Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group - Blog Number 1!

by Adriana Carr
Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation
2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group Chair-Elect

Welcome to the first Senior Resource Group post in the VRPS blog.  Whether you work in a recreational, residential or social service setting there are a myriad of older adult related topics and issues that connect all of us in our professional lives.  In addition to the newsletter, our annual conference and the VRPS conference we hope this blog adds another layer to the conversation of working with seniors in a recreation setting.

Some of the topics we would like to explore (and this by means not a definitive list) include:
  1. Depression/Mental Illness – For example what information do we have about our participants? Which programs among our memberships do intakes? Do we try to address it through our programming?  Are we professionally equipped to take on that role?
  2. Prioritizing services to Older Adults to increase funding.  At this most recent SRG conference in Virginia Beach we were inspired by several experts in the field.  The keynote speaker Denise Scruggs asked how many of us felt we were competing for funding our programs versus that of teens (for example).  Pretty much all of us raised our hands. Does this mean we need better ways of collecting data to help the decision makers we work for support our programs?  Are we telling the stories of our programs and constituents effectively enough to ensure they are included in local policies? Is that something we should think about doing?
  3. Who do we serve?   Dr.E. Ayn Welleford cautioned us to think carefully about the words we use to describe our constituents.  It is a diverse demographic.  Between the boomers and the silent generation, we are already essentially doing intergenerational programming.  So what about that intergenerational programming?   I always have the intention of creating great programs that mix seniors and youngsters with limited success.  What is the best approach?
  4. Finally, how do we find ways to connect outside of the usual conferences, newsletter and blogs?  One idea that has been floating around is to organize a state-wide line dance event.  Chanda Nixon, Program Leader with Hampton’s Park, Recreation & Leisure Services, has been thinking about how it would look and when she suggested it at the last conference, many of you were enthusiastic about it.  So that’s one of the projects we hope to develop over the next year.  Do you have other ideas?

That’s just a few very general topics.  What are you thinking about these days as you work with your customers?  Let me or any of the other SRG board members know and we’ll talk about it here.  

Left to right:  Hope Lomax-Jones, Janice Myrick, Karen Brutsche, Adriana Carr, Cheryl Wheeler, Aaron Clay, June Snead

Monday, December 19, 2016

Management by Christmas Garland

by Sandy Kellogg

Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter
Fairfax County Park Authority
VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair

I have kind of a goofy tradition at Christmas time.  I have long hair, always up in a ponytail, and I’m usually lucky if I can find a real hair tie instead of a pen, rubber band or even piece of string.  At Christmas, however, my love for the sparkles and glitter gets put in my hair.  No Christmas decorations are safe.  I’ve been known to put tinsel, garland and even ornaments on my head.  I’ve never tried Christmas lights, but there is a mini set powered by batteries at Target that I have my eye on.  It’s rarely the same twice, and at night when I take them out the decorations go right back on the tree. 

This has become a tradition at work, as well.  While I always just thought it was something kind of silly, it has had some interesting outcomes.  When I walk around the facility, people smile!  A lot of times I forget that I have an enormous candy cane bow on my head, and just smile back.  Customers have started looking for it, seeking me out to check out today’s decoration, suggesting things and even occasionally bringing in fancy stuff that goes right into my hair.

There is one more outcome to this silly tradition. It helps me remember the fun that should be at the heart of our profession.  No one joins Parks and Recreation because we love spreadsheets and budgets, meetings and strategic planning.  We are called to it through a love of the outdoors, the water, fitness, children, our community - whatever speaks to us.  When we forget the fun, our staff and facility feels it.  We get too busy drilling down pivot tables to have fun, and fun is at the heart of why we do what we do.  Whether you put garland in your hair, goofy costumes on for Halloween or bunny ears for Easter, just remember to keep the fun in your day.  Your staff and customers will smile and your facility will be a little brighter.  Not bad for a cheap decoration!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Perspective from the Awards Committee

by Mark Furlo, CPRP

Director, Portsmouth Parks, Recreation, & Leisure Services
VRPS 2016 Awards Committee
Immediate Past Chair, VRPS Eastern Service Area

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Awards and Citations Committee. Awards and Citations is a Committee of the VRPS Board of Directors. The work of the committee culminates at the Awards Banquet at the Annual Conference where we showcase our best and brightest!  This year marks the third year I have had the honor of serving. I first served in 2007, again in 2014, and now 2016. The Chair or Co-Chairs are appointed by the President of the Board every year. The rest of the Committee is comprised of one representative from each of the Service Areas and Resource Groups. The Service Areas and Resource Group are allowed to determine the manner in which they select their representative. In the Eastern Service Area, the area of my representation, the Immediate Past Chairs represents the Service Area on the Committee. Over the past ten years, I have seen a lot of change in how the Committee operates to make the process easier.

My first year on the Committee in 2007, agencies were required to mail multiple paper copies of their applications, descriptions, CDs with photos, and promotional items to the VRPS central office. From there, the VRPS staff had to split all the materials into large boxes and distributed throughout the state to each committee member to review. Now all committee members are emailed one excel spreadsheet that contain the descriptions and links to the PDFs for supporting documentation. Saving time and resources.

While some things changed, many remain constant, the most important thing that remains constant? The NOMINEES, the wonderfully creative, and innovative programs, facilities, and promotional efforts, and the dedicated volunteers, and professionals that show the excellent work they are doing. My favorite part of serving on the Committee is reading through all of the inspiring submissions. Another constant is the tremendous volume of materials that has to be reviewed by the Committee. About 100 applications were submitted for awards this year. It takes a very dedicated group of people to read through the applications for awards. Every Committee member that I have served with has taken this responsibility very seriously. Members understand the time and effort that each Department puts into the preparation of these awards.

The Committee gathers at the VRPS central office before the annual conference every year. They examine each category and discuss the merits of each application. Winners are selected by a majority vote of the committee and in cases of ties the Chair casts the tie breaking vote. Sometimes there is a clear choice for an award, but more often tough decisions have to be made regarding winners. At times, the committee chooses not to give an award in a category even if there were submissions. If in the opinion of the Committee, the application does not demonstrate significant elements of the criteria an award will not be given.

As someone who has been a part of an agency that has won VRPS Awards and someone that has served on the selection committee, I offer the following advice when submitting for awards:

  • Carefully put together a team to work on the applications at minimum the team should include:
    • Someone that is familiar with the subject being submitted
    • Someone that can tell a story and writes well (not good)
    • Someone that can proofread for grammar
    • Someone that manages time well and can keep people on task
  • Make sure the individual, program, or facility meet all of the eligibility requirements
  • Show how the individual, program, or facility demonstrated the selection criteria
  • Tell a story in your narrative that will help it stand out among the others

Remember the judges are your peers, we are people, and we sometimes make mistakes. We do our best to evaluate the submissions based on the criteria, but the evaluation is the opinion of the judges. If your program doesn’t win a VRPS award it does not take away from the merit of your project or the  individual you submitted, nor does it take away the love and appreciation your community has for your recreation center, pool, trail, staff persons, or volunteer. Good luck and I look forward to reading about new programs and recreation centers, should I be given the opportunity to serve again.