Goodwill Industries and partners launch community transformation project
Goodwill Industries® of the Valleys recently announced the partnership with the City of Roanoke, public and non-profit partners, as well as community stakeholders to develop a new center in Northwest Roanoke. The center will feature a grocery store,
an adult high school, a wellness center, and banking services. The new center will be located at the existing Goodwill Roanoke Jobs Campus which is currently home to the corporate headquarters and program services offices located at 2502 Melrose Avenue, NW, Roanoke.
Goodwill has long been a member of the Northwest Roanoke neighborhood and has shown its commitment to contributing to the strength and resilience of the community. To support and build upon the years of work spearheaded by the NW Food Access Initiative and a group of community stakeholders, community partners, and area residents, the project will continue to ensure the center also addresses health disparities within the community.
The official announcement of the project was held on November 1 at Goodwill’s Roanoke Jobs Campus on Melrose Avenue, NW. Among the city officials on hand was Mayor Sherman Lea who hailed the project as an answer to the ongoing issue of what’s being done to better Northwest Roanoke.
“It takes forces coming together with a lot of discussions and a lot of work to make things happen,” said Mayor Lea referring to officials as delegates Sam Rasoul, Chris Head, and City Manager Bob Cowell with whom he confided among others for years in talks regarding the many issues surrounding such a breakthrough community development. During his comments, Mayor Lea also recognized the efforts of many groups and organizations that contributed to the advancement of the project and spoke expressly of the council of citizens (35 or more) who helped form the project’s vision.
The project will be driven by the needs of the community, recognize the community’s rich history and honor the traditions of generations past. The Goodwill Jobs Campus is a centralized location in the NW neighborhood and is well-positioned to engage with surrounding neighborhoods. The public face is now Melrose Avenue with opportunities along 24th Street and Salem Turnpike for additional engagement. Also, the location is very accessible as three distinct bus lines are located within a quarter-mile radius and bike lanes exist on surface streets.
“Goodwill is thrilled to help support the spirit and growth of the Northwest Roanoke community,” said Richmond Vincent, President & CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, who is a major component and since his arrival as CEO, has been on a mission to enhance the organization’s reach in upbuilding the community.
“The new center in Northwest supports Goodwill’s strategic plan by providing needed services in the community it serves. The current Roanoke Jobs Campus makes sense to be the location of the new center and will build on our strong partnerships with the City of Roanoke, local nonprofits, and other area businesses. These partnerships as well as an upcoming capital campaign will make this new project a reality.”
“Partnering with Goodwill on something so long needed by the community is a great opportunity,” added Manager, Bob Cowell. “The partnership will deliver exactly what the Northwest neighborhood has long advocated for and needed, fulfills a key priority of the Mayor and Council, implements the top priority identified by the citizen advisory board established to aid the Council in their use of federal COVID-relief funds and complements well the services offered by Goodwill. I am thankful for all involved and most especially for the leadership at Goodwill in making this opportunity possible.”
Among those at the press conference was Jordan Bell who spoke briefly about certain significant community members in light of such a momentous event. “This grocery store, a lot of that, is on the backs and shoulders of people like Marian Ware, Richard Chubb, Peter Lewis, Dr. Walter Claytor, and Oliver Hill – individuals who historically have pushed and some who continue to push for investment in Northwest.”
Also speaking was NW Food Access Initiative member Marian Ware one of several community advocates who has been pushing the project for years and gave a brief back story regarding the mission.
“Our collective purpose was to create a community-led strategy for a grocery store and neighborhood hub in the Northwest area with the goal to create a shared vision that would empower the community and foster real change.”
Ware went on to speak of the “huge amount of foundation-laying work done for the last 7 years” and mentioned a list of businesses, organizations, and individuals who have contributed greatly to the effort.
Closing her remarks Ware said, “It is my hope that going forward this project will move in the spirit of selflessness and community care that should be displayed.”
The prospect of such a grand project boosted spirits high at the press conference and one who elevated them even higher was Natasha Saunders who delivered a speech that left little wonder as to her skills as a purpose coach and education consultant.
Despite her obvious youth, Saunders spoke eloquently of “unfortunately growing up unaware of Roanoke’s history, the value of the Gainsboro area, and the horrors of its gentrified community.” She went on to explain how personal research enriched her understanding and “strengthened her pride” in the rich heritage of the Northwest area.
“It is an initiative like this (Melrose Market) that gives me and you as community members the current continuation of a legacy that we have been searching for to collectively stand on to take further pride in ourselves and to impart this same pride and awareness on to our next generation so that they to can pass the torch forward.” Her speech, bold and impressive was one deserving of all the applause she received from the many who attended.
A Goodwill directive explains the: “Market on Melrose” as a full-service grocery store that will be an anchor for providing access to healthy and fresh foods, nutritional education, and improving food access. Through the inclusion of a grocery store in Northwest Roanoke, Goodwill will collaborate to provide access to fresh, healthy, affordable food options for area residents. This grocery store will not only improve healthy food access but also will provide employment opportunities for area residents.
The Excel Center® is a free, public school providing adults the opportunity to earn a state-recognized high school diploma and begin post-secondary education. In addition to a high school diploma, students earn industry-recognized certificates and/or college credits all at no cost. The Excel Center® in Northwest Roanoke will provide the resources necessary for students to achieve their goals. Resources include flexible employment, no-cost childcare, and transportation support, life coaching, connection to college and career choices, and job placement services. The Excel Center® can move the needle on poverty in the Roanoke Valley which directly ties to Goodwill’s vision.
The Wellness Center will function as a holistic community center allowing residents to connect to a variety of physical and mental health resources. The wellness center will focus to increase and strengthen access to family services, promote a healthy community and improve the quality of life.
Banking services will be provided to residents through a financial center. It will also offer access to financial literacy and coaching services helping to improve the financial well-being of residents and support a thriving community.
The concept and design process continues to develop through the space needs of each of the programs. The project aims to be complete by the end of 2024. The Roanoke City Melrose Branch Library currently located at the Goodwill Jobs Campus will remain as part of the new center.
Program and service delivery remains critical to the delivery of Goodwill’s mission. Chief Strategy Officer, Mary Ann Gilmer states, “Goodwill reiterates its pledge to the community through continuity of programming and service delivery to the Roanoke Valley. Goodwill is seeking a new location to relocate all existing programs. Stakeholders will be notified as a location is determined.”
For more information on the project, visit www.goodwillvalleys.com/restore or email CommunityEngagement@goodwillvalleys.com.
Goodwill Industries of the Valleys serves 35 counties and 14 cities throughout Central, Southwest, and Southside Virginia. Its vision is to eliminate poverty through its mission of empowering individuals, strengthening families, and inspiring communities. In 2021, Goodwill served 38,446 youth, adults, and seniors placed 670 people into jobs in our community, and helped individuals attain 2,949 industry-recognized credentials allowing them to be more competitive in their job search and to find higher-paying employment. Visit www.goodwillvalleys.com for more information.