Monday, December 25, 2017

Senior Exercise Group in Verse

Parks and Recreation Director
South Boston, Virginia


Who are these people so energetic, vibrant, loving and seemingly
without a care, who greet and hug me as if was a teddy bear.

 Smiles, Hugs/handshakes going everywhere who are these
people who greet you, and actually happy that you are there.

 How are you, where have you been, glad you are better, and welcome back my friend.

The Recreation Center has become a church without a steeple,
 and through the doors come so many good people.

Some walk and talk, while others walk and silently pray for whatever
it is they need today.

 Weights clatter, and the users fill the weight room with gleeful chatter, and some gather just to hear the silly things that Seymour will say.

 And for the Lazy one’s Ms. Mitch will lovingly say, you ain’t done nothing today at least walk a few laps before you sit
down or go in there to play.
 Exercising is never a bore, while some walk others play cornhole
 in the middle of the floor. And our pool player’s men and women all pair up to play, and that’s where they spend most of their day.
 In their own time, and in their own way these adults have become children again as they laugh and play.

And I just do my best to be helpful and to stay out of their way.

Monday, December 18, 2017

LTI Testimonial - Kristen Hamill, CPRP

Recreation Program Supervisor
Newport News Parks, Recreation and Tourism
Past VRPS Leadership Training Institute (LTI) Co-Chair
2018 LTI Committee Member

In 2010 my supervisor encouraged me to attend LTI.  I decided to attend and loved every minute of my time on the mountain.  I met many new people in our field and was able to learn many different team building skills and different ways to lead.  I had so much fun I attended again in 2012 and then decided I would like to serve on the committee.  I was accepted as a member of the planning committee and have been involved in the 2014, 2016 and now the 2018 institute.  I have served as secretary and co-chair during my time on the committee.  During my time on the committee I was promoted twice at work.  If you have ever wondered if attending LTI would help you have better chances at promotions, I feel I am an example that it can.  LTI is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn about yourself and your style of leading.  If you are debating attending the 2018 institute, I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 11, 2017

We Convened, We Conferred, We Concurred

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

We Convened, We Conferred, We Concurred – 
2017 Senior Resource Group Annual Conference 

Parks and recreation is an important piece of the solution for older adults.
Lesha Spencer-Brown, NRPA

In the middle of fall foliage tours, pumpkins festivals and other programs that keep our constituents busy, we take time to improve our skills and learn as much as we can.  That’s how we live inspired and focused as empowered professionals. So on a sunny September day in Reston, VA, the VRPS Senior Resource Group hosted recreation professionals from across the state to learn from experts in the fields of aging and recreation. 

Our mission for the day was to provide information and tools that would empower our colleagues in their day to day responsibilities and in their careers.  VRPS 2017 President LaTanya Turner opened the conference by talking about her experiences working with older adults. Like many of us, she admired their accomplishments, experiences and was inspired by their stories.

There were many highlights from SRG conference.  Miki Goerdt, LCSW from Arlington County Department of Human Services, delved into the underlying factors that can affect the interactions we have with our customers.  As one participant points out “she gave great information to be used at work and in one’s personal life.”  Marti Bailey from Sibley Hospital analyzed the nuances and power of the words we use and the misunderstanding they create when we unknowingly use ageist language.  Her session inspired one member of her audience to “be a champion of change for how I and others around me use words.”

The keynote speech, delivered by Lynn A. Reid and several members of her team, profiled the incredible gains and findings of the Loudoun County Area Agency on Aging especially in the area of recruiting and retaining high quality volunteers to work at their various senior centers.

In the afternoon, representatives from Loudoun County and the National Council on Aging focused on tools and skills that help improve our programming.  Catherine Motivans, Accessibility Services Manager for Loudoun County, tackled the iceberg of cross cultural understanding.  With the rapid demographic changes occurring in Loudoun County as the centerpiece of her presentation, Ms. Motivans provided the audience with skills they could apply to build language awareness and serve patrons with limited English abilities.

Brandy Bauer and Hayoung Kye demonstrated the various features of the National Council on Aging’s Aging Mastery Program©.  Designed to help older adults make the most of their longevity, this tool also provides materials and information that can help each individual to create his or her own playbook.

While we work in different jurisdictions there are many workplace factors we all have in common.  We all agreed that our populations are becoming more diverse and how we navigate that change will determine the success of our programs. We all have customer service challenges.  The three major groups that continue to impact our work are baby boomers, culturally diverse populations and older, more frail seniors. All which makes professional development so important.

One source you should check out is the NRPA blog about healthy aging initiatives.  We all know someone who is an older adult and we all know how important socializing and recreation are to our communities no matter what age. Lesha Spencer-Brown, who wrote the blog agrees with us: “older adults are the pillars of our communities. We cannot claim to improve community health without factoring in the health of older adults and making them a priority. Many programs and services currently offered for older adults need to be more robust and address multiple factors that affect their health and wellbeing.”  This increased awareness is probably a result of two things, the increased numbers of the retirees moving into our areas and the awesome work we all do every day.  As the risk of sounding cliché, I do believe that we (recreational professionals who work with older adults) are turning a corner.  One way to continue the progress is to keep the conversation going.  What recommendations would you give to the decision makers in your agency for healthy aging initiatives that can be implemented in your agency today or in the near future? 

Karen Brutsche
Janice Myrick
Cheryl Wheeler
Hope Lomax-Jones
June Snead
Debra Foster
LaTanya Turner

Monday, December 4, 2017

Town of Luray's Tobacco Free Parkland

The Virginia Department of Health's Tobacco Use Control Program implemented a "Welcome to Our Tobacco Free Parkland " initiative in 2016, which includes signage sponsored by VDH.

Town of Luray has posted 8 signs in total, including in Lake Arrowhead and Ralph Dean Park locations.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Ten and Done!

by Kat Fish

* Aquatics Specialist II,
Prince William County Parks & Recreation

* VRPS 2018 LTI Committee Co-Chair
* VRPS 2017 Northern Service Area Chair

Remember VRPS Member in the Community Kat Fish?  Here's an update!

Kat has been 10-year head coach of the Mountain View Dance Team since graduating from Bowling Green State University with a BS in Education and minors in History, Dance Education and Dance Performance.  She was named 2017 Dance Coach of the Year by Eastern Dance Association.

·         Share a specific moment in time when you knew coaching was your passion.
My first year coaching was not easy by any means. I was taking over a team in its 3rd year and had to establish myself with the dancers, parents, and administration. It was not until our final competition of the season, Eastern Dance Association Nationals, that I finally felt that this was my purpose. The team and I finally clicked; the parents and I clicked… it just felt right. In 2010, I switched careers and was commuting about 30 minutes each day to practice from my full time job. This caused some stress ensuring I was giving my all to both positions. In 2016, my commute changed to an hour to get to practice by 2:30pm. That’s when I knew I had to make the decision to retire from coaching - probably one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in my adult life… leaving a program that I have spent so much time building, dancers that I love, and parents that I have gotten close to. But it was time…

·         As both a coach and educator, what is the most fulfilling about dance in your life....and in the lives of your dancers?

o   In my life – To me, dance has allowed me to forget about everything else in life… absolutely no worries.  I focus on the music and movement and nothing else.

o   In the lives of my dancers – As a coach and educator, I built my team on the foundation of student led choreography. Nothing brings me joy and/or satisfaction more than when their vision comes to fruition… you see their eyes light up and their own passion for dance grow.

·            Is there anyone who was an important influence on you in becoming a coach?

A big influence on becoming a coach myself was my own high school experience. My high school team never had a consistent coach or leadership. Each year we had a new sponsor or advisor take over the team and the inconsistencies caused many issues that prevented the team from ever being a true success.

When I left dance team practice, I spent evenings at the studio DANCE ETC, where I had instructors who supported my development and growth as a dancer. Each instructor influenced me in their own unique way. One of the main takeaways was the ability to break down certain sections of routines or work from the back of the routine forward, rather than to just keep drilling an entire number. From these instructors I learned many different ways to perfect routines and this is an important part that I shared with my dancers.

·         What are the top three most memorable moments throughout your coaching career?

o   #1 – 2010 and 2014 All-Around Grand Champions at the Eastern Dance Association Nationals in Myrtle Beach
o   #2 – Creating the tradition of an Alumni Performance during basketball season – Alumni Dancers come back and practice for a week and then perform a routine with the current team.
o   #3 – 2017 Coach of the Year

·         Do you have a "coach mantra"?

Leave it on the Floor” – Dance your heart out and whatever happens, happens. You can’t fix that performance but you can take feedback and corrections to only better your next performance. Don’t sweat it.

·         What words of advice would you give your younger self back when you were in the FIRST year of coaching a team?

Slow down and enjoy the moments… you may think "wow, 10 years, that’s a long time" and yes it was. But looking back those years flew by… I wish I would have spent more time enjoying versus dwelling on any of the negativity transitioning in as the new coach.

·         What is next for Coach Kat Fish?

I “retired” from coaching in June of 2017 but I plan to stay connected to dance by judging with the Eastern Dance Association and the AmeriDance Brands, as well as other local high school competitions in the Northern Virginia Area.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Keys to Empowerment - It's Conference Time!

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

The Senior Resource Group 2017 conference is upon us.  Thursday, September 21 at the Reston Community Center, a group of recreation professionals whose daily work focuses on serving the older adult population will convene to learn from each other and from experts in the field of aging. We have selected inspiring presenters on a variety of topics that focus on the population we serve.  The result will be that these delegates will go back to their programs and communities with additional skills to advocate for and champion recreational opportunities and options for a demographic that is a significant portion of our national population.

This year’s theme is about career empowerment. We are honored that VRPS President LaTanya Turner, CPRP will join us.  Her platform has been about increasing the connections we make through VRPS members and finding better ways for “telling our stories.”  That’s what we hope to accomplish at the conference as well.  Our goal, as the members of the Senior Resource Group, is to provide you with the best tools, strategies and techniques that will help you tell your story to your customers, co-workers, decision makers and other stakeholders. The table below will give you a quick look at the day’s schedule: 

Introductions & Announcements
Welcome by LaTanya Turner, VRPS President
Session 1
Words Matter:  Harnessing the Power and Energy of Language
Margaret “Marti” Bailey
Session 2
Empowering Through Understanding: Do You Know What Upsets You
Miki Goerdt, LCSW
Keynote Address: 
Raise the Bar:  How to Recruit, Retain and Engage Professionals as Volunteers
Dr. Lynn Reid
Conference Luncheon & Continued Discussion
Please take time to visit our exhibit
Session 3
Building Bridges of Cultural Understanding
Catherine Motivans
Session 4
Mastering Aging:  Help Your Community’s   Seniors Achieve Financial, Physical, and Mental Wellness
Brandy Bauer and Hayoung Kye
Wrap up 

Karen Brutsche
Janice Myrick
Cheryl Wheeler
Hope Lomax-Jones
June Snead

Monday, August 21, 2017

Own Your Professional Development

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

A passive approach to professional growth will leave you by the wayside.”  Tom Peters

We all know that doing a good job and meeting your key work expectations is fundamental to succeeding in your position. But if your professional goals include moving into position with more responsibility (and yes, more money) then you are going to have to put in more effort.  Registering for training programs at work is a good start.  It might also mean getting a professional certification. It all depends on the industry in which you work.   

Essentially, professional certifications can give you a competitive edge and complements your professional experience.  It is a way to show your colleagues and hiring managers that you are serious about working with the latest knowledge and tools that are considered gold standards in that particular industry.  Certainly, a college or post graduate degree indicates your mastery of knowledge but in this fast paced society, information changes continuously and if an industry doesn’t keep up it perishes.  So do the professionals who work in it.

However, you want to do your homework before investing the time and expense. Look at the credentials people have in the positions you aspire to attain.  Are they graduate degrees? Do they belong to a professional association? Do they also have professional certifications?  If the answer is yes to any of these, then consider following their lead.

Do you currently have a mentor? A mentor is a professional that inspires you to obtain more education and training to become more. Consider following this recommendation by joining the Virginia Recreation and Park Society and obtaining your Professional Certification (CPRP).   Membership is also a great way to find a mentor.

In the field of Parks and Recreation a certification you will see frequently is called the Certified Parks and Recreation Professional. There are a variety of paths a person can take to qualify for the exam. According the National Parks and Recreation Association website the following criteria qualify a person to take the CPRP exam:

*Have received, or are set to receive, a Bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT) OR

*Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher from any institution in recreation, park resources, or leisure services, and also have no less than 1 year of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a major other than recreation, park resources, or leisure services, and also have no less than 3 years of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have an Associate's degree and have 4 years of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have a high school degree or equivalent, and have 5 years of full-time experience in the field. Source:

There are many paths toward certification.  One important aspect to note is that a candidate does need to have field experience or the educational background before they can take the certifying exam.  That aspect alone shows that this type of certification is really about producing mastery in the field.  Mastery in any field is conducive to professional development.

Another feature of the CPRP certification is that in order to maintain that status, a person needs to acquire continuing education units (CEUs). That’s pivotal. Knowledge is not static and good knowledge changes to become more significant.  Therefore, any association with a strong commitment to research and the sharing of evidence based information is worth joining.  If there are post-secondary programs related to the certification, then you are looking at a certification program that is based on research and academic inquiry.  There should also be ample opportunities for professional to obtain those CEUs through industry related conferences

The CPRP exam guide is very detailed and user friendly.  Each area of knowledge is clearly explained with relevant examples.  The first chapter talks about the pivotal role communication plays in the field.  Relationships with customers, constituents and colleagues thrive when the communication is clear, consistent and accurate. This helps bolster support for programs and services that benefit the public.  In-house, good communication fosters team work, professionalism and camaraderie. It also covers other key categories of the CPRP certification process such as finance, human resources, operations, and programming. 

Now how does this relate specifically to working with seniors?  Well, the answer is- to a great extent!  For anyone who attended the 2016 SRG conference in Virginia Beach, there was consensus among the participants that recreation programs for seniors are perceived to be less of a priority than programs for teens or sports leagues.  However, as the keynote speaker Dr. Denise Scruggs reminded us; we need to be the champions for our programs and communicate their vital contributions to the community.  This can be done by producing competent data analysis and then effectively communicating that information to the public, co-workers and ultimately the decision makers within the organization.  When you go to advocate for your senior programs, you will have more success if you present your case within the framework recreation and park professionals will understand.  

Obtaining the designation of a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional shows others in the field that you understand the overall goals of the industry. Empowered professionals take advantage of every opportunity to improve their skills and enhance their knowledge.   Becoming a CPRP will give you the skills to connect senior programs to the parks and recreation field at large, within your jurisdiction and within your own senior or community center.  How does a parks and recreation certification fit within your career plan?  How do you own your professional development?  Let us know.

SRG Board
Karen Brutsche
Janice Myrick
Cheryl Wheeler
Hope Lomax-Jones
June Snead

Monday, July 31, 2017

Take the 2017 Virginia Outdoors Survey

by Janit Llewellyn Allen
Programs Planner
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Every five years in preparation for the development of the Virginia Outdoors Plan, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) conducts an outdoor recreation survey. The 2017 survey is now, for the first time, open to the general public. Please take the onlinesurvey. Please also share the survey link with people that may be interested in taking the survey.

The online survey will close on August 24 at 5 p.m.

The 2017 Virginia Outdoors Survey (VOS) will assess Virginians’ attitudes about outdoor recreation resources and estimate participation in and demand for a variety of recreational activities. Results from the online survey will be compared to those from a juried survey mailed to 14,000 households in Virginia. This information will also enable DCR staff to assess differences in responses from conservation and recreation advocates and the general public for the 2018 Virginia Outdoors Plan.

Data obtained from the VOS will assist planning based on regional and statewide input. The addition of the online survey results will enhance information about Virginia’s outdoor recreation and land conservation interests. 

By taking the online survey, you are assisting DCR and local providers in determining where additional parks, recreational areas, and facilities are needed. Some localities and planning regions may use survey results to prepare both outdoor recreation and comprehensive plans, or they may use the information as a basis for a more detailed local outdoor recreation survey. Survey information will also help us identify ways to improve our state parks system and protect Virginia’s natural and open space resources. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cemeteriescape Photography Contest Captures the Beauty of Cemeteries and Attention of Local Residents

by Victoria S. Jessie
Public Information Specialist II
City of Norfolk Recreation, Parks, & Open Spaces

"Angel" by Bill Niven, Elmwood Cemetery

When people think of intricately carved statues and sculptures, massive marble monuments, towering columns and brilliantly colored stained glass, they most likely visualize seeing these items in the long hallways of a museum. To the surprise of many, seeing these treasures doesn’t require membership to a museum or even tickets; these magnificent sights can be found in your local cemetery. Unfortunately, the art that exists so prominently in cemeteries goes largely unnoticed. Since most traffic in cemeteries occurs during burial services, many people never have the opportunity to appreciate – let alone notice – the wide variety of beauty in cemeteries. The Cemeteriescape Photography Contest and Exhibit has changed that reality.

"Kaleidoscope-1" by Jim Heath, Elmwood Cemetery

Sponsored by the non-profit organization Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation (NSCC), Cemeteriescape invites people to visit local cemeteries in Hampton Roads and embark on a creative survey of cemeteries. Void of many technical and stylistic restrictions, the contest rules allow contestants to enjoy a great deal of freedom of expression. Whether using a cell phone or traditional camera, contestants can snap pictures of anything in the cemetery that they deem worthy of recognition.  Now in its fourth year, the contest continues to draw interest from amateur and professional photographers alike. With nearly 100 entries, this year’s judges were tasked with selecting winners for four winning categories; Best in Show, Second Place, Third Place and Board Choice. The recipient of the first place award – Best in Show – earns the highly coveted prize of $1,000.  Although the official contest ends with the judges’ decisions, Cemeteriescape continues with a large exhibit of all contestants’ entries during the reception.

"Christs's Crucifixion" by Russell Morrison, Cedar Grove Cemetery

The impact of Cemeteriescape goes beyond simply highlighting the beauty of local cemeteries. For many contestants, the contest created a fun and quite unusual opportunity for an outing. For Melody Agnew, the real award was quality time with family. Agnew commented, “At first I was sad I didn’t win, but then I realized that I did because I had a great time with my son taking these pictures!” This type of participation is reminiscent of the way cemeteries were once used. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, cemeteries were not only places of burial, they served as gathering places for extracurricular activities. Unlike in more modern times, destinations for fun and past times were scarce. While the thought of dining in a cemetery would most likely draw ire today, it was very common to see scores of people picnicking in large, picturesque cemeteries such as Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery. For this reason, people frequented cemeteries – sometimes considered outdoor museums – for a host of activities including carriage races, leisurely strolls, reading, knitting and even hunting, when the landscape permitted it. Although such activities are certainly characteristic of a bygone era, today cemeteries coast to coast still provide creative opportunities for leisure. Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Santa Monica, California for example, is a popular movie screening event that has at times, attracted up to 4,000 moviegoers. Likewise, Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. has become such a favorite destination for its pet friendly policies that it has a waiting list for its dedicated dog park program.

"Beneath the Snow I Sleep" by Susie Coplon, Elmwood Cemetery

The Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries, a division of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space, wants to see a resurgence of similar non-invasive activities. The division continuously identifies ways to increase public interest in non-burial related activities in Norfolk’s eight municipal cemeteries, which are considered to be open space.   The Bureau of Cemeteries meets this objective by supporting a variety of NSCC’s special events such as Cemeteriescape, volunteer workdays, walking tours, as well as holiday memorial services through its public-private partnership with the non-profit. Though these special events have many exciting elements that attract participation, their foremost purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, education and advocacy for Norfolk’s cemeteries. With six of its eight cemeteries established before 1900, the City of Norfolk is dedicated to preserving both the memories of the people of Norfolk and the rich history of the city. For more information on how you can contribute to preserving Norfolk’s cemeteries, visit  Information on Norfolk’s historic cemeteries, can be found here

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SRG: Talking About Ageism in the Swamp of Public Thinking

Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation

“Words once they are printed, have a life of their own” – Carol Burnett

The conversations about aging are changing.  AARP has a campaign called Disrupt Aging which champions personal choice and owning yourself no matter what decade you were born in.  Dr. Ayn Welleford’s #DisruptAgeism hones in on the way negative ways society describes aging, whether in conversation, writing or advertising.  It seemed time to bring the conversation to the senior center where I work.  Engaging with participants about how older Americans can be agents of change regarding the negative perceptions that surround getting older would be a great start.

I enlisted a presenter.  I wrote the description for the discussion and submitted it for publication.  We were going to talk, learn from each other and affirm our changing demographics.  People were living longer and that was a good thing. I was looking forward to being part of a meaningful discussion. Here is a description of the program:

Talking to Your Family About Ageism
Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination.  One look at the cosmetic aisle in any drugstore will confirm that.  How your family perceives you as you progress through life will determine how and where you live as well as other choices.  Take part in this discussion led by (name left out) to help you and help your loved ones.

The write-up produced a reaction I did not expect. An irate call came shortly after the program guide starting arriving in the mail. A citizen read my write-up and came to the conclusion that I was supportive of ageism.  This person called the place where the presenter worked, the Senior Center and gave everyone (including my supervisor) who happened to be on the other end of the phone the “what for”.  The situation was made worse because I was out of town and never got a chance to speak to this individual.  I did get a blow by blow account (from more than one person) of the interaction. It was torturous.  This is crazy, I thought.  I carefully crafted this write-up. But, in the end, my message backfired. What happened?

Well, there were many things I didn’t include in the write up. The Frameworks Institute, a non-profit that looks at how communication relates to how social policies are discussed, developed a tool-kit to talk about aging.  They compare public thinking to a swamp because something can come out of nowhere and attack you unless you learn to anticipate how your message may be perceived.  Yup.

They noted that there are huge differences between what professionals think and what the public thinks.  Without the proper frame, phrases or words can trigger negative responses.  So my first sentence should have defined ageism and offered an immediate solution.  There were so many things I could have done differently.   

This most recent experience has made me think about how those of us who work with the 55 plus population trek through the swamp of public thinking every day.  Our purpose in the recreation field is to create different programs that will engage and encourage regular participation in a demographic that is at risk for social isolation.  The challenge is that we interact with an incredibly diverse population in terms of age difference, education, experiences and cultures.  While I am sure we all agree that you can’t please everyone it’s important to make sure everyone at the very least feels included.

How do you navigate the swamp of public thinking?