Christmas Mother Tradition Continues to Grow

In 1942, a dedicated teacher asked her students to bring in canned goods to donate to those in need in the community. Over 70 years later, her small act of kindness has evolved into one of Henrico County’s largest charitable traditions- The Henrico Christmas Mother. Now, the Christmas Mother council hosts and attends fundraising events throughout the year with various sponsor organizations. In December, once all the items and funds are collected, they are taken to the warehouse where the magic begins. Volunteers spend two days setting up the warehouse in sections with a plethora of new books on display, a variety of clothing items, toys galore and truck loads of nonperishable food! Once distribution begins, a volunteer will “shop” with an approved applicant so he/she can pick out items for his/her loved ones. Every child under 18 years old gets a sweat suit (This year donated by Haynes), 2 pairs of socks, new books, 2 toys, a coloring book, and stocking stuffers. After “shopping” the family member is given nonperishable food items, based on their family size, and a gift card to purchase perishables. Once they are finished, members of our very own Henrico Division of Fire and Department of Public Works load the family’s car. Rebecca Slough, one of this year’s Christmas Mother Co-chairs, remembers how heart warming it was to see the gratefulness of those in need as they saw the generosity of others and selected their entire Christmas for their family who would otherwise have nothing; some even breaking down in tears. 

This tradition wouldn’t be as successful if it wasn’t for the volunteers; including the many Henrico County Government and School employees that organize collection drives, coordinate fundraising events, and help at the warehouse. Every year, we continue to grow in our efforts. Last year, during the campaign there were 15 events hosted by various departments. This year, we have expanded to 25 events! Of course many of the fan favorites came back; like the MH/DS Candy Cane Grams, DPU’s Chip & Chan Chili Challenge, Finance’s Chili and Barbecue, Building Inspection’s Baked Potato Bar, Community Correction’s Hot Dog Day and the many Bake Sales with MH/DS, Finance, Jail East, and the Permit Center. There were also some new, exciting events: 

Juvenile Detention hosted their First Annual Fish Fry which completely sold out! They had perfect weather to enjoy fresh fried fish under canopies with homemade desserts by the staff. 

Jean Moore in the Planning Department issued a challenge to Joe Emerson, Planning Director. If she and her department could raise $1,000, he would complete a surprise task. They raised the money itwo days! She says, “It was awesome, but the success really goes to the enthusiasm and support of my coworkers and especially the agency directors and a couple very generous pledges.” The task is currently a surprise, but be on the lookout at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on December 10. 

Rec & Parks brought back their breakfast fundraiser that they had last done 6 years ago. Then, it was with just their division, when they were all in the same building. Now, with it open to all employees, they managed to get 30 pre-orders and had an even better turnout. The ladies were at Belmont at 5 am to start on their menu of quiches and French toast. Mary Stanley said many of their employee work on their feet all day so the loved the chance to give back and take care of them. Elaine Olay was absolutely touched when the Park Services guys came in the kitchen with a stack of dishes and silverware and asked to wash them to give the ladies a break. 

IT switched it up this year and instead of doing a bake sale, they went with a Halloween BooBBQ fundraiser that was open to the County. Within an hour they were sold out of pork BBQ. Warren Bowman had smoked meat for the IT Department for additional purchase and some members of IT donated their personal share of BBQ back to the event to sell! 

Human Resources did an Elf Surveillance fundraiser within their various offices. Employees donated to be on the watch team that gets to find “Glitter” the elf. She would hide each day in a different office until she was found.  

Can’t forget the Community Revitalization BBQ Pitmaster’s challenge, the County Manager’s Office dunking booth and the Jail West’s Pie the Chief. All the events this year were very successful and a huge thank you goes to all who participated! As Tanya Harding, one of this year’s Christmas Mother Co-chairs, noted, “every year I am completely blown away with how much our County and our employees do each year.  Every year it is like the campaign and the events get bigger and better.” 

There are still a few events left if you want to participate. December 2 will be the last drop off date for items and then distribution (“Shopping”) starts on December 5. For the funds raised, there will be a mock check presentation at the December 10 Board of Supervisor’s meeting. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Joe Emerson and his holiday spirit! 


For more photos of all of the events, please visit the Christmas Mother page on SharePoint. 

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Healthy for Life! How to Live Your Healthiest Life – Adding positive habits and breaking bad habits, part two

+ Eat Vegetables and Fruits (4 or more servings of vegetables and 3 or more of fruits) and Avoid Added Sugars 

Fresh vegetables and fruits are the foundations of a healthy diet and successful weight loss. Most processed foods, sweets and non-diet sodas contain a lot of calories in just a small portion. Vegetables and fruits are the opposite – they have lots of bulk (fiber) and few calories. You can eat a lot, consume fewer calories and feel full at the end of your meal. The American Heart Association recommends eating 4 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit every day.  

Your first reaction to seeing how many servings of vegetables and fruit you should eat might have been, “I can’t do that!” Hold on – you may be confusing servings with portions. A portion is the amount of food YOU put on your plate; which may contain many servings. One of the reasons many Americans today are overweight or obese is that portion sizes have increased; especially in restaurants. We’ve become accustomed to eating large amounts of food at our meals – far more than we actually need. To lose weight, and keep it off, you need to learn how to estimate servings so you can control portions.  


This month, the challenge is to eat more servings of vegetables and fruits. And you may find that focusing on eating more veggies and fruits (a very positive, health improvement habit) will distract you from having to say NO to highly processed, high-calorie junk food. Use the following tips to plan how you can increase your chances of increasing your daily vegetable and fruit intake.  

  • Be selective. Eat only those vegetables and fruits that you like, but don’t be afraid to explore different types and varieties. You may be surprised. 
  • Make them #1. Vegetables should take up the largest portion of your lunch and dinner plates, with fruits trailing close behind. East these foods first, rather than reserving them for the end of the meal.  
  • Consider them a priority. When planning meals, think of dishes that contain vegetables and fruits as the centerpiece and build the rest of your meal around them. 
  • Mix it up. Try both raw and cooked vegetables. Lightly cook, steam or roast vegetables for a softer texture.  
  • Grab-and-Go. When you’re in a hurry, have ready-to-eat vegetables and fruits on hand. Buy fresh vegetables and fruits that require little preparation, such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, bananas, apples and grapes.  
  • Think toppings. Add bananas, strawberries or other fruit to cereal or yogurt. 
  • Explore. Visit local farmers markets. The freshness and variety may encourage you to try new kinds of produce. 
  • Innovate. Find ways to incorporate vegetables with other foods or in existing recipes. Add them to soups, casseroles, pizzas and sandwiches. 

Stay on track with your vegetable and fruit intake each day to avoid added sugars found in processed foods. Added refined sugars contains extra (unwanted) calories, has no nutritional value, and negative health effects such as tooth decay and an increase in blood sugar (glucose) associated with diabetes. If you want something sweet use the natural sweetness of fruit. Instead of sugar on your cereal add banana, blueberries or strawberries. Blend fresh (or frozen) fruit with frozen yogurt and ice for a refreshing and naturally sweet treat and for dessert, prepare baked apples or grilled pineapple.  


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A New Intranet is Coming! Part 2

New Intranet

In any given week, almost 3,000 employees view nearly 12,000 different pages on our intranet. Known as Virtual (http://virtual.henrico), it plays a large part in many employees day-to-day work. It is an access point to so many tools and a great way for the County to privately share employee-specific information.  

Virtual, in its present form, is still relevant but a bit outdated; having been in use for 20 years. The Department of Information Technology (IT) decided it was time to investigate new possibilities and also knew replacing something with such a legacy was not going to be an easy feat.  IT began by surveying employees on what they would like to see in a new intranet. Ideas of more dynamic content, searchability, and calendars were the most common answer. IT took this feedback, their web analytics, and research into modern intranets to design and build something new; from the ground up. Their solution was to transition to SharePoint- a tool IT is very excited about. SharePoint is already being used by many County agencies and  IT sees many more potential uses for in the County.  

This is the largest SharePoint project yet and is led by IT Systems Developer II, Morgan Edwards. He is now well known for his vast Office 365 knowledge and some of his earlier work at the County was the development and maintenance of Virtual. His long-time understanding of how the County does business, how people like to interact with similar tools, and his history with the intranet, have allowed IT to develop something impressive; something that honors what people enjoyed about the old intranet, as well as provide so many new things moving forward.   

What is being developed is a modern intranet- a collection of sites that users can move in and out of depending on their various tasks throughout the day. IT didn’t just take the old site and make it prettier, they reorganized it for a better user experience and accessibility. Similar to the approach taken on https://henrico.govseveral years ago, services will have a bigger approach than pure department-centered organization. Users will be able to interact with County services from various departments for both their job responsibilities and as a participant. In addition, from nearly anywhere on the site, users can reach other popular pages; like the phone directory or employee resources.  Users will also be able to access this new site from their computer or mobile devices and still have all content instantly searchable across not just the County intranet, but all permitted SharePoint sites; a one-stop shop.  

 Other changes include a new sites for Café 1611 to show you their menu (one of the more popular current sites) and the new employee resources section with services, forms, policies, and more of what is useful to County employees; a calendar tracking events going on around the County, upcoming holidays, Board Meetings, and paydays; and new internal-service organization sites dedicated to sharing more information with employees.  


IT plans to launch the new Intranet (SharePoint) before the end of the year and will be redirecting the URL for ‘virtual’ to SharePoint. Not to worry, Virtual will not be going away just yet, but will be available using a new link. The old Virtual site will be phased out over time, and communication about it will be available on the new intranet.  


Please keep in mind that even after implementation, this will be an ongoing project.  As IT sees how the site is being used, they will begin adapting to the needs of the organization. Employees can use the Feedback form to let IT know their likes, concerns and needs of the new intranet. IT has already received and implemented a lot feedback-based updates since previewing this project a month ago.  


If you are interested in leveraging tools like SharePoint and other Office products, IT is ready to help. Check out the new site request form if you are ready to take that step!  


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