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'I Hope You Dance' | East Point Historical Society honors legacy business for open house ceremony

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EPHS annual event featured Ballethnic Dance Company performance during socially-distant celebration.

EAST POINT, Ga. — Nine months ago, the East Point Historical Society Complex was preparing for a great year. Trees Atlanta donated over three dozen trees during a community planting event and PATH Model Mile pedestrian and bike trail sponsored by the city of East Point was nearing completion. In hindsight, it was shaping up to be a good year for East Point.

However, that was February 2 and unfortunately, the year was 2020. Six weeks later, COVID-19 turned the entire world on its ear and everything changed.

During the City of East Point’s inaugural Juneteenth Celebration and Community Conversations back on June 19, one of the few community events held during the pandemic, EPHS President Brenda Tackett was invited by the city hall as a representative to speak about the importance of the complex. 

At a subsequent meeting for the Board of Directors at EPHS, a motion was proposed to update the museum’s exhibits to more comprehensively reflect the culture and residents of East Point. 

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In the course of that meeting, an idea was formed on how to initiate that process while still dealing with a global pandemic. The EPHS Board reached out Nena Gilreath, co-founder of Ballethnic Dance Company, a local staple of arts and culture. 

The performing arts company was founded right here in East Point by classically-trained dancers, Nena Gilreath and Waverly Lucas, who are also husband and wife. It just so happens that Ballethnic Dance Co. celebrates their 30th anniversary here in the Tri-Cities this year. 

After a couple of months of planning and coordinating, EPHS and Ballethnic put together an event that could effectively kill two birds with one stone. The annual open house celebration which typically would be held indoors was morphed into a socially-distant outdoor affair that could double for a performing space for the guests of honor to showcase what they do best — dance. 

Gilreathhad this to say to Vox Populi ATL about this year’s experience, “The last nine months during COVID have been tough for us but one of the things that we chose to do was to look at the bright side of what we were going through.

We still have community, we still have supporters, we have our mental health, our physical health, and we’ve just really tried to stay in tune with that.”

While the threat of rain lingered throughout the day, dozens of visitors were treated to select performances on the grounds of the East Point Historical Society Complex for the Annual Open House Event

Guests were taken around the world in 80 minutes, as dance arrangements from  Spain, China, Africa even Coca-Cola and Ballethnic’s award-winning Christmas show, the Urban Nutcracker were performed for the crowd. All arrangements were personally hand-picked by Gilreath and Lucas. 

“We (Ballethnic) wanted to make sure that we’ve done everything we could to make a safe environment for students, for the dancers, and for the community that we serve,” stated Lucas about the event.

“It’s one of the few events that we’ve been able to do because of COVID and this whole situation, so we really appreciate the opportunity to get out in a safe environment with everyone really respecting the whole idea.”

The successful event brought dozens of residents and visitors to the EPHS Museum & Complex during the November, 15th ceremony. EPHS President Brenda Tackett presented Ballethnic founders, Gilreath and Lucas with a certificate of appreciation as a legacy business in East Point. 

Ballethnic also presented an item from their esteemed thirty-year history to be added to the archives at the East Point Historical Society Museum.

Here are some weekly volunteer opportunities available for residents interested in learning more about the East Point Historical Society Complex:

The Museum: EPHS President Brenda Tackett is looking for volunteers to help with the cleaning and dusting of the house interior.

The Garden: EPHS Board Member D. Lynn Bray has gotten a good start on house exterior and sidewalks with some much-needed pressure-washing. He will also be looking for volunteers to help arrange and maintain the grounds.

The Train: Repainting the train engine on the complex grounds began before the shutdown. However, unforeseen events such as the pandemic and not one but two fallen trees have drastically affected the renovation progress. The overall goal is to complete the outside of the train, then to clean and redecorate the interior of the train.

For more updates about the East Point Historical Society, you can stop in on Thursdays and Saturdays or visit their Facebook page or website. 

To find out more about upcoming Ballethnic Dance Company events, check out their website, here. 

For all the news that’s fit to click? Visit the VOX Populi website and like us on Facebook.

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Community

‘Something To Remember Him By’ | The community of East Point honors the tragically short life of Ty’Rell Simms

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City officials, non-profits, and local charter school help to celebrate the memory of student with ‘Buddy Bench’, balloon memorial, and new mural. 

EAST POINT, Ga. — On the evening of Friday, November 6th, 2020, 11-year-old Ty’Rell Simms was headed home from his grandmother’s house with a friend. Tragically, he never made it — but his story and his legacy do not end there.

Victim of a drive-by shooting that had absolutely nothing to do with him, Simms left behind a grieving family struggling to cope with their senseless loss and a community left without their classmate, teammate, and friend.

Known for his natural athleticism, generous spirit, warm smile, and overall good nature, Simms touched the lives of many in the Tri-Cities in his brief eleven years. 

During the unpleasant undertaking of finding ways to commemorate Simm’s life, his fellow scholars at KIPP South Fulton Academy (KSFA) envisioned ways to commemorate his life. 

The Beta Club at KIPP Academy, where Simms had just begun his fifth-grade school year under pandemic distance learning approached the faculty and staff about a Buddy Bench.

The ‘Buddy Bench project’ is a relatively new initiative where plastic bottle caps and recyclable plastic items are repurposed into a functional memorial or ‘buddy bench’ in someone’s memory. 

“Our Beta Club scholars came to us wanting to find an outlet for celebration, for grief or just having a way to feel afterward,” recalls KSFA Literacy Coach, Kathryn McClinton.

“They came up with the ‘buddy bench’ idea so we could collect caps in his honor and create a bench where people could actually come and sit, and remember him while also forming bonds with other people.”

The goal of the daunting task of gathering 400-lb of plastics through donations, both local and abroad to create Simms’ memorial bench.

The cap collection process was spearheaded by a fellow athlete and community youth leader, CJ Matthews. While Matthews did not know Simms personally, he was so moved by the news of his passing, he felt compelled to contribute somehow.

Matthews is the co-founder and CEO of Blankies 4 My Buddies, an award-winning community non-profit that has been behind such community events as The Giving Bowl, and COVID Care Package.

Through its #Tops4Tyrell initiative, Blankies 4 My Buddies has collected donations from as far away as Columbus, Ohio. 

Family-friend and local pastor, Ray Waters solemnly recounts to Vox Pop All, the morning he received the call with the heart-breaking news of Ty’rell’s passing.

“It’s five minutes before church, and I’m thinking about what I’m going to talk about, and I get a call, and it is from Conrad’s (Ty’Rell’s father), brother. Scooter told me that Ty’Rell had been shot the night before and had died,” laments the Village Church pastor to Vox Pop ATL

“My whole life as a pastor, I’ve been called and told that something tragic that had happened — but nothing like that.”

East Point Parks & Recreation also contributed to Simms’ legacy by partnering with KSFA and the newly-founded community beautification program, Art in the Paint to paint the basketball court at Brookdale Park in East Point.

Other local companies that have contributed to the causes involving Ty’Rell are including the following:

Drip-Thru Coffee

Treat Love

Kupcakerie

For all the news that’s fit to click? Visit the Vox Pop ATL website and subscribe for news updates on Facebook.

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Community

‘One To Grow On’ | Local non-profits join forces to expand food access options to the community

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Wholesome Wave Georgia and Food Well Alliance partner-up to expand SNAP benefits with ‘Georgia Plant 2 Plate’ program

EAST ATLANTA, Ga. — Although general concerns regarding the pandemic have seemed to greatly diminish, the needs of families still dealing with economic hardships and food insecurity have not.  

In an effort to increase the impact of its Georgia Plant 2 Plate food initiative, Wholesome Wave Georgia teamed up with Food Well Alliance to expand the benefits for SNAP households to include free gardening kits to Georgia families using their EBT cards at select local farmers markets. 

The Georgia Plant 2 Plate program was launched shortly after the pandemic shutdowns in April 2020 to ensure that SNAP recipients had reliable food access by offering 50% off fresh, healthy, and locally grown food.

https://vimeo.com/544003441

For 2021, the Plant 2 Plate program has expanded SNAP benefits to include 50% off local fruit and vegetable plant seedlings or ’starts’ to families paying with their EBT cards. 

Along with the purchase of fruit and vegetable starter plants, a free gardening kit including pots, soil, gloves, trowels, and plant care guides were provided to SNAP recipients.

Working in partnership with the Georgia Fresh For Less program at Wholesome Wave Georgia, Food Well Alliance hosted a Georgia Plant 2 Plate pop-up just in time for Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, 2021, at East Atlanta Village Farmers Market located at Stokeswood Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30316.

To date, Georgia Plant 2 Plate has hosted pop-up events at:

For more information about the 2021 Georgia Plant 2 Plate program, you can visit their website, and learn more about other programs involving the Food Well Alliance, click here.

For all the news that’s fit to click? Visit the Vox Pop ATL website and subscribe for news updates on Facebook.

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Local Entertainment

‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’ | Outdoor community festival returns to Historic Downtown College Park this weekend

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The ReKindle 2021: Arts and Music Fest comes back the CP City Hall Lawn boasting a bigger and better itinerary

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — If you look up the definition for the word, ‘Rekindle’ in the dictionary, you’ll find the following: ‘revive something that has been lost.’

A sentiment that arguably everyone on the planet can share as 2021 slides inexorably towards May and the onset of summer. Rising temperatures and vaccination efforts have begun to coax even the meekest from their COVID compounds to explore the outside world again. 

Luckily for the residents of College Park and the rest of Tri-Cities, there is a light at the end of that particular tunnel.

After having cut its teeth with the inaugural launch of its (hopefully) perennial festival last fall, the College Park Main Street Association (CPMSA) returns with the ReKindle 2021: Arts and Music Fest.

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The arts & music festival was a brainchild of CPMSA board member, Grace Lunsford, who proposed the idea to the CPMSA Board during the pandemic lockdown last summer. 

“I think it’s pretty obvious that while the Arts are not incredibly lucrative, especially for the artists, it is a magnet that draws people to local businesses,” Lunsford shares with Vox Pop ATL.

Renee Coakley, the Main Street Manager for the City of College Park, who worked closely with the CPMSA last Fall, had this to share.

“We did it so well the first time, as far as social distancing with everything still being up in the air, that we’re pretty much just reduplicating the entire framework with a few additions.”

ReKindle was created with a collaboration between the City of College Park Cultural Arts Committee and the CPMSA to incentivize residents to support the local businesses in and around the Historic Downtown College Park district.    

New additions included in this year’s program are an additional night of music on Friday, April 30th featuring CP community fan favorite, Last Five Standing as well as a children’s only art exploration, lovingly nicknamed the ‘Kid’s Korral.’ 

The Kids Korral is reserved for children ages 3-8 and will be located directly in front of the College Park Auditorium. Each participant will receive a ReKindle College Park paint and brush set sponsored by local favorite, Drip-Thru Coffee.

“Our family and our business are huge supporters of the arts,” expresses Drip-Thru Coffee owner, Christy Deen. 

“My background’s with Walt Disney World, so I always try to create a little whimsy, and when I found out that we could be a sponsor for the ‘Kids Korral’ for the ReKindle event this Spring. I was all about it.”

The schedule of events for the ReKindle 2021: Arts and Music Fest is as follows:
(Rain Dates | May 7-9th, 2021)

Friday | Music
5:30p -7p Pre-Concert Community Check-in & Picnic
7p – 9p ‘Kick-Off Concert’ | “Last Five Standing”

Saturday | Art
2p -5p Local Fine Artists | College Park City Hall Auditorium Lawn
2p -5p Open Gallery Tours |  Push Push Art Studios
2p -5p ‘Kids Korral’ Children’s Art Exploration | College Park City
Hall Auditorium Lawn

Saturday Evening | Music
5:30p -7p Community Pre-Concert Check-in and Picnic
7p – 9p ReKindle Concert | “Lamont Landers Band”

Sunday | Art
2p -5p Local Fine Artists | College Park City Hall Auditorium Lawn
2p -5p Open Gallery Tours |  Push Push Art Studios
2p -5p ‘Kids Korral’ Children’s Art Exploration | College Park City
Hall Auditorium Lawn
6p -8p Fine Artists Gallery Sale | The City Muse

Proceeds and donations from this weekend’s ticket sales will be applied towards funding for future College Park Main Street Arts and Economic Development Event Efforts.

For more information about the ReKindle 2021: Arts and Music Fest, visit the event page here.

For all the news that’s fit to click? Visit the Vox Pop ATL website and subscribe for news updates on Facebook.

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