Solid Work from Solid Waste

As we continue to navigate the global pandemic, I am sure most of us have read those “feel good” stories that give us faith or hope.  Some of us may even be lucky enough to be a part of those stories.

I would like to share a story, about a group of people that embody everything good in the world.  Some of you may even see this as an example of the “Henrico Way”.  I cannot tell you that this group is perfect nor that they always get along, but I can tell you that the men and women of the Solid Waste Division are a family. They are a team that finds a way to work together and gets the job done.

DPU Staff at the Charles County Road Public Use Area

When the local effects of the pandemic began in March, most restaurants, parks, and businesses closed.  Residents were encouraged to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  As you can imagine, waste services were deemed essential. We knew curbside trash, recycling, and the public use areas could not be put on hold or closed.  The question became, how do we provide the same basic level of service while keeping our workers and residents safe?  How do we run refuse collection crews (sometimes three workers in a truck) and not expose anyone to COVID-19?  How do we open the public use areas that sometimes have over 1,000 visitors a day and not expose the public or our workers to COVID-19?

Many of the answers to these questions made the daily jobs of the Solid Waste staff even harder.  We asked our staff to wear masks on hot, sweltering, 100-degree days; making the job more strenuous. We asked our staff to clean their trucks and equipment multiple times a day; often adding an hour or so of work to their already extended day. We asked our staff to limit the number of residents allowed to enter the public use areas to 10 vehicles at a time and to keep those vehicles at least 6-feet apart. This created a 3-hour wait and some unhappy residents on multiple occasions.  We asked our call center staff to work and take calls from home which added additional stress and hurdles to work through. Our staff found a way.

From March through July, we saw a 15% increase in the waste volumes we collected.  That is an additional 3,600 tons of waste collected through curbside refuse collection program and another 1,100 tons collected through our public use area program.  All while the COVID-19 limitations were in place. Our staff found a way.

In April, 20% of our staff was quarantined at one time.  In May, our refuse collection routes went from eight hours per day, five days a week to nine hours per day, six days a week.  Currently, 60% of our refuse trucks are broken down at one time.  Our staff continues to find a way.

At the end of the day, I cannot express the admiration and respect I have for the 60 or so Solid Waste Division employees who I consider my family.  They have overcome every obstacle that has been thrown at them and done so with a smile on their face. (I think it is a smile, although it is hard to tell with a mask on!)  Please, if you see one of our refuse trucks on the road or visit one of our public use areas, give the staff a big smile and a thumbs up!  They have worked hard, continue to do so, and have truly shown the “Henrico Way”!

 

DPU Staff at the Springfield Public Use Area

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Internships Build a Talent Pipeline for Our Future Workforce

Many are aware of Henrico County’s award-winning internship program and the partnerships it has with local schools. You may be familiar enough with various Henrico schools or possibly have even seen some of the students working hard around the government center. While there is no doubt that COVID-19 has had an impact on our ability to provide paid internships, the County continues to maintain relationships with many

Accepting the Partnership for the Future Pacesetter Award

learning institutions and can offer opportunities for students to obtain credit in their degree programs. Furthermore, these relationships have proven vital in delivering a pool of talented new employees, especially during these hard times. In fact, Henrico County has hired a total of 53 of our former interns; 15 of which were hired during the last fiscal year.

This year also marks the first time Henrico County has hired a previous high school intern as a full-time employee. Clayton Fuhrman started his internship with the County while attending Glen Allen High School and the Diesel Mechanic program at the ACE Center at Hermitage High school. Clayton completed his internship at the East End Automotive Shop working mostly on school buses and some cars. He shared, “I’ve always loved working with engines and so it was a good fit for me. The guys I worked with helped me along the way teaching me skills and tricks that would later help me succeed to move forward and start my career. My internship prepared me for a unique and special opportunity I would have never

expected, to join Henrico full-time. Henrico Fire was so impressed with my skills and ability to adapt that they hired me as an emergency vehicle technician. I have loved fire engines since I was a little kid and was amazed when I was asked ‘when can you start?’ It comes to show that regardless of where you start, with a little hard work and perseverance you can end up doing something very special.”

Clayton Furhman

The success of our internships does not stop with Clayton. Cate Clifton started her internship at Henrico in August of 2019 as a Master Social Work Intern in the Child Welfare Stipend Program at VCU. Kate shared, “I did not know what to expect, but I had a good feeling about Henrico—the people, the work, and the vibe. I was introduced to everyone in the office and I quickly started to find a groove asking folks what they were doing that day or week and asking to join them. I focused heavily on the foster care and adoption unit and began working closely with this team. I was guided towards being a proficient foster care worker and learning the “Henrico Way”. My supervisor’s open-door policy and her collaborative way of solving staffing issues were invaluable to my sense of belonging. After the nine months I spent interning, I applied and was hired full-time as a Family Services Specialist. I felt prepared to do this work because of the internship; because of the training and the strong relationships built with colleagues.”

Cate went on to say, “Being an intern at Henrico was challenging due to the difficult nature of the work. As a child welfare worker, we are asked to help families solve complex problems that transcend the family system, and in many cases, it is a tall order. Today, I feel like an asset to the children and families with whom I work. I am constantly taking active steps to learn and grow, which is extremely important. I find that open-heartedness is crucial, and this work is best approached with humility and deep regard for the dignity of all families.”

As you can see, internships provide not only professional skills for students but also life skills. It affords students the rare opportunity of self-discovery in the form of career exploration. Their experiences give them a better understanding of what they like and don’t like, along with what they want in their future. The program strives to ensure a balance between the student’s specific learning and career development goals while creating a positive experience for the student. They witness first hand how various roles align with the County’s missions as well as their personal goals, all before graduating high school. Upon graduation, these students are college-ready and career prepared!

Students are not the only ones to benefit and grow with an internship. Their coworkers and supervisors have the opportunity to not only teach a younger generation and watch them flourish but learn from them as well. Clayton mentioned how the mentorship from his colleagues was crucial to his success. Cate’s supervisor, Jamie Anderson summarized her view of Cate’s success: “Cate is someone who brings a great deal of enthusiasm and passion to her work. Getting her feet wet as an intern has been an excellent segue into professional practice and provided a solid foundation for her as a Family Services Specialist.  While jobs in child welfare are highly rewarding, they can come with a high level of stress.  Internships can provide a valuable opportunity to see if you are a fit for a certain job type.  Many of our employees were interns in public social services agencies who had the opportunity to see the work for all that it is and all that it can be and have chosen this as their profession. A true win-win for the individual, County, and our families.”

As we continue to work through this pandemic and grow, we challenge you to help us utilize these students and build a workforce for tomorrow. Interns are a pipeline of talent and provide the opportunity for you to coach, mentor, and mold. Beginning in the Spring, we will also be expanding on our partnership with Cristo Rey and their Work-Study Program. Cristo Rey is a new high school in our area that uniquely serves limited income families to provide a different type of learning experience. Each student takes a full course load of college preparatory classes for four years while participating one day a week in a four-year Corporate Work-Study program. What better way to find your next employee and show the “Henrico Way”? If your department would like to discuss offering an internship, please contact the County’s Internship Program Coordinator, Debbie Lumpkin, at lum@henrico.us or call 804-501-7206. September 31 is the deadline for Spring 2021 internships and November 1 is the deadline for Summer 2021 internships.

 

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Intermittent Fasting: Scratching the Surface

Intermittent fasting has become a popular trend over the last few years, but do you know what it truly is? Let us look at the general idea and its key components. Intermittent fasting simply means that you are going an extended period of time without eating (or drinking caloric beverages). This timeframe could be 12-hours, 24-hours, or even longer, but most traditionally intermittent fasting falls somewhere between the 14-hours to 24-hours without eating. The key is to consume the same number of calories as you typically would, but in a shorter timeframe. For example, if you typically hold yourself to a 2,000 calorie diet, your eating may look like this: 7 am you eat scrambled eggs with vegetables and a piece of toast, 9 am you eat an apple with peanut butter, lunch is a chipotle burrito bowl at noon, 2 pm your afternoon snack consists of veggies and hummus, and for dinner at 7 pm you eat pizza with a side salad and a scoop of ice cream for dessert. With intermittent fasting, the focus isn’t on what you are eating (although it is still important) but rather when. To continue the example, with intermittent fasting 7 pm to 9 am, your day may look more like the following: at 7 am you grab a cup of black coffee, at 9 am enjoy your egg breakfast, apple snack is at 11 am, lunch is at 1 pm, afternoon snack is at 3 pm and dinner is 6 pm. You are done consuming calories by 7 pm to begin your fast. Remember, while fasting, you can still enjoy freshly brewed tea, water, seltzer, or black coffee. So, if at 9 pm you are feeling bored or antsy about fasting, drink some hot tea and wind down before bed.

Why has intermittent fasting become so popular? Not to get too specific, but there are several health benefits associated with it. These benefits include blood sugar regulation improvement which can aid with certain diabetes situations, improved memory function, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and many more. From a physiological and fitness aspect, there is an increased amount of testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) that is released into the body with intermittent fasting which can lead to improved results when paired with resistance training. Research also shows that the hormone, Ghrelin, which is released when your body is ‘hungry’, decreases with intermittent fasting.

It is important to realize that not everyone is going to respond the same way to intermittent fasting. You may see good benefits with intermittent fasting, or you may not realize any changes. The way we should view intermittent fasting, in my opinion, is that it is meant to break our normal cycle and make us more conscious of our dietary decisions. It gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you think: “Am I eating because it is time to eat?” “Am I eating because I am bored?” “Do I really need to eat right now?”

Are you now wondering how do you get started? Select a day in which you would like to try the intermittent fasting and start with a 12-14 hour fast. Now, this may sound intimidating, but if you eat dinner at 7 pm then you only need to make it until 7 am the following day to accomplish a 12-hour fast, or 9 am to make a 14-hour fast. Once you have accomplished this a few times, then you can start to expand your timeframe from 12-14 hours to 16 hours and eventually 24 hours or longer.

 

Give it a try and see how you do! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Joey Pacelli or Joshua Gaskins.

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Drive-In Movies with Recreation and Parks

Events in Henrico County have been limited due to the health and safety guidelines for COVID-19. The staff at the Department of Recreation and Parks have gotten creative and sought out small, community events that are both safe and fun for families! One of those event ideas is movie nights. Various Henrico County Parks will be hosting a movie in the park night and two drive-in movies this summer.

On July 31, Peanut Butter Falcon was shown drive-in movie style at Crump Park. If you missed out, there are two more opportunities to enjoy outdoor movie night! Toy Story 4 will be showing at Deep Run Park on August 7. This will be a regular walk up movie in the park. Rec and Parks will also be showing Aladdin (2019) at Dorey Park on August 21 as a drive-in movie. For both events, gates open at 7:30 p.m. and the movie will start at dusk (approx. 9 p.m.) Guests are encouraged to arrive early, as there is limited parking available.

The movie at Dorey park will be in partnership with the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation (VCTF). Dorey Park features a connector to the Virginia Capital Trail and is popular with cyclists. Movie attendees will have the opportunity to receive more information about the trail and future VCTF activities including their annual Cap 2 Cap bike ride.

The Division of Recreation and Parks is very excited to provide fun family events that allow people to get out and enjoy the parks while also following best safety practices and remaining socially distant.

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We All Play a Role in Fiscal Stewardship

The budget for the 2021 fiscal year (FY2021) that covers July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, was first introduced to the Board of Supervisors on March 10, 2020, just six days before the County’s first case of COVID-19. By all measures, the County was positioned to enjoy one of the best budget years in recent history; poised to implement several key initiatives and programs to further cement Henrico’s place as a leader in local government. As we have all come to know, the onset of a global pandemic had significant local impacts on both the health and economic fronts and swiftly changed that outlook. The Department of Finance immediately went to work to recast a budget based on updated revenue projections which anticipated a significant economic recession. Nearly $100 million was cut from that initial budget proposal when compared to the plan that was ultimately adopted by the Board in May.

Every avenue was explored to ensure that all County departments are still able to deliver core services that are needed by Henrico residents and businesses, to limit the financial burden placed on our community to support those programs, and to limit the impacts to our workforce. Some of the strategies included: a delay of cash-funded capital, across the board operating cuts, holding many positions vacant, and removing all new initiatives that were originally planned for FY2021.

Knowing that none of us have all the answers, two additional, non-traditional strategies were also deployed. We established a cross-functional employee workgroup to explore cost-cutting strategies and an email address (budgetfeedback@henrico.us – which remains open) to solicit feedback from the workforce and community. Both avenues proved fruitful. For example, it was an email from an employee that birthed the voluntary retirement incentive program that is anticipated to save more than $1.5 million.

The County’s fiscal plans for this year are ultraconservative and meant to prepare the County in case the pandemic continues throughout the fiscal year. As part of that, appropriations (money that has been made available to departments to spend) are being done on a quarterly – instead of annual – basis. That practice gives the Board of Supervisors, the County Manager, and Department of Finance time to evaluate data in real time and adjust spending/financial plans as needed.

The County has seen some local revenues continue to perform stronger than anticipated. It is still too early to make any longer-term financial decisions based on what we have experienced to date. Our most recent reports show meals taxes for May down 26.5%, occupancy taxes for May down 63%, and sales taxes for April down 9.8%. Our unemployment figures continue to hover far above anything recorded in modern history.

Our team continues to monitor the local economy and has not wavered in the spending freeze, ensuring that we are only making essential purchases, for now. The important thing to remember is that these steps are meant to protect us from what we may not see coming in the future.

What does this all mean for you? We all play a role in fiscal stewardship. Employees like you, who are delivering the front-line services to our residents, see things from a unique perspective. Many of you have ideas about how we could do things better, differently, more efficiently, and more cost effectively. Now, more than ever, is the time to bring those forward. Please email budgetfeedback@henrico.us or call me anytime (804-501-4805). Every dollar we save today is one we can invest tomorrow.

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Understanding the Stress/Health Connection

Stress exists in your mind — but it’s also evident in your stomach, heart, muscles and even your toes.

“In fact, stress may affect every cell in your body,” says Ronald Glaser, Ph.D., a researcher at Ohio State University Medical School.

During stressful times, your body produces various chemicals, including cortisol, an immune-suppressing hormone. The more cortisol produced, the weaker your immune cells become and the more susceptible you are to illness.

“A one-day stressor isn’t going to make a big change in your risk of getting a cold, for example,” says Dr. Glaser. “But a chronic stressor that lasts a few weeks could dampen your immune response and create a risk of disease.”

Migraine headaches, sleep disorders, backaches, skin rashes, fatigue, irritability, headache, depression, worry, mood swings, chest pain, anxiety, upset stomach, ulcers, and high blood pressure are common reactions to stress.

By gaining a better understanding of the stress/disease connection, you can reduce your stress and, in turn, improve your health and well-being.


Keeping stress in check

No one can avoid all stress — and a certain amount actually is good for you. But it’s best to keep unhealthy levels in check.

The following steps can help you control everyday stress:

  • Recognize your stress signals. Once you’re aware of your stressors, you’ll have a better idea of when you’re stressed and can take steps to reduce them.
  • Notice when you’re most vulnerable to stress and prepare yourself. Are you most affected in the mornings? On Mondays? In the winter?
  • Exercise. Aerobic workouts — walking, cycling, swimming, or running — can release pent-up frustrations while producing endorphins, brain chemicals that counteract stress.
  • Eat a healthful diet. A balanced diet can help stabilize your mood.
  • Communicate with friends and family. Social ties relieve stress and contribute to a positive attitude.
  • Spend time enjoying your hobbies. Doing so allows you to focus on a pleasurable activity instead of your problems.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, creative imagery, visualization, deep-breathing exercises, yoga, and listening to relaxation tapes can help you relax.
  • Learn to set limits. Don’t agree to unnecessary, stressful obligations.
  • Get enough sleep. Stress interferes with relaxation, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep, which can lead to fatigue and a reduced ability to cope. To get the best sleep possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Steer clear of caffeine. Caffeine can add to your anxiety, making you feel even more stressed.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Using alcohol or other drugs to relieve stress only masks symptoms and can worsen stress in the long run.
  • Learn something new. The excitement of learning something new, such as how to speak a different language or play a musical instrument, can make your worries seem far away.
  • Take a breather. Stressful situations can make you breathe more shallowly or hold your breath. When you have to relax fast, belly breathing can be done in seconds. To do it: Concentrate on making your abdomen move out as you inhale through your nose, then in as you exhale. Using imagery as you belly breathe can help you further deepen and slow the pace of your breathing. As you inhale, close your eyes and imagine the air swirling into your nose and down into your lungs. As you exhale, imagine the air swirling back out again.


Combating serious stress

“In combating serious stress, you should first carefully appraise the seriousness of the situation and the adequacy of your coping resources,” says Kenneth B. Matheny, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., director of counseling psychology at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

When faced with a highly stressful event in your life — perhaps the death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness or a serious financial loss — the following strategies will help you cope:

  • Avoid unnecessary changes in your life. Instead, reserve what energy you do have for dealing with the stressor at hand. If possible, stabilize your work and home environments while working out the primary problem.
  • Quiet your mind. In times of stress, the mind makes things seem worse than they are by creating endless versions of impending disaster. Because the body can’t tell the difference between fact and fantasy, it responds with heightened physical response.
  • Keep in the present. You can calm both your mind and body by keeping your mind in the present, which is seldom as stressful as an imagined future or regrettable past. To keep your mind in the present, focus your attention on your breathing, a sound or visual pattern, a repetitive movement, or meditation.
  • Courageously and aggressively face the stressor. Resist any temptation to ignore the stressor. Instead, carefully appraise the seriousness of the problem without magnifying it out of proportion. In addition, confirm your view of the stressor by talking with others. Make a special effort to speak to family, friends, or co-workers who have dealt with similar experiences.
  • Take inventory of your coping responses. Confidence is a valuable ally in combating stress, and it builds on memories of past successes. Review successes you’ve had with other stressful life situations. Recall some of the specific things you did to cope.
  • Take action. Commit yourself to a reasonable course of action to deal with the stressor. Action is a powerful stress-reducer. Research shows the body lowers its production of epinephrine, a powerful stress hormone, when a person shifts into action.
  • Take time out to relax. At least once or twice a day, take time to decompress by relaxing — perhaps by listening to soothing music, taking a walk, gardening, reading, or exercising.

The StayWell Company, LLC ©2020

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