A picture-perfect retirement
October 12, 2020
Cindy Haddon Andrews walks quietly and deliberately along the forest edge, knowing that at any moment a sudden movement can chase away her intended target of interest. Slowly, she raises her hands that cradles her camera, and snaps away at the oblivious dragonfly that has come to rest on a branch. Seconds later, the dragonfly made its way to a shrub, but Andrews has what she came for: a moment in time captured in a photo.
If you have visited any of the Rice Rivers Center’s social pages, you have seen some of the beautiful photographs of the natural world Andrews has taken over the years. In addition, if you have ever volunteered with the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VOSRP), you have met Andrews, the program’s coordinator, and experienced her love of all things natural, oysters, and VCU Rams.
Andrews’ passions began early in life. “I spent all my summers growing up at family property on the Piankatank River, near Deltaville,” she says. “Fishing, crabbing and endless hours outside with cousins. Part of my lifelong love of nature.”
As a student at VCU, she obtained her B.S. in psychology and M.S. in rehabilitation counseling. She moved from student to staff and retired in 2012 after a 34-year career in human resources, the final ten years as assistant vice president.
Retirement for Andrews did not mean slowing down, and she quickly signed up for a master gardener course, something that had been of interest to her for years. The following year, she signed up for the state master naturalist program. Andrews talked her husband Jerry into taking the training, too.
To maintain certification, master naturalists must obtain 40 hours of volunteer work and 12 hours of continuing education per year. One of the first volunteer projects the Andrews came upon was the VOSRP. The director of the VOSRP, Todd Janeski, had just begun to collaborate with central Virginia master naturalists as a volunteer base for the program, and a way for master naturalist to meet their hourly requirements. Jerry and Cindy have been raising their own oysters on the Piankatank for 22 years and many of the activities of the VOSRP occur on the weekends, which was appealing as Jerry still works. It was a good fit for both of them and they began as volunteers in 2017, recycling shells from East Coast Provisions, Savory Grain, Pig and the Pearl, Shagbark, SaltBox Oyster Company, and Tuckahoe Seafood. They have also bagged a countless amount of shells at VCU Rice Rivers Center.
Janeski ran the VOSRP by himself, and after a while, Andrews began to suggest ways to streamline and promote some of the activities of the program. It was not long after that Janeski asked Andrews to join VOSRP as program coordinator in January 2018. “Cindy said, ‘you look you could use some help’ and the rest is history,” Janeski recalls. He continued, “I’m not sure what we would do without her enthusiasm and involvement. She has helped our program expand exponentially and built the backbone of the program, the Master Naturalists.” Although the workload has increased since that time, Andrews does not see it as work and still considers herself retired.
In her role, Andrews coordinates regular volunteers with partner restaurants who need pickup, schedules and conducts onsite education and shell bagging sessions at Rice Rivers Center, helps coordinate the annual reef building activities, manages the event calendar and volunteer needs for events, and manages some of the VOSRP social media presence.
And takes breathtaking photos.
Andrews developed a love of nature photography, enjoying identifying the bird, bug, plant, or fungus she captures digitally. It is not surprising with all of Andrews’ interest and natural ability to connect with people, she wants to share her passion with others. “One of my former co-workers who follows me on Instagram said that it was clear that working was holding me back from living my best and fullest life,” she says. “He frequently says that I am showing him and others how to really enjoy retirement.”
Learn more about the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program
Learn more about Virginia Master Naturalists
Learn more about VCU Rams Athletics