Before a sizable crowd of around 200 concerned citizens and dignitaries (mostly local), Feeding America Southwest Virginia (FASWVA) cut the ribbon Wednesday, May 23 to its Community Solution Center.
After months of negotiations, several hurdles and major renovations, the structure at 2328 Melrose Ave. opened to much fanfare by the community, with all intents and purposes, that is visibly on the rise!
Among the speakers early in the program was Mayor Sherman Lea–a major supporter of the entire mission, who was overjoyed at its completion.
“The creation of this center is the result of community partners coming together with resources for the benefit of the area’s residences,” said Lea. “We can do more when we come together.”
Lea expressed his pleasure in the city’s support of the project, “not only through the police department but by providing thousands of available dollars in community development block grant funds.”
Mayor Lea further stressed that City Council’s decision to back the project sent a positive answer to the question, “What are we (the city) doing in northwest Roanoke?”
In addition to Roanoke City and Goodwill Industries, the center received major funding from Food Lion Corp as well as from other contributors.
Delegate Sam Rasoul told of his experiences as a native of the immediate area and spoke briefly of his first job being with Food Lion. Referencing census data, Rasoul said the northwest area was listed as one of the state’s worst in terms of “food deserts,” (i.e., any area lacking in affordable good quality fresh food.)
With that, Rasoul zeroed in on the relief the new center will provide and particularly highlighted the hard work of FASWVA CEO Pamela Irvine as well as others on the team–including retired RCPD Capt. Rick Morrison.
Since his retirement (August 2017) Morrison, is the founder and CEO of Inspired Policing Solutions which offers “progressive, pro-active strategies and instruction to law enforcement organizations.”
The team of Morrison and Irvine orchestrated the launch of the new center purely out of their heartfelt desire to empower communities and change lives in northwest Roanoke through progressive solution-based measures.
“This is a miracle on Melrose, said Irvine, surrounded by an army of neighborhood volunteers in orange t-shirts. During her comments, Irvine reminded everyone that “the spot” (property) was once a place for fine food and dancing.”
That said, Irvine acknowledged the property’s original owners, Alice and her son Randy of “Lowell’s Restaurant,” who stood to loud .
The restaurant/nightclub, sold in 2008, continues to be fondly remembered by many as a place of good food, good music and good vibes.
Among the many contributors, Irvine took a moment to mention The Roanoke Valley Foundation’s gift that funded the development of the center’s front plaza which was part of the final touches to the grounds.
One of the defining moments of the mission however, involved a $350,000 funding gap, regarding property purchase and renovation, that shielded the project from a $850,000 goal that needed to be raise in 90 days.
After meeting with an area Food Lion rep, Irvine said she was shocked when the retail grocery stepped up and provided the remaining funds.
“When I met Meg Ham (CEO, Food Lion) and her team I knew why; because they are so passionate about feeding hungry People,” she said.
During her remarks Ham spoke highly of their 26-year relationship with FASWVA. She applauded the new center through mention of its various amenities particularly in healthy food distribution.
In accordance with one Food Lion motto, “No one should have to choose between dinner and rent or gas and groceries,” Ham linked the motto with the center’s mission in a poetic summation.
“We know that partners that we have like Pam and FASWVA work every hour, of every day, of every week in every year to ensure that those in need have what they need.
Flanked by John Shoulders and other FASWVA reps, Irvine presented Ham with the organization’s Champion Award for “Creating a better tomorrow by nourishing hungry neighbors.” It was only the third time FASWVA has bestowed sued honor.