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!

Effective Hurricane Communications for Officials, Those in the Path of the Storm, and Their Loved Ones Worrying from Afar

The Avid Core team is donating to Imagine Waterworks, a BIPOC and trans-led mutual aid response network based in New Orleans, that is filling immediate needs following Hurricane Ida. We encourage you to join us to see where you can help—financially or otherwise—and to seek help when you need it.

Adobe Stock Image

“A hurricane is expected tomorrow,” my husband said as he joined our children and me along the rocky Jamestown, Rhode Island beach. I had heard the emergency alert moments earlier but hadn’t had a chance to check the notification on my phone. The news came as somewhat of a surprise—New England isn’t exactly a hotbed of hurricane activity, and the area hadn’t been directly hit by a hurricane in 30 years. The sun was shining—not even a cloud in the sky—and the air was calm. Could a hurricane really be on its way?

The friends I had been vacationing with were equally confused. They had traveled from landlocked states and the West Coast. “Is it a hurricane watch or warning?” asked one friend. “Which one is the one we have to worry about?”

Having supported emergency planning projects with the Department of Homeland Security, I knew how important it was to be prepared as we faced Hurricane Henri’s landfall (later downgraded to a Tropical Storm). Our experience, my friend’s questions, and this week’s news from the devastating Hurricane Ida made me realize the importance of good communication from all sides in an emergency. 

For Officials:

  • Share information at regular intervals – Situations evolve and having updates reassure those impacted that you are a source for up-to-date information. During Henri, we went 12 hours without hearing an official update. That gap made me question whether anything had changed and if our plan to ride out the storm was the right one.
  • Update official social media accounts – Officials should send regular social media updates during an emergency and confirm accuracy before posting. Misinformation can spread widely online during an emergency and those impacted need to know they can trust official accounts.
  • Have a plan for reaching members of the public without Internet or phone access – Rural communities are often among the most impacted during a hurricane. Officials must have a plan in place for reaching these community members and ensuring they have access to information that will keep them safe. The vacation home we were staying at didn’t have a television, but we did receive an update to the home’s landline and answering machine.

For Those in the Path of the Storm:

  • Follow official accounts on social media – These include local governments, police and emergency services departments, as well as reputable local news outlets.
  • Download the FEMA app – This app provides alerts for severe weather and tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after an event. You can also message loved ones and apply for federal disaster assistance through the app.
  • Know the difference between watch and warning. Here’s a helpful tip to remember the difference: Watch = time. You have time to prepare. Warning is imminent and immediate action should be taken to protect life and property.
  • Charge your phone and conserve battery as much as possible – During Henri, we turned off our phones to conserve battery power and to reduce competition for data with first responders. Also consider turning off notifications for nonessential messages and apps. If you lose power, you will want to have as much battery life as possible.
  • Choose someone outside of the danger zone as a central contact – Establish an emergency contact beforehand that lives outside of the affected area. This reduces the number of calls/texts you have to make and ensures that your loved ones have a secure person to get updates from.
  • Review the Hurricane Guide from Imagine Waterworks – This guide is focused on Louisiana but includes helpful checklists and tips for all areas facing hurricanes.

For Loved Ones Worrying from Afar

  • Volunteer to be someone’s central contact – Have a list of contacts you will need to share their information with. Keep your phone available and in a good service area to receive updates as they can get them out.
  • Don’t bombard people in the danger zone with messages – Help those impacted to conserve their phone batteries by only messaging when necessary or by reaching out to someone’s central contact instead of them directly.
  • Read this advice on how to reach out to flooded friends after the storm – Asking “what can I do?” puts the burden on the impacted person to come up with a way to make you feel useful in an emergency. Instead, ask more specific questions like, “Can I pick up supplies at the grocery store? Can I call someone for you?”

During Henri, we followed the advice of local officials sent via an alert service to the vacation home’s answering machine and were able to fill up our car’s gas tank and secure some* water. They also advised that we secure enough food and medications to last for three days.

We charged our phones and continued to check the local police station’s social media account for any evacuation orders. Seeing none, we closed the windows and doors of the vacation home and went to bed.

I woke up in the morning to find the normally pristine view of the bay clouded by heavy rain. I checked the National Weather Service, which had warned that the time for preparations had passed and to stay inside. The power went out and my resourceful friend shared some waterproof matches she kept in her car to light the gas-powered stove.

Several hours later, the wind and rain had calmed. We checked the radar on our phones to make sure that the storm had passed and that it was not just the eye of the storm, and we headed outside to assess the damage. While trees had fallen throughout the neighborhood, taking out power lines, the predicted storm surge and associated flooding never materialized. 

We were lucky in this situation, but I was grateful for this test of my own emergency communication plan. It helped us stay calm and to know where to turn for information. Clear communication from all sides is key to effective emergency response.

*The advice of most emergency planners is to secure enough water for each person for three days, which is about three gallons per person. Given the emergency, we were only able to find one 24 pack of water, which was about 1/9 of the recommended provisions.  

At My Core – Finding My Passion Through New Experiences

From the moment I joined Avid Core, I’ve learned how this small company lives up to its name and showcases its core values through action. The entire Avid Core staff is deeply passionate about their work and their clients’ projects, makes themselves accessible to clients and staff at all levels, and works to empower all stakeholders – just as they empowered me throughout my internship.

Avid Core team members. From left to right: Amanda Roberts, Ashley Dobson, Andrew Curtin, Virginia Quiambao Arroyo, Michael Chan-Lok, Stephanie Mace.

The inclusivity I felt from the entire team began as early as my interview process, and the relationship has only grown to this day. Although the staff is classified as my superiors by job title, they never made me feel as if any hierarchy existed; I always felt like an equal contributor. When I needed guidance and constructive criticism to grow as a communications professional and create content to meet Avid Core standards, I received those tools and wisdom from well-informed experts who not only made themselves accessible to me, but genuinely cared about my development and made sure I gained value through their experiences and learning process.

My “bosses” never felt like senior officials when we teamed up internally; they made the environment comfortable, and input was always welcomed and encouraged. When it came to making mistakes, their inclusive approach and everyday engagement made participating less intimidating. Instead of criticizing, they guided me in the right direction.

Working with Avid Core exposed me to new fields across transportation, government, education, and non-profit institutions and challenged me to learn an array of terminology, concepts, and acronyms. My favorite experience was working with a non-profit client because I felt like I was making a difference, helping an organization share their story and deliver on their mission.

I had the opportunity to lead a project with that non-profit that will help shape the new organization’s communications strategy as it launches. Being able to take on this initiative expanded my project management skills and pushed me out of my comfort zone while allowing me to find my voice. 

I joined Avid Core at a very notable time in the company’s history. In just my three months , Avid Core has been awarded new contracts, been recognized as the Best Government Contractor in Prince William County in 2021, and received its certifications as both a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and a small, woman-, and minority-owned (SWaM) business from the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity. Playing a role in their journey helped me discover my own “Avid Core” and I hope to continue my communications career path alongside others who share the same philosophy as this company: a close-knit group of talented communications specialists dedicated to their craft, their clients, and their staff.

Michael Chan-Lok is a communications graduate of George Mason University and formerly a team writer for the Washington Spirit. Find his bylines and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Around the Table with Natalie Garramone

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: Natalie Garramone

Company: ONE EIGHTY

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

Your LinkedIn features a quote from your stepdaughter about what you do – You “help people talk to each other.” Tell us about what that means and how it plays out for ONE EIGHTY.

Yes! I think it’s such a to-the-point way to describe what I do — what a natural marketer that little Chloé is, right? When people bring me in for support, it’s usually for one of two reasons: either they are being proactive about skill development, or something’s gone awry and they need help.  Regardless, my role is to listen – even if they’re not in a place to listen to each other. When that happens, I work to clear some of that emotional debris, as I call it, and get them listening and talking to each other again. So often in the midst of tension and conflict we just stop listening, and that’s really detrimental to constructive dialogue. Sometimes you need someone to look at the situation from the outside.

Natalie Garramone (center) with Avid Core team members Ashley Dobson (left) and Stephanie Mace (right).

What drew you to this work?

I actually studied Business Administration, Marketing, and minored in Legal Studies thinking I would go into the field of law (cue laughter). As life goes, I ended up finding my way into organizational development, culture strategy, and change management consulting and had the opportunity to work for leaders and teams all over the world on so many different types of projects. One thing kept coming up though. No matter the team or the company, there were so many individuals who felt like they weren’t being listened to at work. I can’t tell you how many board rooms I sat in and just listened while people poured their hearts out about their hopes and fears and all the reasons they stay at a company and the hundreds of reasons they think about leaving. It struck me when it was time for me to figure out what was next that I might want to further explore what it would look like to actually do that – listen, help people talk to each other – for work. Again, as journeys go, I met someone who opened my eyes to the world of mediation and the rest is history. I really love being able to create safe spaces for people to figure things out; to hash out issues; to come to better solutions together.

What sets your approach to conflict resolution and mediation apart from other firms?

My mediation certification is in Juvenile & Domestic Relations, meaning my formal training is in mediating family issues – child support, custody and visitation, divorce. Heavy stuff. Paired with my organizational development background, it proves to be a solid foundation from which to view workplace conflict situations from a variety of angles and – most importantly – to support the actual human beings who are working through difficult situations every day at work. I often say that organizations are like big families (though I do have an opinion about that saying), so there is a lot of overlap in the process and approach to humanizing conversations, which I believe the people who work with me appreciate.

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

When I was transitioning from working for a consulting firm to working for myself, I met with someone who told me, “Do what’s easy for you. Not in the sense that it’s not challenging, but what you’re naturally gifted at.” And I have to tell you that it forced me to ask people, “What do you think I’m really good at?” The answers I got helped guide me exactly to what I’m doing now.

When you aren’t working, what do you spend your time doing?

“I’m always working and I’m never working” is a phrase I use often because I seriously love what I do, and it doesn’t ever feel like work in the sense that I’m not motivated to do it. But that’s not the answer you’re looking for, right? 😉

Seriously though, when I’m not working, I love reading in my hammock on my front porch, cooking and trying out different recipes, hanging out with my friends, and traveling to visit family between New York, DC, Miami, and France. I do really enjoy working out and one of my best COVID lifestyle purchases was my elliptical, but when I’m not on that you can find me on a treadmill or at a boxing class or hosting little get-togethers at my house. I love any reason to put a charcuterie board together.

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

Of course, what a great question. Ok, well I sort of set some high expectations with my answer above… BUT, I would bring homemade pasta – probably pappardelle – and my (family recipe) red sauce (pronounced mah-duh-nahd if you’re putting an Upstate NY Italian American twist on it).

Interested in building a relationship and joining us around the table? Let’s connect.

Avid Fans of: Concerts

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.

Concerts may only physically last a few hours, but they create memories, feelings, and bonds that can last a lifetime. They bring together spectators, joined by a common connection of their favorite performers, for an experience of passionately singing lyrics in unison that cannot be duplicated through headphones and speakers. Concertgoers temporarily forget what goes on outside the venue walls and get to enjoy the performers that have gathered them together. Let us share with you some of our team’s favorite concert memories and the experiences that have stood out in our lives.

Photo by Ashley Dobson

Ashley – Betty Who

Every concert I’ve ever been to has left an impression on me and filled my heart and soul full of memories, but there is one artist I never miss when she comes to town – Betty Who! Her entire catalog is incredible, and she gives the most energetic performance with full choreography to every number. The Who Crew (as her fans are known) dance and sing along to every song and the environment is so joyous. I’ve seen her perform three times in D.C. and I’m hoping to make it a fourth time in September, assuming the CDC guidelines don’t change!

Photo by Michael Chan-Lok

Michael – Tomorrowland

I enjoy festivals because they are an all-day concert series while getting the most of your money. You can experience multiple stages and multiple artists, get the chance to sing and dance along to your favorite performers, and to discover new entertainers you may not have uncovered on your own. Tomorrowland is an annual electronic music dance festival held in the outskirts of Antwerp, Belgium. Hosting over 300 DJs and artists and amassing more than 200,000 attendees from nearly every part of the world, this three-day event provided not only the biggest dance party I have been a part of, but a musical platform to bring the world together through their shared love of music. Recognized as one of the pinnacles of music festivals, my best friend and I made our dream a reality by going to Tomorrowland in 2013. To this day, I have not done anything more memorable than this.

Photo by Steph Mace

Steph – Tony Bennett (and Surprise Guests)

I love a good concert that involves loud singing, dancing, and cover songs. Three years ago, I surprised my mom with tickets to see her favorite performer, Tony Bennett, for her birthday. While I wasn’t sure what to expect with the silver-haired, 92-year-old crooner on stage on a hot June night, I thought it would be a fun mother-daughter bonding experience. What I didn’t plan for were the unexpected surprises.

Our night started with a typical summer storm that ended a few minutes before the Wolf Trap gates opened. As we took our seats, we looked up in the sky to see a beautiful double rainbow hanging above the stage. An even more miraculous sighting was when this very elegant lady sauntered down the stairs to take her seat a few rows in front of us. I couldn’t help but think that she looked like one of my favorite performers, Lady Gaga. While Tony was singing his heart out with his daughter on stage, I analyzed the back of this latecomer’s head and my mom whispered, “It’s Gaga.” Assuming she was still on her press junket for A Star is Born, I convinced my mom that wouldn’t be possible. The stranger disappeared. A few minutes later, we were on our feet and screaming, “GAGA! We love you!” as Tony Bennett welcomed his friend to the stage. My mom turned to me with a sweet and motherly “I told you so” look and we both knew this was a night to remember.

Photo via National Gallery of Art

Andrew – Concerts in the Garden

Concerts in the Garden (formerly Jazz in the Garden) is a free outdoor summer concert series at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden on the National Mall in Washington, DC. I love the unique environment and the casual vibe, with people spread out on picnic blankets among the gallery’s collection. As of 2021 they’re branching out beyond jazz into showing different styles of music every weekend. I haven’t gotten the chance to go yet, but I’m excited to see the range of local talent!

Photo via Pinterest

Amanda – HFStival

My father was understandably reluctant to let his teenage daughter go to a rock festival, so I created a petition signed by a bunch of high school friends to get my father’s permission to attend. Getting tickets to HFStival required lining up for hours outside of Hecht’s at Tysons Corner Center to get to Ticketmaster when the doors first opened. While it sounds awful, waiting in line was fun. The energy of the ticket line was the amuse bouche to the festival itself, which was full of amazing acts and great people watching. That first year I went, Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined and, over the years, I saw some of the biggest bands of the 90s/early 2000s. HFStival, named after the now-defunct WHFS alternative radio station, is long gone now, but I will always remember it for great music with good friends.   

Photo by TowerRecords.com

Virginia – Fugees, The Roots, and Goodie Mob

My best friend somehow convinced her parents to buy us tickets and drive us to a Fugees concert in D.C. when we were 13 or 14. My parents had no clue as they thought I was “spending the night” at her house and I technically was! The Roots and Goodie Mob opened for them, and I’ll never forget the energy; it was the beginning of my love for hip-hop. The Fugees had just dropped “The Score” and their performance was unforgettable, especially Lauryn Hill’s. Since that concert, I have seen The Roots perform at least a dozen times. The Roots are by far my favorite band to see live. Another one that is up there was Lianne La Havas at the 9:30 Club a few years ago. There are many more….so hard to choose!

Tremayne – Taylor Swift’s Red Album Tour

I never saw myself attending a Taylor Swift concert. I thought there was no way that my friends in high school would ever forgive me because we thought we were the cool kids. But I the concert was more than I anticipated and probably one of my favorite concerts I’ve been to so far. I attended her Red album tour in Phoenix, Arizona and drove over three hours to witness her energy and her connection with the crowd. It was worth the trip. It was awesome to see Ed Sheeran’s opening act too! 

Alt-text: Three images stacked on top of each other, each featuring Taylor Swift on stage at the Red album tour.

Photo via Instagram/@redtour

Thank You for Voting Avid Core as the 2021 Best Government Contractor in Prince William

Winning an award that calls your company “the best” is always incredible. But being voted the 2021 Best Government Contractor in Prince William means even more to me because it’s an award voted on by my community, the county I have been proud to call home for more than 30 years.

InsideNoVa received a record-breaking number of votes in its 2021 contest, and I want to offer my sincere gratitude to our clients, family, friends, and staff for making this honor possible. Your support means so much to me and you make this work worth it every day.

Avid Core was born out of a desire to provide comprehensive and inclusive public engagement processes in local communities. Northern Virginia has proven to be an excellent region to grow, and we have been fortunate to have outstanding clients that share in our commitment to transparency, equity, and inclusion.

I promise to make sure our company continues to live up to our new title and to continue to give back to the community that has given me so much.

Thank you for voting Avid Core as the 2021 Best Government Contractor in Prince William! We can’t wait to see where we grow from here.

Around the Table with Matthew Shapiro

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.

Square grey image with purple circle in the center that says "Around the Table with Matthew Shapiro." Four cartoon characters surround the circle. Avid Core's logo is in the left corner. An image of Matthew Shapiro is in the right corner

Name: Matthew Shapiro

Company: Six Wheels Consulting

Where to Find You: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn

How did you get your start as a disability and inclusion consultant?

Growing up working with youth with disabilities, I always knew that I wanted to work in the disability space.  I felt that my voice could impact and help other people with disabilities who don’t have a voice.

After several interviews with local disability organizations that ended without job offers, I decided to take the bull by the horns and create my own opportunity.  In December 2014, I established 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC to challenge the way people think about, talk about, and approach people with disabilities and disability issues.  Through professional consulting, dynamic public speaking, and lobbying services, 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC strives to educate and guide organizations to strengthen their understanding of inclusion and disability culture and the issues that affect this population. We achieve this using common-sense, cost-effective solutions to address disability-related concerns. Through this enhanced education, we hope to broaden society’s understanding and appreciation for those with disabilities.

When people work with you and Six Wheels Consulting, what do you hope is their biggest takeaway?

Whenever I start working with a new client, I always have one primary goal in mind — to have them realize that being more accessible and inclusive is not as intimidating as they think. In all the work I do, I strive to provide common sense and cost-effective solutions to make things more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.  I understand that not everyone will spend millions of dollars to make a space fully accessible. However, they can take many small steps to provide an incremental change that would allow for someone with a disability to engage with the space more easily. Hopefully, I can get the organizations I work with to see the value in implementing these changes from a business standpoint or a morality standpoint.

People with disabilities make up 20 percent of the U.S. population. We must be more than ADA compliant to truthfully guarantee that they can be fully included in everything our society offers. If all entities can buy into this idea, our world can be a better place for everyone.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing companies or public sector agencies trying to become more inclusive and disability-aware?

The biggest challenge I face is getting them to understand the value of my services.  Many times, when I approach businesses and other entities, they say, “I’m already ADA compliant, so why do I need to work with you?” Getting them to go above and beyond ADA compliance is challenging and getting them to see the value of doing more around accessibility and inclusion to draw more potential customers, workers, and community members into their organizations can be frustrating.

Changing this mindset takes time. If I can get organizations thinking beyond ADA compliance to a bigger inclusion picture, they are my right client. In some cases, I can do that, and in others, I still struggle to overcome this challenge, but I am not afraid to tackle it head-on.

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

The best advice I’ve ever received in my career is advice given to me by my brother before I started high school. He said, “Get involved and stay involved.” This has served as my life’s mantra from my high school years to now as an adult in the working world. I am always getting involved in projects, speeches, and boards to help impact people with disabilities.

I don’t do any of the work I do seeking the spotlight. Instead, I do it to make the world better for people like me.  I will always get involved and stay involved, and I encourage others to do the same. If you want change to happen, make the change happen yourself.

When you aren’t working, what do you spend your time doing?

When I’m not working, I am your typical 30-year-old. I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, going to sporting events and movies, or exploring new places.  I also enjoy playing video games and getting caught up on the latest episodes of my favorite TV shows. The Good Doctor is my number one favorite show right now.

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

If we were literally around a table right now, I would bring baked mac & cheese with bacon because who doesn’t love baked mac & cheese with bacon? Seriously though, food always brings out the best conversations with people and I would hope that this comfort food would help spark that kind of conversation among those of us around the table.

Interested in building a relationship and joining us around the table? Let’s connect.

Connecting the Community with Transportation Projects: Avid Core Receives DBE and SWaM Certification

Avid Core has been certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and small, woman-, and minority-owned (SWaM) business from the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD). These certifications will help Virginia agencies and contractors meet small business contracting goals by working with Avid Core for communications and public outreach services.

“I founded Avid Core with the vision that agencies can better engage with the public—especially underserved communities,” said Virginia Quiambao Arroyo, partner and chief operations officer. “The DBE certification paves a path forward as we continue to grow Avid Core and transform the transportation public engagement process as a minority, woman-owned small business.” 

Avid Core’s transportation qualifications include robust public engagement during the environmental planning process, assistance with communications and outreach throughout the execution of a project, community engagement strategy and Title VI plan development. Avid Core brings experience supporting the development of large infrastructure, roads, rail, and policy working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, local Virginia planning agencies, and the private sector.    

Want to discuss potential partnerships or new opportunities? Connect with Virginia Quiambao Arroyo at vquiambao@avid-core.com or Amanda Roberts, at aroberts@avid-core.com.  

To learn more about Avid Core’s transportation practice, download our project qualifications document below.

Avid Fans of: Ice Cream

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. 

July 18 is National Ice Cream Day and we’re celebrating here at Avid Core! While this time of year leaves us craving a scoop of ice cream to cool off, we don’t need an excuse to enjoy a dessert that satisfies the sweet tooth in all seasons of the year. 

Ice cream used to be created mainly with whole milk, and the classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors were typically the only ones around. This once-simple dessert has become increasingly versatile with coconut or oak milk-based foundations, organic, sugar-free, and vegan options, and just about any flavor imaginable. Whether you prefer a creamy texture or a light and fluffy consistency, nobody can resist the joy and deliciousness ice cream will bring. Here’s the scoop on some of our team’s favorite flavors and the ice cream shops that we can’t resist. 

Amanda – Cinnamon! 

It’s so hard to choose my favorite, but the only flavor I’ve actively sought out and had a hard time finding is cinnamon (thanks, Wegmans, for coming to the rescue). I’ve had to be dairy free for the past year, and there are many great dairy-free ice creams now that are made with coconut milk, cashew or almond milk, and sunbutter. So glad the ice cream industry is on board with expanding options for those with dairy allergies!

Photo via @BlueBellIceCream on Instagram

Ashley – Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla 

I’m going to go back to my roots for this one. As a native Texan, the only answer to this question can be Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla. It has everything you can ever need in an ice cream – delicious flavor, creamy texture, and a heavy dose of nostalgia. It tastes like school field trips to the creamery, childhood birthday parties, and a hug from mom.  

While Blue Bell offers many delicious flavors (Hello Mardi Gras King Cake flavor!), you simply cannot go wrong with a bowl of homemade vanilla. Eaten by itself or topped with M&Ms, chocolate chips, or Oreos, it’s my favorite ice cream by far. 

Photo of Steph’s family enjoying the frozen birthday treats shared via @pennstatecreamery on Instagram.

Stephanie Mace – Penn State’s Berkey Creamery 

We take the “best ice cream” award very seriously in my family. My daughters were raised to believe that Penn State’s Creamery ice cream is the best and there will always be a bottomless supply of their favorite flavors stocked in Nana & Poppa’s freezers. It is a delicious treat on a hot day or post-tailgating. Every Penn State alum will be quick to tell you that happy cows are raised in Happy Valley and Ben & Jerry (yes, the Ben & Jerry) received their ice cream education from Penn State in 1977. While I can’t dispute the facts, I am on a mission to fill up my ice cream passport and learn all about the delicious types of ice cream out there! 

Photo via @amorinogelato on Instagram

Michael – Amorino Gelato 

In July 2013, I traveled to Europe with my best friend and while in Paris and Rome, we stumbled across a gelato shop called Amorino. Within seconds after my first bite, I understood why this chain has expanded to nearly 200 locations worldwide (and 13 in the U.S.). Its signature is its rose-shaped gelato, but the rose shape never holds its form for long because it’s just too good not to dive right into. 

When we came back from Europe, we thought we’d never taste Amorino again because we thought it was only a European gelato chain. Two years later, we visited friends in New York and randomly saw one store while walking around Manhattan. All the feelings of nostalgia from the greatest adventure of our lives took over just by reading the sign and multiplied as we dove into sweet tooth heaven. Every gelato cone we eat from Amorino will always bring back that happiness into our hearts and our taste buds.

Photo via Cuisinart.

Andrew – Raspberry Sorbet 

My family made a quick stop on my first trip to DC — long before I knew I’d be living here — at Larry’s Cookies and Ice Cream, where I had the raspberry sorbet. It was life changing! I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth for chocolate/caramel/etc., but I do like fruit-flavored ice cream. I haven’t made it back to Larry’s recently, but raspberry sorbet is still my favorite and now I have a couple of go-to brands at the grocery store. 

Virginia – Ube/Halo-Halo  

We’re all fans of ice cream in my house. Ice cream sandwiches, soft serve, traditional, blizzards, McFlurries…you name it! The ice cream man even pulls into our driveway because nine times out of 10, we’re buying! It is hard to choose a favorite so I’ll represent the Filipino favorite — Ube and Halo-Halo. Ube ice cream is a Filipino ice cream made from purple yam as the main ingredient and it is the center of stage of Halo-Halo, a popular Filipino dessert! 

Tremayne – Vanilla Ice Cream  

After discovering the churro dog last year while watching the Arizona Diamondbacks game, I can no longer deny having a sweet tooth. I’ve always enjoyed sweet treats like donuts and churros, but it took a genius to think of pairing them with three scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream. This Chase Field exclusive fuses these satisfying treats into a beautiful granular creation and I think it’s the vanilla ice cream that brings everything together. Can anything ever go wrong with vanilla ice cream? 

Avid Fans of: Slowly Returning to ‘Normal’

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.

2020 changed the world with the emergence of COVID-19; the way we worked, learned, interacted, and lived transformed as restrictions and social distancing became the new norm. Masks and hand sanitizer became everyday accessories, traveling was either limited or out of the question, and everyone wondered when they would finally get to physically embrace their loved ones again. More than 15 months have passed since the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, but after enduring many obstacles and uncertainties, society is slowly transitioning back to life as we once knew. Check out some of the activities the Avid Core team is grateful to experience again.

Amanda – Getting My Hair Done

The first thing I scheduled when I received my vaccine was a hair appointment! I am not particularly concerned about looks, but after a year of not having any excuse to look nice, I was eager to shake things up with a new ‘do!

A blonde woman takes a photo of herself with her phone in front of a mirror.
Photo by Amanda Roberts

Ashley – Seeing Family

As soon as our whole family’s vaccination dates were set, my parents booked a flight to visit. In early May 2021, we were finally reunited for the first time since January 2020. We spent the week soaking up time together, visiting restaurants that we had previously only been able to do takeout from, and taking our dogs to our favorite bar/dog park combo, Barkhaus.

While I’m infinitely grateful for the ways technology kept my family connected during the pandemic, there is no Zoom call that can compare to that first hug in person! My sister lives in Wales and I am eagerly awaiting the day the U.K. eases its travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers so we can also have that beautiful moment.  

Four masked adults and two dogs take a photo in front of a green backdrop. Text in the background reads Barkhaus with a dog logo.
Photo contributed by Ashley Dobson

Stephanie – Exploring New Restaurants, Wineries, and Breweries

With an amazing vintage picnic basket always packed, we are ready to drive a few extra miles to visit new places to eat, unwind, and play games. My family created a post-pandemic checklist, which included hugging grandparents, going sailing, hanging out with friends again, and water balloon fights. Now that we’ve gotten those important activities out of the way, we’re turning our attention to other places to be explored! There are so many fun small towns that offer a much-needed change of scenery within 1 hour of DC. Whether it’s a local farm that provides horseback riding lessons for my daughters and delicious brews for parents, a trip to Fort Monroe, or a Middleburg winery for a besties day out, people of all ages can experience something new. Really, it’s a win-win situation. We are getting the opportunity to discover new favorite places/drinks/treats while supporting small business owners. Feel free to let me know what else to add to our never-ending checklist!

A girl rides a horse in the grass beside a pond
Photo by Stephanie Mace

Andrew – Attending Food Festivals

After having been a regular at Taste of DC since I moved here more than eight years ago, I’m looking forward to the return of food festivals to the DC area the most. While I’ve done my best to support restaurants in my neighborhood throughout the pandemic, there’s nothing close to the experience of wandering through all the stalls and food trucks to sample street food from around the world.

Patrons walking through various tented food stands on a narrow street. The United States Capitol sits at the end of the street.
Photo by Taste of DC

Tremayne – Spectating Basketball

As life seems to slowly return to normal, I am looking forward to a few things like live concerts, local farmer’s markets, and spectating basketball games. We all remember when it seemed like the world stopped turning, but it didn’t connect with me until after basketball games at the local and professional levels were canceled.

Across the Navajo reservation, basketball is king. You’ll understand what I mean after watching Basketball or Nothing on Netflix – a show based on sharing the struggles of high school basketball players from the reservation. My nephew is featured in the final episode. I come from a big basketball family and am a former player, coach, and now an avid spectator. I cannot wait until I can attend a basketball game to cheer on my nieces and nephews playing at the local high school level and cheer on the Phoenix Suns as they make a run for NBA Western Conference Finals.

A baby sits in a stroller in front of a giant basketball. Phoenix Suns logo is painted on the basketball.
Photo by Tremayne Nez

Michael–Planning My Wedding with My Fiancée

When my fiancée and I became engaged in December 2019, we were set on having our wedding in the Spring of 2021. After watching couples across the country either cancel, postpone, or adjust their wedding format to comply with their respective state regulations, we were worried about taking that route for our wedding as well. We weren’t crazy about the thought of looking back at our wedding photos years down the road and seeing us and our wedding guests masked or knowing we had a 10-guest wedding, but also, we weren’t willing to jeopardize putting our loved ones at risk, especially since many of our family members and some friends had underlying health conditions and higher in age, so we were willing to push our date further down the road in hopes life would return to normal sooner rather than later. Thankfully, it did.

Planning a wedding during the pandemic was difficult and full of unknowns because vendors weren’t operating and venues wouldn’t allow us to physically visit, which made solidifying a date, booking vendors, and financially and logistically planning nearly impossible. Also, nobody knew when we would be able to travel or be able to hold and attend gatherings of any sort and how many could congregate in one place, indoors or outdoors.

Now that life has come back to normal, we’ve booked our venue, locked our ceremony to September 2022, and can plan and have the wedding we anticipated on creating and celebrating with everyone we love without the worries COVID-19 gave us in the past.

A man rests on one knee and proposes to a woman in front of Christmas lights at night
Photo contributed by Michael Chan-Lok

Virginia – Traveling

I love to travel, internationally and domestically. We took COVID-19 precautions very seriously, especially before my parents, in-laws, and all of us who were eligible for vaccination were vaccinated. Needless to say, we have not travelled much during the pandemic, certainly not by plane. Now that we’re all vaccinated, I can’t wait to travel again and continue to explore the world with my family.

Our first stop is southern California at the end of July! My husband was born at Camp Pendleton and a few years ago, we were able to see the house he grew up in before moving to Virginia and ate a bakery his parents frequented when they were first stationed there. We realized that there is so much more to see…including Disneyland!

A sign of Lake O’Neill at Camp Pendleton is shown in front of two trees in desert land.
Photo by Virginia Quiambao Arroyo