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Easter Bunny Photo Experience coming to Town Center, Mall of Georgia

March 18, 2019

Simon®, a global leader in premier shopping, dining, entertainment, and mixed-use destinations, is hosting its annual Easter celebration festivities at Mall of Georgia and Town Center at Cobb, offering families the chance to participate in traditional and special seasonal events. The Bunny Photo Experience begins March 29 for Mall of Georgia; and March 15 for Town Center at Cobb. Kids will have the chance to visit with the Bunny and take home a treasured snapshot of the fun occasion.

Save time and avoid the line with the Bunny’s FastPass! Families can reserve an appointment with Bunny online at

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“We love to hold family-friendly events and we always look forward to watching children have fun with the Bunny at Easter,” said Teresa Holloway at Mall of Georgia on behalf of the two Atlanta Simon centers.

Mall of Georgia and Town Center at Cobb also provide an opportunity for people with all spectrums of special needs and their families to enjoy this time-honored holiday tradition through a sensory-friendly Caring Bunny event in association with Autism Speaks. Guests can register in advance at The Atlanta Simon centers’ Bunny Photo Experience will also share the heart of the Easter Bunny by collecting donations for Autism Speaks throughout the season.

Caring Bunny will occur on the following dates for the Atlanta-area Simon centers:

  • Mall of Georgia: Sunday, March 31 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in Belk Court
  • Town Center at Cobb: Sunday, March 31 and Sunday, April 7 from 10:30 a.m.-noon in Center Court
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Many steps will be taken to reduce sensory triggers, creating a more comforting environment for children’s cherished visit with the Bunny. The subdued environment is likely to include:

  • Turning off in-mall music, stopping escalators located near the photo set, dimming the lights and shutting down fountains for the duration of the event.
  • Eliminating queue lines through the use of a numbering system whereby guests approach the set when their number is called.
  • Special activities geared toward the needs of guests during the ‘wait’ period.

The popular Pet Photo Night returns to the Easter Bunny Photo Experience at the two Atlanta-area Simon centers this year. Many pet owners view their pet as an integral member of the family and are just as committed in caring for their pets as their human family members. Pet Photo nights are hosted after regular mall closing and the set gets an extensive cleaning following the event to remove any potential risk to allergy sufferers. 

Pet Photo Night will occur on the following dates:

  • Mall of Georgia: Sunday, April 14 from 6-8 p.m. in Belk Court
  • Town Center at Cobb: Sunday, March 24 and Sunday, April 14 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in Center Court
Easter Bunny Photo Experience coming soon to Atlanta-area Simon centers to delight families

About Mall of Georgia
Mall of Georgia, the largest shopping destination in the Southeast, features more than 200 shops, including department stores Macy’s, Dillard’s, Von Maur, Belk, JCPenney and Dick’s Sporting Goods; iconic brands Apple, Michael Kors and Coach; and specialty stores Sephora, Altar’d State, Pandora, American Eagle, H&M and Palmetto Moon. The center is home to signature brand restaurants, including The Cheesecake Factory, Marlow’s Tavern, Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and a 750-seat Dining Pavilion offering more than a dozen delicious options. Shoppers can also enjoy the Regal Cinema 20 & IMAX, a 20-screen, 3-D IMAX theatre. The Village is an outdoor venue that offers family-friendly amenities and hosts a variety of live entertainment year-round, including Movies Under the Stars and Star Spangled Fourth. For a mall map, store listings, directions, events and job listings, please visit Connect with Mall of Georgia on and

About Town Center at Cobb
Town Center at Cobb features over 175 stores including anchors Macy’s, Macy’s Men’s & Furniture Gallery, Belk, Sears and JCPenney. The mall is also home to a variety of specialty stores ranging from fashion-forward shops such as Francesca’s Collections, H&M, Forever 21 and Sephora to celebrated favorites like Build-A-Bear Workshop, Victoria’s Secret and Pandora. Town Center at Cobb regularly hosts community events. For a map and store listings, as well as directions, events and job listings, visit or call 770-424-9486. Connect with Town Center at Cobb on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. To find resources, join a fundraising walk or make a donation, go to

Mauldin & Jenkins awarded Atlanta Top Workplaces Award for 2019

March 18, 2019
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Mauldin & Jenkins has been awarded a Top Workplace 2019 honor by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The list for Top Workplaces is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by research partner Energage, LLC. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture including alignment, execution, and connection, just to name a few.

“Top Workplaces is more than just recognition,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage.  “It’s an achievement organizations have worked for and a distinction that gives them a competitive advantage. It’s a big deal.”

Here are a few things employees said about working at M&J:

  • “The work environment and corporate culture here is beyond what I could have ever dreamed in all the best ways. Communication between levels of all employment is truly welcomed and I feel comfortable conversing, asking questions, and brainstorming ideas with upper levels of management.”
  • “Our senior leadership is really looking for new ways to innovate and integrate new technology into the workplace. They see how fast the world changes and are prepared to change with it.”
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Mauldin & Jenkins is recognized as one of Atlanta’s Top 25 Largest Firms by the Atlanta Business Journal and a Top 100 Certified Public Accounting firm by Inside Public Accounting.

Since 1918, Mauldin & Jenkins has provided assurance, tax and advisory services. The firm has eight offices located across the Southeast, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The firm serves clients in a range of industries including government, health care, construction, not-for-profit, financial services, film & entertainment, entrepreneurial, and higher education. For more information, please visit

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Katie Cauley at 770-541-5461 or email at

Four Cobb County products named finalists in UGA Flavor of Georgia contest

March 15, 2019

Judges have chosen four Cobb County products as finalists in UGA’s 2019 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest.

Representatives will showcase their products at the final round of Flavor of Georgia judging at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta March 19 along products from across the state.

For more than a decade the contest has served as the state’s premier testing ground for both small, upstart food companies and time-tested products.

The Cobb County products represented in this year’s contest include:

  • Smyrna’s Chinese Southern Belle’s Wild Wild East Asian BBQ Teriyaki Pineapple in the Barbecue Sauce Category
  • Marietta’s Cacao Affair’s Macarons in the Confections Category
  •  Kennesaw’s Pie Provisions’ Georgia Blueberry Pie Filling in the Confections Category
  • Powder Spring’s Suga’s Enterprises LLC’s Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese in the Dairy Category

These products passed the first round of judging and were selected from a field of 138 products in 11 categories.

All finalists will bring their products to Atlanta for the final round of judging, which will be held in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Awareness Week celebration March 18-22.

“Once again the level of innovation and talent represented in our contest has left us amazed and excited for things to come,” said Sharon P. Kane, contest coordinator and economist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ (CAES) Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

“Georgia is home to some of the most creative minds in the food business, and the Flavor of Georgia contest is our yearly reminder of lucky we are to live in a state that values entrepreneurship and good food.”

A food business development specialist, Kane, and her center colleagues have organized the annual contest since 2007.

Judges for the final round of the contest will include food brokers, grocery buyers, and other food industry experts. They evaluate entries by category based on their Georgia theme, commercial appeal, taste, innovation and market potential. Contestants will provide samples to judges and pitch their products in a “Shark Tank”-style presentation. Finalists will be named in each category, and a grand prize winner and People’s Choice Award winner will be named.

A full list of all finalists can be found at flavorofgeorgia.

The Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest is organized by the UGA CAES Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development with support from the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Grown, Gourmet Foods International, the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Nadine’s Classic Cuisine and Georgia CEO.

More information about the contest is available at and by following the contest on Twitter @FlavorofGA or on Instagram at flavorofga.

‘Get Georgia Reading Summit’ on Improving Literacy in Marietta

March 13, 2019

Nearly 100 educators, administrators, faith and nonprofit leaders, and representatives from government agencies, health care providers and civic organizations convened on Thursday, March 7, in Marietta to take a deep look at reading proficiency at the Get Georgia Reading Campaign Marietta Summit.

The statewide campaign provides a framework of success through four pillars:

  • Language Nutrition
  • Access to Support and Services
  • Positive Learning Climate
  • Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness.

The success of the campaign is determined by data rigorously tracked by educational systems, children and family support organizations, and government agencies.

At the Marietta Summit, which was co-hosted by the Cobb Collaborative and Marietta City Schools, multiple content experts addressed topics such as prenatal care, trauma, access to healthcare and community-based resources, and the impact of these factors on literacy and overall well-being and academic success. 

Comer Yates, Executive Director, Atlanta Speech School

Attendees explored data pertaining to their schools and neighborhoods, ranging from school climate ratings to percentage of children living in poverty to chronic absenteeism rates, as well as other academic and socio-economic data points. The crowd also learned about best practice models and planned for future conversations.

“The purpose of the Marietta Summit was to bring together our community’s leaders in order to create a deeper understanding of and dialogue around the varying factors that impact a child’s success in school,” said Kimberly Blass, Director of External Affairs for Marietta City Schools. “Third grade is that critical point in a child’s educational journey, when he or she switches from learning to read to reading to learn. If we lose them at that point, then the rest of their K-12 experience is more challenging.”

Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera provided the opening call to action and shared his experiences as a parent intentionally working to impact language development and communication with his two daughters. Other local speakers included

  • Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Amber Patterson
  • WellStar’s Chief Pediatric Officer Dr. Avril Beckford
  • Cobb County Schools’ Chief Academic Officer Jennifer Lawson
  • Georgia Department of Education’s Garry McGiboney
  • Marcus Autism Center’s Emily Rubin
  • Atlanta-Fulton Family Connection’s Janet Adams
  • Cobb County Library’s Lisa Cleary and Mary Wood
  • Oconee RESA’s Hayword Cordy
  • Hickory Hills Elementary’s Amy Barringer and Natalie Wilson
  • Get Georgia Reading’s Arianne Weldon
(l to r) – Irene Barton, Executive Director, Cobb Collaborative; Dr. Karen Smits, Executive Director of Academic Programs, MCS; Dr. Grant Rivera, Superintendent of MCS; Kimberly Blass, Director of External Affairs, MCS; Christine Ramirez, Director of Early Learning Center, MCS

Atlanta Speech School Executive Director Comer Yates also spoke passionately about breaking the cycle of illiteracy and resulting poverty for children whose families have experienced generational lack of access to educational opportunity.

“We are beyond thrilled to serve as the local point of contact for the Get Georgia Reading Campaign and to build a partnership of engaged stakeholders in order to move the needle on reading proficiency in our community.  There is a direct link between reading skills and high school graduation rates, which of course leads directly to employment opportunities, economic stability and ultimately, the health of our communities,” stated Irene Barton, Executive Director of the Cobb Collaborative. “It’s not an exaggeration to note that proficient readers become engaged citizens,” she added.

The hosting organizations note that this is only the beginning in what will be a continuing dialogue to bring educators and community leaders together to tackle the issue of literacy.  Attendees learned about several opportunities to be involved immediately through Marietta Reads, Cobb County Library Systems, Ferst Readers of Cobb County, and the Marietta affiliate of Communities in Schools. 

About Cobb Collaborative
Cobb Collaborative is a membership of nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders who share ideas, expertise and resources to meet the needs of our community. The Collaborative is also the local point of contact for the Get Georgia Reading Campaign.

About Marietta City Schools
Marietta City Schools became one of Georgia’s first Charter Systems in June 2008. Under the leadership of Dr. Grant Rivera, the MCS system includes seven K-5 elementary schools and an early learning center, which opened in August 2018. The district is building a college and career academy and operates the innovative Student Life Center within Marietta High School.

Local Business Owner Recognized for Business, Civic Contributions

March 12, 2019
Juan Violantes

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners recently honored local business owner Juan Violantes for his personal business and civic contributions to the Cobb County community.

Violantes received awards for outstanding work in Cobb County by the following individuals and organizations:

  • Sheriff Neil Warren, Cobb County
  • Cobb County Police Department
  • Cobb County Republican Club

“Our challenge in Cobb is to help people see and realize their dreams to empower as many people with ideas of success,” said Violantes. “We want to make a difference in our community relations and services as we prosper as a business. That is my personal motto.”

“I am a small business owner who strives to add value to others. I love people and I want others to be successful. It does not matter if I wear a suit or apron and cook at the party, I enjoy serving others! This is part of my life story!”

Juan Violantes is an entrepreneur and philanthropist in Cobb County. He is the owner of Giovanni’s Restaurant in Austell, is the founder of Giovanni’s Children Foundation, and is the owner and contractor of J.V. Drywall, Inc.

“I embody the American dream, moving here to seek a brighter future. My mother is from El Salvador and my father is from the Philippines. I moved to Atlanta in 1991 and worked from the bottom up, eventually establishing J.V. Drywall, Inc.”

In 2008, Violantes established Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant in Austell. It quickly became a local favorite for home home-cooked meals and a family -friendly atmosphere. Violantes runs the entire operation, from inventory to staffing to cooking. He work long hours, but enjoys the work and prides himself on building a restaurant that is well established when many other competitors have come and gone throughout the years.

Further, Giovanni’s Children Foundation is a nonprofit that helps poor and less fortunate families with children in Atlanta, the Philippines and Mexico.

Violantes has been Honored with the Don Quixote National Award from El Salvador. The award recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit of the people who have shown great character, strength, courage and determination, like the beloved character of Spanish literature. Violantes was also nominated in 2016 as a small business person of the year by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Violantes is also an active member of Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and South Cobb Business Association.

Rock the Night Away at the History Museum

March 11, 2019

Party and dance the night away as the Marietta Museum of History brings back some of the best classic rock ever!

Get ready to shake your groove thang or just kick back and enjoy the tunes from Mark Grundhoefer & Friends!  This 4th annual, casual night out serves as a FUNdraiser for future events and exhibits. Museum galleries will be open until 7 p.m. and during band intermission.

Admission is included in the event tickets.

When: March 30, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: Marietta Museum of History (1 Depot Street, Marietta, GA 30060)

Why: Admission included in event tickets and ticket sales serve as a FUNdraiser for future events and exhibits. 

Cost: $20 (plus fees) when purchased online or $25 at the door. (Limited seating. Pre-ordered tickets will have priority seats.)

For the last decade, Mark Grundhoefer has been a staple of the Los Angeles and Atlanta music scenes, playing in numerous bands, devoting countless hours of session work and developing a full-time teaching studio.

He now resides in Atlanta, Georgia where he continues to perform, record, and educate. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Guitar from Florida State University and a vocational degree from Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California.

Mark’s sound reflects his southern roots and his classical and jazz studies. He has been compared to many of his own inspirations, such as Pat Metheny and Steve Howe, among others.

Cobb Police Department to host job fair

March 8, 2019

What: Cobb County Police Department job fair

When: March 29 – 31, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Cobb County Public Safety Training Center (2109 Valor Drive, Marietta, GA 30008)

The Cobb County Police Department will be hosting a job fair to expedite the hiring process by completing:

  1. Physical Agility Test (PAT):
  • 25 push-ups within 1 minute
  • 30 sit-ups within 1 minute
  • 300-meter sprint within 1min 6 sec (1:06)
  • 1.5 mile run within 15min 54 sec (15:54)

2. Interview with an Internal Affairs Investigator **

3. Polygraph Exam **

4. Psychological Exam **

**Conditional upon passing the PAT

Come as you are between the hours of 9am & 3pm.

Please wear appropriate clothing for the PAT; change of clothes for additional testing is optional.Photo ID is Required. Snacks and water will be provided.

To expedite your process, please apply online at click on: Police Officer I.

Any questions, please contact Internal Affairs at 770-528-3812.