2021 NACo Achievement Awards

by Christy Nealey, Marketing and Technology Specialist, Department of Human Resources

Since 1985, Henrico County has won 718 National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Awards. These awards are given to counties throughout the country to recognize innovative county government initiatives in 18 different service categories. It was recently announced that this year Henrico County earned 38 honors; the most we have won in a single year since 1999. “The NACo Achievement Awards reflect the commitment to excellence and outstanding customer service that employees of Henrico County and Henrico County Public Schools demonstrate to our community every day,” County Manager John Vithoulkas said. “But the sheer number of awards this year is particularly gratifying, because it highlights many of the innovative and creative programs and services that were developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the needs of our community were greatest, our employees took on every challenge.”

Not only does 38 awards mean we received the most of any county in Virginia for the sixteenth consecutive year, but we also tied to rank sixth nationally for the highest number of awards this year. What is more impressive is that these awards are the work of seven general government departments and Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS). Of the five awards won by the Division of Fire, many included increased communication and collaboration with other departments to proportionally appropriate personnel and resources. Henrico County Libraries won four awards including their Journaling Workshop Partnership with Henrico Prevention Services’ Connect department to help build literacy skills for Henrico youth. HCPS won an amazing 23 awards for programs that allowed them to enroll students virtually, prepare students and their families for online learning, and digitally provide tools to successfully educate throughout the year. The HCPS Office of Equity, Diversity and Opportunity also had multiple programs to start specific conversations and address the issues of social unrest, equity and inclusivity in schools.

Henrico County is committed to partnering with our community to provide the best service possible to our citizens.  Programs like those recognized by these NACo awards are a key part of The Henrico Way.  It is only because of the efforts of our employees – all of you – that these programs happen.  Thank you for all you do!


Please see below for a complete list of winning programs and departments:

Henrico Police Division

Critical Incident Response/Peer Support Team

HPD developed a program designed to supplement existing mental health programs at the peer level for Division personnel. The Division formalized the Critical Incident Response/Peer Support Team (CIR/PST) which provides resources, information, education, and support to Division members involved in critical incidents.


Henrico Area Mental Health and Developmental Services

REVIVE: Sustaining a Life Saving Program during the Pandemic

In 2020, Henrico experienced a 58% increase in heroin and opioid overdoses. HAMHDS leveraged partnerships and technology to develop a strategy to continue providing REVIVE trainings during the pandemic to widen distribution and access to Naloxone.


Henrico County Economic Development Authority

EDA Webinar Series

When the pandemic hit, EDA immediately contacted nearly 2,000 county businesses to showcase Henrico to potential businesses. Each webinar included topics such as reopening, promoting site selection and business leaders, and potential business owners.


Human Resources Department

Supporting Employees’ Development Remotely during Challenging Times

Disruptive and sudden change, like the sweeping transformations caused by COVID-19, can – and did – result in a sense of shock, fear, and anxiety. HR’s Organizational Learning and Talent Development launched a YouTube channel with videos designed to help employees through the pandemic’s stressors while training them in core areas.


Henrico Division of Fire

Alternative Response Units

The Alternative Response Unit model was created to quickly respond to low-risk COVID-19 patients and minimize the use of advanced life support ambulances in order to keep them available for life-threatening emergencies.


Communications Fire Officer Program

This program utilizes Paramedic Fire Officers to ask in-depth questions to citizens and thus make more informed decisions. This program allowed the Division to scale resources when appropriate and directly aided in maintaining a healthy workforce while minimizing PPE usage.


Communications RN Model

In an innovative format, the Division deployed an exciting new model of triaging patient acuity by utilizing Henrico County Public School nurses in conjunction with Paramedic Fire Officers to match risk with response while meeting the needs of the community and balancing risk to firefighters.


Long Term Care Facilities

This program created a multi-agency-focused response to the rapid development of COVID-19 within the nearly 75 Long Term Care facilities in Henrico, to develop a strategic plan, assessments, resources, and training for personnel. 

Survive your 25!

Survive your 25 is an innovative visual approach to spreading awareness about one of the biggest threats to firefighters: cancer. Survive your 25 presents the specific risks, data, and ways to mitigate the risks.


Henrico County Public Libraries

Title Talk

Staff at HCPL developed a series of open-ended book discussion groups called Title Talk, in which library book discussion leaders and attendees could share recommended titles, critique recent reads, and pursue their reading interests in a virtual group conversation. 


Tween Services at Fairfield Library

HCPL took a holistic approach to implement Tween Services at the Fairfield Area Library by hosting Tween programming, creating interactive displays, and providing on-site reference services. The transitional time between childhood and teenage years can be challenging, and these inclusive innovations increased engagement for library users ages nine to 12.


Outreach Call Center

The Outreach Call Center was designed to provide scheduled outreach phone calls to older residents to reduce social isolation and connect them with services during the pandemic.  Library staff with existing customer-service expertise were reassigned to provide dozens of older adults over 1,300 friendly phone calls. 


Journaling Workshop Partnership

HCPL’s Outreach team partnered with Henrico Prevention Services’ Connect department virtual summer camp program to provide journaling workshops aimed at building literacy skills for youth living in subsidized housing communities. 


Division of Recreation and Parks

Soulful Sunday: Celebrating African American Heritage

This program was designed and implemented with the desire to share the triumphs and tragedies of African American life and celebrate the authentic traditions of the Black community through art, music, food, religion, education, and the convictions of hope, determination, and courage.


Aquatic Center Partnership

Henrico County entered into a public/private partnership with the YMCA of Greater Richmond to provide residents in the county access to swim lessons, water fitness classes, and recreational swimming use. The Frank J. Thornton YMCA Aquatic Center is a milestone in Henrico’s effort to make the county drown-proof while partnering with HCPS students for swim lessons and high school swim teams.


Henrico County Public Schools

Bank Partnership Leads Charge in Student Career Prep

HCPS Career and Technical Education programs focus on preparing students for future success in post-secondary education and work. In efforts to support students, HCPS partnered with Bank of America to conduct virtual workshops on resume-building and interview techniques.


CTE Career Rodeo

HCPS endeavors to prepare students to be successful, contributing citizens. The CTE Career Rodeo program helped students showcase their skills, interact, and interview for potential employers. The partnership of the Department of Workforce and Career Development designed a program in which employers could observe the CTE students in action.

CTE Helps Solve the PPE Shortage

Henrico County medical facilities had a challenge providing personal protective equipment early in the pandemic. The Career and Technical Education teachers were able to collaborate on a design, prototype, and then manufacture over 650 face shields to help offset local supply constraints of PPE.


Graphics Program Leads Effort to Reopen Government and Schools

HCPS graphic communications program used print industry-standard equipment to help the school division and county government create the necessary signage for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. This included considerations for everything from social distancing practices to awareness of proper hygiene protocols.


Live on Location: Exploring Careers During a Pandemic

Middle and high school students interested in exploring different careers had the opportunity to speak virtually with professionals in various fields through “Live on Location” events streamed from a place of business or field location.


Nursing Students Act Locally to Combat Global Pandemic

St. Mary’s Hospital and HCPS have cosponsored a school of practical nursing, which prepares nurses to provide safe, effective and culturally competent nursing care. Henrico County-St. Mary’s Hospital School of Practical Nursing collaborated with Bon Secours Mercy Health System in the rollout and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers at Bon Secours Mercy Health Systems in Richmond and surrounding areas.


Racing to Graduate: Graduation Victory Lap

As the 2020 school year approached its end, a traditional graduation was not possible. HCPS leaders partnered with Richmond Raceway to create a one-of-a-kind in-person graduation experience that involved taking a victory lap around the complex in their decorated vehicles.


Student-Built Classroom: If You Build it, They Will Come

The Television Production class at Douglas S. Freeman High School struggled to find classroom space during the class time frame. Two HCPS high school centers collaborated to create a solution and reconfigure an existing room to address overcrowding.


Students Help Preserve 125-Year-Old County Artifact

The restoration of the Corey fire hydrant was a way to preserve a small part of Henrico County’s history. The work was led by a county employee willing to donate his time and talents, along with students enrolled in the STEM precision machining program at the Advanced Career Education Center at Hermitage High School.


Symposium Puts Students at Heart of Fashion Industry

The Fashion Symposium was a collaboration between HCPS marketing education and family and consumer sciences programs to expose high school students to the fashion industry, which included photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, modeling professionals and professionals from the design world.


Watershed Challenge

The Watershed challenge was a way to get students outdoors to explore the environment, think critically, discover issues, and research, find and implement solutions. Students were unable to participate in in-person investigations and this virtual option took positive action toward improving the watershed and pivoting and engaging students in environmental stewardship. 



Culture of Dignity and Responsive Action Plan

The Department of Equity, Diversity and Opportunity developed this plan to address issues of social unrest that affected the well-being and needs of staff. The plan includes affinity groups (collectives), book study and discussions, and an “Ensuring Equity” series of online learning courses in alignment with the Culturally Responsive Education Model (CREM) framework.


Equity Ambassadors

The HCPS Office of Equity, Diversity and Opportunity designed a divisionwide program for high school students that amplifies student voices by engaging and educating them on issues of equity and inclusivity. This year the program focused on empowering students to build bridges toward belonging, inclusion and respect for those within their schools and the greater community.


Language Navigators

This program was created to provide much-needed access to vital school information for Henrico’s immigrant communities. Students divided into 24 groups according to language and collaborated to create and post videos explaining announcements and important details families need to support their children’s education.


Progress Through Community Conversations

The HCPS Family and Community Engagement Department introduced the first of five planned “Community Conversations”. These series were created in response to a need to provide spaces for Black voices in Henrico County and to discuss ongoing and needed progress to ensure safety and equity for all students, staff and families.


Modified Circulation System Gets Books Into Students’ Hands

Research confirms the importance of reading and literacy with preferred physical books. For safe collection handling practices for circulating library materials, HCPS Library Services created a new circulation model to distribute books and other library materials through remote checkout and drive-through pickup.


HCPS University

This platform was designed to meet the ongoing and individualized professional learning needs of staff throughout the school division. In an effort to support both on-demand and collaborative learning opportunities, HCPS U provides a myriad of synchronous and asynchronous robust and high-quality training workshops led by teacher and school division leaders.


Parallel Hybrid Instruction

Parallel hybrid learning occurs when a teacher simultaneously instructs some students in person and some remotely. To do this successfully, HCPS Department of Professional Learning and Leadership established a working committee to address three programmatic goals (website, pilot program testing, and synchronous and asynchronous training sessions).


Edflix Virtual Learning Experience

“Henrico Edflix” inspired by the popular Netflix platform, was a means to provide teachers, students, families, and community members on-demand access to virtual learning opportunities such as “choice boards,” authentic assessments, teacher video segments, technical support, and family engagement sessions.


Help Chats for Virtual Learning

Sept. 8, 2020 may have been the most crucial first day of school in the history of HCPS. To strengthen their resolve, “Virtual Learning Help Chats” was created to support families with every aspect of technology from logging in; learning; prerecorded videos; step-by-step instructions; and live question-and-answer sessions.


Creating Courses to Support Online Learning

“My Schoology Classroom” professional learning series was created to ensure that all students, families, teachers, and administrators had the knowledge and skills to be virtually successful for the 2020-21 school year. This widespread access enabled its use for successful teaching and learning.


Virtual Classroom

The Virtual Classroom project focused on the process to evaluate and implement a videoconferencing tool that enabled HCPS to support a seamless transition of teaching and learning from a physical in-person classroom to a virtual platform in a safe and secure environment.


Creating a School Online Enrollment System

HCPS created an online enrollment system to enroll students safely and effectively at a time when in-person enrollment was not an option. As of mid-January 2021, HCPS had collected and processed approximately 2,550 enrollments and 1,800 re-enrollments.