Unite SWVA Leadership Summit in Abingdon, VA 

Abingdon, VA (October 19, 2016) – United Way of Southwest Virginia hosted the Unite SWVA Leadership Summit on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Virginia.

Top executives and community leaders from education, health care, industry, manufacturing, small business, government, religious organizations, and nonprofits all across Southwest Virginia gathered to share their strategies, experiences, and best practices on becoming more collaborative in today’s challenging economy.

Community members who attended the Unite SWVA Leadership Summit heard from leaders inside and outside the region about ways to work collectively. This year’s Unite SWVA Leadership Summit keynote speaker was Emory, Virginia native Ron Culberson. Ron used hilarious stories, his gift of clear communication, and his experience as a hospice social worker and leader to share the insightful and practical message of “Do It Well. Make It Fun.”

In addition to the keynote, the event hosted 16 workshop sessions by various local and national leaders on topics like a cross-generational workforce, compassion fatigue, business-supporting communities, nonprofit boards, and involving students in work-based learning.

At the end of the day, several organizations were honored during the 2016 Trailblazer Awards – given in the categories of Education, Financial Stability, and Health. The organizations awarded had successfully created and/or supported community partnerships that improved and continue to improve Southwest Virginia.

This year’s Trailblazer Award in Financial Stability went to the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board, the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, and the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board. These three groups are leading a Regional Rapid Response initiative to serve individuals and supply chain companies impacted by the large number of plant layoffs and closures throughout the region.

This year’s Trailblazer Award in Education went to the Wythe County Public Schools, the Wythe County Health Department, and childcare providers in Wythe County. Working collaboratively with many agencies, Wythe County Public Schools has expanded and enhanced preschool services in Wythe County through the Wythe County Public Schools Preschool Access Project.  The project is unique because of the collective impact planning model the group used during the earliest planning stages.  The partnership is strengthening as it grows.

This year’s Trailblazer Award in Health went to the Wythe-Bland Foundation, the Town of Wytheville, and the Mt. Rogers Health District. These three groups are implementing a community based program for the prevention of obesity called Fit for Life based on the nationally recognized “Biggest Loser” program.

The 2016 Trailblazer Awards were presented by Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade (presented award in Financial Stability); Pamela Kestner, Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources (presented award in Health); and Dr. Michael Robinson, Director of A. Linwood Holton Governor’s School (presented award in Education).

The Summit was sponsored by Better Together (the Wellmont-MSHA partnership), New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board, Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, Comfort Suites, Grayson County VA, The Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing, Universal Fiber Systems, Food City, FM94, Bristol Herald Courier, Utility Trailer, and News 5 WCYB.

More information about the Unite SWVA Leadership Summit can be found at uniteswva.org.



United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia by forging unlikely partnerships, finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources, and inspiring individuals to create lasting change in the lives of over 350,000 residents from all walks of life. United Way of Southwest Virginia mobilizes thousands of people to give, advocate and volunteer across 5,860 square miles (approximately 15% of the state of Virginia) in the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit netnswvarelief.wpengine.com.