The Womack Foundation grew out of the desire of Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Womack, Sr. to provide funding for organizations in the Danville and Pittsylvania County, Virginia areas which are "not normally covered by other people or agencies" and to provide small, non-interest bearing educational loans to persons who might not otherwise be able to pursue an education beyond high school. The first meeting of the Trustees of the Womack Foundation was held on December 27, 1963, with members Charles A. Womack, Sr., Estelle H. Womack and O. Lewis Roach in attendance. The Board expanded over the years with the majority of the funds available to the Foundation of the result of the generosity of Mr. Womack and his wife. When Mr. Womack passed away in June of 2005 the assets of the Womack Foundation increased to approximately $5,000,000. Currently a Board of thirteen members and one honorary member administer the activities of the Foundation but the mission remains the same as adopted by the Foundation at its inception: To provide educational loans and to assist organizations which provide educational and recreational activities for disadvantaged youth. The service area of the Foundation currently consists of Caswell County, North Carolina, Danville and Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
In the early years of the Foundation, student loans were provided to persons in the Danville and Pittsylvania County areas attending schools in numerous areas of the southeast. By September 31, 1972 the Foundation had provided funding for 172 students and as loans were repaid additional funds were made available to qualified students. By 1984, 547 students had been assisted in their educational efforts with a total of $172,300 having been loaned by the Foundation. Throughout the history of the Foundation students have been assisted in financing their education with a total of $ loaned by the Womack Foundation. Currently the Foundation makes student loans available only to those students attending the Danville Community College or Averett University. Interested students should contact the financial aid office of those two institutions for information about the loans provided by the Foundation.
Despite limited resources available to the Foundation in its early years, the Boards of the Foundation frequently undertook "large" projects. The Womack Foundation purchased the former Sledd Memorial Methodist Church building on Street and donated the building to the Community Improvement Council for the Head Start Program. The Foundation also purchased Pine Lake, a recreational facility in Pittsylvania County west of Danville and donated that property to the Jaycees.
In 1974, Mr. Womack undertook a concerted effort to expand the Board of Trustees expressing his desire that younger members should be added to the Board as well as persons with divergent viewpoints. Since that time the Board of the Foundation has always represented a broad cross section of persons living in the Danville and Pittsylvania County areas with the Board frequently supporting "cutting edge" projects and undertakings.
In recent years the Foundation has particularly emphasized the importance of improving educational opportunities in Southside Virginia. In the 1980's the Foundation provided funding for a teacher/counselor at the Vo-Tech School at George Washington High School to assist students in selecting a meaningful vocation and to work with prospective employers concerning employment needs. $110,000 was provided to the Danville School System to assist in the start-up costs for the Galileo School in Danville; $100,000 was earmarked for the Institute of Advanced Learning and Research; $265,000 was provided to Averett University for an after school and summer program aimed at working with Danville area youth over a two-year period to assure that the students stayed in school and on track to complete their education.
The Foundation has frequently provided funds to the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Danville in order to provide innovative recreational opportunities to all of Danville's youth.
For several years the Board petitioned the City of Danville to develop a new, large city park. Two members of the Foundation's Board were selected to serve on the City's Committee for the Development of the Dan Daniel Park. The Foundation was less successful in its longtime efforts to convince the City to build a public swimming pool. Despite pledging $800,000 on one occasion for the construction of such a pool, the Foundation could not convince the City to undertake that project.
For many years the Foundation provided funding for all fifth graders in the Danville Public School System to receive swimming lessons through the YMCA and YWCA. Due to changes in educational requirements, that program was no longer possible and the Foundation redoubled its efforts to provide summer "camperships" for disadvantaged youths in Danville and Pittsylvania County so those youngsters could attend a board range of summer programs, particularly those camps or facilities which provided swimming instruction. In recent years the Foundation has provided in excess of $30,000 annually for summer camping activities.
On occasion the Foundation has used its assets as leverage to assist other worthwhile groups in the area, lending $25,000 to the Danville Historical Society in 1984 and over $70,000 to the Danville-Pittsylvania County Habitat for Humanity Chapter in 1994. In both instances the funds which were put to immediate use by those charitable organizations were repaid to the Foundation and used in its ongoing work.
The Foundation has also recognized the need to assist groups in other ways to address the needs of the area. The Foundation provided financial assistance to the future of the Piedmont Coalition for the development of a needs assessment for the people of Southside Virginia. The Foundation also provided funds for "team building retreats" for the Danville City Council and the Danville School Board.
Recognizing that Danville was facing limited resources available for a broad range of charitable organizations, the Foundation played a large role in the development of a community building to house the United Way and several member agencies. The Foundation provided leadership as well as financial assistance for that endeavor. Likewise, Mr. Womack and the Womack Foundation played a leading role in the development of the Community Foundation and members of the Foundation's Board have served that organization as well. The Womack Foundation provided $10,000 to assist the new Foundation in its start up expenses.
The Foundation has also recognized the educational contributions of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History and the Danville Science Center. Both those institutions have received funding from the Womack Foundation to assist in their ongoing activities. The Foundation also played the decisive role in displaying the Walter Grant Collection at a museum first situated at the Danville Community College. For several years the Foundation paid the annual salary of the Museum Director in addition to other funds to assist in the preservation of the collection. The Walter Grant large animal collection is now housed in one of the buildings making up the Danville Science Center.
In the 1990's the Foundation began to reach out to Caswell County, North Carolina and has provided funding for a variety of needs there. In 1993, $20,000 was given to Caswell County Recreation for the development of a park in Yanceyville. Since that time, the Foundation has provided fundings for educational opportunities in Caswell County as well as events at the Caswell County Civic Center.
In 1995 the Foundation provided $50,000 to the Salvation Army to assist in the construction of a gymnasium on Henry Street in Danville.
The Foundation assisted the Free Clinic of Danville with $5,000 as that organization began its worthwhile activities.
In the fall of 1997, the Board of the Womack Foundation recognized that a crisis existed in the school system of Danville and that at-risk students were dropping out of school at an alarming rate. The Board undertook an in-depth discussion as to how the Foundation could assist the youth of the area including programs through the Danville Public School, Social Services, and the independent Church Based Tutorial Program. The Board asked that the Foundation contact school officials in order to determine how the Womack Foundation could assist in solving such problems. The Averett After School Program was undertaken and $20,000 was provided for after school programs at Glenwood and Grove Park Public Schools. In 1999, the Foundation provided $180,000 to the Danville Public School System to assist in developing additional focus schools and to emphasize family involvement in the educational process.
The Boys and Girls Club of Danville received $50,000 in 2000 to assist in the construction of the building which now houses that organization. That club has continued to receive funding assistance from the Foundation in the ensuing years.