Statewide Rural Summit for Childhood Success to be held in Abingdon in May

(Abingdon, VA) March 21, 2019– United Way of Southwest Virginia will host the first Rural Summit for Childhood Success in Abingdon, Virginia, on Thursday, May 23, 2019.  The Summit will convene leaders from across the Commonwealth of Virginia to learn how systems that play a role in childhood success have been adversely impacted by substance abuse.  Attendees will learn best practices for professionals in rural settings to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, resiliency in children, families and child-serving systems.

Travis Staton, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, states, “Substance abuse in rural Virginia has a disproportionate impact on systems that serve children and their families, particularly the early childhood system, which also includes health care, social services, educational settings, employers, law enforcement, the court system, and policy makers. The event will build a common agenda and convene partners to address childhood success by aligning resources that will allow children and families to build resiliency in rural areas in Virginia.”

The lunch keynote speaker is Jeannette Walls.  A celebrated author, Jeannette is best known for her best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle, which details her life growing up in extreme poverty and the tale of her emergence from it. On stage, Jeannette takes audiences inside her resilient journey in pursuit of authenticity, revealing the power of courage and determination in overcoming unimaginable obstacles.

In addition to the keynote, there will be more than 20 workshops designed for school superintendents, health districts, community action agencies, community services boards, departments of social services, local government leaders, non-profit organizations, health care systems, human resources professionals, and executive leaders to learn about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, resiliency in children, families and child-serving systems.

The Honorary Chair for the event is Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam, a tireless advocate for all the commonwealth’s children.  The event is being guided by two local co-chairs, the Hon. Florence A. Powell, Chief Judge, 28th Judicial District’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia and Dennis Carter, Superintendent, Smyth County Public Schools, and a state co-chair, Ms. Heather Anderson, Director, Division of Primary Care and Rural Health, Virginia Department of Health.

Organizations partnering with United Way of Southwest Virginia to host the Summit include the Virginia Department of Health State Office of Rural Health, Ballad Health, Highlands Community Services Board, Anthem HealthKeepers Plus, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the Town of Abingdon EDA, and the Virginia Department of Education.

To see a complete list of workshops and speakers visit the event website:  Registration for the event will open on Monday, April 1, 2019.


United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers nearly 17% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia,