How Does the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Affect Your Small Business? By Charles Bowen


On Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that resulted in the immediate legalization of same-sex marriage across the country. While this was a cause for celebration for many couples, it should be noted the ruling also has important implications for small business owners.

Ensuring that your business is compliant with the current state of the law is crucial to avoid potential fines or lawsuits.

The most obvious change relates to the updating of your company’s benefit policies, particularly healthcare. If you offer a family medical plan to heterosexual couples, this must also be offered to same-sex married couples.

The same holds true for retirement plans and other similar programs that confer benefits upon married couples. Further, if the language contained in your company’s documents relating to these benefits is not gender neutral, it should be adjusted so it’s also applicable to same-sex couples.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another example.

The FMLA stipulates that employees are allowed to take up to a 12-week leave of absence to care for a sick family member if they have accrued 1,250 hours of work over the previous 12 months. While this extended leave is unpaid, the law ensures that their job remains available upon their return.

Some companies in Georgia previously took the position that a same-sex partner was not a spouse, thus the company did not have to offer FMLA to those employees. Now the law is clear that FMLA time must be offered to all married employees.

In a nutshell, offering the same benefits and perks to all married employees, regardless of sexual orientation, is the surest way to keep your business legally compliant.

It is imperative that your supervisors understand that discrimination of any kind cannot be tolerated because the failure to prevent discrimination will leave you open to significant legal liability. Every company policy that you have in place, from the interviewing process all the way to termination, needs to be reviewed to ensure full equality.

Finally, open communication with your employees will be especially important as the business world adjusts to these changes, and it’s vital that you make the information regarding these changes freely and readily available to all employees.

While this sudden change to the law may pose some initial challenges, the ultimate result is likely to be beneficial. Demonstrating equality to all employees will generate good will for your business and help ensure that you remain competitive in your industry by being able to attract the most qualified and talented employees.

Further, every business owner should consider whether the legalization of same-sex marriage may offer the potential for economic growth.

Many wedding-related industries such as planners, photographers, special event companies and others already have seen their customer base grow just in the short time since the ruling. One can only imagine that divorce attorneys are likely waiting patiently for the inevitable increase in their business, as well.

It is not just these industries, however, that stand to benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision. All companies that welcome LGBT couples and treat them with equality and respect are likely to experience economic growth.

A study conducted by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that over the next three years, the legalization of same-sex marriage will boost the economy by $166 million. This goes far beyond the provision of wedding and honeymoon services. There are also tax implications for local, state and federal governments, and many major purchases may be more attractive now that they can be made in a joint fashion.

With a greater number of people able to marry, small businesses must make certain they remain in compliance with all of the legal changes. However, these businesses can also capitalize on the opportunities to help more customers fulfill their dreams and enjoy their life with the people they love.

Charles Bowen is a business attorney who focuses on commercial, banking and manufacturing law and also offers comprehensive mediation services. He may be contacted at 912.544.2050 or

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System District Held First Presentation in the Inaugural Passport to Excellence Lecture Series


Stratton Leopold Spotlighted at Savannah Arts Academy

(SAVANNAH, GA) The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) District held the first presentation in the inaugural Passport to Excellence Lecture Series presented by the gold sponsor, JCB North America.

The series features presentations from accomplished individuals who previously attended or graduated from SCCPSS, sharing their unique career journeys and the insights they have learned about success and how to achieve it.

Stratton Leopold was the first presenter at Savannah Arts Academy. He teleconferenced in from Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.

Leopold attended elementary school at Massie Heritage Center, and then went on to attend Chatham Jr. High. Several years later, he studied Pre-Med at Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt Universities, but ultimately chose to work his way into the film industry.

He has now been in the film business for more than 40 years, producing major, large-budget motion pictures. He has nearly 60 film and television credits to his name ranging from executive producer and producer to casting director and actor. Leopold has also served as an Executive Vice President at Paramount Pictures. He is locally famous for Leopold’s Ice Cream on Broughton Street, which was founded in 1919 by his father, Peter Leopold and his uncles Georgia and Basil.

The next lecture is taking place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 29 at Savannah High School, located at 400 Pennsylvania Avenue, and will feature a presentation from Dawn Baker. Baker graduated with honors from Savannah High School. Baker went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Baker now co-anchors WTOC’s The News at 5:30 and THE News at 11:00. Baker is also a published author from her book, “Dawn’s Daughter: Everything A Woman Needs To Know.” 20% of all of the proceeds from her book go to “The Dawning of a Miracle Scholarship,” a fund Baker created to help young ladies with chronic and/or life-threatening illnesses go to college.

These presentations are free but you must make a reservation to attend. To RSVP please contact Cynthia Wright at or 912.856.9075.

The Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lockamy and three “Public School Patriots,” SCCPSS district’s nominated recent graduates, will co-emcee the panel interviews of each speaker. At the end of the Passport to Excellence Series, the three speakers will be honored at the February 2016 Teacher of the Year Banquet with the Passport to Excellence Awards of Distinction.

The Passport to Excellence Series is sponsored by JCB North America, Healthy Savannah, 24E, Carriage Trade PR and Cecilia Russo Marketing. For more information, visit

In partnership with Carriage Trade PR and Cecilia Russo Marketing, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System announces its first-ever “Passport to Excellence Lecture Series.” The series will kick off in Aug. 2015 and will feature presentations from accomplished individuals who previously attended or graduated from SCCPSS. Hear inspirational stories, as we sit down to learn how the foundation of their success began right here in Savannah in our public school system. Dr. Lockamy, the Superintendent of Schools, and the other members of the community, will be conducting the public interviews with the speakers.

Cynthia Wright
Director of Communications
Carriage Trade PR
Cecilia Russo Marketing

Goodwill of the Coastal Empire Announces Stand Down for Homelessness Resource and Job Fair


(SAVANNAH, GA) The twelfth annual Veterans Stand Down for Homelessness Resource and Job Fair will be held September 15 and 16 at the Savannah Civic Center from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Participants will be offered a hot meal, haircuts, showers and and will have opportunities for a variety of health screenings. Representatives from more than 40 Social Service agencies will be available to provide information and outreach on a variety of services including housing options, job resources, resume writing tips, substance abuse treatment, income tax assistance, and accesses to Social Security and Veteran’s Administration services.

This event is a collaboration of Savannah’s military and nonprofit communities to reach individuals in crisis and connect them with programs and services designed to help end homelessness. The Stand Down is intended to serve homeless veterans but is open to all individuals and families impacted by homelessness. There is no cost to attend.

The job fair will be held on Wednesday, September 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Savannah Civic Center. The job fair is open to the public and local employers will be onsite to fill positions. If you know of a local business interested in hiring have them reach out to Goodwill of the Coastal Empire (Michael Whitfield) at 912.354.6611.

Community sponsors include The Department of Veteran Affairs Community Based Out-Patient Clinic, The Savannah Vet Center, the American Legion Post 500, Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, the Georgia Department of Veteran Services, the Georgia Department of Labor, the Military Order of the Purple Hearts, the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless and the Salvation Army.

Each year over 400 community volunteers assist with the Stand Down, including the Social Work department at Savannah State University that coordinates the distribution of clothes and personal items.

In the last year, 285 veterans were homelessness in Chatham County, according to statistics released by the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless. Traditionally, the Homeless Authority sees veterans from the Vietnam era, however, more and more veterans from the Gulf and Afghanistan conflicts are requesting various services. These men and women have served their country and we want them to know that the Savannah community is here to help them when they return.

The Stand Down is funded by a federal grant offered through the United States Department of Labor. Agencies such as Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, The Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, The Salvation Army and other area nonprofit organizations pull the event together annually. The local universities provide volunteers and fundraise to ensure the event is a success. For more information on Stand Down for Homelessness, visit

About Goodwill of the Coastal Empire
Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, Inc. is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization with over 850 employees. In 2014, Goodwill provided services to 9,885 people, placed 2,421 into employment and served more than 320 veterans in various programs. Goodwill serves 33 counties in Georgia and South Carolina, operating 17 retail locations, and five Job Connection Centers. Goodwill accepts tax deductible donations of clothing, household items, computers, and car donations. For more information on Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, please visit us at Find us on Facebook: Savannah Goodwill or follow us on Twitter: @SavGoodwill.

Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless (CSAH)

The mission of CSAH is to lead the effort to build and sustain community practices to eliminate homelessness. CSAH collaborates and develops a continuum of services for the homeless including child and family development, low income housing development, community outreach, case management, education, training, literacy support, employment, health and nutrition, transportation, and behavioral health services. CSAH works with community leaders to educate the public about why homelessness occurs and how to work together to solve these pressing issues. For more information go online to

Onsite Contact
Jan Bass
Marketing Director
Goodwill of the Coastal Empire

Media Contact
Marjorie Young
Carriage Trade PR, Inc.

Park Place Outreach Receives $2,200 Grant for Garden Program


(SAVANNAH, GA) Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter is excited to announce the receipt of a $2,200 grant from International Paper’s Savannah Containerboard Mill. The grant will be used for the new “Park Place Outreach Garden Project.”

The Garden Program is designed for children who live at the shelter. Many of these young people have little or no contact with their parents, and the garden will be a place where families can work together with the ultimate goal of reuniting.

“The Garden Project provides real world, hands-on opportunities for young people,” said Park Place Outreach Executive Director Linda Hilts. “Gardening is a life-long skill, a wonderful stress reliever and a fun reason to play in the dirt.”

Under the direction of a volunteer master gardener, the children will design the space, determine the best seeds to plant and maintain the garden on a daily basis. In addition to getting their hands dirty, they will learn the importance of responsibility, teamwork and their role in our environment.

“What makes International Paper unique is that we are about more than just manufacturing. We have a commitment to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason and that directly applies to our involvement in the local community. We want the community to recognize us as neighbors, employers and environmental stewards,” said Savannah Mill Manager David Castro, International Paper. “This collaborative activity will connect youth with the environment, promote sustainable agriculture, provide a valuable life skill, and empower leadership.”

Planning and educational components will begin this fall and the first plantings will occur in early spring. As a final component of the program, Park Place Outreach plans to use the produce from the garden for developing nutritious meals, encouraging healthy eating and healthy lives for the young people at the shelter.

CAPTION: (LEFT TO RIGHT) DaShauna Kimble and Fran Wilson from Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter accept check from Jerrica Edmonds from International Paper

CAPTION: (LEFT TO RIGHT) DaShauna Kimble and Fran Wilson from Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter accept check from Jerrica Edmonds from International Paper

Park Place Outreach 3Park Place Outreach 2

International Paper is a global leader in the paper and packaging industry with manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and North Africa. Supporting the communities where International Paper employees live and work is an important part of the company’s vision. Their primary focus areas are environmental education and literacy, providing more than $10 million to support hundreds of community based educational, civic and cultural programs.

Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter, located at 514 E. Henry St., provides support for troubled children and teens in Savannah and the surrounding area. Opened in 1984, the shelter, open 24 hours a day, offers youth, between the ages of 11 and 17, a safe and loving environment. Homeless, abused or runaway teenagers can self-admit themselves into this shelter. The Street Outreach Program team offers mentoring to resident adolescents and provides counseling, clothing and personal care items to teens and young adults up to age 21 that are in need and might not come in to the shelter. Whenever possible, the organization’s goal is to keep kids off the street and reunify families. Park Place Outreach – Youth Emergency Shelter is an equal opportunity provider and employer. With the generous support of local organizations and individuals, the Park Place Outreach Shelter has helped over 6,000 individuals. For more information, please visit or join the group on Facebook (ParkPlace) and Twitter (@parkplaceyes).

Linda K. Hilts
Park Place Outreach
Youth Emergency Shelter
514 E. Henry Street
Savannah, GA. 31401
912-234-4048 Fax 912-651-3621

Marjorie Young
Carriage Trade PR, Inc.

Sandfly Women Business Owners Coalition Creates 50 Welcome Bags for Local Teachers


Networking Group Welcomes Isle of Hope Teachers to the Community

(SAVANNAH, GA) The Sandfly Women Business Owners Coalition met on Thursday, August 20 at the Great Harvest Bread Company. During the meeting, the group created 50 goodie bags for the teachers at the new Isle of Hope school, comprised of items from Sandfly businesses.

Organized by Dr. Angela Canfield of Sandfly Family Dental, the coalition meets quarterly for the common purpose of promoting business growth and support in the Sandfly community.

“Our teachers are so important to the overall health of our community,” said Dr. Angela Canfield. “All of our coalition members thought it would be a lovely gesture to welcome them back to school and let them know how much we appreciate their work.”

The group intentionally keeps the meetings in the Sandfly area. Previous meetings have been held at Driftaway Café, Cutters Point Coffee and Fioré Italian Bar & Grille. The group plans to next meet on Thursday, January 14 at 7 a.m. for yoga at Savannah Yoga Center. The event is open to any female business owner in the Sandfly, Isle of Hope, Dutch Island, Landings or Southside area. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Cynthia Wright at by Tuesday, August 18.

CAPTION: (LEFT TO RIGHT) Cynthia Wright, Carriage Trade PR; Nina Gompels, McDonalds US Partners; Sandy Baker, COPE; Jeanne Seaver; Jeanne Seaver Consulting; Kate Taylor, Savannah Power Yoga; Janet Savadge, Great Harvest Bread Company; Marjorie Young, Carriage Trade PR; Jennifer Wilson, Memorial Health University Medical Center; Judi Weaver, Sandfly Custom Framing; Patti O’Donnell, Cutters Point Coffee

CAPTION: (LEFT TO RIGHT) Cynthia Wright, Carriage Trade PR; Nina Gompels, McDonalds US Partners; Sandy Baker, COPE; Jeanne Seaver; Jeanne Seaver Consulting; Kate Taylor, Savannah Power Yoga; Janet Savadge, Great Harvest Bread Company; Marjorie Young, Carriage Trade PR; Jennifer Wilson, Memorial Health University Medical Center; Judi Weaver, Sandfly Custom Framing; Patti O’Donnell, Cutters Point Coffee

Dr. Canfield is licensed by the Georgia Board of Dentistry and the National Board of Dentist. She owns and practices at two dental offices: Premier Dental Designs located in Rincon, GA at 5871 HWY 21 South, and Sandfly Family Dental located in the Norwood Market in Savannah, GA. Both dental offices provide Family/Preventative Dentistry, Cosmetic Dentistry, Restorative Dentistry, Orthodontic Dentistry, Digital X-Rays, E4D One Day Crowns, Electronic Claims, Intra Oral Camera and Paperless Charting. The offices are open Monday through Friday and offer evening appointments. For more information, call 912.826.4037 or visit or

Cynthia Wright
Director of Communications
Carriage Trade PR
Cecilia Russo Marketing

Savannah Insurance Agency, USI Provides Lunches to Homeless


(SAVANNAH, GA) As part of the annual USI Gives Back program, 23 USI Insurance Services employees will be preparing and handing out 150 box lunches to homeless individuals on Friday, August 21 at the Emmaus House, located in the Parish House of Christ Church Episcopal at the corner of Bryan and Abercorn Streets.

Throughout the month of August, each USI office across the country performed local community service. Last year, the company helped over 100 organizations, including: food banks, and depositaries, animal rescue shelters, senior centers, women’s crisis shelters, Title 1 schools, homeless rescue missions, beautification projects, local zoos, parks and beaches, Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation, Salvation Army, Gilda’s Club and the United Way.

For the third year in a row, the Savannah branch of the insurance agency chose to volunteer at the Emmaus house. Vice President and Savannah Market Leader at USI Insurance Services, Nick Puhala said, “Having a downtown office, we see the struggles homeless individuals face daily and our firm is committed to using USI’s Give Back Days to directly support our community. We felt that the Emmaus House was a very deserving organization right here in our own neighborhood.”

For more information, visit

About USI Insurance Services
USI has more than 4,400 dedicated, experienced and innovative professionals connected across over 140 offices throughout the United States, and is a leader in insurance brokerage and consulting in property-casualty, employee benefits, personal risk services, retirement, program and specialty solutions. With approximately $1.0 billion in annualized revenue, USI is the 3rd largest privately held insurance broker1, the 4th largest privately held commercial lines broker in the United States2, and the 12th largest insurance brokerage firm in the world3. USI is also the 3rd largest privately held personal lines broker in the United States2 and the 7th largest benefits broker ranked by global benefits revenue4. USI has been recognized for its innovation by Information Week 500 and Best’s Review January 2014 Innovation Showcase. Visit the Company’s website at

1 Business Insurance Largest Privately Owned Brokers, July 21, 2014
2 Insurance Journal’s 2013 Top 50 Privately Held Personal Lines (excludes non standard auto brokers-aggregators) and Insurance Journal’s 2014 Privately Held Commercial Lines Leader Ranking
3 Best’s Review’s Leader Issue July 2015, Top Global Insurance Brokers Ranking
4 Business Insurance Largest Benefits Brokers, July 21, 2014

USI Gives Back in Savannah

(LEFT TO RIGHT) USI employees: Walter Hagan, Wendy Robins, Frank Garrison, Chris Miller, Vicky Carter, Susan Breen, Lori Hampton, Nick Puhala, and Emmaus House chef, Freda Payne

(LEFT TO RIGHT) USI employees: Walter Hagan, Wendy Robins, Frank Garrison, Chris Miller, Vicky Carter, Susan Breen, Lori Hampton, Nick Puhala, and Emmaus House chef, Freda Payne

Emmaus House is located in the Parish House of Christ Church Episcopal at the corner of Bryan and Abercorn Streets. Founded in 1982 by a group of downtown churches, Emmaus House provides food and day services to the homeless and needy of Savannah. We sustain our service to the homeless community today with the help of our fabulous chef, Freda, a custodian, and many, many volunteers. Breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, fifty weeks each year. All are welcome. Day services include washer and dryer, shower and rest room facilities, distribution of donated clothing and shoes. Emmaus House is funded primarily through area churches with additional funding from United Way, individuals and private foundations. For more information, call 912.495.8828, E-mail or visit

Savannah – USI Retail
25 Bull St.
Savannah, GA 31401
Tel: (912) 234-6621

Cynthia Wright
Director of Communications
Carriage Trade PR
Cecilia Russo Marketing

The Savannah Mall Holds Performances from America’s Got Talent Stars Emil and Dariel Rock Cellos


(SAVANNAH, GA) The Savannah Mall hosted America’s Got Talent Stars, Emil and Dariel Rock Cellos, for a rare public performance. YouTube Superstar drummer Casey Cooper also joined the rock duo at Savannah Mall’s Center Court. Both performances were free and open to the public.

The teenage rock cello sensation gained worldwide exposure on the NBC-TV Nationally syndicated program America’s Got Talent (AGT) in 2014. Their live performance of “Purple Haze” on AGT went viral and garnered over 3 million views on YouTube. The boys finished as finalists and became a part of AGT live shows in Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas.

The brothers just released their debut self-titled album which is now available on iTunes and features many high profile guest vocalists.

Since the age of 4, Emil and Dariel have been playing the cello and continue to explore new and undiscovered techniques for this string instrument. Their long hours of rehearsal have been under the strict guidance of their grandfather who instilled hard work, dedication and passion in the pursuit of their musical career. The teens credit their success to their grandfather, also an accomplished cellist, along with years of disciplined commitment to their craft.

Originated in 1990, the Savannah Mall, located at 14045 Abercorn St., features anchor stores Bass Pro Shops, Dillard’s, Target, Burlington Coat Factory and A.C. Moore. The 960,000-square-foot, two-level mall is also home to Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Gymboree, Game Stop, Champs, Hibbet Sporting Goods, Kay Jewelers, Marks & Morgan Jewelers, Shoe Dept., Zales Jewelers, Rue 21, Cato, Savannah Piano, Fitness Emporium, Relentless Records and Vapors Smoke Shop. Virginia College offers a variety of classes in areas such as cosmetology, medical billing, culinary arts, business, healthcare and more. The Savannah Mall’s Food Court features Chick-fil-a, Savannah Gyro, Sbarro Italian Eatery, China Max, Sakkio Japan, Cajun Café and Subway. American Deli to open soon. Other dining options at the mall include Ruby Tuesdays and Texas Roadhouse, along with Savannah Candy Co., Cold Stone Creamery and the Nutty Bavarian. The Savannah Mall has a double-decker carousel in the Food Court and soft play area on the lower level for children. For leasing information, contact Becky Orsi-Faircloth, marketing/specialty leasing manager at 912.927.9663 or  . For more information about the Savannah Mall, call 912.927.7467 or visit

Becky Orsi-Faircloth
Marketing/Specialty Leasing Manager

Marjorie Young
Carriage Trade PR

Performances from America’s Got Talent Stars Emil and Dariel Rock Cellos

America’s Got Talent Stars Emil and Dariel Rock Cellos Playing at Savannah Mall

America’s Got Talent Stars Emil and Dariel Rock Cellos at Savannah Mall