Breaking New Ground

On a bright, sunny day in June, Feeding America Southwest Virginia gathered with a group of partners at a building on Melrose Avenue that has seen better days.

It is fondly remembered for its days as the fine-dining establishment Lowell’s Restaurant. But its most recent incarnation, the nightclub “Ms. Choc’s Lounge,” sadly brought with it crime and other challenges that plagued the surrounding neighborhoods and kept police busy.

The group assembled on the property on the morning of June 26 was there to change that. With grant funding from HUD via Roanoke City and a large contribution from Food Lion Feeds, as well as the support of the Roanoke Police Department, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, faith communities, and neighborhood associations, FASWVA broke ground on what will become the Community Solutions Center.

The building will be stripped to its bones and built back up to include several important elements. The main focus will be a production kitchen that will supply fresh, nutritious meals to FASWVA’s children’s programs. The kitchen will also act as a training facility with local partner Goodwill Industries offering job training courses.

Other signature features will include a small fresh foods market, a community room, and an office for Roanoke City Police. Each facet of the new center is designed to bring community members together and to support healthy lifestyles and positive relationships.

Relationship building has been key to bringing the Community Solutions Center to fruition, says Pamela Irvine, FASWVA’s President and CEO. “Collaborative partnerships are the future for our food bank and for many other organizations,” she says. “Working together and sharing resources is the way we’re going to improve the lives of the people we serve.”

Captain Rick Morrison and Chief Tim Jones of the Roanoke Police Department have been key figures in the project, helping to bring partners such as local neighborhood associations, faith communities and the police department to the table to define what the center would be and how it would serve the surrounding communities.

“The Community Solutions Center is the furtherance of today’s community policing mission,” says Captain Morrison. “With a dedicated area inside the center for police department outreach activities, this project will enhance neighborhood unity by bringing together collaborative community partners that will mentor youth, and expand community awareness and safety programs.”

Goodwill Industries of the Valleys also jumped at the chance to use their experience providing job training programs to further the center’s offerings.

“Goodwill has been an active player in helping to revitalize our Northwest Melrose neighborhood.” says Bruce Phipps, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries. “The Community Solutions Center is a great example of how two strong organizations can collaborate to help continue this positive transition to greater prosperity in our community. We are proud to work alongside Feeding America Southwest Virginia to make this a reality.”

With FASWVA’s commitment not to draw any funds away from its current operations to develop the new center, entirely new funds needed to be raised for renovations. After receiving two grants through Roanoke City, Food Lion Feeds contributed $350,000 to fill the remaining funding gap.

“Food Lion Feeds is proud to continue our partnership with Feeding America Southwest Virginia in such an impactful way,” says Rob Ward, director of operations for Food Lion’s Roanoke market. “In addition to providing meals to hungry families, this building will transform the lives of many who need job training skills so they can get better employment to help support their local families.”

Teamwork and fruitful partnerships will bring the Community Solutions Center to the Melrose community in the summer of 2018, but support is still needed to implement the critically important programming the center will house.

To learn more about how your gift can make a difference in the lives of people in your local community, contact Jenny Doud at 540.444.2940 or