Front Porch Players brings Oklahoma! to local stage

Joanna Griffin plays Laurey Williams alongside Jack Allison as Curley McLain in The Front Porch Players production of the perennial classic "Oklahoma!"
Jakson Mulhall (Will Parker), Brian Walsh (Ali Hakim), Alison Chambers (Ado Annie) rehearse for the Front Porch Players upcoming production of "Oklahoma!"

Jakson Mulhall (Will Parker), Brian Walsh (Ali Hakim), Alison Chambers (Ado Annie) rehearse for the Front Porch Players upcoming production of “Oklahoma!”

The Front Porch Players stage will come alive on September 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, & 14 with some hootin’ and a hollerin’ as they proudly present the perennial classic, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. Featuring a 23-person cast and crew comprised of residents from Henry, Clayton, Gwinnett, Fulton, Fayette, and even Floyd Counties, the production will take place at the Family Center of the First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro. The cast includes former Fayette Woman cover Alison Chambers.

Based on the 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs, Oklahoma! was the first collaboration of Rodgers & Hammerstein and contains some of their best-known music, such as “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning”, “Surrey With the Fringe on the Top”, “I Cain’t Say No”, and of course, “Oklahoma!”.

Joanna Griffin plays Laurey Williams alongside Jack Allison as Curley McLain in The Front Porch Players production of the perennial classic "Oklahoma!"

Joanna Griffin plays Laurey Williams alongside Jack Allison as Curley McLain in The Front Porch Players production of the perennial classic “Oklahoma!”

Set against the backdrop of the Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the century, the musical tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain (Jack Allison) and farmgirl Laurey Williams (Joanna Griffin) and the pride that keeps them apart, childhood sweethearts not-so-bright Will Parker (Jakson Mulhall of Tyrone) and Ado Annie (Peachtree City’s Alison Chambers) who has recently blossomed and is enjoying all of the new attention , and rough farmhand Jud Fry (Gary Wofford of McDonough) who is obsessed with Laurey and willing to do anything to get her. Fayetteville’s Barbara Zellner is the feisty Aunt Eller.

Karen Ferrell-White brings her expertise to the role of director of this large production, and the musical direction is in the capable hands of Lucy Stembridge.

What has been called “the best musical of the 20th Century” opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. It won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1944, and the 1955 film adaptation won an Academy Award.

Playwright Thomas Hischak once noted, “Not only is Oklahoma! the most important of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, it is also the single most influential work in the American musical theatre. It is the first fully integrated musical play and its blending of song, character, plot, and even dance would serve as the model for Broadway shows for decades.”

Curtain is at 8:00 PM for Friday and Saturday night performances and 2:30 PM for Sunday matinees. Ticket prices are as follows: Reserved seating is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors (55+), $10 for children, and general admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for children. To purchase tickets, for directions, or for more information, please visit: www.TheFrontPorchPlayers.com or call (770) 897-1404.

The Front Porch Players will present "Okhlahoma!" Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14 at the Family Center at First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro.

The Front Porch Players will present “Okhlahoma!” Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14 at the Family Center at First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro. Pictured, front row, from left, are Brian Walsh, Barbara Zellner, Joe Wiley, and Gary Wofford. Back row, from left, are Alison Chambers, Jakson Mulhall, Candace Todd, Jack Allison, and Joanna Griffin.

Entrekin Book Signing

entrekin

Peachtree City resident and former FW cover girl, Jill Smith Entrekin, will be signing her lastest novel, Buck’s Junction, at Peachtree City Library on Sunday, August 4th, at 1:00 p.m.  Entrekin’s first novel, Start of Flint was released in 2011 by Room 272 Press and has maintained a 5 star rating on Amazon.

Publisher’s Description of Buck’s Junction:

Buck and Lonnie are cousins growing up together in a small Georgia town. They are both gifted athletes and altar boys who enjoy the sweet, simple pleasures of their small town life: watching the train roar through the Junction each day, gazing at the stars from high atop the water tower and hunting with the best bird dog in the county. For Buck and Lonnie, life in the summer of 1960 is good. That is until Uncle Elwood shows up. A mean, sadistic drunk who takes pleasure in tormenting others, Elwood sets his sights on Lonnie and Buck, and their once innocent, idyllic world will change forever.

In the great tradition of Southern writers, Jill Smith Entrekin paints a rich picture of life in a small Southern town featuring colorful characters and lessons about the strength of family and the inevitability of shattered innocence. Buck’s Junction will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will remind you that sometimes only a best friend can help you get through the hurdles life puts in your way.

The book signing on Sunday at Peachtree City Library will be followed by the awards ceremony for the “Summer in the Bubble” photo contest at 2 p.m.

For more information on Jill Smith Entrekin and Buck’s Junction, visit Room 272 Press.

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.

Free Gardening Make and Take

recycled planter
recycled planterPeachtree City Library’s summer reading program for adults, Groundbreaking READS, is presenting a free “make and take” gardening project at the Peachtree City Community Garden on Wednesday, July 17, at 10 a.m.
 

Volunteers from the library and Peachtree City Garden Club will show you how to turn an empty plastic water bottle into a self-watering planter. Attendees are asked to bring an empty plastic bottle (20 oz. or larger), although organizers will have extras on hand.  Every participant will get soil and a small plant to put in their planter.

Registration is recommended.

fresh salsaIf you love tomatoes, you’ll want to enter the Groundbreaking READS salsa competition at the Peachtree City Farmers Market to be held on Saturday, July 20, at 10 a.m. Be sure to read the rules and regulations – prizes will be awarded. Better hurry – the deadline to enter is July 14!

Seniors: Bone Nutrition Class

bones

“Bone-ified”

Tuesday, July 9– 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Fayette Senior Services (FSS) – Fayetteville location at the FSS Life Enrichment Center, 4 Center Drive.

We don’t think about it very often, but our bone health is just as important as the rest of our health, especially as we age. Sue Raia will be on hand to share with us all about the importance of bone nutrition and bone density testing. Learn who is at risk, how to detect it, nutrition and exercise tips and more to get your bones healthy and strong. This program is FREE but pre-registration is required. 770-461-0813 or email register@fayss.org (include name, phone number and event title). FSS members and non-members welcome. www.Fayss.org

Twilight Theatre Hosts the Princess Tea Party

PrincessTeaParty
An annual favorite for little princesses and their favorite adult, Twilight Theatre is proud to present another Princess Tea Party  portraying favorite princesses of all time. This short show is packed with music and tips on how to be the best princess ever PLUS after the show, enjoy special desserts (made specially for the little princesses by the big princesses) while princesse of every age chat and take photos. So don your favorite princess attire (crowns are perfectly acceptable) and join your favorite princesses for stories, songs, and desserts.Performances are at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29 at the Historic Train Depot in Fayetteville. Tickets are $10 for students, princesses, military and seniors and $12 for adults. Reserve your tickets today by emailing Lori@thetwilighttheatre.com.

6 Things You Can Do for a Summer of Happiness

sunshine girl

Summer of Happiness: Six Simple Things You Can Do This Summer to Let the Sunshine In
If your life could use a little lift, Todd Patkin says there’s no better time than summer to make small changes that will have a big impact on your outlook.

Summer is a time of warm temperatures, sunny skies, green leaves, neighborhood cookouts, family vacations, ice cream cones, and more. In short, it’s a season that’s full of opportunities for enjoyment—so why do so many of us drift through these warm weeks in the same hum-drum fog we’re lost in during the other three seasons? The fact is, most of us have become numbed by life, feeling that we’re victims of circumstance and simply trying to survive each day. So while a refreshing dip in the swimming pool might put a smile on your face while you’re submerged, your good mood usually doesn’t last long.

Don’t despair, though—you can influence your level of happiness to a much greater extent than you think. And the best news of all is that there’s no better time to start than during the summer.

“Most people don’t realize that happiness is a choice,” says Todd Patkin, author of the new book Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, www.findinghappinessthebook.com). “It’s true—happiness is learning how to live your best life by figuring out a better way to react to what happens to you. It’s the culmination of all of the little actions, choices, and habits that fill our days, as well as how we think about them.”

If that’s true—if your happiness really is determined not by what your life looks like but by how you look at your life—then why is summer an ideal time to start changing your focus?

“Life doesn’t completely stop in the summer, of course, but it does tend to slow down and give us more time to reflect on how happy we are with our lives, and to think about what changes we may want to make,” explains Patkin. “For many families, the daily pace is less hectic, and you’re more likely to spend time relaxing. Plus, since summer is a time of warmth, light, and growth, it’s naturally uplifting. Put together, that all means that over the next few months, you’ll have more time and (hopefully) energy to devote to making meaningful lifestyle changes.”

Patkin knows what he’s talking about. After realizing that financial success, recognition, accolades, and atta-boys didn’t bring the fulfillment he thought they would, Patkin set off to identify the ingredients of a happy and contented life. And he’s found that surprisingly simple lifestyle changes and habits can make a tremendous difference in your attitude, mood, and outlook.

“If you take the following suggestions to heart, I promise that you’ll be a much happier person by the time the leaves start to turn,” Patkin asserts. “And don’t worry—most of these habits will take only a few minutes out of your day, and some won’t take any extra time at all. Plus, they’re activities the whole family can get involved in and benefit greatly from.”

If you’re ready to put a genuine summer smile on your face, then read on for six simple ways to up your contentment quotient:

Enjoy the weather: Exercise. No one except the most avowed couch potato can resist venturing out into the great outdoors when the sun is shining and the grass is green. Take advantage of the wonderful weather and up your activity level! Exercise will begin to relax you, make you feel stronger, and improve your sleep. It’s also a natural anti-depressant that will boost your attitude and outlook. And as time passes, you’ll gain the added bonus of being happier with your physical appearance as well.

“I think exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your life right now,” Patkin asserts. “It’s a fantastic energizer, and it actually opens you up to future change by invigorating your mind and body. And don’t worry—I’m not saying you have to start training for a marathon. Commit to walking just twenty minutes every other day to start out. Or if circumstances allow, take a walk in the woods or swim a few laps in the pool instead. Lastly, take your kids along—you’ll be instilling exercise in them as a great habit that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

Get some new sunglasses: Be easier on yourself. Most people tend to go through life as though they’re wearing glasses with prescriptions that allow them to focus only on the negative things: their failures, mistakes, worries, etc. This summer, put on a new pair of shades with a more positive prescription that enables you to focus on all of the good things in your life, too! The fact is, we’re all human—and thus fallible—so it’s normal to make mistakes. However, it’s not healthy or beneficial to dwell on them.

“Most of us tend to be out and about more in the summer than in the colder months, so really take note of all the positive interactions you have and compliments you receive,” Patkin urges. “For instance, let yourself bask in your family’s compliments when you grill a great meal and savor your neighbor’s praise of your backyard garden. Basically, extend to yourself the same love and kindness that you would to others you care about! Until you give yourself permission to break free of the cycle of self-blame and negativity that causes you to be stuck demanding perfection from yourself in every situation, you’ll never have a chance to be a truly relaxed, content, and happy person.”

Plan some fun activities: Play to your strengths. The days are longer, schedules are more relaxed, there are several holidays to look forward to, and you’ll probably be taking some vacation days. Resolve to spend some of that time developing your special abilities and talents! If you want to be happy, you need to recognize, use, and share your gifts. Each of us has been given special, unique strengths, and when we are using them, we’re happier and feel much better about ourselves—and the world at large is better off, too!

“If you’ve never done so before, sit down and make two lists: Write down your strengths as well as what you really enjoy doing,” advises Patkin. “Usually, many of the things on these lists will overlap. Then, make it a goal to spend more time doing these things that you enjoy and are best at. Focusing more on a hobby or personal interest you like is a good start, even if, like exercise, you do it for only twenty minutes every other day. After all, your kids get to go to special-interest activities and camps during the summer…so why shouldn’t you get in on the action, too?”

Smell the roses: Live in the present. There are so many moments to treasure throughout our lives, and they’re often especially vivid in the summer: the sound of your kids playing outside, the scent of the herbs in your garden, the feeling of sand between your toes and sun on your skin. The question is, are you really experiencing and enjoying these moments…or is your mind obsessing over the past or worrying about the future while only your body is physically present? If it’s the latter, you’re only exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t control.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to truly appreciate the present moment,” Patkin shares. “And hopefully, this season will offer plenty of good opportunities to do that. Try to be aware of what your thoughts are ‘doing,’ and please don’t get discouraged when you find yourself going back to your old negative mental habits! In fact, pat yourself on the back because you’re noticing that you’re doing something you don’t want to do anymore. This is a fantastic start. By autumn, you’ll be closer to living the adventurous, wonderful life you were always meant to. Also, keep in mind that your children usually know when your mind is not 100 percent there with them. Don’t unintentionally make them feel less important in your life.”

Break out the barbeque: Strengthen close relationships. Summer is known for cookouts, pool parties, and front-porch sittin’. Don’t be “that family” who always keep to themselves—try to host at least one or two events between June and September and invite the people you love over for some fun. The truth is, it’s worth putting work into improving your relationships with your family and friends all year round, because the quality of your bonds with the people closest to you can make or break the quality of your life.

“Also, I’d like to specifically mention one relationship you need to focus on in particular: your relationship with your spouse or significant other,” Patkin says. “You must put as much time and effort into this relationship as you do your house, your car, or your job. Celebrate your spouse every day. Trust me: This can make such a great difference in your relationship, because when your partner feels as special as he or she did in the early days of your romance, he or she will feel just as loved…and the spark of your relationship will stay alight. Summer is a great time to pick a bouquet of wildflowers, plan a romantic getaway, or purchase tickets to an outdoor concert that you’ll both enjoy, for starters.”

Smile and say hello: Be friendlier. Yes, spend more quality time with the people who are most important to you this summer, but also continue to make new connections. You’re not the only one who ventures outside your front door more often in the summer—so make a conscious effort to be friendlier to others you encounter, too. Introduce yourself to the family next to you at the pool or beach, for example, and say hello to folks you pass while walking in the park. (You’ll also be setting a great example for your kids.)

“Extending simple human kindness to others can make a huge difference in their lives…and in yours,” Patkin promises. “You see, everyone on Earth is carrying some sort of burden. You can’t make their pain, stress, or grief just disappear…but you can be what I call a ‘lamp lighter’—someone who makes others feel just a little bit lighter and happier on their feet, if only for five seconds. When you make friendliness a habit, you’ll attract kindness and smiles in return…and you’ll feel great about yourself for making a positive difference in the world!”

“These suggestions are meant to be a starting point for you,” Patkin concludes. “My hope is that you’ll incorporate these habits into your life and experience a more sunshine-y summer…and that you’ll remember this season as the beginning of your journey toward happiness. It’s true—what may seem like small changes in your actions and attitudes really can make a huge difference in how you experience the rest of your life!”

 

 

# # #

About the Author: Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In, grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.

About the Book: Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.findinghappinessthebook.com.

 

 

 

Fayette County Public Library Teen Summer Reading Program

teen reading

Area teens are encouraged to participate in “Beneath the Surface,” the Fayette County Public Library’s teen summer reading program, from June 1 to July 31. Teens are invited to come to the library and read for prizes as well as taking part in workshops that are offered throughout the summer.

Workshops this summer include: Teen social media etiquette, Zumba and Arts and Crafts as well as Monday at the Movies and a Gaming session every Wednesday.  Beginning June 1, teens age 11-17 can register to attend these free events at the main circulation desk at the Fayette County Public Library. Teens can also pick up a trivia sheet and book review form for June. Those who successfully complete both sheets will receive prizes and their name will be entered into the monthly drawing for a grand prize.

The “Beneath the Surface” teen summer reading program is sponsored by Fayette County Public Library and the Friends of the Fayette County Library.

For more Info contact:

Christy Dyson, Public Services Librarian

770-305-5345

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.

Southern Crescent Chorale Holds Auditions

chorale
The Southern Crescent has a reputation for excellence and achievement in the south metro area arts community.  An auditioned community chorus, the Chorale’s mission is to enrich its communities and provide talented and interested singers an opportunity to perform a variety of challenging choral literature with high performance standards.  Chorale members hail from seven different metro Atlanta counties.  Next season’s highlights will include performances at Spivey Hall, Southern Ground Amphitheater, and their popular Christmas Concert. For more information about the SCC, go to www.southerncrescentchorale.org.
Auditions for next season will be held at the chorus room of Fayette County High School (#1 Tiger Trail  Fayetteville, GA 30214) on the following dates:
Thurs., May 16    6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Mon., May 20     6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Tues., May 28     6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Mon., June 3      6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
To schedule an audition time, call 770-716-1231.  Auditions will last approximately 15 minutes and include singing “America”, scales, sight reading, and tonal memory.  For more information check out our website at www.southerncrescentchorale.org.

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.