After five years of building social capital in the Dan River region through community engagement and grassroots leadership development programming, Middle Border Forward is changing the way it operates. Effective November 1st, the nonprofit community development organization will transition to a volunteer-run model, with no paid staff and no physical location.

The change comes after several months of exploratory conversations between staff, board members and community partners.

“This transition is a natural progression of MBF’s mission,” says Jennifer Gregory, the organization’s inaugural executive director, “What began as an experiment five years ago has become a movement. We set out to discover how to best build social capital in the region and what we found was community development is most effective and most sustainable when it’s done with the community, not for it.”

The move to a non-staffed model means Gregory’s tenure with the organization will end on Oct. 31st, but she sees this as the ultimate reward for her years of service. “Everyone working in the nonprofit sector will tell you their #1 goal is to work themselves out of a job,” she says, “I feel extremely fortunate to be able to say I’ve done that. What we created together in Middle Border Forward is bigger than any one person or group of people. This work belongs to the community and I’m just honored to have had the opportunity to bring it this far.”

“Where MBF goes from here is up to the community,” says Cassie Jones, current board president. Over the next six weeks, the board will engage the community in a strategic planning process to help redefine the organization’s priorities and programming.

“Of course, we’d love to maintain all the exceptional programs MBF has become known for, but without a full-time staff that’s simply not feasible. Instead, we’ll look at where we can make the biggest impact on building social capital with the resources available. The ‘why’ has not changed! Only the ‘how,’” Jones adds.

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The organization’s incoming president, Dr. Jessica Jones says community involvement in not only the strategic planning process, but also in the implementation of future programs and projects is critical to MBF’s continued work in the region. “We’re an eight-member volunteer board with day jobs and families and other obligations. There’s no way we can impact the community the way we want – the way it needs – with just us. Nor would we want to honestly. Inclusion has always been a core value at MBF. Now, we’re able to include more people in the process of making positive changes in the region.”

Dr. Jones is the last of the organization’s founding board members still serving. She offers a unique perspective on the evolution of MBF over the past five years and the pending transition. “I cannot tell you MBF today is what we originally imagined it to be. It’s not,” she says, “It has far exceeded our vision and that is due in large part to the willingness of the people of the Dan River region to roll up their sleeves and get to work, building a community they can be proud to call, ‘home.’”

And the work isn’t over! As part of its new operating model, MBF will solicit volunteers to serve on several committees, including programming, resource development and marketing/public relations. Opportunities to join the movement will be published on the organization’s website and Facebook page as they are announced.

Middle Border Forward has been a colorful presence in Danville’s River District since opening its office there in April 2016. The office is scheduled to close next month, but not before the organization hosts one final celebration in the space. “So many people have said this place is magical to them,” says Gregory, “They have felt at home here, free to be their authentic selves without fear of judgment. There’s no way we can lock the doors without giving them a chance to say farewell to the space that has meant so much.”

“We hope the community will join us in celebrating all we’ve accomplished together over the past five years,” says Cassie Jones, “But once the party’s over, it’s time to get back to work – together!”