Jennifer Gregory is a single mother of five children. She has spent her last eight years in non-profit administration working with families in poverty.
“I was working with the most impoverished — families that were at-risk for abuse or neglect of children,” Gregory says. “Doing that kind of work is taxing. It’s mentally and spiritually exhausting.”
When she was in community action, she grew tired and burnt out. During that time, Gregory leaned on a quote attributed to Winston Churchill.
“I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the Lion’s roar,” Churchill said.
In winter of 2015, Gregory was presented with an opportunity to work with Middle Border Forward (MBF). MBF is a grassroots, community-driven nonprofit that aims to move the Middle Border — which includes Danville, Pittsylvania County, and Caswell County — “forward.”
“By the time, I encountered Middle Border Forward, I was tired of roaring for the lion,” Gregory says. “MBF presented an opportunity for me to teach the lion to roar for himself.”
Jennifer Gregory is a self-proclaimed “leadership and development junkie,” and that’s what MBF is all about. MBF does not provide services to the community itself. Instead, MBF’s goal is to develop leaders in the community and equip them to do the work.
“We’re not doing direct service programming,” Gregory says. “We’re not providing pathways out of poverty, but we’re equipping people to build those pathways themselves.”
The organization’s biggest way of doing that is through a program they call “Vision 2035.” MBF is taking traditional regional visioning and flipping it upside down. Rather than starting at a high-level and letting it trickle down, Gregory says they are starting “on the ground” with members of the community.
The intent of Vision 2035 is to get the community members invested and involved in improving the region, according to Gregory.
“Our plan isn’t to establish this vision and then hand it back to the community like, ‘Hey, here’s your vision — good luck with that,’” Gregory says. “Instead, (our goal is) to shepherd it through the stages and recruit more and more people to keep it mobile and keep us moving.”