VisionFirst Advisors, a consulting firm focused on community and economic development based in Tallahassee, has made a gift to the Valdosta State University Foundation to create the Melissa R. Medley Economic Development and Community Engagement Fund.
Medley, one of the founders of VisionFirst Advisors, was working at a meeting with community leaders from Valdosta and Lowndes County to facilitate the creation of a holistic strategy aimed at uniting the community through engagement and economic opportunity when she suffered a sudden health event that took her life on Jan. 17, 2020. The leaders in that meeting came together in a display of unity and prayer to honor Medley’s contributions to the One Valdosta-Lowndes effort.
“Melissa not only had a passion for building a business but a calling to make a difference in the places she worked. Melissa was doing just that the day she was called home,” said CEO and President of VisionFirst Advisors Gray Swoope. “The VisionFirst team is pleased about the establishment of the Melissa R. Medley Economic Development and Community Engagement Fund at Valdosta State University to continue her legacy at the university and in the South Georgia community.”
Mayor Scott James Matheson said, “When you are dealing with diverse organizations including government and non-government alike, plus an equally diverse room full of individuals on a massive undertaking such as One Valdosta-Lowndes, you need a spirit guide…. Melissa was that person. Melissa did a deep dive into our community and understood our true needs both spoken and unspoken.”
“From the time the Steering Committee hired Vision First and from our very first facilitated session, we all could tell that Melissa was going to have a vested interest in the Valdosta-Lowndes community,” said Georgia Power Community and Economic Development Manager Scott Purvis. “Her personal touch and attention to detail was critical in our strategic planning process. She truly saw the opportunities and the heights that our community can reach.”
The Melissa R. Medley Economic Development and Community Engagement Fund will allow VSU students to engage in service-learning projects that provide for the greater benefit of citizens of South Georgia with a focus on Lowndes County. The hope is that students who engage in service-learning projects in South Georgia will become engaged in economic development activities in the places they choose to live. Promoting community engagement as a means to spark economic development was a motivation for Medley and is at the heart of the One Valdosta-Lowndes effort she was facilitating at the time of her death.
“As the lead consultant for the One Valdosta-Lowndes community re-visioning effort, Melissa cared deeply about Valdosta and Lowndes County and became a dear friend to many. I miss my friend, but Valdosta State University is honored to carry on her legacy thanks to the launch of the Melissa R. Medley Economic Development and Community Engagement Fund,” said VSU President Richard Carvajal. “Thanks to this fund, college students will spend their summers putting their knowledge and talents to work to make this community an even better place to call home.”
Contributions can be made to the Melissa R. Medley Economic Development & Community Engagement Fund by visiting: