Early in the morning of June 19, Roanoke City Police Chief Tim Jones and Captain Rick Morrison were standing on a hill overlooking Ms. Choc's Lounge where police had responded to a triple shooting, the fourth at this site in a month and a half. Morrison asked Jones, "What if we could repurpose that building? What kind of change could we bring to this neighborhood?" With this simple question, Jones empowered Morrison to make this happen.
Fast forward one year and local officials, Feeding America representatives, alongside local residents prepare to break ground on the Community Solutions Center designed to provide a variety of services: a community kitchen, feeding programs and job training in an effort to strengthen the community. The Community Solutions Center is a joint effort between Feeding America, Goodwill, Roanoke police and Food Lion.
“We couldn’t embark on this important community project without the exceptional support we’ve received from Food Lion,” said Pamela Irvine, President and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia. “This gift cements our 26-year-long partnership and demonstrates not only Food Lion’s investment in hunger relief, but also in the City of Roanoke and the people who live here.”
Although renovations have not officially begun, community leaders and local residents were already excited about the possibilities the new center will bring to the neighborhood.
"The Center will be an extension of what is good in this neighborhood," said Captain Jones as he addressed the crowd.
Hope was a word being repeated over and over by many residents of the community.
"This [community center] being here will definitely change the outlook; it will change the look of the neighborhood," said Grover Price, director of the Hope Center. "It will change the feeling. It will give people hope. That's the only thing we have is hope. As long as we can continue to give people hope, they'll continue to try to change and do better."
The Center is already having an impact on the neighborhood according to John Shoulders, SVP of Business Affairs at Feeding America Southwest Virginia. As Shoulders was preparing the site on Sunday for Monday's announcement, a gentleman from the neighborhood asked if he could help as he was hungry and wanted to make some money to get something to eat. Later in the day a young man also approached Shoulders and asked if he had any work he could do as he was trying to save money to buy a new pair of tennis shoes.
From a simple question of "what if," came hope, change and a world of possibilities for one community.