Donna Dagner will represent county at Rural Leadership Institute

Published 11:30 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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Lunenburg resident Donna Dagner, Executive Chair of Community Resource Services, will join 27 other individuals representing 21 rural localities as part of the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute (VRLI).

VRLI is the Commonwealth’s only leadership program that focuses solely on developing rural Virginia’s existing and emerging leaders.

“I was excited and honored to be selected to participate in a Statewide Leadership Program focused entirely on rural communities,” Dagner said.

Dagner is part of the Community Resource Services Food Bank that works to feed families in Lunenburg and surrounding counties who might otherwise go hungry.

“God had given me the assignment to Lead with a Servant’s Heart, which birthed this food pantry 22 years ago,” Dagner said.

In 2022, the food pantry had 17,000 people and distributed 42,000+ pounds of food, 90% of those served are older adults.

According to VRLI through the application and interview process, 28 members were selected to participate in this year’s cohort, representing several counties and cities across rural Virginia. “The data is clear. Rural Virginia is losing residents every time the population is counted. The Virginia Rural Center created VRLI as a tool to help rural Virginians who want to continue to live and lead in their community to find ways to better serve the community they love,” said Senator Frank Ruff, a founding member of the Center for Rural Virginia (CFRV) and current chairman of CFRV.

Program will kick off this weekend

This year’s VRLI program will kick off May 18 – 20 in Danville. Future stops for the program include Tappahannock on the Middle Peninsula, St. Paul in Southwestern Virginia, and Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley. During each visit, representatives will meet and learn from local residents and fully immerse themselves in the area while building critical leadership, community, and economic development skills through programming and presentations from subject area experts.

Along with the leadership development curriculum and sessions held in rural regions of Virginia, cohort members will complete Community Impact Projects. For these projects, cohort members will be paired with industry leaders as “mentors” to complete a project that puts their leadership skills into practice with the goal of bringing economic and community development opportunities to their community.

“The Virginia Rural Center has long recognized the unique opportunities and challenges to living, working, and leading in rural Virginia,” said Kristie Proctor, Executive Director of the Virginia Rural Center. “Through VRLI, our goal is to create a space for aspiring leaders to develop skills, network with peers, and find innovative ways to support rural communities across the Commonwealth.”