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Roanoke church to renovate, reopen Melrose Avenue child care center

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The former Northwest Child Development Center on Melrose Avenue in northwest Roanoke is receiving a makeover, and not just aesthetically.

"It's just something that was natural to what we do as a church, part of our core values," said Melrose Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Pastor Shaun Arthur.

His church, located across the street from the center, bought the building following Northwest's abrupt closing in September 2015.

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"Education is a staple of what we promote and part of empowerment for members and for community," he said.

The church will bring Christian faith principles into newly named Melrose Adventist Child Development Center when it opens for 2 through 5-year-olds in June, provided renovations are complete. It will eventually expand to other ages and after-school care.

Angela Williams will be the new program director.

"These children are our children. They're your children. They're out here in this community and the center is a need," she said.

Fifty-six children were under the care of Northwest Child Development Center when it shut down following a loss of grant money, funding from United Way of Roanoke Valley and concerns over its board.

It's too early to determine if United Way will fund the new center; however, CEO Afira DeVries said they've been in consistent communication with the new leadership since they bought the facility.

"They've proactively engaged our guidance at several steps along their journey toward becoming operational and we're pretty impressed with their vision, integrity and commitment to quality. We're excited to see what they bring to the neighborhood," she said.

The building is now getting a deep cleaning. Fundraisers are underway, including a GoFundMe page, to help pay for upcoming renovations to the kitchen, painting and fencing outside estimated to cost $300,000. Upcoming fundraisers include March 18 gospel musical and April 1 "Men In Black" talent show, both held at the church.

Williams said the center's board also received a makeover with new members and a new plan.

"The board has a very large plan we've been working on to make sure that we are sustained throughout the years as we continue on," she said.

The Melrose Adventist Child Development Center will have help from the national Seventh-day Adventists, Williams said, which has operated schools and early childhood education centers for decades.

"The sustainability of their current schools and their educational centers we will follow their models as well."

Williams said the center will also seek state licensing, even though Virginia allows child day centers operated by religious institutions to be exempt from licensure.

The center will focus on education, character building and families, many of them low-income, of the children enrolled.

"We're focused on their families as well and will be doing financial workshops, career workshops. We are trying to help this community to grow," Williams said.

Arthur said it's part of the church's mission to extend its reach beyond the pulpit.

"If you look at the model of Jesus, he took church beyond the walls and he met real human needs," explained Arthur.