Each year, ALTA’s top leaders gather to recognize the organization’s vast network of volunteers and to elect new officers. This past November, ALTA Board Chairman Marla Michalewicz called the meeting to order and kicked things off by speaking on how highly regarded ALTA has become throughout the Atlanta community. She recognized the fine work of the ALTA Board of Directors and the ALTA Executive Committee who had many accomplishments in 2019.
Michalewicz commended and thanked ALTA Treasurer Candace Cole for the outstanding service she gave to the organization for the last two years. “Our financial house is in good order, and the board is committed to maintaining that position as we pursue goals in 2020 and beyond,” said Michalewicz. She also noted the new focus, brand awareness, and marketing initiatives. “Our organization is continuing to develop programs and campaigns designed to grow the ALTA brand and grow our membership.”
It has been an incredibly busy year with the launch of the new ALTA website. “Despite the number of challenges, we are continuing to identify performance problems and will work diligently to make all necessary improvements,” Michalewicz said.
Another key moment during the annual meeting was the recognition of the tremendous work of the ALTA Foundation, which supports several tennis programs throughout the Atlanta area. “Through your participation, we support programs designed to enrich the community and meet the needs of our youth and special athletes through tennis programs,” said Michalewicz. The foundation also administers the L. Keith Wood Scholarship program, which awarded 10 high school seniors a $2,500 scholarship. “Keith was an amazing volunteer to ALTA as president and chairman, and we are so fortunate that through his generosity, his legacy continues,” Michalewicz continued.
Following the Foundation’s acknowledgment, the board spotlighted ALTA’s partnership with the BB&T Atlanta Open Presented by First Data, the ATP professional tournament held each July. ALTA members received discounts on ticket purchases, junior players were able to participate in clinics, and the AA3 Mixed Doubles City Finals took place on site. “ALTA continues to be a force in the tennis community and will continue to provide the same outstanding service to which our members and volunteers have become accustomed,” said Michalewicz.
2019 President Bill Price also had an extremely busy year, spearheading marketing efforts, overall league management, and guiding the organization. “In 2019, we had a total of 174,010 players on 9,392 rosters across all of the leagues that culminated in nearly 200 City Champions,” said Price. He also noted the continuing commitment by ALTA to the Wheelchair and Run ‘n’ Roll leagues, along with the Junior Challenge Ladder. ALTA stepped into the world of pickleball this past year and sponsored a table at the Atlanta Pickleball Open and hosted its first pickleball clinic with nearly 100 participants. “This is just another way we are reaching out to engage our members and tennis community,” Price continued. He took time to thank the hundreds of volunteers, members of the Executive Committee, the office staff, and his wife, Dawn, for all of their support and hard work over the past 12 months.
Each year, the ALTA president presents an award to someone who distinguishes himself or herself in the ALTA organization or tennis community. “This year, I have the privilege to select someone who has done both,” said Price. This year’s President’s Award went to Men’s League VP Lamar Scott, who is a long-time ALTA volunteer and the Men’s League VP. Scott is active with many of the ALTA Foundation activities, and spends countless hours teaching tennis to kids throughout the Atlanta community.
Price closed his remarks, wishing 2020 ALTA President Sandy Depa and the rest of the EC a successful year. Depa stepped in to wrap up the night, defining the true meaning of ALTA. “Laughter, fun, exercise, friends for life. Throughout all of the leagues, we have wonderful volunteers, and you all make ALTA what it is,” she said. “These valuable friendships we have made are so important.” Depa went on to thank her family for all of their support, and thanked the office staff and all of her ALTA presidential predecessors who have offered such great guidance and friendship.
COORDINATORS OF THE YEAR
Many people play ALTA for the love of the sport. Often, they will discover the added benefit of new friendships that can last a lifetime. None of this would be possible without the volunteers; they are what make the ALTA world go ‘round. Each season, coordinators set up everything for league play. At the end of the year, ALTA recognizes those who go above and beyond, and award them as Coordinators of the Year. The 2019 winners are:
Joan Appelbaum, Thursday Women
When Joan Appelbaum starting volunteering with ALTA in 2001, she had no idea the role ALTA would play in her life. Now as an 18-year volunteer, Appelbaum has held nearly every position you could name. Those include coordinator in the Senior and Thursday Leagues, Thursday Women League VP in 2007-2008, 2009 First VP, 2010 ALTA President, and Chairman of the Board in 2013. As president, she was instrumental in the website update which led to her current staff position of ALTA IT Manager. This year, Appelbaum far exceeded any expectations, serving a vital role with the launch of the extremely robust ALTA website. “With the new ALTA website going live in July, I made it my goal to answer questions and concerns as quickly as possible,” she said. “I felt that communication would be the key to making the release successful.”
Jane Milton, the 2017-2018 Thursday Women’s League VP, says Appelbaum went above and beyond to get everyone through the learning curve. Debbie Gaster, who was the 2019 Thursday Women’s League VP and now steps into the role of First VP, agrees. Gaster says Appelbaum’s knowledge and assistance with the new site has been invaluable to all ALTA leagues, not just Thursday Women. “She has sent us weekly updates that we share with our teams and also helped explain many of the changes and how to navigate the new system,” says Gaster. Always there with an answer/suggestion for any situation, Milton says Appelbaum handles all of her teams with compassion, and deals with any tough situation with calm and precise reasoning.
This is the second year that Appelbaum has been recognized for her commitment to ALTA. She was awarded the 2018 Coordinator of the Year for her work with the Senior Leagues.
An Indiana native, when Appelbaum moved to Alpharetta (now Johns Creek) in 1995, she was a golfer and not a tennis player. Her first experience with ALTA was quite something. She joined a team in the spring of 1996, played and won her first match at C8, while it was snowing. Now 23 years and many tennis lessons later, Appelbaum plays A-level in women’s tennis and B-level mixed doubles out of Seven Oaks.
“I feel very lucky that my life includes ALTA on so many levels, and I love that I can help captains navigate through their season,” Appelbaum said. “When you think you’ve heard it all, you get a new question or situation.” Busy and overwhelming don’t even begin to describe the year Appelbaum has had, and ALTA is pleased to give her this year’s Coordinator of the Year award.
Terri Astuto, Junior Leagues
There is definitely one coordinator who will be thrilled when March rolls around, and Rafael Nadal comes to Atlanta, as he is Terry Astuto’s favorite player. Astuto has been around ALTA for about 30 years and has played in Women’s, Mixed Doubles, Senior Women, and Senior Mixed Leagues. She and her husband, Jim, have played and captained several ALTA teams. All three of her kids played in the Junior League, and her daughter plays as a sub on her women’s team and partners with her husband in mixed doubles. Like many of us, Astuto loves the camaraderie, and many of her ALTA team members are her close friends. Her current B6 Sunday Women’s team plays out of Summerford.
Serving as a coordinator since 2005, Astuto also became an overall coordinator in 2011-2012. “I love the game of tennis, and ALTA juniors is the perfect place for kids to learn the sport,” Astuto said. “It’s a game you can play for a lifetime.” Junior League VP Rita Maloof agrees, and says that Astuto has been an amazing volunteer. “She is level-headed and fair, and always goes over and above with her team, which is not always easy when working with 18U boys,” says Maloof.
Astuto has spent her career as a teacher and is an Atlanta native, but she has lived in a number of places, as her father was in the military. She spent part of her childhood in Germany, so she has traveled throughout Europe and says Monte Carlo is the most exotic city she has visited. In addition to tennis, her other hobbies include gardening and reading.
Denise Kirby, Senior Day Leagues
Denise Kirby has played with ALTA since 1998, and says ALTA fits her personality. “I like rules and tend to be a major rule follower because without them, the world would be in chaos,” she says. “While most people tend to stick to the rules, there are those who seem to do everything they can to win at all costs, and that makes for some interesting stories.” Kirby has plenty of stories to tell, as she has been captaining or volunteering for ALTA for close to 20 years. She has served as a scorekeeper, Senior Women’s League coordinator, and this year earned the 2019 Senior Day Women’s League Coordinator of the Year award. “At the last minute, Denise stepped in to fill a coordinator’s spot in the spring and then agreed to stay on for the fall,” said Kim Dlugolenski, Senior Day Leagues VP. “She is very responsive, lovely to work with, and wonderful to deal with on any questions that arise.”
Kirby played up until about three years ago when an Achilles injury put her on the sideline, but she still cheers for her team and volunteers. “I stayed involved with ALTA because I love the sport and like to see it continue to thrive,” Kirby explained. Her husband, Allen, also plays ALTA, and both her son, Christopher, and daughter, Heather, were junior ALTA players. Kirby says she has been fortunate enough to have a great job with AT&T (32 years and counting) and works from home, which was a blessing when her children were younger. When she isn’t volunteering or working, Kirby likes to travel. A few years ago, she was able to take an anniversary trip, which included an extended cruise to visit Spain, France, Italy, and Montenegro. “Venice and the Amalfi Coast were standouts from that trip,” she said.
Kirby says she is looking forward to her retirement years so that she can travel and volunteer in her community. “I volunteered for the Junior Special Olympics last year and absolutely loved it. The joy on the faces of those kids made my day.”
Greg McAfee, Men’s League
Whether it’s his Skyline chili from Cincinnati or his “Coney’s,” Greg McAfee knows how to treat his teammates right. The Dayton, Ohio native moved here in 2005 and soon after began playing ALTA, as did his wife, Jessica. He captained teams for 10 years before becoming a Men’s League coordinator in 2016. He played tennis as a kid, but never got serious about it until he joined ALTA. “In 2006, my wife’s co-worker asked her to play, and I would go watch them practice,” McAfee said. “Soon, I was playing on a men’s team and mixed doubles.” He started at C8 and managed to work his way up to A4, winning a few City Finals along the way. “I love that regardless of skill level, a neighborhood or community can play together,” he says, adding that he and Jessica have met a lot of their friends through ALTA. “It’s a great way to build community and learn a skill that you can have for the rest of your life.”
He says he became a coordinator because he enjoys helping other players understand the rules and loves watching the teams compete at City Finals. McAfee helps to oversee about 32 teams as a coordinator. “Greg was chosen, not just because of his outstanding responsiveness to our members, but also for his willingness to always step in to assist,” says Lamar Scott, Men’s League Vice President. “Whether it was agreeing to work at another facility during finals because we were short on people or whatever was needed on a particular day, Greg would make sure his captains were all squared away.”
It’s no surprise that McAfee has a customer-centric approach; he is the owner of a life insurance agency and real estate team. He also can be found doing home remodeling projects or anything that requires he work with tools. He also stays busy helping his wife raise three boys, Jake (11), Hudson (10), and Nicolas (4).
Bonny Robichaud, Sunday Women
Bonny Robichaud has been lending a volunteer hand to ALTA for more than 20 years, and she has done it all. She has served as a coordinator for several leagues, including Senior Day, Senior Men, Senior Women, Mixed, and she has been an overall coordinator along with a league vice president. “I really love to help people,” says Robichaud as she explains why she has dedicated so much of her life to volunteering with ALTA. Sunday Women’s League VP Chequetta Allen says Robichaud is always quick to reply to captains and her overall coordinator, and her communication is always straightforward, yet friendly, as she is compassionate toward the needs of her captains. “Captains seem to appreciate her concern, and they have a good rapport with her. She manages the many responsibilities of being a coordinator, handling three different AA levels.” Allen also commended Robichaud for her reliability in the post-season. “During City Finals, there is normally one or two coordinators at each level, but she works three different levels, is always prepared and ahead of the game, and works tirelessly that day.”
Robichaud also has been a hard worker when it comes to her career, doing anything from being a nurse, a welder, a buyer, a CFO, and an office manager. In fact, it was a vendor of hers who got her interested in tennis. She started playing in Marietta, so Robichaud commuted for practices and matches from Lawrenceville. She plays at the Club of Edgewater, but spent years playing out of the GGC (Georgia Gwinnett College) Tennis facility and has played at the C7, B1 and AA2 levels.
An Illinois native, Robichaud moved to Atlanta in 1972. Besides tennis, she enjoys running and reading, and she is spending her retirement years by helping to raise great-grandkids.
Diane Royston, Senior Leagues
Diane Royston has been a volunteer with ALTA for 10 years and has been a wonderful asset to the organization. Barbara Ingram, who just finished her second year as the Senior Leagues VP, says she had the pleasure of working with Royston in the Sunday Women’s League as a coordinator and an overall coordinator, and ultimately asked her to volunteer with the Senior Leagues. “She graciously accepted and will experience her first season as an overall coordinator for the Senior Mixed League. Her calm, logical demeanor and can-do attitude are the perfect combination for ALTA,” says Ingram. Without Royston, Ingram believes her job would have been much more difficult, so she wanted to recognize her not only for her help this year but during the past 10 years. “Diane has a wonderful way of anticipating what I need handled before I even ask,” she says.
Like many others who come to Atlanta, Royston moved into a new neighborhood with courts in 1986. She says it was a great way to make long-lasting friendships and has been playing with the same group of ladies for about 20 years. She says they have several, good cooks on their team, but she believes her apple cake is a fan favorite. Currently, Royston is playing on a B5 team out of Chadwick Club.
When she isn’t playing tennis or watching the grandchildren, Royston works as a customer service manager at Progress Container (six years), having spent the previous 25 years at Arrow Electronics in various positions, including regional business operations manager. The Niagara Falls native also enjoys reading and knitting and says if she had a dream trip destination, it would be a tour of the Far East.
Marty Schmidt, Mixed Doubles League
Talk about a dog lover. Schmidt has rescued five dogs — all with sneaker-related names — and she won’t stop until she gets “Puma,” “Fila,” “Aetrex,” “Sketchers,” and “New Balance.” When she’s not helping animals, Schmidt spends a lot of time volunteering for ALTA. Her goal is to be an ALTA coordinator for at least 20 years, and she is awfully close, having already received the 15-year pin for her service.
Her ALTA history began in 1987 when she moved to the River Glen subdivision, and a neighbor asked her to join the neighborhood Thursday Women’s team. “I told her I didn’t play tennis. She told me I would be now since everybody in Atlanta plays ALTA,” Schmidt recalled. She played her first match two months later and says she was hooked. “I didn’t understand ad-in or ad-out or how to play a tie-break, but I knew I had the best time ever, and knew it was going to be a big part of my life,” she said.
Schmidt was right as she and her husband, Kurt, and their three children, Chelsea, Peter, and John, all joined ALTA. She recalls a funny story of how she was the team mom for a boys’ 10U team. She put both her 8-year-old son and 10-year-old son, not realizing 8-year-old kids were not allowed then. When she realized her mistake, Schmidt called the ALTA office to turn herself in. “They appreciated my honesty so much, they asked me to be a junior coordinator,” she said. “Without knowing what that meant, I said ‘yes,’ and have enjoyed it ever since.” She worked with the juniors for 10 years and then mixed doubles. Schmidt also volunteers at the ALTA tent for the BB&T Atlanta Open Presented By First Data, and she helped out at the ALTA table during the national pickleball tournament at Windward Lake Club last spring. “ALTA has given me many years of enjoyment on and off the courts, and it’s a great way of paying it back,” Schmidt said. “ALTA volunteers and staff are a group I look forward to seeing each season.”
She hasn’t played tennis since 2005, but says she gets to live vicariously through the teams for which she coordinates. “Working with the captains is fun. Meeting the teams and captains at City Finals is the icing on the cake. ALTA has never let me forget how much they appreciate their volunteers.”
True appreciation for and a big congratulations to all of the 2019 ALTA Coordinators of the Year!
2019 AWARD RECIPIENTS
RUBY FOR BOD CHAIRMAN
TSAVORITE FOR EC PRESIDENT
DIAMOND IN RACQUET
(Executive Committee/Board of Directors, First Year)
25-YEAR HALL OF FAME
ALTA Gold Pin
(20 years of service)
(15 years of service)
Bezel Rope for Coin
(10 years of service)
Diamond in Coin
(Five years of Service)
(Two Years of Service)