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.

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