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Jeanne Bonner


Candace Hill is the fastest girl alive

Photograph by Kelly Kline
Photograph by Kelly Kline

For Candace Hill, life is now divided into two eras: before the 10.98 and after the 10.98.

Last June the Rockdale County high school junior ran a 100-meter sprint in Seattle in 10.98 seconds and became—officially—the fastest girl in the world. Candace also became, at 16, the youngest American sprinter to ever turn pro when athletic apparel company Asics signed her to a 10-year sponsorship deal. Two other major shoe brands also made offers, but Candace opted to sign with Asics because she and her parents liked the company’s long-term, low-pressure approach to her career. The six-figure contract covers the cost of college—any college—and allows her parents and sister, Rachel, to travel to competitions.

“Ever since that day, everything changed,” says her father, Gary, a technician for United Airlines.

Before the 10.98, Candace practiced with the team at Rockdale High’s Magnet School for Technology and Science. She still works out alongside her old teammates, but now she has her own coaches, paid for with Asics funds—including Tony Carpenter, who has coached veteran Olympians, and Sayon Cooper, a former Olympic sprinter.

Before the 10.98, Candace thought about attending Stanford or the University of Southern California, both elite colleges for track and field. Now, as a professional, she’s ineligible to compete at the collegiate level. She’s even thinking about a career after racing, maybe sports journalism. For now, though, she’s focused on finishing 11th grade; last semester she had a weighted GPA of 4.9.

But the most exciting post-10.98 development is Candace’s plan to attend the Olympic trials in July in Eugene, Oregon. If she makes the cut in the 100 or 200, she’ll head to Rio to compete in the 2016 Summer Games.

Stretching out in the cozy first-floor sitting room of her family’s two-story colonial in Stockbridge, Candace smiles as she recalls last summer’s Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle. It was the first time she’d competed against the “West Coast girls,” whose results she’d followed from previous meets.

In the 100-meter race, she quickly pulled away and finished several strides ahead of the pack. No photo finish there. “When I crossed the finish line, I knew I had run the fastest I’d ever run,” says Candace, who turned 17 in February.

Candace Hill
Photograph by Kelly Kline

Still, when the result was announced, she looked around in disbelief. “I thought there’s no way; there must be a mistake; there’ll be some technicality,” she says. But there was no mistake; she had finished nearly a half second in front of her nearest rival. Her 10.98 time would have tied her for a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and it automatically made her eligible to attend the Olympic trials this year.

Candace is in a different class from her fellow teens, says Rich Kenah, the Atlanta Track Club’s executive director and a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. “It is uncommon, rare, [and] unexpected to have a [track and field] athlete—male or female—rank so high as a teenager.”

In contrast to many of the girls she’s competing against, Candace wasn’t an early prodigy. She didn’t break out until high school when, as a freshman, she became the state champion in the 100-meter and the 200-meter events, shattering records that had been set by seniors. Before Seattle, her previous best time in the 100 was 11.21 seconds.

Tall and shy, with a sweet disposition, Candace possesses a quiet confidence. Just as she looks up to stars like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Candace wants to be a model for younger athletes. She joins her coaches for two-hour private practice sessions six days a week, alternating between running and lifting weights—sometimes begrudgingly. Training is always followed by homework. And her parents make sure she eats plenty of fruits and vegetables, though she’s been known to hold out for Froot Loops. She is, after all, a teenager.

She looks forward to Fridays, when she can relax, go to the movies—G.I. Jane is her favorite film—or goof around with friends. “They still treat me the same,” she says. “They’re always like, ‘Don’t change up on me.’”

Venson Elder, the head track coach for Rockdale High, compares Candace to sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner, who won three gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The 10.49- second record Joyner set there in the 100 still stands. “If Candace stays in the game, she could be better than Flo Jo was in her prime,” Elder says.

As of April, Candace hadn’t duplicated her 10.98, but track season was just getting underway. Carpenter, however, says she’ll probably need to exceed her Seattle performance to make it to Rio.

Sitting at home, surrounded by her ribbons and plaques, Candace says she dreams about competing in the Olympics.

“I have a different feeling when I run,” she says. “I just feel like I’m free. I can take over the world.”

Vital stats

Candace’s age when she became the world’s fastest girl

number of major shoe companies that offered her contracts

women’s world record in 100-meter, in seconds

Candace’s previous best time, in seconds

This article originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.

A Douglasville couple created DriButts reusable diapers to help impoverished families

Photograph by Kelly Kline

Michael Wahl never planned to start a diaper company. And certainly not one called DriButts. But in 2013, after building wells as a church missionary in Haiti, where toddlers often go naked, he returned home and, with wife Starla, set about designing a quick-dry, reusable diaper.

The Wahls had initially planned to share their invention—first sewn by a friend—just on mission trips. But when they returned to Haiti, demand instantly outstripped supply. Since then, churches and donors—who can also help deliver the diapers to needy children—have kept their nonprofit’s website, dributts.com, humming. The Wahls hope to distribute 10,000 diapers in 2016, an ambitious goal that would require $150,000 in donations.

It’s not easy building a nonprofit from scratch while squeezing in trips to make diaper drops. But Wahl, who says he feels called by God, is inspired by one simple question: “Who should have to raise their kids without diapers?”

Diapers for the win
On a whim in 2014, Wahl entered the Atlanta-based Plywood Presents Idea Competition before he even had a product name—and won! The $5,000 prize came with advice from a startup consultant.

No boiling required
Unlike cotton, which requires high washing temperatures and long drying times, the fabric used by DriButts can be rinsed out and line-dried in less than an hour.

Antibacterial bamboo
Inside the moisture-wicking polyester outer shell is a removable insert made of bamboo fiber, which is naturally resistant to bacteria.

Oh snap!
The diapers are fully adjustable and will fit children up to three years old.

A big mess
While governments and NGOs often focus on sewage treatment, Wahl developed his diaper with the realization that babies don’t use toilets. Still, DriButts is at best a partial solution to a third-world sanitation crisis that kills 1.4 million children a year.

Praying for donations
Wahl is trying to quickly scale up his idea, which means raising funds and working with a contract manufacturer in China.

This article originally appeared in our March 2016 issue under the headline “The Bottom Line”

Six reasons to love Home Park

Home Park
Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore
Kathy Boehmer
Kathy Boehmer, resident and co-owner of Toscano and Sons

Illustration by Joel Kimmel

Bordered on the north by Atlantic Station and the south by ­Georgia Tech, Home Park is in the heart of west Midtown. And yet the compact neighborhood remains somewhat hidden in plain sight—well, as hidden as a neighborhood can be when it abuts a premier university and a sprawling outdoor mall and entertainment complex, and is home to both a doughnut shop and a pizzeria with cult followings. “It’s a residential area, but if you go to the right part, you have a view of a big city. It’s the best of both worlds,” says Kathy Boehmer, co-owner of Virginia-Highland’s Toscano and Sons Italian specialty market, and a resident of Home Park for nearly two decades.

Quick commutes
Two of Midtown’s main thoroughfares—10th and 14th streets—traverse Home Park, and the Connector borders it to the east. So it’s not a stretch to say Home Park is minutes from just about anywhere intown.

Atlantic Steel Home Park
Atlantic Steel, 1950

Photograph by Bill Wilson Photography/Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center

Community mix
Atlantic Steel closed in 1998, and today’s residents are a mix of newcomers and descendants of plant workers. Many worshipers at the Al-Farooq mosque on 14th Street live nearby, and before Friday services, the sidewalks are often filled with women in colorful hijabs.

Bright lights
Georgia Tech attracts some of the nation’s brightest innovators. It also offers some stellar views. “I love to walk there with my dog and just look at the skyline,” says Boehmer.

Stroll to shop
Home Park residents have all manner of retail within easy walking distance, thanks to nearby Atlantic Station, home to Dillard’s, Target, the Gap, H&M, Ikea, and even a Publix.

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Good Eats
Here, find two of Atlanta’s foodie destinations: Antico Pizza Napoletana, which regularly has lines out the door, and Sublime Doughnuts, which specializes in over-the-top flavors like maple bacon cheddar. Locals love Silver Skillet and Rocky Mountain Pizza Company.

Rocky Mountain Pizza
Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Small scale
A tidy grid of what Boehmer calls “lots of little streets” limits infill development but not curb appeal. Find small bungalows, narrow roads that feel like alleys, and even a hidden bike path linking 10th and 14th streets. Many homes were built a century ago for workers at the Atlantic Steel plant, which stood where Atlantic Station is now.

This article originally appeared in our November 2015 issue.

Oh Baby! Fitness offers workouts for moms-to-be and new moms

When Clare Schexnyder was expecting her first child in 2005, it was hard to find exercise classes aimed at mothers-to-be. So she came up with Oh Baby! Fitness. The Atlanta-based company, co-owned by Kathleen Donahoe, doesn’t run any gyms. Instead it trains instructors and uses space at universities, corporations, studios, and more. Today it offers the widest variety of pre- and postnatal fitness classes in the country, including water aerobics and yoga. Oh Baby! is currently in 15 states, with plans to reach all 50 by 2016. At multiple locations, including Urban Body Studios and Northside Hospital.

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This article originally appeared in our July 2015 issue. 

A treasure trove at Highland Row Antiques Basement Market

Photograph by Holly Renfro Keyes

If you arrive at Highland Row Antiques before 10 a.m. on the first Saturday of most months, you’ll find a line inside the tiny storefront, full of hipsters sipping coffee and young parents holding small toddlers by the hand. All are patiently waiting for entry to the sprawling lower level and parking lot, where the shop’s vendors set up for the monthly Basement Market, which combines the store’s regular merchandise with one-day-only treasures.

For decorators, vintage furniture collectors, or scouts for TV and movie sets, it’s an appointment to keep each month. Earlier this year, we spotted 1950s Danish-modern book cases, signs scavenged from abandoned motels, vinyl dinette sets, a pair of mermaid lamps, and vintage theater seats. Don’t hesitate to haggle—the dealers, who mill around during the sale, expect it.

If you want a chance at the midcentury living room sets or other larger items, go early. But if you’re just looking to peruse kitschy tourist souvenirs, novelty lamps, nostalgic lunch boxes, children’s furniture, or vintage clothing, you can show up anytime.

Highland Row holds its first Saturday sales 10 months a year. (Owner Angela Carbon typically skips holiday months.) As one dealer puts it, the brief hiatus allows more time to find the goodies that will go on sale the following month. The next market is on Saturday, May 2. The store opens at 10 a.m. and closes by 7 p.m. at earliest on market days.

Herndon Home in Peril

It’s easy to overlook the Herndon Home. The museum sits on a short one-way street in a hidden corner near Vine City.

The house across the road is abandoned. Down the street, Morris Brown College buildings are largely vacant now that the school has lost its accreditation. Scaffolding covers the facade of the two-story brick mansion after a storm damaged one of the columns.

Indeed, nothing about the setting hints at the interior opulence of the 100-year-old, 8,000-square-foot home—or the historic significance of its original owner, Alonzo Herndon, a former slave and Atlanta’s first black millionaire.

Emancipated at the end of the Civil War, Herndon left his native Social Circle on foot with $11 to his name. Eventually coming to Atlanta, he leveraged his barbering skills into owning several barbershops, including a lavish salon Downtown with crystal chandeliers and gold fixtures. In 1905, Herndon began to buy up small insurance companies, which he combined to form Atlanta Life, still one of the largest black-owned companies in the U.S. As his fortune grew, he became a generous patron of local institutions and was among an inner circle consulted by Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. His first wife, Adrienne, headed the drama department at Atlanta University. She actually designed the home, dying tragically just months after its completion.

The mansion is not the only landmark, nor the only important African American site in Atlanta, that has struggled to stay afloat. But few have its pedigree. With silk wallpaper, Persian rugs, and elaborate wood carvings, the Beaux Arts home could stand on its own as a museum. It’s a key milestone in African American economic history and reflects Atlanta’s unique role in that saga.

“One of the things that distinguishes Atlanta from other cities is the rise of the black middle class,” says Mark McDonald, CEO and president of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. “Alonzo Herndon’s story is at the center of that.” The Herndon Home is a monument to “black achievement, not only for the owner . . . but also for the black artisans who worked on the house. It’s an incredible story. It’s an American story.”

A National Historic Landmark, the Herndon Home has long worried preservationists. The Georgia Trust named it a Place in Peril in 2007, after rainwater ravaged parts of the interior. Last year, the foundation that operates the house did not replace the departing executive director and quit offering walk-in tours.

“It’s struggling,” says McDonald. “It is not in the dreadful state it was in 2007, but it still needs all of our help.”

Formerly, the Herndon Home was supported by dividends from Atlanta Life Financial Group. However, dividends were halted a few years ago, so the museum now depends more on fundraising, says William Stanley III, chair of the foundation’s board.

Preservationists suggest the foundation partner with groups such as the Center for Civil & Human Rights, which is building a museum near Centennial Olympic Park. Stanley says he welcomes collaboration and is already working with the Atlanta History Center.

In the meantime, centennial celebrations won’t take place until December. The annual spring tea was moved to August 21. Perhaps that event will boost the home’s fundraising campaign.

Photograph by Joe Martinez

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