Monday, January 30, 2017

Cunningham Recreation: Healing Communities through Play

by Victoria Schmitt Babb
Director, "Play 4 ALL" Campaign
Partnered with Cunningham Recreation

Turn on the television, read the news, follow Tweets, scroll through feeds on Facebook and it is evident that our world is becoming more and more polarized than ever before (at least in my lifetime).   People are hunkering down in philosophical and dogmatic silos where perspectives are “us” versus “them” and if you are not with us then you must be against us.   There is a loss of “we” happening in America.     Now is the critical time to band together on something that can bring back the “we”.   Now, not tomorrow.

What can revive the “we” in America? Many things, but for starters…play.    Play is a neutral, but effective way to bring various sectors together.   Regardless of differences, people from all walks of life can identify with play.  We all know about the intrinsic force to play. Children need play, children want to play.   Not only does the play space bring people literally together to interact with one another, work together, take turns, and foster friendships, but the effort to bring play to a designated site is something that is just as cohesive.

Two years ago, my childhood stomping grounds of Ferguson, Missouri lit up every news network across America and even attracted attention from international networks.   The images of the upheaval, the anger, the violence still linger in some of our minds.   A line of police officers stood wearing riot gear, shields in their hands, faces protected to thwart off a very angry crowd.  The majority of the “protestors” who reeked the most havoc came from areas outside of the quiet, suburban area in North St. Louis County.  Nevertheless, the world watched as police and people struggled against one another.   This just did not happen one night but a series of weeks, both in August of 2014 and again in November 2014.

After reading an article about local police officers handing out ice cream to children in order to help foster positive relationships, the Play 4 ALL team, an extension of Cunningham Recreation, wanted to expand on that effort and offered the idea to give something more sustainable… a playground.   In less than 4 weeks, we reached out to the Fraternal Order of Police through the St. Louis Police Association and the City leadership in Ferguson.  Both groups loved the idea to raise the philanthropic dollars to bring a playground to the Ferguson Community Center.   The site was slated to one day have a playground when the city budget would allow for it.   No need to wait, the resource of both funds and labor were mobilized in 48 hours.   Equipment was ordered through GameTime and a community build date was set.

On September 29th, 2016 a group of committed volunteers arrived on the playground site, some with tools in their hands while others had never picked up a tool in their life.   Police officers, firefighters, local Ferguson residents including youth, homeless youth living at a Youth in Need transitional living program, Ferguson Police Chief, Ferguson Mayor, Ferguson small business owners, along with people from across the St. Louis news viewing area put everything aside to focus on bringing play to those who matter most… the children.

It took approximately 5 hours to build the structure and anyone who has ever built a playground realizes that it is no easy feat.   Side by side, volunteers including police officers and youth lifted steel decks and fastened slides and climbers, passing tools back and forth while getting to know one another.   The process of seeing each other as “equals” helps strengthen the ties of humanity; fostering a connection, building trust, dispelling myths and racial stereotypes   – that was the REAL impact that day.  Play 4 ALL realizes the process of healing will involve much more than what we were able to do on that day, but it’s a small step.  A step in the right direction.  People from all over St. Louis continue to bring their children to this playground to take photos.   News media crews followed the project and aired it on multiple news channels.

The Ferguson Community Center playground is the instrument that will continue to bring people to a common place, a place where everyone matters.  It was a collaborative gift by sectors that at one time were pitted against one another.   As we left that day, a young man turned around, looked at the playground and said – “now that is a beacon of hope and awesomeness.”   That statement was enough for us to say, let’s do this again… and again. 

If you know of a community interesting in a Healing Communities Through Play project, please contact Play 4 ALL.  Together we can engage the partners, mobilize the dollars and take a small step towards healing and togetherness.

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 VRPS Member Webinar Schedule

2017 VRPS Member Webinar Schedule

Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 11am-12pm
Park Operations Resource is intended to offer information, education and networking opportunities for those professionals in the areas of park operations, park management, and field maintenance. Dan Smith, CPRP (Hanover), Marlie Smith (Richmond), and Katey Legg, CPRP (Gloucester) will discuss how the VRPS Park Operations Resource effort came about and what the plans for 2017 include.

Login and register here!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 10-11am 
Join 2017 VRPS Awards co-chairs Jason Bookheimer, CPRP (Danville Parks and Recreation) and Sandy Kellogg (Fairfax County Park Authority) as they discuss the 2017 VRPS Awards process (recognizing excellence in 2016). Learn about changes to the selection criteria and online submission process, as well as how to best represent your nomination via your application.

Login and register here!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 10-11am 
Join Neil Luther (Director, Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks) and Greg Sager (Director, Hanover County Parks and Recreation) as they discuss Developing and Managing Dog Parks. Both localities have successfully created dog parks in their Central Virginia locations with nothing but wagging tails from their customers :)

Login and register here!

More webinars to come later in the year!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Ten Commandments of LinkedIn

by Mike Shelah
Mike Shelah Consulting
2017 VRPS Management Conference Session Speaker
"The ABC's of LinkedIn"

LinkedIn is THE BEST platform on the planet for developing business contacts, identifying new customers and finding your dream job. What I have seen in my ten+ years of using the platform is, while many people have a profile, only a small percentage of people actually optimize it. Today I will review my top ten for optimizing LinkedIn. I will skip the whole “Thou Shalt” part, for the rest of the post.

I know; it’s a little heavy handed. Yet, I am amazed at the number of people who have an inappropriate picture or worse, no picture at all. I could go into all the examples of what a bad picture looks like, but in the interest of time, I will simply say, make the $100 investment and get a pro to take your pic and be sure to update it every 3-5 years. If you do not know a photographer, LinkedIn is chock full of them, search for one in your area that is well recommended.

If you think of LinkedIn like a search engine (think Google or Bing) then you begin to understand the importance of keywords. By default, LinkedIn will load your latest job title into your headline (which appears right next to your profile picture).  I recommend creating a list of 20 keywords that people would use to find you. Think of it like that gameshow “Family Feud.” The top five answers are on the board and you need to guess what they are. Keywords are so important that I will tell you to use and reuse them throughout your entire profile.

This section is often missed by people creating a LinkedIn profile. First, the more sections you add to your profile, the higher you show up in LinkedIn search rankings. Adding this section will help. Second, this section is a great place to add more keywords. Specifically, it should be written in the first person and should be conversational. It is not meant to read like your resume. Tell the world why you do what you do. And please do not describe yourself as “a seasoned and dynamic professional team player.”

This is another section commonly missed and used incorrectly. Simply put, make it easy for people to contact you. Include an email and a phone number. This is a great spot to use some more keywords. I suggest creating an email address just for LinkedIn (to keep it separate from the rest) and you can get a free phone number from google voice to protect the privacy of your other phone numbers.

If you don’t have some, get some. Find a cause you care about and give them some of your time. It is a great way to network and lets people know a bit about you as a person.

Like the volunteer section, this lets people know the things you care about, that make you a person and not just another name. You can use keywords here. This section should be a mix of personal and professional.

These sections finish telling your story. They give the reader some perspective and scope of who you are as a person. These can apply to personal and professional as well

Regardless of the level of education ( or where it is from) adding this section helps you move up the LinkedIn search rankings and can help convey your expertise in a certain field or industry.

LinkedIn groups are incredibly powerful. They allow you to connect with likeminded people and share content. It also allows you to position yourself as an industry expert by asking and answering question in the “Conversations” section. Most groups will also allow you to post job openings in your company. You can join up to 100 groups.

This is the biggest miss. Once you have built a great profile (which should take 1-2 hours) daily maintenance of your account should only take 15-20 minutes ( and I know you spend at least that much time on Facebook). You want to respond to connection requests, check daily updates ( new job, anniversary, birthday, new blog posts) and respond to any LinkedIn messages you have received.

There is much more we can discuss about LinkedIn and what a powerful tool it is. I wanted to try and keep this brief. If you start doing these things today, you will be amazed at the positive results in just a couple weeks. I love talking about this subject. If you want to contact me about LinkedIn or any of my other subjects including: sales, leadership, public speaking, and training, please contact me directly and ask away or 443-808-1670

Mike Shelah will be speaking at 2017 Virginia Recreation Park Society Management Conference to be held February 26-28.  Learn more here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fraser: 9 Years of Reaching Out and Touching Lives

by Daniel Ronquillo
Animal Therapy Coordinator
Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals
VRPS Senior Resource Group Past Chair
VRPS Senior Resource Group Annual Conference Committee
VRPS Strategic Planning Committee

It is with deep sorrow that I share with each of you the death of my dear companion, Fraser, CJW Medical Center Therapy Dog.

After a diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer in the spring of 2016, Fraser fought valiantly for several months, during which he continued visiting patients and staff, continuing to reach out to everyone, as always, through his many years of service.  Though it was very emotional, Fraser was at home with the entire family during his final moments, as he passed away late afternoon on January 7, 2017 at the age of 11 years and 8 months.

Fraser was born May 6, 2005, in California, under the care of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).  Within two to three months of age, he was transported to Richmond, Virginia, where he was assigned to CCI Puppy Raiser, Cindy Morrison.  Over the next year and a half he learned the skills needed, in preparation for his eventual graduate training to become a Service Dog.  He was then sent to New York, on Long Island, to the CCI Northeast Headquarters, in early 2007 for graduate school.  Unable to match him with an individual, Fraser was released and returned to Richmond to Cindy and her family.

During his early years of training, I continued my work, behind the scenes, for what would be the start of the new CJW Medical Center Pet Therapy Program.  During the final stages of initiating the program, Fraser suddenly became available, with little time for preparation.  In the fall of 2007, Fraser officially became the first Therapy Dog for the new CJW Medical Center Pet Therapy Program.

The rest is history, as Fraser began his long career of reaching out, and touching the lives of countless patients on both campuses of Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Hospital.  Not only reaching out to patients, Fraser also touched the lives of many staff, and family, and had the opportunity to reach out to the entire Richmond Community through the local media.  Though every therapy dog will be honored for their service, in touching the lives of many, it has often been described by those who knew Fraser the best, that his soul was truly unique in its ability and intuitive nature, and that there will never be a therapy dog in comparison to Fraser.  As he approached his final days, Fraser selflessly served CJW Medical Center and his community for over nine years.  Fraser was a true companion to all who crossed his path, touching each of their lives through his empathy and selfless, enduring love.