Volunteer Now for Summerfest 2017!

By John Becker

In 1983, MASH ended an 11-year, 251-episode TV run, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American crowned Miss America and McDonald’s introduced the Chicken McNugget.

Did you know ‘83 was also the year a group of Virginia-Highland merchants – led by late Atkins Park owner Warren Bruno – got together and threw a block party that would eventually become Summerfest?

Yes, it’s really been 34 years since the first Summerfest, and organizers are hard at work planning this year’s festival set for the weekend of June 3. Featuring a 5K Road Race and Tot Trot, one of the largest juried artist markets in the South and a variety of local, regional and national acts performing on the music Summerfest stage, our festival has become one of Atlanta’s most eagerly anticipated seasonal events.

Aside from simply attending the event, how can you get the most out of your Summerfest experience? Why, volunteering, of course! Summerfest volunteer shifts are generally 2-3 hours long and you can choose to help with:

Volunteering is a great way to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones, and also help ensure the success of VHCA’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Volunteering can be a great way for high school or middle school students to get service hours. You can even sign up for multiple shifts if you like (and many do). Encourage your friends and neighbors to volunteer. Come join in the fun and go home with the coveted volunteer t-shirt!

We’re using SignUp.Com (formerly VolunteerSpot) again this year for volunteer registration and management. The tool is great at helping us organize our various tasks and shifts and is very easy to use. (Note: SignUp.com does not share your email address with anyone.)

Here’s how it works in three easy steps:

  1. Click here to access the Summerfest area on VolunteerSpot.
  2. Review the different tasks and shifts listed and identify the tasks/shifts that work for you.
  3. Sign up – it’s easy and you won’t have to register or leave a password on SignUp.com.

Have questions or need more information? Contact volunteer coordinator John Becker at jnbecker@me.com. Please don’t delay – volunteer today! We look forward to seeing you in June!

John Becker is a past VHCA board member and serves as Summerfest volunteer coordinator.


New Plaza Honors One VaHi Woman’s Church Membership of Almost a Century

By Sue G. Collins

When Blanche Reynolds turned 90-something (she’ll never tell!), more than 120 friends sang to her in three-part harmony with an organ backing them up.  It was glorious and she beamed.

Their gift to her wasn’t quite complete yet, though, and couldn’t be wrapped anyways. Her friends, the diverse congregation of Virginia-Highland Church, will dedicate a newly designed, more accessible and neighborhood-friendly front plaza to her, the church’s longest worshipping member.

Blanche Reynolds

“We are excited to honor Miss Blanche Reynolds by rebuilding the plaza and naming it for her and her nearly one century of membership in this church,” said Reverend Michael Piazza. “Four years ago, the wood around the windows in the Virginia-Highland Church sanctuary was rotting, and a window fell out of the steeple, crashing to the sidewalk below. The air conditioning in the sanctuary had failed, as had the water heater and the roof of the education building. Although the church was still extremely small, we rallied together, pledged our money, and took out a loan with the United Church of Christ’s Building and Loan Fund and did quite a bit of the work needed to repair the building.  In a building as old as ours, there still is a lot to be done, but the one major project we have not completed is making the building accessible to everyone. This is important because it is something we value and a true expression of who we are.”

The work is nearly done, with the broken concrete, uneven steps, missing handrails replaced to better serve those with mobility issues. There will be a ramp to access the door nearest the street on the east side of the building. The driveway between the church and parsonage (the brick house just east of the church) will be repaired and repaved. A lift will be installed that will ascend half a floor to the sanctuary and descend half a floor to the fellowship hall, making most of the building accessible to everyone. The downstairs restrooms will be made unisex and accessible with two non-gender-specific private restrooms, and two gender-specific restrooms. 

The total cost for the project is just over $100,000. “We are proud to be a part of such a vibrant and historic neighborhood and hope that the newly configured space will be used by neighbors at their leisure,” said Piazza.

Virginia-Highland Church is a progressive and inclusive community of faith in the heart of the city that gave us such civil rights heroes as Nobel Peace Prize-winners Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Jimmy Carter. This church seeks to embody the values of justice and peace for which they both worked so hard. The congregation stood up for the inclusion of women, and lesbian, gay, and transgender folks. As a result, we had to give up our place in the Southern Baptist and Georgia Baptist Conventions. Courage such as that should be honored. We continue to expand a deep commitment to inclusion. The 11am Sunday  worship service is interpreted in American Sign Language.

You can learn more about the Virginia-Highland Church at our website.


Survey Reveals VaHi Residents’ Key Concerns, Sources of Contentment

The recent survey of Virginia-Highland residents shows that public safety, the commercial district, public infrastructure, and neighborhood parks are the top policy issues we care about.  And while the commercial mix and safety are high on the list of activities that residents rated as important, there is room for improvement. Read the full report to learn more.


Two New Members Join VHCA Board of Directors

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

We had several strong candidates interview for two open positions on the board and last night confirmed Micah Stringer, Director and Troy Murray, Alternate Director to serve out the balance of the 2016/2017 term.

Micah Stringer

Micah Stringer and his family have been Virginia Highland residents for almost two years.  Micah is originally from Syracuse, New York and his wife Kara is an Atlanta native.  They live in Atkins Park and both daughters attend SPARK elementary.  Micah is currently President of Atkins Park Neighborhood Association, a Division Vice President for a regional bank and graduate of the College of Charleston, SC.  Since moving to the neighborhood, the Stringer family has been very involved in local volunteer initiatives, VH Tour of Homes, SPARK and youth sports.  Micah has a strong interest in parks, planning and helping to revitalize the VaHi business district.

Troy Murray

Troy Murray is a 19-year resident of Atlanta and a 13-year loft owner at Greenwood Lofts in Virginia-Highland.   Originally from Nashville, Troy moved to Atlanta after earning a bachelor’s degree in Logistics and Transportation with a minor in Geography from the University of Tennessee.  Troy is a project manager for United Parcel Service, Inc.  (UPS), and has a passion for transportation and a strong interest in infrastructure growth and sustainability.   With a balcony view overlooking the Beltline and Ponce City Market, Troy has seen many changes in the neighborhood.

Troy has been involved with several organizations in Atlanta including:  UPS LGBTA Business Resource Group (2014 – current); AIDS Walk Atlanta (Team UPS captain, 2015 & 2016); Out & Equal Atlanta (board member, 2008 – 2013); United Way (UPS team leader, 2006 – 2008); Greenwood Lofts HOA (secretary 2005 – 2008); and Open Hand volunteer (1998 – 2005).

As an avid runner and dog owner, Troy can be seen daily either walking Jesse along Greenwood Avenue or running on the beltline. When not out an about with Jesse, he will bring his extensive non-profit and transportation expertise to our transportation and safety issues.

As previously noted, these two positions became vacant due to the resignation in December of two Directors.  I am excited to welcome Micah and Troy to the Board and am confident that they will make many valuable contributions to the neighborhood. 


Local Police Officers Will Soon Be Wearing Bodycams

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board and Safety Committee Chair

By the end of January, police officers in Zone 6 of the Atlanta Police Department (APD), which includes Virginia-Highland, will be using body cameras on each shift.  As officers report for duty, they will pick up fully-charged camera units and attach them to the front of their shirts. 

As part of the bodycam rollout, Zone 6 held a public meeting on January 4th to demonstrate the new units and answer questions.  I was interested to hear that the camera does not automatically record the entire on-duty shift.  Rather, the officer needs to tap the large “event button” on the front of the camera in order to begin the audio-video recording.  (However, a 30-second video-only “buffering period” provides recording of the 30 seconds prior to the event button being pushed.)  Once started, recording continues until the officer stops it, and visual (flashing LED light) and audio/vibrating cues remind the officer of the recording status.  Battery life is sufficient to cover more than an entire shift.

Safety is paramount, so activation should not come at risk to officer or citizen safety.  Training and mentoring will take place to ensure that officers become familiar with the units and that activation becomes part of “muscle memory” in appropriate situations. 

Upon return to the Zone 6 precinct after a shift, the unit is docked and automatic uploading of the video will occur.  A helpful feature of the APD units is the automated nature of the system’s “back end,” preventing officers from taking time away from patrolling to upload and manage the videos.  The units also provide easy “bookmarking” of key moments on recordings, as well as streamlined categorization of recordings.

Recordings will be retained according to a schedule for the type of event—for example, a traffic stop recording is retained for 180 days whereas a homicide recording is kept indefinitely.  The automatic retention period can be lengthened by an appropriate official if circumstances warrant.

The system has the ability to obscure faces of victims and undercover officers when needed—for example, when videos are released after a Freedom of Information Act request.

APD anticipates that the cameras will help protect both members of the public and its officers, and assist in its investigations.