One of the most important institutions at work in the Dan River Region today helping to mold and direct the future of this part of Virginia is the Danville Regional Foundation. and as of Aug. 1, there will be a new but familiar face at the helm of the foundation: Current Vice President of Programs Clark Casteel will assume the positions of president and CEO.

Casteel will be following in the footsteps of Karl Stauber, who’s retiring after 12 years leading DRF as it’s guided discussions, funded studies and helped start up dozens of new initiatives that serve as the foundation of Danville 2.0.

The foundation has its beginnings in the 2005 sale of the nonprofit Danville Regional Medical Center to the for-profit health care company Lifepoint. Danville Memorial Hospital had served residents across Southside Virginia for decades, providing top-quality medical care on par with the best of small, regional hospitals in the country.

But the decline of the regional economy that began in the 1980s and reached its nadir in the 1990s and early 2000s as the tobacco, textiles and furniture industries collapsed also had a negative effect on DRMC. Money was tighter, operating margins were smaller with almost no room for error, attracting top physician and nursing talent was a challenge and there were physical plant improvements needed but with little money to pay for them.

That’s why, in 2005, the hospital’s board of directors made the painful decision to sell out to Lifepoint, which had only recently entered the local market with its purchase of Martinsville Memorial Hospital. Because DRMC — and before it, Danville Memorial — had been founded as a nonprofit with local resources, the $200 million proceeds from the sale went to the hospital’s “owners,” for lack of a better word — the people of the areas it served.

Thus the creation of the Danville Regional Foundation, which serves the residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County and Caswell County in North Carolina.

In 2007, the DRF board hired Karl Stauber, a giant in the fields of nonprofits and community revitalization, as its president and chief executive. His mission was simple but, at the same time, extremely complex: to help the community plot a course forward in the 21st century, discover who and what it wanted to be and let go of the glories of the past while, at the same time, honoring this region’s heritage and history.

Since 2005, DRF has invested more than $116 million in more than 400 grants and programs that further that goal, with a focus on four main areas: education, economic development, community development and health and wellness. DRF’s grants all are tied to one or more of those foundational pillars: assisting in the funding of the Danville Family YMCA’s spectacular facilities on Riverside Drive; funding economic development studies and assisting with the hiring of top professionals in the field; and assisting with developing high tech training programs employers need.

While Stauber brought invaluable outsider experience and perspective to the job, coming from a similar position in St. Paul, Minn., Casteel’s roots in Southside and Southwest Virginia run deep. A native of nearby Floyd County, he joined DRF in 2008 and assumed his current position in 2014. He oversees more than 170 grants and initiatives totaling $55 million, giving him invaluable insight into the community’s needs and aspirations. As president and CEO, he’ll play an even more important role in shaping upcoming discussions and efforts to remake the region into a 21st-century magnet community for specialized manufacturers, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and enlightened civic leaders.

This is the Danville of the 21st century and beyond; this is Danville 2.0.

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