The Henrico Christmas Mother: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

If you have worked for or lived in Henrico County for a while, especially around the holiday season, you may have heard of the Henrico Christmas Mother. It has become an annual tradition for the County, but do you know what it truly is or means?

It means just as their slogan says: “Neighbors Helping Neighbors .” What started in the 1940s as a schoolteacher asking her students to bring in canned goods and items to help their less fortunate peers and neighbors has expanded into a mission supported by hundreds of volunteers yearly. Today, the mission is to provide assistance in the form of food, new clothing, books, and toys to qualifying families, seniors, and disabled adults during the holiday season.

Throughout the year, the Henrico Christmas Mother Volunteer Council campaigns to raise funds and donations for participants and then, in the summer, chooses a Christmas Mother to represent them through the holiday season. In 2023, the honor went to Helen Wood, a retired Henrico County Public School teacher and lifelong County resident.

The naming of the Christmas Mother kicks off the campaign time for many County employees. Like Rebecca Slough, Co-Coordinator for the Henrico Christmas Mother, said, “For 80+ years, the Christmas Mother campaign is all about “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” I love that our employees embrace that motto and find new ways each year to collect donations and the monies they raise.” Employees had a lot of fun coming up with fundraising ideas, baking, burger flipping, organizing, stocking groceries, and “shopping” with neighbors. In the first few weeks of December, once all the collections have been tallied, the Christmas Mother warehouse is transformed into a store of sorts for participants to “shop” for Christmas gifts for themselves or loved ones. “This is absolutely AWESOME! To volunteer in the Warehouse last week and seen everyone efforts I cried. This is amazing!” exclaimed Monica Barnette, Coordinator for Public Works.

Once again, the County Manager asked department coordinators to make this the best year yet, and county employees did not disappoint! This year, more items were collected in almost all categories as compared to last year, including over six times the number of bikes and helmets. Here are the totals of the items collected this year as to previous years:










New Books
















Miscellaneous items









So what does the Christmas Mother mean? It means that through the open hearts and generosity of our employees, 1,261 families, 2,800 children/teens, and 744 seniors/disabled residents were able to have a little brighter holiday.

Check out the pictures below to see employees enjoying the Christmas Mother spirit!



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Achieve Your Resolutions with the Power of Habits!

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year? How about setting some healthy goals for yourself? In his book, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” Daniel Pink shares that the beginning of the year is a great time to make changes because it gives us a psychological push, inspiring us to take action, set goals, and make positive changes in our lives. 

So, what’s the best way to get these resolutions and goals to stick? 

We usually rely on willpower, and it turns out that willpower is actually a very small source of energy for us – and it quickly runs out. Research shows that if we use our willpower for one thing during the day, like staying calm during a stressful meeting, we don’t have much left to make the healthy choices we promised ourselves we’d make.  

So where do we find that energy? The answer is: we develop new habits! Habits involve creating consistent behaviors that become automatic for us. Rather than relying on sheer willpower, habits tap into the power of repetition and routine, rewiring our brains so we perform those positive actions effortlessly. We are, in fact, actually drawn to doing them rather than needing to push ourselves using willpower.

The video How to Create and Maintain Healthy Habits on the Department of Human Resources’ YouTube channel has much more on how to make the power of habits work for you so you can finally achieve those goals you’ve been promising yourself you’d meet!

If you want to focus on creating attainable goals, checkout HR’s two-part video about Goal Setting.

Regardless of the approach you take, we hope you find these resources helpful and wish you a successful new year!

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Five Ways to Protect Pets This Winter

Editor’s Note: This article can be found through the Anthem Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) online resources. To see what other articles they offer, please visit

In many areas, winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness. Make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm by following these simple guidelines.

Keep pets sheltered.

Keep your pets inside with you and your family. Under no circumstances should pet cats be left outdoors, even if they roam outside during other seasons. Dogs are happiest when taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time. Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops.

If your dog is outdoors much of the day for any reason, they must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to move comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Bundle up. Wipe down.

No matter what the temperature is, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps. For this reason, short-haired dogs often feel more comfortable wearing a sweater—even during short walks.

Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth.

Remove common poisons.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up any antifreeze spills immediately and keep it, like all household chemicals, out of reach. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, wildlife and family.

Dogs are at particular risk of salt poisoning in winter due to the rock salt used in many areas—often when licking it from their paws after a walk. Store de-icing salt in a safe place and wipe your dog’s paws, even after short walks. If your dog ingests rock salt, call a veterinarian immediately.

Protect outdoor animals.

Cars are one of many hazards to small animals—warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

You can also help make your property safes for deer in the wintertime by waiting until after the first week of December to string lights, and after then, only on trees over six inches in diameter. Before the first snow, you should also store summer recreational materials, like hammocks and swings.

Horse Care

Be sure your horses have access to a barn or a three-sided run-in so they can escape the wind and cold. While not all horses will need to be blanketed, blankets will help horses keep warm and dry, especially if there is any rain or snow. If you’ve body-clipped your horses, keep them blanketed throughout the winter.

Give your horses access to unfrozen water at all times. You can use heated buckets or water heaters/de-icers to make sure the water doesn’t freeze. Also, be sure to feed your horses more forage—unlimited amounts, if possible—during extreme cold. This will help your horses create heat and regulate their body temperatures.

Speak out.

If you encounter a pet left in the cold, politely let the owner know you’re concerned. Some people genuinely don’t know the risk that cold weather poses to their pets or livestock and will be quick to correct any problems you address. If someone you raise these concerns with responds poorly or continues to neglect their animals, follow the Humane Society’s steps on reporting wintertime neglect:

Source: Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). From 5 ways to protect pets this winter. Retrieved January 30, 2019, from

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Empower Your Financial Goals

Great news! Financial planning from Empower is available NOW!

Take the next step toward financial independence!

We’re excited to announce that comprehensive financial planning is now available as part of your employee benefits below the industry average cost1 through your plan provider, Empower. Everyone’s financial situation and goals are different, but no matter where you’re at an Empower financial planning professional can meet with you to work toward the financial future you want.

The process starts with a no-obligation initial consultation where they get to know your unique situation and goals. If you enroll in the service, your Empower financial planner will look at the topics most important to you with your full financial picture in mind, and then develop a straightforward plan with clear next steps.

Empower financial planning professionals can help with topics including:

  • Identifying and prioritizing your financial goals.
  • Retirement savings and income recommendations.
  • Organizing your finances.
  • Insurance and estate planning.
  • Saving for education.
  • Debt management.

Schedule your no-obligation initial consultation now.

Learn more about everything financial planning can do for you.

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