Monday, January 17, 2022

Work with Children, Teens Leads to Award for JCC Parks and Rec Employee

James City County Parks and Recreation 2014 Employee of the Year Phyllis Hurr poses with Parks and Recreation Director John Carnifax. (Photo courtesy James City County)
James City County Parks and Recreation 2014 Employee of the Year Phyllis Hurr poses with Parks and Recreation Director John Carnifax. (Photo courtesy James City County)

Phyllis Hurr joined an elite club earlier this month with only one other member: her husband.

She was named James City County Parks and Recreation 2014 employee of the year two years after her husband received the award for 2012, making them the first husband-and-wife couple to have both received the honor.

“Working together with him is actually great, and we’re able to bounce ideas off each other,” said Hurr, who is the teen program coordinator for the department. “I think it’s wonderful.”

Hurr was nominated for the award by her supervisor. She supervises five before-and-after-school summer camp sites, two year-round volunteer programs for teens and several leadership development classes and camps.

“Phyllis does an outstanding job for us,” said John Carnifax, the county’s director of parks and recreation. “She’s one of those employees who goes above and beyond, works extra hours, always puts her heart and soul in it, excellent team player. She is always striving for excellence in everything she does.”

Carnifax praised her for consistently stepping up to new challenges. He said she took it upon herself to create a newsletter for children and parents involved in the before-and-after-school and summer camp programs she manages, and she also helped market the county’s ice skating rink following its move to Mid County Park late last year.

“She’s one of those people who always helps others,” he said, noting her positive attitude and personality.

For Hurr, the work connects her to children and teens who are navigating the peaks and pitfalls of youth.

“I love to see the young learn,” she said. “From one year to another, they grow and develop so quickly. You can really make a difference in youth and teens, and I enjoy being a part of that.”

Hurr is one of two supervisors of the REC Connect program. That program operates nearly year round, with before-and-after-school sessions during the school year and a camp that runs almost all summer.

During the school year, the program runs from 7 a.m. until when school begins, and then from dismissal until 6 p.m. Elementary and middle school students who participate get time for homework along with arts and crafts, activities at the gym and the chance to learn about various clubs in the school and the community. In the past, the county’s police department has also sent officers to interact with the students.

In the summer months, the program runs all day Monday through Friday with a slate of activities to keep the kids engaged.

They get to have exercise time and arts and crafts like during the school year, but they also get to participate in a summer reading program with the Williamsburg Regional Library, outdoor experiences courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and a slew of field trips to destinations like a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game, the Richmond Ice Zone, a bowling alley and Great Wolf Lodge’s water park.

The programs are currently held at all nine elementary schools in the county along with Hornsby Middle School. Hurr oversees five of the programs, interacting with the on-site supervisors at each to ensure the program is running smoothly. She makes sure the supervisors have appropriate training for medical situations and the administration of medication and that all files are up to date.

Her current job is the result of years of work in the REC Connect program.

After graduating from Eastern Mennonite University with a degree in psychology, she worked for about a year in New Jersey in the field of cognitive therapy before moving back to Virginia to be closer to family.

She began work in James City County in 2006 as a part-time assistant supervisor at Norge Elementary School’s REC Connect program. She eventually became a part-time supervisor at Toano Middle School’s REC Conenct program before becoming a full-time supervisor of the program at Stonehouse Elementary School.

In 2011, she was hired to her current position as the teen program coordinator.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said of her career with James City County. “It’s not what I thought I would be doing in college, but I really do love my job and working for the county.”

She praised her coworkers as instrumental in her success at her job

“The people I work with played a part in what I have accomplished,” she said. “The programs that we do, the people we work with, it couldn’t be done without everyone we have.”

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