Gwinnett County State Court Judge Emily Brantley is one of our newest board members. She is also on Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services State Advisory Board and has been involved with the Gwinnett Coalition, Gwinnett Medical Center’s Women’s Advisory Board, Rotary Club of Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett Chamber.
CFNEG: What do you love about Gwinnett?
Judge Brantley: You can live anywhere and it’s not the landscape, the buildings, the roads, or the climate that make it the home that you love – it’s the people. And I believe in Gwinnett County we have some of the best hearted, most loving, compassionate people I’ve ever met. And literally every month, I meet hundreds of new people through my courtroom – serving as jurors or or witnesses, or the people before me in civil or criminal actions – and it just rings true each and every week. I care very deeply for the people that live here in, in my community.
CFNEG: Do you have a favorite memory of Gwinnett?
Judge Brantley: I’ve lived here for over 30 years and seen time and again how people come together as a community to help one another. You’ll hear about someone’s home burning down or someone who’s lost a loved one or someone who’s been in an accident. And the people of this community, they rise up and they use the very best in them during these difficult times. One that sticks out in my mind, and almost brings tears to my eyes when I think about it, is Aimee Copeland, the flesh-eating bacteria survivor. It was a very tragic event that occurred to a beautiful young girl, who has now risen above it and has just blossomed. But this community – everybody was praying for her. Everybody showed compassion. People of all walks of life, of all skin colors came together, it didn’t matter.
CFNEG: Why did you decide to become involved with the Community Foundation?
Judge Brantley: When Randy called me and asked me to become a board member, I agreed. And the reason I did is because of all the good work that is done by the Community Foundation. Even in a county as rich as we are in Gwinnett, there are still so many people in need and many times we don’t even know about them – they are living in the shadows. And this board makes a real effort to identify and find those that really truly need our help.
CFNEG: Tell us about your passion for children and child welfare. Where does that come from?
Judge Brantley: I think part of it could come from being a mom to my daughter Ally. I’ve learned my greatest lessons in life by being her mother and loving her. And then recognizing that children are so vulnerable and so helpless and so innocent and they do depend on others for certain amounts of time for their care and their growth and their nurturing. As adults, even if we’re homeless or hungry, we have other resources we can get. We’re mobile, we can pretty much protect ourselves – we can usually find a way, even if it may not be be the best way. But children are vulnerable and helpless, and they are our future.. And so, I have a very special place in my heart for children.
No child should grow up being hungry, in fear, lacking health care or unloved. When they do, many times I see the results of that because I’ll find them in my courtroom on drug possession, shoplifting, battery, etc. But when you take the time to get to talk to them you see they are good kids. There was just no one to love and teach them.
CFNEG: As you know, May is National Foster Care Month. What do you want people to know about foster care?
Judge Brantley: First of all I would like to see more gratitude expressed by the community for those families willing to step up and be foster parents because we have a lot of really good foster care families. They’re willing to open their homes and they truly do it for all the right reasons. They typically don’t get any recognition and it’s not an easy life for them. The compensation they recieve pales in comparison to what they give of themselves.
Second, we don’t have enough people willing to step up and be foster care families. I think if we would educate the community about the needs of these children and these wonderful families that open up their hearts and their homes, then we may see more people willing to help because it is a service. It’s a service not only to the child but to our community to do this.
We as a people in Gwinnett would never stand by if we knew there were children out there that are homeless. We would be very worried and upset and heartbroken. And so who takes care of those children? Foster families. And what do we do as a community to help them, to surround them and give them the support and regnoziion they need? Sometimes it’s a simple act of kindness – taking a meal, sponsoring a child for camp, providing gift cards. There are many way we could help these foster families take care of these children and not just put all the responsibility on them and walk away.
CFNEG What do you want people to know about the Community Foundation?
Judge Brantley: They help the community as a whole. It’s an organization that recognizes that the community serves each individual best when the whole community is healthy. It doesn’t just look at isolated areas of special interest areas. The Community Foundation looks at all of it and the whole group, because when you educate the whole community about an issue – like foster care – you also strengthen the part.
CFNEG: Any hobbies, when you have time?
Judge Brantley: (laughter) I don’t have time to, but I really enjoy gardening and nature. I also love art and reading, especially reading about what other people and cultures do as well as about plants and trees. I really love trees and get upset when someone cuts one down.
When I bought my law office in Lawrenceville in 2000, I took the roof off it, completely redid it, and built it around a tree I was determined we weren’t going to take down that oak tree.