New community center in northwest Roanoke scheduled to open in May

Organizers are looking for donations

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - A new community center and food bank program needs help from people in the Roanoke Valley. Leaders of a project in northwest Roanoke are asking for donations.

Feeding America Southwest Virginia representatives said Monday the Community Solutions Center is expected to open in late May. It will be in the former Ms. Choc’s Restaurant location on Melrose Avenue, a spot police say used to be a site for shootings and other violent crime.

The project will provide training for staff that will work in the kitchen to prepare meals for area children and there will be space for community meetings.

The center still needs about $350,000 in donations.

"We hope this will be a life-changing experience for many individuals that live in northwest Roanoke,” said Pam Irvine, Feeding America Southwest Virginia president and CEO.

Food Lion, the city of Roanoke and the Roanoke Police Department have given money and support to the $1.4 million project.

Leaders are forming an advisory council of members of the northwest community to help bring ideas on solving problems in the area. Those council members will host small-group discussions and have meetings with other members of the community. Leaders hope this can help identify and address issues in northwest. FASWVA has reached out to members of Congress to come and speak with council members.

"By closing that structure down because it was so violent, it allows the community to take a breath and to actually see that there is hope and to re-engage and reunite,” said Rick Morrison, former Roanoke police captain.

There will be a meeting March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Goodwill to update community members.

FASWVA representatives said the remaining money it needs will go to renovations, culinary student scholarships, equipment, furniture and startup staffing and program costs.

They said the center will provide nutritious meals for food-insecure children and adults as well as offer food preparation job training and food safety management certifications. The  will also include a market area, a community room and space for Roanoke police outreach programs.

FASWVA representatives announced many details of the project in February of last year.

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