Reaching Your Stakeholders with Avid Core’s 4L Process

Conflicting viewpoints, access to information, and institutional barriers can make it hard to connect. 

At Avid Core, we turn to our 4L Process to help us bridge those gaps early in the process and create successful projects. 

So, what are our 4Ls?

Listen

We talk to people. We listen intently to their interests, wishes, and needs. Instead of bringing technical questions to the table, we ask accessible questions and then distill what those answers mean for the project and for our clients.

Learn

We learn about existing communications and processes. We review what has been done and identify gaps and opportunities.

Leverage

We leverage what we have heard and learned into an actionable strategy. We ensure systems, processes, and messages are put in place to reach those most impacted by a project.  

Love

We love what we do and bring fun and enthusiasm to our projects. Our passion builds buy-in and keeps stakeholders engaged.  

While every project is different and we tailor our exact approach to meet our clients’ specific needs, our 4L process provides a strategic and effective framework that we can use to reach your stakeholders and advance your projects.

Interested in exploring how Avid Core’s 4L Process could support your work? Let’s chat.

Avid Fans of: Giving Tuesday

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. Each month we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you.

In 2012, a group of individuals worked together to find a way to give back and show appreciation for organizations and groups that make a lasting impression around the world. The trend became #GivingTuesday, now an annual tradition – a day for people to do good. At Avid Core, we wanted to share in the spirit of Giving Tuesday and showcase some of the organizations and causes our team members support. 

Amanda – Boys & Girls Club of America

There are so many organizations that are doing great things, it’s hard to pick just one. This year, I am drawn to Boys & Girls Club of America. In addition of having the honorable mission of supporting children in underserved communities, my brother-in-law, Chris Roberts, was a long-time educator with the organization. Chris recently passed away from COVID-19 but spent many hours supporting children and sharing his love for learning through the organization.  

Boys & Girls Club logo featuring two blue hands holding each other over black words

Angel – Oceana

As someone who spent eight years living in Miami and two years in Puerto Rico, it comes as no surprise that the beach and the ocean are my favorite places in the world. With the sun on your back, sand in between your toes, the salty air, and a freshly cut open coconut filled to the brim with coconut water, there is no place I would rather be!  I couldn’t imagine key parts of my childhood without thinking about the beach and the ocean, which is why we have to preserve and conserve it.  Founded in 2001, Oceana strives to conserve the ocean and protect ocean wildlife. Through strategic directed campaigns to educate and persuade users on how to save the ocean, coral reefs, and wildlife. Oceans cover 71 percent of the planet, let’s try to preserve as much of it as we can.

Large grey and white whale thrusting out of the blue ocean
Photo Courtesy of Oceana

Ashley – Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop

A few years ago, I discovered Free Minds in DC, a nonprofit that uses books and creative writing to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths and adults. I try to volunteer each month at Free Minds “Write Night,” where we respond to poetry written by incarcerated folx. It’s always a beautiful reminder of the power of words and the healing in writing. I am a huge supporter of their mission and methods and am excited to have the opportunity to highlight them this Giving Tuesday. Free Minds is currently raising money to be able to expand their Peer Support Program, which will provide intensive social-emotional wellness training after reentry. I encourage everyone to learn more about the impact these connections have on recidivism and successful reentry into the community and to support Free Minds through a donation of dollars, books, or time.

Four books--two teal, one yellow, and one black--with pages flying over the Free Mind's logo

Sarah – Moseka Action Project

This year I’m looking to highlight Moseka Action Project and its partners. My sister help start the former and the mission is to aid women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who’ve had children because of rape (as an act of war). The women and children are rejected from society. The organization educates the women and their children — especially daughters, who the culture says aren’t worth sending to school — creating a brighter future for both. They also provide a loving community and professional emotional and psychological support.

A group of Black children with Black women holding them pose for a picture.
Photo Courtesy of Moseka Action Project

Steph – The Comité Tricolore

As the daughter of French immigrants, I understand the importance of acts of kindness and remaining culturally connected to your roots. The Comité Tricolore is a non-profit that my father co-founded more than 20 years ago to support families in need and cultivate French-American relationships. During the pandemic, The CT worked with local restauranteurs to serve warm meals to the amazing medical community.  I am honored that they’ve decided to carry on my father’s legacy by establishing the Victor Obadia Humanitarian Award and allowed me to serve on the award committee. The first award ceremony was a tremendous success and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Tremayne – Native American Fatherhood and Families Association

The Native American Fatherhood and Families Association (NAFFA) is a non-profit that focuses on providing culturally relevant family support services and therapy to Indigenous families. They provide social services with cultural perspective to support Indigenous families and communities who suffer from social disparities including high rates of abuse, suicide, and trauma. As a new father, I look to their services to learn and improve my role and impact within my family, while incorporating my culture and language.

The NAFFA logo with a blue, red, and green circle with the silhouette of a man and woman swinging a child.

Trevor – The TREVOR Project

Growing up in Appalachia has equipped me with a unique understanding of the world around me. One of the hardest situations I faced growing up with Appalachian inheritance was my own sexuality. Being different led me to feel isolated and growing up gay in a community that is often misinformed of anything perceived as different — whether this is sexuality, health, or ideals — has compelled me to find ways to give back to those in similar situations. The TREVOR Project is focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. In the United States, the toll-free number to call is 1-866-488-7386 and someone is always there to talk about one of the hardest moments in a lot of young individual’s lives—coming to terms and living with their sexuality.

Avid Core Featured in ‘Women in Leadership’ Issue of Global Fluency Magazine

Global Fluency Magazine is a product of Westbridge Solutions. Each issue explores topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Subscribe today.

To me, being a leader means being willing to be a lifelong learner. I learn from the amazing women leaders in my life and from those I am lucky enough to lead myself.

I was honored to be asked by Berthine Crèvecoeur West, the founder and editor of Global Fluency Magazine, to share this perspective in the magazine’s “Women in Leadership” issue.

For my piece, I interviewed Virginia Quiambao Arroyo, one of Avid Core’s founders, Shanda Ivory, my mentor and first female boss, and Hana Chabinsky, my mentee and former intern, about what we learned from each other and what leadership means to them.

Here’s a quick snippet from my conversation with Virginia:

Virginia: “I have learned so much from you [Ashley] in such a short amount of time! I think the most impactful for me is that I have to challenge myself more…It has been amazing to watch and motivated me to network more to step out of my comfort zone, which is essential to continued growth.”

Ashley: “You [Virginia] always put your values into action. You’ve shown me how powerful it can be when people can trust you to practice what you preach, and you’ve built a whole business, Avid Core, on this incredible reputation.”

Read more from my interviews with Virginia, Shanda, and Hana in the “Women in Leadership” issue of Global Fluency Magazine.

Around the Table with Patrick Frank

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Patrick Frank

Company: Patchbay Media

Where to Find You: LinkedIn, Twitter

How did you become a videographer?

I started making videos in high school with a Sony Mini-DV camcorder. I would film little movies with my friends and siblings, and I LOVED editing with iMovie. One time, I missed an entire week of physics class because I was editing my submission to the school’s foreign film festival.

I went to college to study music production, but my projects always seemed to involve video. I did sound and music for student films and had a job as a campus reporter for an editorial startup focused on university news and sports.

My first job out of college was doing podcast production for NPR. But I was watching YouTube’s massive growth in the late aughts and realized that the best opportunities for me were with video. I took the first boring job that was offered to me at the height of the recession — filming events for a think tank on K Street.

I started Patchbay Media in 2013 when my freelance workload was enough to leave my day job.

You recently wrote a book, Zoom Out: The Video-First Playbook for Becoming More Efficient, More Productive, and Making Remote Work for You. What inspired you to pick up the pen instead of a camera?

Without being able to film in-person, my business changed significantly in 2020. I was excited by all these new tools and opportunities to create video content in different ways that didn’t require professional cameras and crews.

I also realized that while we’re all sick of Zoom, it’s not Zoom’s fault! I wanted to learn how entrepreneurs, speakers, educators, and others were using video in interesting ways that support remote teams and flexible schedules. I also wanted to share my experience embracing remote video production and give readers and idea of how to create a video-first mindset in their businesses. There are so many ways to deliver a thoughtful, personable experience with video that isn’t just another Zoom call.

What were your biggest takeaways after writing your book?

One of the biggest takeaways was learning how to write a book. Authors don’t pull up a Google doc and write “Chapter 1” and start writing, that’s not how it works.

I took a book writing class affiliated with Georgetown University. For the first few weeks of the class, the assignment was to just go find interesting stories and write 300-500 words about them. After a few months, I had 30 or so of these stories and, with the help of an editor, was able to pair them together to create chapters.

I’ve historically been a terrible reader. I don’t think I finished a single book in 2020! But after working on my own book, I find books much more approachable because I understand how they’re constructed. I also bought a Kindle which has been a gamechanger. I’ve read around 20 books this year which is a record for me by a longshot.

You’re now taking what you learned and have launched a new consulting service. Tell me about what that offers.

Our consulting services are focused on helping companies identify opportunities and incorporate video into everything they do: sales and marketing, training and onboarding, and more.

For instance, we’re working with a company that is now adding video into their proposals and sales presentations. Some of these videos are evergreen and reusable edits about products and solutions, but some are specific to that client and that proposal. They’ve gotten a great response and have closed more deals because their proposals are way better than their competitors.

We also train speakers on new video-first platforms like Prezi Video. We’ll even convert PowerPoint slides to use with Prezi.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

“Stop trading your time for money.”

Over the past year or two, I’ve stopped doing most of the actual video-making and have teams in place for the projects that we get hired for. It’s not a perfect system, but I feel good about the progress I’ve made to bring on skilled team members to handle the execution. This frees up my time to pursue new opportunities and partnerships. Ideally, my company should be able to run without me and that’s the goal I’m currently pursuing.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I love playing the drums with my bands, going to rock shows, and hanging with my 4- and 6-year-old sons.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share?

One of my favorite foods in the world is Xiao Long Bao aka soup dumplings. Not sure how well they would travel if I was bringing them to a party at your house, but I always love introducing people to this delicacy!

Honoring Our Veterans Beyond November 11

In support of our Veterans, Avid Core is donating to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which offers compassionate care to all those grieving a military loss. We encourage you to join us to see where you can help—financially or otherwise—and to seek help when you need it.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing “Thank you for your service” posts flooding our social media accounts on November 11 each year. You’ll most likely scroll through hundreds of American flag images without reading the captions honoring our military members on Veterans Day. Media outlets will cover the ceremonies and parades taking place in local communities. But what happens on November 12?

Attention tends to turn away from our heroes after Veterans Day. Social media posts transition from red, white, and blue to shades of red, yellow, and orange as people prepare for Thanksgiving and other holidays. But the harsh reality is that our Veteran community requires consistent support to be able to succeed.

After working with and for Veterans for the past decade, I realized that there are so many simple yet impactful ways to support our military members, their spouses, and families. Recently, our Avid Core team explored inclusive hiring best practices and discovered new methods to reach military talent for job opportunities.

I was inspired by Tim Best, CEO of RecruitMilitary, to think of new ways to be a part of the solution. In Search & Employ magazine, he encourages us to “go the extra mile” and open communication lines. As a business owner and an Army Veteran himself, Best understands the importance of recognizing Veterans. The RecruitMilitary platform has served as a resource for more than 1,000,000 registered job seekers interested in connecting with organizations across a variety of fields.

Photo by Stephanie Mace

While all of us may not be in a position to hire a Veteran, there are numerous ways to contribute your time to make a difference beyond November 11. A few ideas I’ve gathered from my personal experiences:

  • Distribute cards, gift cards, or artwork to a Veteran
  • Donate used goods to Veterans organization, such as Purple Heart Service Foundation
  • Volunteer at your local Veteran cemetery to lay wreaths, maintain the grounds, and clean tombstones
  • Spend time by listening to someone share stories about their military experience
  • Post a message of gratitude whenever a friend on social media posts a memory from their time serving in the military
  • Send toiletries, your leftover Halloween candy, or care packages to your local Veterans hospital
  • Go out of your way to say, “Thank you for your service,” when you cross paths with a person proudly wearing Veteran apparel
  • Support Veteran-owned businesses by becoming a patron and/or partner

We expect this list to continue to evolve as we gather more ideas directly from our Veterans and military families. You are welcome to submit additional recommendations and we will update this list throughout the year!

Avid Core Wins 2021 Platinum MarCom Award

The MarCom Awards announced Avid Core as a 2021 Platinum winner, the highest honor in the international creative competition for marketing and communication professionals.

We were recognized for the Community Engagement Strategy we created for PlanRVA, a regional convener and planning agency for the nine localities in the Richmond Region.

We are so honored to have received this prestigious award. People are at the heart of our work and this recognition would not have been possible without the incredible collaborative partnership we have built with the team at PlanRVA and the many members of the Richmond community that gave their time and energy to us during the process.

The 2021 competition received more than 6,000 entries from the U.S., Canada, and 39 other countries. Our strategy is the very first Platinum winner in the Community Engagement Program category.

Our approach for this work was rooted in feedback from a diverse group of stakeholders, including Tribal Nations, community groups, and minority-owned businesses. Using the information gathered, we created a comprehensive strategy that provides PlanRVA with a strong framework for the future.

We appreciate all the support we received in this endeavor, and we look forward to continuing to see the strategy’s impact in the Richmond Region in the months and years ahead.

Learn more about our award-winning work with PlanRVA.

Avid Fans of: Memorable Costumes

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. Each month we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you. 

With autumn comes the red and orange leaves, pumpkin flavored items, sweaters and scarves, and the spooky season. There are so many scary movies, Halloween candies, and pop-up costume stores to choose from. This month we wanted to share our team’s most memorable costumes. Read on, if you dare!  

Angel – SpongeBob  

As a child, I was obsessed with the anime TV show Sailor Moon. I was destined to be Sailor Mars for Halloween while my older sister strived to be Sailor Jupiter. What two young girls didn’t want to be crime-fighting female superheroes with control over the elements? So, we begged and begged our dad to buy us Sailor Scout costumes to which he happily agreed. Trick or Treat time came around and we went to our dad’s house to put on our costumes. My dad pulls out our costumes and my face of pure excitement quickly changed to one of despair and confusion. My dad pulls out two large SpongeBob SquarePants costumes. Due to the language barrier, my dad did not understand exactly what we wanted to be and honestly thought we wanted to be SpongeBob and Squidward for Halloween. My sister was so upset the Squidward costume fit her well!  

A cartoon of a yellow sea sponge with large blue eyes, known as SpongeBob SquarePants, sits alone at a dinner table.
Photo Courtesy of Nickelodeon  

Ashley – Netherworld Waiting Room 

never pass up an opportunity to get into character and I’ve had many memorable costumes through the years. But I really stepped it up for Halloween 2020 because I needed to find a way to distract myself from the pandemic. A friend of mine decided to throw a backyard movie night on Halloween, setting up the projector to watch Beetlejuice, and I knew I needed to make sure my outfit went with the film.  

I went as the magician’s assistant who was sawed in half. I threw myself into crafting, trying to figure out how to create a “couch” that would hold the fake legs without being too heavy. I spent a whole night watching scary movies and shoving stuffing into blue pantyhose. While they didn’t go the crafting route, my husband and dog also joined in in the waiting room theme, going as the diver who died in a shark attack and a member of the football team that died in a bus crash. Beetlejuice is a seasonal favorite of mine and our Netherworld Waiting Room costumes will always stand out in my mind.  

On the left, a man dressed in swimwear with shark costume attached to his leg holds a small white dog wearing a football jersey in his arms. On the right, a woman in a red and blue dress features a black board around her waist to represent a couch with false legs glued on top. They stand in front of decorations made to look like scenes from Beetlejuice the movie.
Photo Courtesy of Ashley Dobson 

Trevor – The Dreaded Skunk  

In my family, tradition is everything. From what we eat on Thanksgiving to the clothes we wear during a New Year’s celebration, the traditions have become endless. While most of these traditions are fun and exciting to remember, there is one tradition that all children in my family dread and shudder to remember. Instead of a classic pirate, ninja, or butterfly costume during our first memorable Halloween, the selected child would have to wear something stinky. Our black and white skunk costume became a tradition almost 50 years ago to showcase the newest addition to our family’s trick-or-treating party. Now this memory seems funny, but in the moment, I could not help but dread walking from house to house in such a worn down and smelly (no pun intended) costume that unfortunately became a beloved tradition.  

A small, black and white, furry animal, commonly known as a skunk, stands in front of green foliage.
Picture Courtesy of National Geographic Kids 

Amanda – Squirrel Girl  

In 2018, theme bars were all the rage. Someone created a mediocre pop-up bar with a Marvel theme, and I chose to go dressed as Squirrel Girl. I first learned of Squirrel Girl through the LEGO Marvel Superheroes game. She has the amazing ability to summon squirrels to do her bidding, and, as she is one of the more powerful characters in the game, I knew I wanted to be her for this outing. While the bar was somewhat of a bust, I had a blast with my friends and ended up using the costume a bunch of other times. Whenever I wear it, I get stopped for pictures by those who know Squirrel Girl is the best Marvel superhero. 

Woman dressed in an orange wig with gray and black headband featuring animal ears, and a brown, furry vest stands in front of a wall covered in Marvel comic book covers.
Photo Courtesy of Damond Williams 

Virginia – Edward Scissorhands  

I have to admit that I’m not very festive in general. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve donned a costume for Halloween as an adult, or for any occasion for that matter! So, I really have to dig deep and channel the creativity around me to ensure my kids aren’t deprived of Halloween or the appropriate season’s holiday fun! Thankfully my friends are much more creative than me and the one costume that goes down in Halloween history (even six years later) is my dear friend’s daughter, Frankie Simone as Edward Scissorhands! Her mom is one of my favorite people on this planet and it’s no surprise that her magic manifests through her mini-me!  

Young child in all-black attire with metal-studded belts across the entire body, black lipstick, and plastic mini blades representing scissors on her hands.
Photo Courtesy of Ree Obana  

Tremayne – Little Pumpkin 

Halloween is right around the corner, and that means it’s time for adorable baby costumes. My daughter’s first Halloween last year was a difficult one because of the endless costume choices. I spent a lot of my time searching for that right outfit. Although I don’t think I found the perfect costume, I think any tiny human dressed up as a Disney character or furry animal is adorable. We ended up choosing a pumpkin costume for the added insulation on a cold night of trick-or-treating, and I think it was the cheeks that made the outfit. 

Infant dressed in a round orange costume with 2 black circles, one triangle, and a broken smile on the abdomen. The infant wears a green collar with an orange and green hat.
Photo Courtesy of Tremayne Nez  

Stephanie – Superheroes 

Since my husband Bevan and I met at a Halloween party many years ago, it was inevitable that our kids would love themed costumes for the whole family. My daughter Isabelle was going through a Girl Power Superhero phase which meant she (also known as Super Girl) assigned costumes to each family member. Bevan was Captain America and carried Batgirl Sophie around for her first Halloween. I had the privilege of dressing as Wonder Woman, which meant I got to hold the golden leash for TJ the Wonderdog. 

From left to right, man dressed in a blue, white, and red long sleeve t-shirt with stars and stripes, little girl in a pink and white dress with silver “S” inside a diamond shape on her chest, woman dressed in red long sleeve shirt with golden cuffs holds a small child in a pink tutu and black long-sleeved hoodie with a bat symbol on her chest. The group of people is surrounded by pumpkins
Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Mace 

Knowing Your Audience like Regina George

While we can take some lessons from the characters of Mean Girls, Avid Core is firmly anti-bullying and is donating to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month. We encourage you to join us to see where you can help—financially or otherwise—and to seek help when you need it.

Sunday is Mean Girls Day, otherwise known as October 3.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

This iconic teen movie has always been a favorite of mine, and I was thrilled to discover that one of its main characters has relevance to my work.

When I’m developing key messages, I like to think of Regina George and the way she tailors her messaging for each person she is trying to reach. She begins by really understanding her audience.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Consider the first time she met Lindsay Lohan’s character, Cady Heron. After inviting her to sit down, her first question is, “Why don’t I know you?” She has such handle on the various audiences at school that her first task is to identify and categorize anyone new. 

You also see it in the way Regina interacts with all of the different cliques and adults in the film – her sickly sweet and vulnerable messaging to the principal, the compliments on the skirt of a classmate, and the phone call she makes to break up a couple she doesn’t like.

In every instance, she changes her word choice, her tone, and her body language to ensure her goals are achieved.

At Avid Core, treating everyone with respect is one of our core values, so we don’t agree with Regina’s end goals or bullying tactics, but we can learn from the way she seeks out what will resonate with her audience.

We start with research. Try to answer:

  • What is the demographic of my audience?
  • How do they like to receive information? How often do they want to receive information?
  • What does the audience already know about my subject matter? What information gaps exist? Is there misinformation to overcome?
  • Does my message need to be detailed and technical or presented in plain language?
  • Are there cultural sensitivities to account for?
  • What are the needs of my audience? What are their interests and concerns?

It’s impossible to create effective messaging without knowing your audience. Even if the overall message is the same for different audiences, you often must shape it in different ways for it to land with the various groups. Armed with information, you can make the decisions you need to tailor each line.

In Mean Girls, Regina George is positioned as a bully, but she’s not a bully who attacks by force. She uses audience identification and targeted messaging to achieve her goals.

Let’s take this messaging lesson and apply it to our own work and better causes.  

Interested in tailoring your message and learning what works for your audience? Avid Core offers personalized trainings on message development and delivery. Contact Amanda Roberts to learn more.

Avid Fans of: Fall Traditions

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. Each month we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you.

Depending on where you are in the world, fall is a time for cold weather, the lingering smell of pumpkin spice, and the warm embraces of friends and family. During the fall, there are countless traditions — both widely known and individually created — to foster the beauty and relaxation of fall. Whether this time of year brings out memories of an old family vacation, the changing colors of leaves, or just the colors orange and yellow, these traditions make the time of year special. Let us share with you some of our team’s favorite fall traditions and the experiences that have stood out in our lives during the autumn months. 

Trevor – Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum 

You would think something with a name so terrifying and mysterious as an insane asylum would be the farthest thing from a favorite fall tradition, but for me, going to the annual haunted house and seeing the illuminated asylum in the background is exactly my cup of tea…or should I say apple cider? Every year, a group of friends and I travel down the interstate to Weston, West Virginia in search of an adrenaline rush like no other. Once inside the doors of the Asylum’s haunted house, we have a blast screaming and running through the dimly lit hallways and spending much-needed time together. The Asylum itself has a rich history in West Virginia and is nestled right in the middle of a small town that is often overlooked. However, the tradition only continues once out of the haunted house as we always stop for dinner at a local restaurant before heading home. 

Photo Courtesy of Trevor Swiger 

Angel – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 

Although a fairly new one, my fall tradition is a form of self-care for me! I like to spend this time alone reflecting on myself and my family and kick off Hispanic Heritage Month which is September 15th. For a nightcap, I would go home, do a face mask and watch Disney Pixar’s Coco on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month! I usually order (or cook if I have time) one of my favorite Dominican, Puerto. Rican, or Latin dishes and desserts and end a long busy day with a great movie and great food!  

Photo Courtesy of Disney

Stephanie – Apple Picking

When the air is just crisp, my family piles into the car in our favorite flannel and we drive deep into the Maryland orchards to pick apples. It sounds so basic, but it is fun for all ages. At the risk of sounding like Bubba from Forrest Gump, there’s so much you can do with fresh-picked apples: eat them as a healthy snack at soccer games, dip them in honey, make pies, throw them in the Instapot to make apple cobbler topped with ice cream, great gifts for teachers and essential workers, bake apple bread, spread peanut butter on them for a healthy treat, add to salads needing a bright crunch or cut them into slices for hikes. The possibilities seem endless.

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Mace

Ashley – Pumpkins at Nall’s Produce

The first thing that signals fall to me is the pumpkins at Nall’s Produce, a grocery store near my home that is celebrating 60 years in the community. Every year they create a pumpkin wall for photos and design Pumpkin Hill, a place to play and marvel over the many different types of pumpkins and gourds. I kick off my fall season by capturing a picture at the photo wall with family and/or friends and by buying some apple cider and at least one pumpkin spice treat!

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Dobson

Amanda- Markoff’s Haunted Forest

Markoff’s Haunted Forest is a seriously scary event. You walk through a dimly lit forest trail with three of four other people and explore different scenes—a graveyard full of zombies, a pitch-black maze with monsters, a demented circus, among others. It culminates in being chased away from the forest by people with chainsaws. It has a great production value, and they are experts at catching you off guard even if you’ve been in past years. One year, I was running away from some dark creature towards a tree, and then the tree moved and also started chasing me! Over the years, it’s become more popular, which means more crowds, but also more scary things. It’s always a good time, and it benefits a good cause; the proceeds from the haunted trail go to Calleva, a nonprofit that provides youth outdoor educational programming.

Photo Courtesy of Markoff’s Haunted Forest

Tremayne – Decorating a Fall Tree

There are so many reasons to enjoy the fall season. The weather finally cools down, the scenery changes color, and it is the start of the holiday season. My family and I have always been excited to put up the Christmas tree and wrap gifts to place under it. We couldn’t wait one year, and it was still only October, so we decided to put up a “fall” tree that started a new family tradition. I think it turned out perfectly because it matches the colors outside and makes the house a little cozier.

Photo Courtesy of Tremayne Nez

Virginia – Birthdays!

Birthday celebrations keep our fall weekends busy! My nephew kicks off the fall birthday celebrations this week followed by our oldest son (Nico), our three-nager (Selena), my dad, my husband, my brother, my mom, and close family friends! Fall also always reminds me of transitions and fills me with the nostalgia for a more “care-free” time living in New York City in my early twenties. I moved to NY in the fall of 2005 and the brisk weather brings back fond memories of the wonder, excitement, nervousness, and newness of moving to and exploring such a diverse and dynamic city….a time and place that was critical to my never-ending self-love and discovery journey.

Photo Courtesy of Karen Dirkx/Flickr

Around the Table with Jennifer Martin

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name:  Jennifer Martin

Company: KLT Group

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

What drew you to the world of environmental consulting?
I am one of the few lucky people who knew my calling at a pretty young age. My family would take weekend camping trips and I would be in awe of the nature around my playpen! Growing up, I spent time writing to the President on environmental issues, thanking major consumer brand names for using recycled products, and asking to “adopt” wildlife for Christmas gifts.  I celebrated Earth Day like it was my birthday (and like to think I still do).  When pursuing environmental science in college, I was encouraged by amazing professors and other students, and found my passion in policy and environmental law.  It became clear that environmental consulting was the perfect avenue to begin my professional career in the environmental field.

KLT Group has been able to pivot and innovate in the face of our primarily online world. Can you tell me about VirtualNEPA and what you hope your clients are able to get out of it?
VirtualNEPA is truly the brainchild of the principal/CEO of KLT Group, Kelly Lyles. When I came aboard at the firm, the foundation of the platform had been developed and in the piloting phase. I have enjoyed teaming up with Kelly and others at KLT Group for a collective brain trust of ideas on how VirtualNEPA can improve and streamline the environmental review process. We have been very fortunate to support a variety of clients with their NEPA work and have a deep bench of experience to rely on – what was working and in what areas the process could improve. The end goal is and will always be to deliver quality work for our clients while improving the review and commenting of agencies and the public.

How do you ensure Environmental Justice is incorporated into all your work? Environmental Justice has always been at the forefront of both internal and external work at KLT Group. Relying on the expertise of KLT Group staff such as Brandi McCoy, we challenge ourselves to “dig deeper” to ensure low-income and minority populations have full and equal opportunity for participation in the decision-making process for a project.  KLT Group is also heavily involved in climate change/resiliency planning for our clients, and through that work, one of our goals is to ensure that Environmental Justice communities do not bear a disproportionate risk to a changing climate.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
In my 20 years of professional experience, I have been lucky enough to have a wealth of advice from trusted colleagues, bosses, and clients.  One that has always stayed with me is quite simple – stay organic. Stay true to yourself, your work, your abilities, and the rest will happen organically.  Kelly has also always reminded me to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Work hard, but enjoy what life has to offer, too!

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
As the mother of two teenagers, I’m knee deep in college tours, marching band competitions, and white-knuckling driving lessons. Free time is spent hanging by a campfire with the family, trivia night with friends, or binge-watching shows and playing golf with my husband.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share?
Perhaps the simplest question yet – Mexican food. My husband and I met in a Mexican restaurant and re-create menu items almost on a weekly basis. Burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, you name it.  We once made fried ice cream for an annual family bake-off and took home the prize!