The Vista Grove Initiative

The Vista Grove Initiative (VGI) is a group of citizens and neighbors interested in exploring how we can strengthen our community and sense of identity and belonging. We want to preserve all of the options we have for civic improvement. One possible option, though not the only or exclusive one, is forming an incorporated Vista Grove. But most important is that we make our own, self-determined choice and that we have the means to do so, the best possible information, and an forum and opportunity for constructive discussion. That choice, and those discussions, is what VGI was founded to promote.

Our initiative began as a group of community members who found, through working together on civic issues including keeping our community schools and Lakeside school cluster strong, that we have so much in common across our many wonderful schools and neighborhoods in the Vista Grove area. We also realized that it can be hard to communicate in a clear way and get the best information out for discussion across the community. We therefore wanted to create a platform for communication and civic engagement on all of those issues of importance.

Right now, of course, the top of mind issue for many of us is how annexation and cityhood might impact all of us, but these issues of importance also include transportation, parks and greenspace, sidewalks, economic development and schools. Our hope and intent is that Vista Grove Initiative, as a non-profit volunteer movement, continues to provide that communication platform for all of us.

Six folks -- John Ayoub (Sagamore/Leafmore), Meg Scheid (Briarcliff Woods), Andrew Flake, Lara Baldwin and Peter Steckel (Sagamore Hills), and Megan McRainey (Leafmore) helped to start the nonprofit itself, and more community members committed to the positive mission have continued to join them and Vista Grove Initiative every day. All of us love this community and area has been very gratified at the very positive feedback Vista Grove's fresh approach and message have received. We are doing this because we think keeping Vista Grove quality of life high, and our communication and ties together strong, is a really worthy endeavor.

Here are some profiles about our founding group and advisory team.

John Ayoub grew up in Dekalb County and Attended Briar Vista Elementary School and Druid Hills High School. He now lives in the Sagamore/Leafmore neighborhoods with his wife and 4 girls. He has one girl who attends Sagamore, one who attends Lakeside and one that attends Intown Community School. He has actively participated in the Lakeside cluster meetings, and his family attends St. Elias Orthodox Church where is the sitting Chairman of the Church Council. In his spare time, he likes to run triathlons and play tennis.

Lara Baldwin and her husband have lived on Ravenwood Way since 2000. Lara was an advertising art director at DDB Worldwide in NYC before moving to Atlanta. After two more agencies here, she started her own card company. The Baldwins have two daughters, 10 and 7. Lara currently is a part-time illustrator along with volunteering at Sagamore Hills Elementary. Lara loves swimming, comedy and kimchi.

Katherine Evans lives in Sagamore Hills with her husband and two children. Her family is active in leadership at the Briarcliff Woods Beach Club and she currently serves on the leadership council for their Barracudas swim team. Her daughters have attended Dekalb county schools since Pre-K and her family is engaged in many school volunteer activities. Katherine attended Emory University for her graduate studies and is a geriatric nurse practitioner.

Andrew Flake grew up in Dekalb County, where he attended Smoke Rise Elementary and Tucker High School. He lives in the Sagamore Hills neighborhood and has been active in the Lakeside Cluster school summit and in leading a Cub Scout den in Pack 534. He and his wife and two children (ages 7 and 5) attend Oak Grove UMC. In his free time, Andrew enjoys working in his garden, watching his children play baseball and soccer, and reading.

Beth Haynes has lived in Leafmore or Meadowcliff since 2004.  She currently has two children attending Oak Grove Elementary and one at The Schenck School.  She is active on the Oak Grove School Council and on the boards of the Oak Grove Foundation and Echo Ridge Recreation Club, and works with The Schenck School and Dyslexia Resource Trust to help raise awareness about dyslexia.  Beth loves photography, swimming, sushi, podcasts/audiobooks, concerts, and being at the beach.

Megan McRainey was born in Atlanta, grew up in Smyrna and moved to the Leafmore Creek Park Hills neighborhood with her husband in 2015. Though she's relatively new to the community, she loves her neighborhood and is enthusiatic about putting down roots and helping it thrive. She spends most of her time running after her daughter, age 2, but also finds time to be a cinephile and news junkie.

Weatherly Polinski grew up in Atlanta and attended Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs.  She graduated from TCU and lived in NYC, NY before moving back to Georgia.   Weatherly has lived in Leafmore Hills with her husband and three children (7,12 & 15) for 12 years and has been active in her school PTA for 10 years, with two terms on the board.  In her free time she likes exploring new restaurants with her husband, enjoying the arts scene in Atlanta, reading and fitness.

Peter Steckel is a native Atlantan who grew up in the area and now has two children at Sagamore Elementary. Peter is active at Oak Grove United Methodist Church and as a Cub Scout leader and board member with Pack 534, which meets at Briarcliff UMC. In his free time, Peter loves being outdoors, reading about history, and camping with his kids.

Meg Scheid grew up in Dekalb County and attended Sagamore Hills Elementary and Lakeside High School. After graduating from Georgia Tech, she worked as a software consultant but now enjoys life as a school counselor. She lives in the Sagamore area with her husband and two daughters age 12 and 7. Meg has been active in the school community through Coralwood Foundation and Sagamore Hills PTSA. She loves Georgia Tech football and being outdoors.

We are all passionate about a great region, county, and a great Vista Grove! Thank you so much for your interest in the initiative, and we welcome you to join us and be part of an important conversation. If you have questions, let us know at info@vistagrove.org, and take a look at the website for upcoming events and opportunities to get involved.