Here are the most-viewed stories for the week of May 12 in Decatur/Avondale Estates Patch.
President Barack Obama gave the 129th commencement address speech on a wet and rainy Sunday afternoon, May 19th, at Morehouse College.
Obama began his remarks to an excited yet wet crowd,most of whom had been seated as early as 6 am. at approximately 11:30 am.
The sky opened just before the speech began, and the crowd was treated to a steady downpour throughout. Obama quipped that, “I would be out there with you, but the Secret Service gets nervous.”
Obama was greeted with a big cheer when he emerged from a building adjacent to the stage with Morehouse College president John Silvanus Wilson, a former White House aide.
The invocation was given by Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous church.
Valedictorian Betsegaw Tadele gave a rousing speech, including the line “There is no unachievable if you have the audacity of hope,” a reference to Obama's book. The president shook Tadele’s hand after the speech.
Obama spoke about racial issues and his own experience, and of Morehouse’s history from a school of freed slaves that once educated Martin Luther King Jr. – whom Obama said was known as “tweed” for his suits and was not the coolest kid in class.
Some of the biggest cheers came when Obama singled out certain graduates, one who came up through the foster care system and now is off to Harvard law, another who is a father of three.
Wilson gave Obama an honorary “doctorate of laws” degree.
After leaving Morehouse, Obama went to a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser being held at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
The event will host approximately 100 people. Tickets were ranged from $10,000 to $32,400 per couple.
Air Force One landed at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport at 10:13am, slightly behind schedule. Obama emerged from the plane with Rep. Hank Johnson, who represents an Atlanta-area district, and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is a Morehouse grad.
Soon the motorcade made its way down the highway and into the historic West End and onto the Morehouse campus. He was greeted by a huge cheer when cameras caught a glimpse of the President walking to the stage.
Readers posted instagram photos and tweets onto our Live Blog throughout the commencement ceremony.
Obama begins speech at #Morehouse commencement. Says it’s "one of the greatest experiences of my life"
Watching POTUS speak at #Morehouse. Has crowd roaring. The man can kill terrorists and tell a good joke. Not bad.
According to Morehouse, this was the very first time a "sitting President has given a May commencement address in Georgia, and the first time in three-quarters of a century that one has delivered any commencement speech in Georgia."
Mark Elgart, president of AdvancED, has been confirmed to give the commencement address at Druid Hills High School's graduation ceremony, an ajc.com article reports. Druid Hills High draws some of its student body from Avondale Estates.
The valedictorian is Anna Dowling, who will attend Pomona College in California. The salutatorian is Jason Terry, who will attend the University of Georgia as a Foundation Fellow.
According to the DeKalb county school district's website, Druid Hills High's ceremony is at 10 a.m. May 24 at the Atlanta Civic Center.
The school will hold a pre-commencement ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church at 1660 North Decatur Road NE.
The Skipperdees, twin sisters Emily and Catherine Backus out of Athens, serenade people on the street Saturday in front of Leon's Full Service as part of Sidewalk Saturdays.
The City of Decatur is sponsoring pop-up art performances through mid-June. Next weekend the Decatur Arts Festival will be held.
The City of Decatur is entering budget season. That means a series of legally mandated public meetings will be held. Here's the schedule recently sent out by the city.
All the meetings will be in city hall. Beginning Wednesday, copies of the proposed budget and the revised 2012-13 budget will be available at Decatur City Hall and at the Decatur Library.
After Wednesday, the budget will be available on the city’s website.
Johnny Cash is an adult Beagle. He’s about five years old so he is passed the puppy and the juvenile stage; no chewing of shoes for him.
Johnny is calm and cuddly. He’s a sweet, gentle little fellow who is always happy to see you. You can see the smile on his face. He really needs to find a loving home because he’s in need of heartworm treatment.
If you can open your heart and home to this little sweetie and if you are willing to treat his heartworms; his adoption fee will be waived. You will have a great, healthy and happy pet. Johnny Cash will have a furever home. What a wonderful tradeoff!
Johnny weighs only 40 lbs so he won’t take up much room if you want to let him snuggle in bed with you. Please come to visit Johnny and spend some time with him; he could turn out to be your new best friend.
DeKalb County Animal Services
845 Camp Road
Decatur, Ga. 30032
Monday - Wednesday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Check out pictures & details of all our wonderful dogs & cats available for adoption
Dog Adoption Fee: $95
Includes spay/neuter, vaccinations, and heartworm test
Cat Adoption Fee: $75
Includes spay/neuter, vaccinations, and FIV/FELV test
Dogs & Cats over 5 years old/Adopter over 55 years old: $40
Do you want to blog on Patch? Send an email to our Community Editor, Hunt Archbold. He'll help you get started!
The Decatur Farmers Market is starting a series of "celebrity chef demos."
At 11 a.m. Saturday, Drew Belline of No. 246 will show how to cook using local ingredients.
The demos are one of the changes that have occurred since the management of the market changed. The number of vendors has also grown.
The market's email newsletter said blueberries and peaches will be available Saturday. Some of the vendors this week include:
The market will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at West Trinity Place and North McDonough, across from Chick-fil-A.
Here are five things to do this weekend. For a full list of ideas, look at the Patch calendar of events.
1. Going old school: Bands will perform music from groups like New Order and REM at the Rock and Role Revue at the Decatur High Performing Arts Center. All proceeds will go to the family of Angela Riley (DHS Class of 2006), who was hit by a drunk driver in Nashville and is in critical care at Vanderbilt University Hospital. 7 p.m. Friday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Minimum $5 donation.
2. Twain's presents SpringFest Music Festival. Gringo Star, Cute Boots and other bands perform at Twain's Billiards and Tap on Saturday to raise money for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. $10 in advance, $15 day of the show.
3. Happy birthday, Avondale Pizza. The restaurant will celebrate its 25th year from 3-7 p.m. Sunday with hors d'oevres, drink specials and a jumpy house for the kids. The Stiles Knight Band plays at 4 p.m. Free admission.
5. Silent auction. You could win a four-day Norwegian cruise, vacation getaways to Georgia resorts, Braves tickets and free meals at this annual event at the Avondale Community Club. Starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. $15.
Here are some recent health inspection scores performed by the DeKalb County Board of Health for restaurants and schools in our community. Readers can click on the score to see the actual report:
Avondale Estates holds it annual fishing derby on Saturday.
Residents will throw their lines into Lake Avondale and compete to catch the largest fish, the most fish and to be the oldest and youngest to catch a fish.
Patch caught Joe Bennett of Avondale Estates, a member of the American Bass Anglers, casting in the lake Thursday afternoon.
He won't be fishing in the derby--he's entered a competition at Lake Altoona--but talked about the variety of fish that can be found in Lake Avondale.
The derby is 8 a.m. to noon and it's free. The event was rained out a few weeks ago.
About this sponsorship: In honor of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest, Patch and Grape-Nuts are teaming up to highlight those who inspire people around them to climb their own mountains.
Laura Whitaker is the executive director of Extra Special People, a nonprofit in Watkinsville, GA, that enhances the lives of children with disabilities by offering them recreation, education and socialization. Whitaker has been the executive director of ESP since 2006, and was only 21 when she took on the job. Under her leadership, the nonprofit has grown from a summer camp program to a year-round one, providing after-school care and family counseling for more than 150 children throughout 10 counties in Northeast Georgia.
Whitaker talks here about the challenges of running the nonprofit and the ambitious goals she has for Extra Special People.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever taken on?
A: The biggest challenge taken on was by far in January of 2006, when I took over ESP. After the sudden passing of the founder and director, I wanted the kids to have camp. However, I didn’t understand at the time that I was taking over a nonprofit and was required to raise $300,000 in order to have camp. In many ways I feel like my job chose me, and I am so thankful it did. I quickly learned, made mistakes and then learned again. The last seven years has taught me how to be a leader and how to effectively lead an organization that is changing lives every day.
After taking over ESP I quickly realized that we were only serving a fraction of the number of children with disabilities and families that needed our services. We have a waiting list that grows each summer. Our small, 1,600 square-foot facility does not match the incredible program of ESP. And as the waiting list lengthens and the request for additional services increases, my heart felt more and more burdened.
The second biggest challenge was making the step to do something about this. In 2012 the board, the families of ESP and I launched a capital campaign to raise $5 million, to one day build a bigger facility to serve more children. It was the biggest leap of faith the organization has made thus far but we had to make it. The needs are great. We believe that our community will rally behind us and allow us to serve more people. Until then, many children will wait.
In the last year we've raised about $500,000 in gifts and pledges. We still have a long way to go, but I’m confident that the members of our community believe in the children of ESP and will want to leave a long-lasting legacy through ESP.
Q: What will you do when you succeed?
A: When we finally get our new facility, we will march into our new home hand-in-hand with the individuals we serve and do nothing other than what we always do, just bigger, and have one giant dance party!
Americans may be living longer, but our retirement plans aren’t keeping up. Which means people are living longer with smaller bank accounts.
But Marlene Konkoly will retire at age 50. How did she do it? She contributes a whopping 45 percent of the gross annual income she earns as a procurement officer for an automotive finance company to her retirement—all while owning a home and remaining debt-free.
Konkoly is actually well ahead of the retirement savings curve compared to many of her fellow Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, fewer than half of Americans even know how much money they would need to retire. And nearly a third of employees who had access to a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k) did not participate in it.
“Save at least what your employer matches in your 401(k),” Konkoly said. “It’s like saying no to free money if you don’t.”
Konkoly, who lives in Royal Oak, MI, said she started saving at 22—but only because other people said she should. She saved a mere 2 percent at her first job out of college.
“I didn’t think I could afford much. I didn’t have any understanding of savings and how it would affect my future,” she said.
$17,000 in Debt
At 27, she had $17,000 in credit card debt—but this became a turning point in her financial history.
“I made the decision right then to get myself out of debt,” she said. “I took on extra work where I could. I started to learn how to research purchases before I bought items, and I began budgeting for the first time ever. I successfully eliminated my debt five years later.”
Once she was out of credit card debt, Konkoly, who is single and has no children, turned her focus to her golden years.
“I started to see people around me who simply could not afford to ever retire,” she said. “I knew I didn’t want to be in that position, so I started applying the same principles which got me out of debt toward saving more for retirement.”
How She Got Smart
Konkoly decided to get smart: She took graduate classes in personal finance to understand her portfolio and learn about retirement savings. She reads books, researches on the Internet and follows blogs about saving and investing. And she works with a financial adviser she trusts.
“Just because I can do it myself doesn’t mean I have to,” Konkoly said. “Having a professional adviser allows me to focus on other parts of my life without the time commitment of constantly researching the market.”
Maxing Out Her 401K
Konkoly “maxes out” on everything. She contributes the maximum to her employer’s 401(k), to other retirement investments such as a Roth IRA, and to her employer’s health savings account. She also has a personal investment account for everything else except emergencies.
Fitness for $12 a Month
“My favorite fitness trainer says, ‘Nothing that is easy is ever going to change your body,’” Konkoly said. “The same principle applies to finances. If it’s easy, it won’t move the needle. Yes, it does mean I have to sacrifice in other areas, and sometimes it makes me uncomfortable thinking of all the things I can buy with that money, but I remain focused on my goals to counteract that discomfort.”
To really maximize her savings, Konkoly uses coupons, and takes advantage of loyalty programs, travel miles and credit card points. She streams television on the Internet rather than paying for cable, and subscribes to a $12-a-month fitness video on-demand service instead of a gym membership.
She Pays Herself First
“I put savings at a higher priority than all of the other creature comforts,” she said.
Her One Splurge
She does, however, splurge now and then, and her ultimate passion is travel. For her 40th birthday last year, she spent 10 days traveling to Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. She stayed in nothing but five-star resorts, and spent a total of $1,400 on airfare, accommodations, meals and train transportation.
In her retirement, Konkoly plans to continue to travel the world, and says she would love to relocate to Sausalito, CA “for the wonderful weather and gorgeous views of San Francisco Bay.”
About this series: As part of our Smart Spending reporting, Patch is profiling people across the country who have found creative ways to save money. Are you an extreme saver? We want to hear from you! Share your story here or in the comments section below.
Top headlines for the day on Patch.
This information comes from Decatur police reports.
Money stolen in vacant house. A woman said a man she knows only as "Dwayne" took $10 after they went to a vacant house to drink beer.
The woman said came to Decatur about 4 p.m. May 9 and met Dwayne in a park near the Marta station. They bought beer and went to a house under construction on East Ponce de Leon Avenue. Once inside Dwayne demanded oral sex but the woman refused.
Dwayne struck the woman in the head and upper chest. He tried to take her cell phone but she put it down her pants. He took $10 cash and some Japanese currency from her purse and pushed her down some stairs.
The woman took Marta to Northside Hospital, where Sandy Springs police contacted Decatur police about 11:30 p.m. She said she dropped her apartment complex key card in the house and Decatur police found it at 538 E. Ponce de Leon Ave.
The woman described Dwayne as a black male of average size with light skin. He has gold bottom teeth, a shaved head and was wearing a pink polo shirt, white pants and white shoes. He has a tattoo of a pistol on his chest and an AK-47 rifle on his right upper arm.
Phone theft off Decatur Square. A Renfroe Middle School student said a young male grabbed her iPhone and ran away.
An officer patrolling Decatur Square was notified about 4 p.m. May 6 that a robbery had occurred at East Trinity and North McDonough streets. He talked to the victim, who said she and friends left the school and walked up North McDonough to Starbucks.
A group of seven young men yelled at them across the street and then crossed over and continued to harass them. One of the young men "violently snatched" her iPhone and ran toward the Marta tunnel at the Swanton Way turnaround. The rest of his group scattered.
The suspect was described as a black male 12-16 years old with a slim build and a small Afro hair style. He was wearing khaki pants and a forest green polo shirt.
Melanie Hammet and Ben Holst want to make music that sets people free--literally.
They plan to record an album about Clarence Harrison, a man who was arrested in Decatur and imprisoned before the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP) helped free him. The GIP helps the wrongly convicted through DNA evidence.
Once the cost of making the album is covered, proceeds would go to to the GIP, which has offices in Suburban Plaza.
Harrison was charged with raping, kidnapping and robbing a woman in the Oakhurst section of Decatur, with the prosecution based partly on the victim's identification of Harrison.
He was sentenced in 1987 to life plus 20 years. When the DNA evidence surfaced and he was freed, he'd spent about 18 years behind bars.
Hammett, who is the mayor pro tem of Pine Lake as well as a working musician, said the album would be called "Life Sentence."
The musicians recorded three songs but need to raise $22,500 to finish the project. The money would pay for studio time, production and engineering, musician fees and audio mastering.
Every time one of these songs is played, an opportunity to learn about the plight of the wrongfully incarcerated gets generated. That’s why our goal is to get this music into as many hands as possible. 11 songs have been written, but writing them is only the beginning of what needs to be done to bring this project into being. These songs need to be converted into a fully produced album, recorded with a full band, mixed, mastered, pressed, distributed, marketed and promoted, and that requires funding.
We want to feature many of music’s brightest stars singing these songs; only then can we sell the albums in sufficient quantities to raise the funds necessary for the Georgia Innocence Project to fulfill its mission: securing the release of every innocent person in a Georgia and Alabama prison right now.
Go to the "Life Sentence" website if you want to contribute. Also go to the website to hear the three songs already recorded.
GIP Executive Director Aimee R. Maxwell said Harrison now lives in Marietta.
In 2005, the state agreed to pay him $1 million over the next 20 years. Former state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Decatur) spearheaded the legislation.