Lynchburg Parks and Recreation has been honored with three awards from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society (VRPS) at its 65th Annual Conference held virtually this year. Lynchburg Parks and Recreation was presented with awards for Best New Program, Best New Renovation/Addition (Brick and Mortar), and Outstanding New Professional.
Sibshops was honored in the category of Best New Program. Sibshops are opportunities for brothers and sisters of children with special health and developmental needs to find peer support and education within a recreational setting. Throughout their lives, brothers and sisters will share many of the same concerns that parents of children with special needs experience, as well as, issues that are uniquely theirs. To learn more about Sibshops, contact Megan Heatwole, Community Recreation Supervisor, at (434) 455-5891 or

Diamond Hill Neighborhood Center was honored in the category of Best New Renovation (Brick and Mortar). Built on the site of the former Marce T. Jones School, the Diamond Hill Center has long-held significance to the community. The grounds were recently renovated and today, this familiar center is abuzz with activities for friends and neighbors of all ages. The center also offers many recreational programs, including an after-school program for youth ages 6–17, a summer camp program, teen programs and programs for seniors. Some community meetings also take place at the Diamond Hill Center. 

Rachel Smith was honored in the category of Outstanding New Professional. This is awarded in recognition of new professionals for outstanding commitment and achievements in the parks and recreation field. Winning candidates display a high level of commitment to the parks and recreation field; leadership and contributions made on a community level; and active support to and involvement in VRPS, including but not limited committee membership, event volunteer, legislative or fundraising activities.

The VRPS’ annual awards are a prestigious statewide program that honors individuals, agencies and organizations throughout Virginia who have demonstrated excellence in any of several areas during the previous year. Highlighting each year’s conference is a formal presentation of awards. This state-wide program honors individuals, departments and organizations throughout Virginia who have demonstrated excellence in any of several areas during the previous year. Almost 100 applications were received vying for awards in 14 different categories.  

The mission of the Virginia Recreation and Park Society is to unite all professionals, students, and interested lay persons engaged in the field of recreation, parks, and other leisure services in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  For more information on the Society contact the state office at 804-730-9447 or visit the website at  




OurHealth Lynchburg & Southside names Templeton Senior Center as their GOLD WINNER for the “Senior Community Center” category in the 2019 OurHealth Senior Living Awards.







Lynchburg Parks and Recreation has been honored with four awards from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society (VRPS) at its recent Annual Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. Lynchburg Parks and Recreation was presented with awards for Distinguished Service, Best New Environmental Sustainability Program, Best New Renovation Project, and Best Promotional Effort-Specialty.

Benita Ripley was honored in the category of Distinguished Service. After graduating in 1975 with BA in Recreation Administration and a special emphasis in Special Populations, Benita began her journey with Parks and Recreation. Benita worked as a Recreation Intern with Danville Parks and Recreation 1975; Camp Easter Seal in Craig County, VA; and the Campbell County Recreation Dept.; before being hired in 1975 as the Summer Playground Leader with Lynchburg Parks and Recreation. In Fall of 1975, Benita was slated to become the first Senior Citizen Supervisor for Lynchburg Parks & Recreation. She would remain in this position for approximately 30 years. Eventually, she was promoted to Recreation Service Manager and remained at this post for the last 10 years of her career until her retirement last fall in September 2015. Lynchburg Parks and Recreation is thankful to Benita for her years of service and is honored to announce her as the 2015 Distinguished Service Award recipient.

The Neighborhood Center Teaching Gardens were honored in the category of Best New Environmental Sustainability Program. The gardens were created as a joint effort between the City of Lynchburg’s Neighborhood Centers’ and Park Service Divisions, bringing sustainable fresh food sources to six food deserts in the City of Lynchburg. The gardens were installed with assistance from Liberty University students, local church volunteer groups, our Public Works Department, and local community members, and provide an opportunity for center participants and visitors both young and old to learn all aspects of gardening. Participants also learned about the fresh local produce sold at the local Lynchburg Community Market, SNAP acceptance at LCM as well as how to cook and preserve fresh foods.  Learn more about these gardens and how to participate by visiting

Miller Center was honored in the category of Best New Renovation Project. Miller Center, Lynchburg Parks and Recreation’s newly renovated department headquarters, was renovated between 2012 and 2014, with a grand opening hosted in January 2015. The original school building, built in 1911, now hosts the offices of Lynchburg Parks and Recreation staff, as well as numerous classrooms, studios, and meeting rooms suitable for special events and multi-purpose classes for all ages and abilities. In addition, the building also features a fully-equipped dance / fitness studio on the second floor, the Nature Zone on the first floor, and a 186 seat theater space with comfortable seating, state-of-the-art lighting and audio equipment, and additional backstage space used for public meetings, lectures, and theatrical/musical productions.  Learn more at or visit Miller Center M-F, 8:30am – 5:00pm, at 301 Grove St.

The Lynchburg is For Locavores Campaign was honored in the category of Best Promotional Effort – Specialty. The Lynchburg is for Locavores campaign was a dynamic effort that celebrated locally grown food and aimed to grow the number of people that enjoy it. Through awareness, cultivation, and promotion of what a Lynchburg Locavore is and its importance, the department better served our community by keeping our patrons, our farms, our environment, and our local economy healthy. Learn more about the success of the Lynchburg is for Locavores campaign by visiting

The VRPS’ annual awards are a prestigious statewide program that honors individuals, agencies and organizations throughout Virginia who have demonstrated excellence in any of several areas during the previous year.

“The VRPS awards ceremony recognizes excellence in quality of programs, facilities and events in every region,” said Jason Bookheimer, VRPS Awards Chair and Danville Virginia Community Recreation Division Director. “This year we had a lot of recipients from Lynchburg that we were proud of”.

“There are 120 Parks and Recreation departments in the state and Lynchburg is right up there,” said VRPS Executive Director Jim Stutts.  Jim offered congratulations to each winner for their outstanding contributions to the profession and their community, but also congratulated Benita Ripley personally. “We were particularly proud of Benita Ripley for being recognized in her category. She is a personal friend of mine and has been extremely valuable to her department, so congratulations to her and to Lynchburg Parks and Recreation!”

There were over 101 applications that were received this year, vying for awards in thirty-nine categories. The nominations were evaluated by a panel of parks and recreation professionals.



Lynchburg Living awarded Lynchburg Parks and Recreation with a Best of Hall of Fame Award for BEST BIKING/HIKING/RUNNING TRAIL to Blackwater Creek Trail. Winning this award means we have won gold level in this category for the majority of years since it started in 2014.