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Leaders work to unite community in Norcross

NORCROSS -- Glenda Young lived a block away from the city of Norcross for nearly 20 years before her community was annexed by the city earlier this year.

"I go to your festivals. ... I use your parks," she said. "I already felt like this was a community I wanted to be a part of."

On Wednesday, she took her participation in her new city a step further, participating in a get-together of about 50 community leaders hoping to bring together diverse groups.

"Buford Highway is a very real dividing line ... which makes it really difficult to create a sense of community, which is what we want," Tixie Fowler, who handles the city's public relations, said of the newly annexed area across the highway from the historic district. "I realize there are perceptions about who lives on either side. ... How do we rise above and build something that is better? How do we celebrate our new neighbors?"

Even after the hour-and-a-half lunch session, many volunteers stuck around, forming groups to talk about ways to bring groups together and how to reach out to the diverse segments.

"If we continue to focus on our differences, we are not creating a community built on similarities," Fowler said. "It could be our catalyst and it could help us build our first two-way bridge across Buford Highway."

Mayor Bucky Johnson said the idea is an extension of the city's work to brand itself as "A Place to Imagine."

"We love the diversity our community has," he said. "What we want to do is open up to new dialogues. ... This fabric is so rich. How do we sew it together?"

The meeting was mostly a brain-storming session, with a message from Atlanta author Joe Kissack, whose newly released book "The Fourth Fisherman" is serving as inspiration for a June 9 festival, where Fowler hopes the communities will begin to come together.

Young said she was glad to see a good representation from the newly annexed portion of the city, and she hopes that the efforts will show her neighbors what belonging to a city has to offer.