January 15, 2016

John Hamlin, Ed Mitchell, and Goodyear were recognized for the significant contributions they have made to the success of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce and this region during the Chamber’s Annual Membership Meeting on Friday morning.

“We recognize that the Chamber’s success has come from the collective work of many people,” commented Steven W. Kaylor, Publisher of the Danville Register & Bee, in his remarks as the outgoing Chamber Chair. “We did not achieve last year’s success simply from the work that was done last year. Much of our success had its roots in programs and initiatives that began years ago.”

Ed Mitchell

In 1991, Ed Mitchell, who was with APAC-Virginia, served on the board of directors of the former Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce. Mitchell approached that board about starting a golf tournament to build up the non-existent reserve account of that young Chamber. In June 2015 the Chamber celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Chamber Classic Golf Tournament.

Kaylor noted that there have been very few changes made to the tournament over the years. The tournament started at The Water’s Edge Country Club and is now played at Danville Golf Club. There have only been four chairmen of that tournament. But that tournament has changed this Chamber and one of the predecessor Chambers – the Pittsylvania County Chamber – significantly. In the 25 years of the tournament’s existence, the tournament has raised over $581,000. This funding has allowed the Chamber to build a new office, develop leadership programs for the region, support workforce development opportunities for our employers, advocate on behalf of businesses in this community, and much more!


In 1992, Ed Steffey, who was plant manager of Goodyear, was serving on the board of directors of the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce. Steffey was a huge advocate for education and became concerned about the lack of funding for classroom projects. Steffey realized that Goodyear alone couldn’t change the future of education, but that one business could influence the ability of the region to come together in support of education. He convinced the Chamber’s board to start education “mini grants” with most of those financial awards in the $100 - $300 range.

Goodyear had two assets that were important in the development of the education grants: a passionate leader and a golf course. Using that combination, a golf tournament was started with all proceeds being designated for the education grants. Other businesses were invited to participate and the education grant program was launched.

The Ed Steffey Memorial Education Golf Tournament, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this September, has now raised more than $300,000 for education projects. As a result of Ed’s vision, the Chamber has been able to expand its resource base for the education grants and secure funding from Danville Regional Foundation to award over $800,000 in teacher creativity grants since the golf tournament’s inception.

Steffey’s vision has been embraced and expanded by the Goodyear family.   Mark Vaughn, manager of the Goodyear Golf Course, has been with this golf tournament since its inception. He and his team have been one of the main reasons for this tournament’s continued success. They work tirelessly to plan and deliver a top quality event that maintains an education focus.

Eight years ago a Goodyear employee, Bennett Gobble started a 5K race with all proceeds donated to the Education Open funds. Gobble spearheads almost every detail of the 5K race. Gobble’s commitment to education and ensuring that our community maintains a year-round support of education is greatly appreciated.

John Hamlin

In 1983 the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors was discussing agenda items that included annexation, uranium mining, and a combined effort for industrial recruitment which included revenue-sharing. John Hamlin of Danville Distributing was serving on the Chamber’s board of directors as the chair of the Culture & Recreation Committee.   Hamlin was working with Harvest Jubilee which, at that time, was a major celebration sponsored by R.J. Reynolds in honor of the tobacco harvest. Hamlin proposed that the Chamber, in partnership with Harvest Jubilee, start a Shrimp Fest in Danville.

“We can only imagine the looks and the silent – or not so silent – thoughts the other board members must have had, but they consented,” commented Kaylor. Hamlin, with a lot of support from his wife Becky, put together the first Shrimp Fest at the old Southern Warehouse. It featured shrimp and entertainment with an estimated attendance of 800 people with 300 of the attendees coming on behalf of R.J. Reynolds. The profit came almost totally from the auction of the shrimp and was divided between Harvest Jubilee and the Chamber.

In 2015 the Shrimp Fest celebrated its 33rd anniversary with over 1,700 people still enjoying shrimp and entertainment at the old Southern Warehouse, which today has been refurbished into Danville’s Community Market. The Shrimp Fest remains the premier event in this community and continues to serve as the model for other events in the Danville area. Shrimp Fest is still providing funding for Harvest Jubilee to support events, festivals, and entertainment for Danville. The Shrimp Fest proceeds have supported the Chamber’s efforts in business development, leadership development, education, and workforce development, to name a few. All total, the Shrimp Fest has allowed Harvest Jubilee and the Chamber to invest approximately $850,000 back into our community.

This recognition is unique because John Hamlin is not only the founder of the Shrimp Fest, he has also served as the only chair of this event for the past 33 years.