. She is amazed at the positive response and already has collected over 300 signatures on a petition that she hopes to present to the City Council to show the support for chicken-keeping in the community.

Rather than working to change the zoning ordinance right away, Julee is requesting the City Council approve a two-year pilot program to test the feasibility of chicken-keeping in Peachtree City. Other cities, including Bonita Springs, Florida, have implemented successful pilot programs. Under the program, a limited number of Peachtree City families will be able to apply for a permit to set up coops and keep a small number of chickens. Selected families will agree to guidelines regulating the program, including the exclusion of roosters, creating setbacks from neighbors’ property, setting maximize size for coop area and allowing Peachtree City Zoning Department to check on the hen houses. Chicken-keepers will be encouraged to invite their neighbors to “make friends” with their chicks and to help educate the public about the benefits of keeping hens by participating in a “coop tour” – much like a home or garden tour.

Myths about keeping chickens

“There’s too much fear and not enough facts known about keeping chickens,” Julee contends. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are not dirty, smelly creatures when owners limit their number and consistently clean the coop and compost the manure. Noise is another perceived problem, but while roosters can make a bit of racket, they are not allowed in chicken-keeping programs and are not necessary for laying eggs. Dogs are much louder than hens, which make softer clucking sounds and are roosting in their coop when the sun goes down. Hens will not attract predators when the rules are followed to provide a predator-proof, enclosed coop area. And rather than being an eyesore, chicken coops have become charming focal points in the garden.

Benefits of keeping chickens

Chickens make great pets. They come in stunning colors and have appealing and quirky personalities. And you get the bonus of fresh and flavorful eggs! During the short time Julee kept her hens, she became more connected to her neighbors as she shared her bounty of eggs.

“Neighborhood kids were particularly fascinated by my hens and loved to help with their feeding,” recalls Julee. “There is a marked difference in the taste and nutritional value of fresh eggs and growing your own fruits and vegetables, and keeping chickens is a way to have some control over what you eat.”

Chicken manure and egg shells are loaded with nutrients, and when added to the compost bin, will become a wonderful soil amendment that your plants will love. Chickens also help control insect problems and weeds in the landscape by eating many garden weeds and pests, including beetles, grubs and ants.

For more information about keeping chickens or to sign Julee’s petition to start a chicken-keeping pilot program in Peachtree City, contact Julee Smilley at chicks4ptc@comcast.net.




Tips on Storm Relief Donations


In the wake of severe storms that came through our area, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following tips to help people decide where to direct donations to assist storm victims and their families:

Be cautious when giving online.
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charity organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.
Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to BBB Wise Giving Alliance to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Please visit www.bbb.org/charities for more information

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.
Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.
See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don’t already have staff in the affected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.
Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

Donations made via your mobile device.
The BBB Mobile Giving Foundation works with the wireless operators to ensure that mobile giving campaigns for emergency relief efforts adopt this same degree of caution before launching fundraising efforts. Wireless operators do support all qualified mobile giving campaigns without taking any fees, although billing platforms such as the BBB Mobile Giving Foundation, do recover transaction costs. All campaigns are compliant to industry best practices and regulatory requirements. Official mobile giving campaigns in support of emergency relief efforts are restricted to qualified campaigns, and can be verified by visiting www.mobilegiving.org.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.
In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans, and find out what is their greatest need. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to donate to an unknown charity. To verify mobile giving campaigns these charities are running please visit the BBB Mobile Giving Foundation at www.mobilegiving.org. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses and charities, visit www.bbb.org




Strong Like a Rock: Phenomenal Women’s Health

Rock in Hand - DSC00677

By Sharon Ricks


Eighty-five women dressed in cool blue left an Atlanta airport hotel, each holding a rock in her hand. On each rock was a note that read, “I am phenomenal!”

They had just attended the Cool Blue Tea hosted by Phenomenal Women’s Health, Inc., (PWH), a nonprofit organization founded in May 2007 by Cheryl Burnside. Cheryl, a physical therapist living in Tyrone, Ga., founded the organization to positively influence women’s lives by promoting healthier lifestyles. Teas for Health are the signature events.

“These women are the rocks of their families,” says Cheryl. “We wanted them to take these rocks, and whenever they get a little down, just remember that they are phenomenal.”

PWH has raised funds for causes like multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, and blindness prevention. They have also donated clothing medical equipment and funds to shelters, clinics, and patients. This is all possible thanks to the annual fundraiser teas, which change color depending on the theme.

At each event, PWH presents its Woman of the Year award to someone who is doing extraordinary things to foster healthy lifestyles for women in the community. They also present the Katherine H. Peterson award to a woman who has overcome challenges to give back to her community. The award is named after a deceased PWH volunteer who ‘had her hand in everything’ despite her struggle with lupus.

“We discover gems. We call them phenomenal women, but they are jewels, and jewels are something you have to find,” says Barnetta Sanford, who has worked with Cheryl since 2007 and is Katherine Peterson’s sister. “These are women who say, ‘no matter how I feel or if I’m hurting, when I get out of the bed, it needs to be done.’”

Cheryl knows about that kind of work ethic. Raised in Bel Air, Maryland, she was the middle of six children. Her father worked for the federal government and ran a business to support them and send them to college. He had asthma, and at age 6, Cheryl remembers being asked to push on his chest so he could breathe better — what he called “artificial respiration.” He died at age 61. Growing up around illness helped her understand the importance of empowering people with health education and hope.

“My goal is to give people as much knowledge as I can for them to make reasonable decisions about their health,” says Cheryl.  As a physical therapist, she’s also witnessed the mental component of illness. “Every time I treated a female, I saw that she had so many concerns besides the physical, and I wondered what I could do to help these women but also get them to relax.”

Cool Blue Tea. From left: Khaleelah Hardie (Manager, Community Outreach Services -Woman's Heart National Headquarters), Ann Hulette (Katherine Peterson Awardee), Cheryl Burnside

At the November 2012 Cool Blue Tea, relaxation was mandatory. Guests were immersed in a spa-like atmosphere, surrounded by smooth jazz, river rocks, and orchids. The smell of the ocean was everywhere, and there was sand, sea shells, and candles. The theme was“Purging your life for good health.”

At every event, there are tears. “Mostly it’s the joy women feel when their hard work is recognized, and it’s also when they realize the impact they have on others,” Cheryl explains. “If, after each event, I’ve found that I’ve touched at least one woman, I’m satisfied. I may not have been supposed to touch everybody’s life, but that one person was supposed to be there, and that was the person I was supposed to touch.”

Cheryl is married to Michael Burnside, and they have two adult sons, Mike and Wade. “They are a power couple. They have a true heart for people,” Barnetta says. “She’s strong-willed too. She says I’m gonna do a Tea for three or four shelters, and we say, we don’t have the money, and she says it’s gonna happen. And she makes it happen.”

In December 2011,  PWH hosted a Red Tea for 60 women from domestic abuse shelters. The theme was women’s empowerment and the prevention of heart disease. Residents from the shelters received gift cards and new clothing, provided by Belk, as well as a renewed sense of confidence.

“We brought all these ladies and made them feel like a queen for a day. We did their make-up, had a fashion show, and they got to strut up and down the runway with new clothes,” says Barnetta. “They came in walking with their shoulders down and left walking with their shoulders back.”

PWH’s work with the domestically abused inspired them to establish an eight-week program for girls aged 11 to 14 to prevent teen dating violence. Loving Me Phenomenally has grown from 12 girls the first year to 22 in 2012. According to a parent poll, girls who complete the program have better social and academic skills, are more confident, and have a clearer career path.

“A lot of girls feel they don’t have purpose and won’t amount to be much,” says 15-year-old Leah Newson. “This program inspired me. I want to be a writer. I also want to do what Miss Cheryl is doing. I’d like to be inspirational. I’m just one girl, and eventually I have to go off to college, and I want to write something that has purpose.”

Cheryl is leaving a legacy, not just for the girls and women served by PWH, but also for her sons, Mike and Wade, and for hundreds of women and girls who are touched by those she touches and who have discovered that they are worthy and precious and phenomenal.



Better Business Bureau Names “Top Ten Scams” of 2012

old phone

The Better Business Bureau investigates thousands of scams every year, and this past year launched two websites to help consumers figure out which offers are real and which ones are possibly frauds:

BBB Smart Investing (www.bbb.org/smartinvesting), developed in partnership with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, informs consumers about investment fraud, Ponzi schemes and risky investments, and helps them assess their risk, check out brokers, and avoid getting taken.

BBB Scam Stopper (www.bbb.org/scamstopper), developed in partnership with Western Union, educates consumers about the major types of scams and provides information on how to avoid them and how to report them.

The annual “Top Ten Scams” list is culled from a variety of sources. BBB gathers information on scams from consumers, some of whom have been victims of scams; from federal agencies; and from other reliable information sources.

It’s hard to say which are the ‘biggest’ scams, as far as the number of people affected or the amount of money stolen, because many go unreported or under-reported. Some of these scams have been around as long as BBB – 100 years – and some take advantage of brand new technologies. Our list is made up of the ones that seemed the most audacious, the most egregious. They hurt a lot of people, and it seems that scams are only getting more prevalent even as consumers are getting savvier.

Here are BBB’s Top Ten Scams of 2012:

Top Overpayment/Fake Check Scam: Car Ads
The online ad says something like “Get Paid Just for Driving Around” – a prominent company is offering $400+ per week if you’ll drive around with their logo all over your car. They send a check to you, which you are supposed to deposit in your account and then wire part of the payment to the graphic designer who will customize the ad for your vehicle. Whoops! A week later, the check bounces, the graphic designer is nowhere to be found, and you are out the money you wired. The Internet Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) says they saw this one a lot in 2012.

Top Emergency Scam: Grandparents Scam
The “Grandparents Scam” has been around a while, but it’s still so prevalent we need to mention it again: grandchild/niece/nephew/friend is traveling abroad and calls/texts/emails to say he or she has been mugged/arrested/hurt and needs money right away (“…and please don’t tell mom and dad!”). Plus the FBI says that, thanks to social media, it’s getting easier and easier for scammers to tell a more plausible story because they can use real facts from the supposed victim’s life (“Remember that great camera I got for Christmas?” “I’m in France to visit my old college roommate.”). Easy rule of thumb – before you wire money in an emergency, check with the supposed victim or their family members to make sure they really are traveling. Odds are they are safe at home.

Top Employment Scam: Mystery Shopping
If you love to shop, working as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement your income. But scammers have figured that out, too, and many job offers are nothing more than a variation on the Overpayment/Fake Check Scam (above). Sometimes they even tell you that evaluating the wire service company is part of the job, which is why you need to send back part of the money. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association says it’s not the practice of their members to pre-pay shoppers, but if you have your heart set on this type of job, you can find a legitimate gig through their website at www.mysteryshop.org.

Top Advance Fee/Prepayment Scam: Nonexistent Loans
Loan scams continued to fester in 2012. It seems for every legitimate lender out there, there is a scammer waiting to prey on people in desperate situations. Most of the scams advertise online and promise things like no credit check or easy repayment terms. Then the hook: you have to make the first payment upfront, you have to buy an “insurance policy,” or there is some other kind of fee that you have to pay first to “secure” the loan. This year, we heard a new, aggressive twist on loan scams: consumers who were threatened with lawsuits and law enforcement action if they didn’t “pay back” loans they said they had never even taken out in the first place. Some got calls at their workplace, even to relatives. The embarrassment of being thought of as a delinquent caused some victims to pay even when they knew they didn’t owe the money.

Top Phishing Scam: President Obama Will Pay Your Utility Bills
Of all the politically-related scams, this one seemed to be the most prevalent. At the peak of summer with utility costs soaring, consumers got emails, letters and even door-to-door solicitations about a “new government program” to pay your utility bills. Hey, the president wants to get re-elected, right? Maybe he’s just trying to win votes. Victims “registered” with an official-looking website and provided everything scammers needed for identity theft purposes, including bank account information.

Top Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: Jamaican Phone Lottery
This is an old one that flared up again this year. We consider it flattering (in a weird way) that BBB is such a trusted brand that we “star” in so many scams! In this one, the calls come from Jamaica (area code 876) but the person claims to represent BBB (or FBI, or other trusted group). Great news: you’ve won a terrific prize (typical haul: $2 million and Mercedes Benz) but you have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings. There are lots of variations on this; sometimes it’s a government grant. Best just to hang up and then file a phone fraud report with the appropriate government agency (see below).

Top Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook Tweets
Two top social media sites were exploited in one of this year’s top scams. You get a Direct Message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook (“ROFL they was taping you” or “What RU doing in this FB vid?” are typical tweets). In a panic, you click on the link to see what the embarrassing video could possibly be, and you get an error message that says you need to update Flash or other video player. But the file isn’t a new version of Flash; it’s a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smart phone. Twitter recommends reporting such spam, resetting your password and revoking connections to third-party applications.

Top Home Improvement Scam: Sandy “Storm Chasers”
BBB spends a lot of time investigating and reporting on home improvement scams, but this year we saw an unusual amount of “storm chaser” activity following Super Storm Sandy. Tree removal, roofing, general home repairs – some were legitimate contractors who came from other areas for the volume of work available; others were unlicensed, uninsured and ill-prepared for the work; while some were even out-and-out scam artists who took the money and never did the work. In an emergency, it’s tempting to skip reference checking, but that’s never a good idea. BBB has tens of thousands of Accredited Businesses in the home contracting field who are committed to upholding our mission of trust. Next time you need home repairs, find a contractor at www.bbb.org/search.

Top Sales/Rental Scam: Real Stars, Fake Goods
Sports memorabilia and phony tickets always make the list of top counterfeit goods. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, counterfeiters manage to have their hands in your pocket all year long. With the London Olympics added to the mix, it appears that 2012 was a good year for sports fakes. Some scammers were selling cheap knock-offs in front of stadiums. Others set up websites that just stole your money and never had any goods to begin with. Counterfeit goods are not only a rip-off for you because the merchandise is usually shoddy, but they are also a rip-off for the teams, athletes, designers and artists who create, license and sell the real thing. Buy directly from team stores and websites, or from legitimate retailers. You’ll pay a little more, but it will be the real deal. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Scam of the Year: Newtown Charity Scams
Within hours of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, social media pages dedicated to the child victims began cropping up…and some of them were scams asking for money. The FBI has already arrested one woman for posing as the aunt of one of the children killed, and state and federal agencies are investigating other possible fraudulent and misleading solicitations. In response to these reports, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offered tips for donors to understand how and when to best support those dealing with such a tragic crisis. Although the number of people defrauded and the total dollars stolen is most likely low, the cynicism and sheer audacity of these scams merits our selecting it as the “Top Scam of 2012.”

More information for consumers:
• For more information on these and other scams, go to BBB Scamstopper. Sign up for our Scam Alerts and learn about new scams as soon as we do.
• To search for a business in the U.S. or Canada, or to find your local BBB, go to BBB.org.
• For information on charities, go to Give.org.
• For information on U.S. government services, go to: USA.gov.
• For information on Canadian government services, go to Service Canada.


Parrot Rescue Takes Flight

ChaCha is a 3-year-old Sun Conure.  He just reached maturity and got far too loud for his family.  Very few people can tolerate their noise long term, so ChaCha and the other Sun Conures will likely remain at the Parrot Village for years.

What does a woman who is facing an empty nest and who has studied biology, nursing and accounting do with the rest of her life? Why, she lets her life go to the birds –literally. She establishes a parrot rescue.

ChaCha is a 3-year-old Sun Conure. He just reached maturity and got far too loud for his family. Very few people can tolerate their noise long term, so ChaCha and the other Sun Conures will likely remain at the Parrot Village for years.

As strange as it may sound initially, the story behind this life transition is both logical and inspiring.

Vicki Lynn LeClaire, known as “Miss Vicki,” is a generous, warm and inviting woman. She shares a traditional two-story Fayette County country home with her husband Jim and her daughter Madison, a homeschooled senior. Jared, their son, is a senior at the University of West Georgia.

What is not apparent on the outside is that this family home is also a haven for 60 rescued and abandoned parrots. Inside, beautiful, spirited birds peer from their large, clean cages to welcome visitors. Exotic, colorful birds like Fernando, the Spanish-speaking double yellow headed Amazon, are eager to entertain. Bert and Ernie, a bonded pair of brilliant Blue-fronted Amazons, are content simply living with each other. The very vocal ChaCha, a Sun Conure, the second loudest species of bird on earth, makes sure you know she’s there.

But let’s back up and learn why Miss Vicki, who had moved nine times in 18 years because of her husband’s job, decided that rescuing birds would be her life’s passion.

“When we were finally done relocating I told my husband I wanted to do something for me. It was my turn,” she explains, continuing, “I always knew I wanted to do something with animals and that I wanted to give back to society.”

But — why birds? Miss Vicki answers with a smile. “I bought a cockatiel for my daughter when she was younger and that started it all. I found Tang fascinating, but I knew nothing about having a bird. While researching how to care for it, I was shocked to learn that so many of these beautiful birds needed homes and that there are not enough rescues. I knew this would be my new mission.”

She explains that exotic birds have a long life span, often living 20 to 80 years. They frequently outlive their owners, leaving no one to care for them. In addition, many people who purchase birds don’t realize that it is a lifelong commitment, nor do they understand the complexities of owning a bird.

“Frequently,” Vicki explains further as we walk past Angel, a beautiful white Moluccan Cockatoo, “young birds are often bo

Bert and Ernie are a bonded pair of Blue-fronted Amazons. They do not want human interaction, but they cannot be apart from one another without a great deal of stress caused.

ught impulsively from breeders or a pet store. Initially, they are nice quiet companions. As they mature, they become vocal, even disturbingly noisy. Some may develop personality issues and become destructive, making it difficult to live with the bird.”

Knowing that a bird rescue was her new-found mission, she and her husband purchased their home in 2007 with the haven in mind. “But before I could establish a rescue I had to do a lot of research,” Vicki remembers. “I really didn’t know where to begin. I used Facebook to find people with similar interests in birds. I met many helpful, motivating and kind people and I talked to people currently operating rescues. When I met a woman with 25 years of bird rescue experience who was willing to help me, I knew it was meant to be.”

This Karma-like belief is part of Miss Vicki’s Western Buddhist manner of calm and peaceful living. “I envision my life as a pathway and each choice I make sends me in a different direction. I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my journey,” she explains.

The Parrot Village, funded initially with Miss Vicki’s own money, officially opened in 2010 and currently has a five-member Board of Directors and about 20 dedicated volunteers. It is incorporated and has a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation.

While walking amid the myriad colors of brilliant feathers, gazing eyes and constant parrot chatter, Miss Vicki explains the concept of the Parrot Rescue. “This shelter is for abandoned birds, birds in need of medical or behavioral rehabilitation, and for birds of families who can no longer care for the companion they love.”

Most of the birds in the rescue are available for adoption and along with that adoption is help for the new owner. “We educate the owner, stand with him throughout the life of the bird; answering questions, offering advice, and helping with behavior problems if we can.”

Educating people, who may or may not be bird owners, is an

Abigail is an 11-year-old Goffin’s Cockatoo. The Parrot Village is her 4th home, at least. She can live to be 40+ years old.

essential part of the Village’s mission. An Open House is held the first Saturday of each month so the public can view the striking birds and learn more about the purpose and mission of the rescue.

“The public needs to be aware of their plight,” Vicki emphasizes. “We need to stop the breeders from breeding these birds and selling them in pet stores and at breeders’ fairs. We need to stop people from impulsively buying a bird with no plan for its care for the next 20 to 80 years. These exotic birds are not meant to live in captivity.”

Rescuing these beautiful flights of nature is paramount to the mission and its volunteers. All are working hard to solicit donations, gain support and educate the public. “We operate 100% on donations,” Miss Vicki says, “and we try to be as self-sustaining as we can be.”

The haven’s upcoming plan is to construct an aviary so the birds can be outdoors. “Nothing is healthier for a parrot than to be outside breathing fresh air, getting a natural shower, taking flight and soaking in the sunlight,” Miss Vicki notes. “The birds need to be able to fly.”

Not only will the birds take wing in this new aviary, but Miss Vicki’s spirits will soar as another important vision is realized on her inspiring life’s journey.

Miss Vicki’s Parrot Rescue


110 Virginia Place, Fayetteville, GA

Phone calls are discouraged because of the noise level.

Open House: the first Saturday of each month, noon to 4 p.m.


Did You Know?

  • Exotic birds are not domesticated animals.
  • Birds are facing an epidemic of overpopulation and homelessness.
  • Caring for a bird is a life-long responsibility.
  • Birds are often excluded from laws regulating the care and treatment of animals.
  • Breeding facilities are warehouses in which birds are held in barren cages for breeding and mass production purposes.
  • There are more than 100 avian rescue and sanctuary facilities in the U.S. Most are filled to capacity.

Source: www.avianwelfare.org