Butterflies for Christmas
March 10, 2020: It started as a Christmas gift.
Susan Shaw, Northern Virginia's megaprojects director for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), received a kit on how to raise monarch butterflies, a vital pollinator species that has steadily declined in recent years.
Shaw planted the first milkweed seed in early spring and a few months later found the first butterfly egg.
“I followed a YouTube series by Mr. Lund Science on how to create a habitat and raise the larva (caterpillars) into adult butterflies,” she said.
By the end of fall she had raised and released more than 47 butterflies.
Susan documented the process with photos, highlighting each stage of the monarch life cycle.
She tagged and registered dozens on Monarchwatch.org, to track their migration to Mexico.
And as more eggs hatched, Susan recruited a few helping hands from nearby public schools.
“I gave 27 eggs to a second-grade class at Poplar Tree Elementary School and six eggs to Oakton High School,” she said.
Each school reported successful releases.
Pollinator preservation has bled into Susan's work as well. As part of the Interstate 66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway, the project team is working with local preservation groups to identify ideal locations for pollinator habitats, such as interchanges and commuter lots.
The Northern Virginia District already has several stretches of corridors preserved for natural habitats along areas such as routes 7 and 15 in Loudoun County.
Learn more about monarchs and how you can help at VDOT’s pollinator habitat program page.
Helping Families at Ronald McDonald House
Feb 13, 2020: Through coordinated volunteer efforts, Virginia Department of Transportation employees in the Salem District have helped families traveling for their children’s medical care feel more at home.
Many Salem District employees have adopted the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Charities of Southwest Virginia as their favorite charity of choice.
Between six teams, VDOT employees provide one to two meals a month. Each team is assigned a day to purchase, prepare and serve meals for up to 40 individuals.
Over the course of a year, these teams will have fed approximately 1,200 people and donated more than 800 hours of their time.
These efforts were acknowledged with a 2019 VDOT Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
"I got involved with Ronald McDonald House because my grandson had an extended stay in the Wake Forest Medical Center when he was born eight years ago," explained Salem Residency Engineer Ray Varney, who leads one of the VDOT teams.
"My wife and daughter stayed at the RMH there for nearly two weeks. They could wash their clothes, eat, sleep and tend to their daily needs without the added pressure of paying for lodging, meals, transportation and other services."
RMH also has a special place in Carol Linkenhoker’s heart. "Ten years ago, my niece, Dorothy, was born 10 weeks early and had to spend a month in the NICU. RMH served as home base for my brother and sister-in-law, providing a comfortable place for them and extended family throughout Dorothy’s stay in the hospital."
Both children are now thriving. Their families remember the kindness bestowed upon are happy to be able to provide the same kindness to others in similar situations.
Walking for the Kids
Jan. 29, 2020: The Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) Northern Virginia District made a difference one step at a time (literally!) for the recent Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC).
One of the district's most successful events was its first-ever Walk4Kids Health drive, during which more than 90 VDOT staff members, other state employees and consultants pounded the pavement with laps around the district complex during their lunch hour.
Collectively, they walked 222 miles and raised $7,000, setting a new record in the district for the most money raised in a single event.
The proceeds will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The event was one of many that helped the district exceed its $25,000 CVC goal.
A final tally shows the district raised more than $32,000 in combined direct donations, e-pledges and event contributions.
The district sends a special thanks to the Planning and Investment Management group for organizing the Walk4Kids Health drive. Everyone who helped, participated and donated made the CVC season a huge success.