These unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic have forced innovative adaptations in how Chesterfield County continues to keep resources and services available for our citizens, businesses and employees. Those adaptations have taken multiple forms, from teleworking to completely new processes, and many employees are being redeployed in other areas to keep essential functions operating.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be gathering stories to highlight our employees’ innovative contributions and the many services that are still available to our citizens. We are all adjusting to this "new norm" in which we find ourselves, but, rest assured, Chesterfield is still open for business and serving citizens.
- Mental Health Support Services
- Parks and Recreation: Virtual Recreation Programs
- Juvenile Detention Home: Greenhouse
- Telephone Reassurance Program
- Chesterfield County Farmers Market
- Circuit Court Clerk
- CCPL: Blood Drive
- Master Gardeners
- Registrar's Office
- CCPL: Makerspace
- Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Learning and Performance Center
- Building Inspection
Mental Health Support Services
Even in the best of times, Chesterfield’s Department of Mental Health Support Services (MHSS) has the important, yet difficult, task of providing an array of health services to our community. Under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, MHSS was faced with having to provide critical care to residents without risking the spread of the coronavirus.
MHSS knew that putting their vital services on hold was not an option. So, they adapted.
Although the MHSS building is currently closed to the public, the medical services team continued to distribute psychiatric medications and provide outdoor, drive-by injections by appointments.
In addition, MHSS nurses continue to conduct Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) drug testing and screening. By following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MHSS is cleaning and sanitizing their offices after assisting customers, and chairs in their waiting area have been spaced out to meet best practices for social distancing.
According to Kelly Fried, executive director of MHSS, innovating to meet residents’ needs has been a team effort.
“These are just a few examples of the many unique and creative ways staff are continuing to provide services offered by MHSS,” said Fried. “Unprecedented times call for unprecedented ways of delivering services, and MHSS staff have been incredible in ensuring our citizens are continuing to receive the critical services they need.”
For more information about the important work being done by MHSS, visit their department webpage.
In addition, listen to an interview between Fried and WRWK 93.9 FM about staying mentally healthy during COVID-19 pandemic.
Clockwise, from left: Nie’cole Debates, psychiatric RN, providing a long-acting injection; Monique Hayes, OBOT RN, handing a cup for a urine drug screen; Rose Rodgers, medication assistant, handing out medications from Westwood pharmacy.
Parks and Recreation: Virtual Recreation Programs
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many public buildings and facilities to close to the public. For Chesterfield’s Department of Parks and Recreation, these closures have meant thinking creatively about how to continue offering residents educational, entertaining programming.
Quickly, Parks and Recreation developed a YouTube playlist of virtual recreational programs, created the Virtual Recreation Program webpage and began uploading content to the department’s Facebook page.
Interested in staying active while social distancing? Parks and Recreation’s new webpage and YouTube playlist have several at-home workout videos, including chair aerobics, functional fitness, karate and more.
And just as the department itself has had to rethink the way it serves Chesterfield residents, some Parks and Recreation employees have taken on new roles and shown off new skills. Tory Rogers, for example, is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist who normally plans and facilitates inclusive programming for individuals with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, though Tory is using her videography skills to create and edit videos for the virtual programming webpage.
According to Dr. James Worsley, director of Parks and Recreation, the department’s virtual shift has proven to be a success.
“Although our recreation centers, nature center and satellite locations are closed, the department has adapted to the new environment,” said Worsley. “The recreation staff have done an excellent job repositioning services to a virtual format while maintaining quality programs for the community.”
While they look forward to once again welcoming back visitors when it is safe to do so, the Department of Parks and Recreation will continue developing informational content for residents to enjoy from home. To explore all that Parks and Recreation has to offer, view their department website.
Parks and Recreation virtual recreation programs cover a wide variety of topics: top right, Kecia Allen demonstrates chair aerobics; bottom right, Tory Rogers edits recreation videos.
Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Home Greenhouse
The Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Home (CJDH) is a secure facility for holding court-involved youth until their next court hearing, until they have received a judge’s final ruling or as a judge’s final sentence.
However, it is also a place of growth and learning.
“This facility serves some of the most vulnerable and traumatized youth in this county,” said CJDH Director Marilyn Brown. “We also recognize that the youth we serve have harmed this community by their actions. Our role is to hold them accountable by engaging them in meaningful educational and evidence-based treatment services that foster emotional awareness and regulation and a higher moral reasoning as well as counseling and support services for their families.”
During their stay at the facility, residents participate in treatment services, learn important life and businesses skills and are afforded the opportunity to care for plants at the facility’s greenhouse.
According to Brown, the greenhouse is a metaphor for the youths’ change journey.
“They plant the seeds, take care of the plants on a daily basis, have patience and watch them transform into flowering plants,” said Brown. “Even when they can’t see it, the plants are changing and growing. We want them to leave here and be positive contributors to their communities.”
Leading the greenhouse program is Renita Davis-Kelley, the CJDH’s Economics and Personal Finance teacher. Davis-Kelley has been an educator for 25 years – 18 with the CJDH – and has received the Teacher of the Year Award three times.
According to Brown, Davis-Kelley is the greenhouse program, and she has persevered in her work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even when all of the teachers went home in March with the Governor’s school closure announcement, Ms. Davis-Kelley has come every day to tend to the plants with the kids,” said Brown.
In past years, Davis-Kelley organized yearly plant sales, during which the kids talked to community members and customers about the plants, tallied up orders and helped carry customers’ purchases to their cars. Proceeds were invested right back into the CJDH’s educational programs. Due to the threat of COVID-19 this year, however, Davis-Kelley decided this spring’s plants should be donated to those in need.
So, in addition to sharing the plants with judges and clerks of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, Davis-Kelley, Brown, Post-D Program Case Manager Shaliana McFarland and CJDH Youth Counselor Detric Branch delivered plants to isolated seniors and volunteers who take part in the Telephone Reassurance Program, operated by the Department of Citizen Information and Resources’ Office of Aging and Disability Services.
The success of the greenhouse program at the CJDH is the result the hard work of many, including McFarland, Branch and youth counselors Jason Downing, Adam Guilbeaux and Vicki Robinson. With Renita Davis-Kelley leading the way, it should continue to serve as an invaluable tool for the CJDH for years to come.
CJDH Greenhouse delivers plants to seniors - clockwise from top left: Renita Davis-Kelley and Detric Branch; Shaliana McFarland and Davis-Kelley; Davis-Kelley.
Aging and Disability Services: Telephone Reassurance Program
To limit the spread of COVID-19, people across the country—including in Chesterfield County—began self-quarantining and adopting social distancing practices. While difficult for all, the increased isolation has put even more pressure on some of the county’s most vulnerable adults, including seniors and those with disabilities.
However, volunteers with Chesterfield County’s Telephone Reassurance Program are here to help. Run by the Office of Aging and Disability Services, a part of the Department of Citizen Information and Resources, the program is designed to promote the security of at-risk older adults and adults with disabilities while reducing isolation, victimization and health concerns. Volunteers are specially trained and each must pass an interview and background check.
When wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 became clear, the Office of Aging and Disability Services knew the Telephone Reassurance Program had to expand.
“When we first heard about the COVID-19 pandemic in our area, we thought about our older adults,” said Vestine Patrick, the administrative secretary overseeing the program. “We knew expanding the program, calling our older adults seven days a week instead of four, was the answer.”
Patrick continued, “This program meets the needs of our older adults and those with disabilities one conversation at a time. I am privileged to lead it."
If you know of any Chesterfield County adults who would benefit from a friendly phone call, please contact Aging and Disability Services at 804-768-7878 or by email at AgingServices@chesterfield.gov.
Vestine Patrick on a Telephone Reassurance Program phone call
Chesterfield County Farmers Market
Many businesses – especially small, local businesses – have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, shoppers have a renewed opportunity to support local vendors by shopping at the Chesterfield County Farmers Market, now adapted to meet the county’s public health needs.
The farmers market is open Wednesdays through August 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Chesterfield County’s government complex, near 6701 Mimms Loop, Chesterfield, VA 23832.
This year, the market has implemented stringent social distancing rules to protect shoppers and vendors.
Following recommendations from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as the Virginia Farmers Market Association, the market’s new rules include asking shoppers not to enter the market if they are sick, recommending facemasks be worn at all times and requesting visitors limit themselves to one shopper per household, if possible. A full list of new rules is available on the Chesterfield County Farmers Market webpage.
In addition, shoppers are now able to pre-order and pre-pay for items online.
According to Lynne Wingfield, employee wellness coordinator with both the county’s government and school divisions, public health remains the number one priority of the market’s management team.
“Using all of the available resources, we created market rules that have been shared through social media, the farmers market website and by on-site market volunteers,” said Wingfield. “The market management team will make updates to our rules and structure as social distancing guidelines are updated.”
Wingfield began the farmers market in 2012 as a partnership with Chesterfield Cooperative Extension Director Mike Likins as a mid-week resource for fresh, local produce and other products.
“Virginia farmers markets are an important resource for communities to provide access to local, fresh produce, food, horticultural goods and hygiene products,” said Wingfield. “Markets also support small local businesses with opportunities to sell their products in community settings. This opportunity allows residents to enjoy our beautiful county complex and purchase high-quality products.”
Chesterfield County Circuit Court Clerk: Virtual Probate Appointments
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many government buildings to close their doors to the public and alter the ways they serve customers, Chesterfield’s courts responded by innovating to meet the needs of the moment.
Chesterfield Circuit Court Clerk Wendy Hughes implemented a new, virtual probate process that allows citizens to go through probate while observing social distancing guidelines.
The Circuit Court’s first trial run in April was a success. Said Hughes, “While the preparation process is more cumbersome for staff, the appointment itself went extremely well. The customer was happy that we were able to accommodate his needs without requiring him to leave his home, and we were happy to assist.”
However, virtual probate may not be appropriate in all situations and customers still have an option to schedule in-person appointments which are now handled at customer windows protected by a glass partition to allow for social distancing. Hughes said customers who opt for virtual appointments must have the ability to print and scan documents at their residence and must be able to send documents to the court immediately after their appointment.
Despite the limitations of remote probate, the virtual process has been a success.
“Handling appointments virtually is not ideal, but it’s a great option to have when individuals may not pass COVID-19 screenings or otherwise may be unable to travel to the courthouse,” said Hughes.
And while the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office will consider continuing the use of virtual appointments in the future, Hughes said she is most impressed by the dedication of the entire courts team.
“While I have always known we have a strong courts team in Chesterfield, these past weeks have revealed a depth of strength never before needed,” said Hughes. “Leadership, staff members and stakeholders from all three courts have pulled together in a monumental teamwork effort. We appreciate the patience of our county residents as we continue to balance public service and safety along with the safety and well-being of our team members and their families.”
For more information on the response of Chesterfield’s courts to COVID-19, please visit the county’s Courts’ Response to COVID-19 Coronavirus webpage.
Leslie Morris, chief deputy clerk, leads a virtual probate appointment while Liz Martus, deputy clerk - Probate Division, observes
Chesterfield County Public Library: Blood Drive
The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage. In March, the organization published a national plea for donations and Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) answered the call by holding a blood drive on Tuesday, April 7 at Central Library.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, however, strict safety protocols were observed. According to the Red Cross, several measures have been implemented to keep staff and donors safe, including:
- Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy
- Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process
- Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors, and
- Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment
Employees helped prevent the spread of infection, the Red Cross states, by:
- Wearing gloves and changing gloves with each donor
- Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas
- Using sterile collection sets for every donation, and
- Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub
According to Jen Shepley, CCPL community services manager, the Red Cross informed CCPL that their drive registered 53 donors and collected 56 total units of blood, surpassing the drive’s 44 unit goal. In total, the donated blood has the potential to positively impact 168 lives.
Yet, CCPL isn’t done. Another Red Cross blood donation drive will be held at Central Library on June 4, 2020. To register, visit the Red Cross website.
Jesse Dodd, Clover Hill Library’s customer service supervisor, donates blood
Cooperative Extension: Master Gardeners Virtual Help Desk
With residents throughout the county practicing social distancing and staying at home, gardening provides a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged and connect with nature. To assist gardening beginners and experts alike, the Chesterfield Master Gardener Help Desk has gone virtual.
Master gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices though sustainable landscape management education and training. This team of over 150 volunteers can view and respond to gardening and landscaping questions submitted by citizens, such as plant identification, vegetable gardening support, and compost, fertilizer and pesticide safety.
“As I have been responding to questions from residents, everyone has been so grateful to know that we’re still available to help,” said Melissa Simulcik, a volunteer coordinator with Cooperative Extension.
The Master Gardener Help Desk is available from March to October. With the success of the virtual help desk, Simulcik says Cooperative Extension hopes to maintain it as an option into the future.
“We’ve received questions from people just starting a vegetable garden, or planning to devote some time to larger lawn and landscape projects, and they are relieved to know that despite everything, they can still turn to Cooperative Extension for reliable information.”
For more information about the virtual Master Gardener Help Desk, visit: https://www.chesterfield.gov/429/Cooperative-Extension.
Registrar’s Office: Absentee Ballot Requests
On April 13, Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 56 pushed back the primary elections from June 9 to June 23, giving elections officials statewide an opportunity to better prepare to protect themselves, voters and poll workers.
In Chesterfield, the Registrar’s Office is balancing a business-as-usual approach to the upcoming election with the health precautions necessitated by COVID-19. Though the Registrar’s Office is currently closed to the public, the entire staff is working in-office while observing social distancing guidelines: maintaining a six-foot distance when possible, wearing masks and holding meetings virtually.
The biggest change Registrar Constance Hargrove has seen in the lead up to this election, though, is the number of absentee ballot requests. According to Hargrove, typically one employee could handle the processing of absentee applications for a primary election. Now, it is taking four employees to keep up with the demand.
As of April 28, 77% of absentee applications processed by the Registrar’s Office cited code 2A, disability or illness, which is encouraged by the Department of Elections for voters wishing to vote absentee because of the risk of COVID-19.
“My team is adapting every day from the way we open mail to the way we prepare supplies for the polling places,” said Hargrove. “We are spending more time helping voters navigate the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal now that more people are requesting ballots online.”
Helping residents navigate the Department of Elections’ voter registration process is central to the work of the Registrar’s Office, and staff are always willing to help answer questions. Citizens seeking more information about exercising their voting rights should visit PromoteTheVoteCfield.org or call 804-748-1471.
Absentee voting for the June 23 primary election begins on Friday, May 8, 2020. Absentee applications may be submitted online at www.elections.virginia.gov, or voters may call the Registrar’s Office to have an application mailed to them.
Due to COVID-19, the Registrar’s Office encourages Chesterfield voters to vote via mail-in absentee ballots.
“Voting is a fundamental right of all citizens,” said Hargrove. “Understanding that elected officials determine how crises are handled brings home the importance of elections. Election officials wish that every registered voter would turn out on Election Day because they know how important good governance is to the community.”
Despite the pandemic, the Registrar’s Office and poll workers will continue to assist the community in exercising their right to vote. Hargrove said, “Please, exercise your right to vote by absentee ballot or in person on June 23, 2020 and in all elections thereafter.”
Registrar’s Office employees Jessica Davis (left) and Tangela Kersey (right) process absentee ballot requests
Chesterfield County Public Library Makerspace
Recently, a Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) customer approached Bon Air Library staff with a unique request. This customer, a nurse at a Richmond-area intensive care unit, asked for help printing parts for mask shields using the library’s 3D printer.
As the nation faces a shortage of personal protective equipment, CCPL staff were happy to help out.
Bon Air Library’s 3D printer uses plastic filament that print or form solid objects. The filament is a polylactic acid, or PLA, which is made from renewable resources such as corn starch. Customers have used the 3D printers to create toys, artwork, jewelry, parts for building robots, components for prosthetic hands and more.
The mask’s transparent face piece is disposable and the entire unit is assembled with rubber bands that can be disposed at the end of every shift.
The customer has picked up several units already and will pick up more as soon as they are printed. Library staff are hopeful that these masks will help save lives in our community and protect our health care professionals working on the front lines of this pandemic.
Though all CCPL locations are currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, curbside services are still available. And, when our libraries are able to safely open their doors to the public, be sure to check out CCPL Makerspace for a chance to create something of your own with a 3D printer.
Lonnie Elliott, Bon Air Library Assistant Branch Manager, wearing a 3D-printed mask piece
Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center (DSVRC)
According to Lindsay Cassada, coordinator of the Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center (DSVRC), times like these can cause extraordinary stress on interpersonal relationships, increasing incidences of intimate partner violence. However, social distancing guidelines posed an obstacle to connecting community members in need with the resources they need. Cassada and her team had to think creatively.
“As the need for social distancing became evident, the DSVRC quickly adapted its clinical provision of services from an in-person experience to a digital experience,” said Cassada. “This allowed clients to remain engaged in individual counseling and support groups with little-to-no disruption. New clients are now able to complete intake appointments by video or telephone, whichever the client prefers. The DSVRC’s clinical services will continue to be offered by video and telephone until it is safe to meet in person.”
Cassada says that, once the threat of COVID-19 fades, the DSVRC will be able to utilize these same tools to enhance assistance to those with mobility difficulties, such as individual handicaps and/or transportation difficulties.
The DSVRC encourages people living or working in Chesterfield County who are experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence to contact the Chesterfield DSVRC for free individual therapeutic counseling, support groups, protective order assistance, information and education and referrals to appropriate resources.
Senior Clinician Kim Mauck is available Monday through Friday to provide free, confidential counseling by video or telephone, whichever platform is most comfortable for clients. Additionally, virtual support groups are offered several times a week. Interested parties can contact Kim by telephone at 804-873-7887 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lindsay Cassada and Kim Mauck (October 2019 Photo)
Learning and Performance Center: Cindy Taylor (Employee Highlight)
Having been with Chesterfield County for over 25 years, Cindy Taylor is an excellent performance consultant with our Learning and Performance Center (LPC). In her usual role, Taylor performs a variety of services: teaching vital soft skills to employees, helping employees earn certifications and chart their career development, facilitating strategic planning sessions and so much more.
Now, Taylor has been re-deployed to Citizen Information and Resources (CIR), where she is temporarily working with the Office of Aging and Disability Services. In part, she’s been working to connect local senior living facilities with county resources like the Telephone Reassurance Program.
Taylor has educated many county employees on the nuances of customer service. “Now,” says Taylor, “I get to practice what I preach. I’m also learning more and more about all the incredible things our employees do on the front line and what challenges they face. This will make me even better at training county employees.”
Cindy Taylor - Then (LPC) and Now (CIR)
Despite most county buildings being closed to the public and the county working with reduced operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chesterfield is still open for business! Ryan Homes dropped off plans and permit applications for 11 new homes and, of course, adhered to the social distancing guidelines. This may be the new norm for a little while, but work is getting done and projects are moving along. Great job, Building Inspection!