New community center in Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) What's old is new again in Northwest Roanoke. A building that was once rundown is now providing resources for the people who live in the neighborhood.

The building on Melrose Avenue was originally a family-owned restaurant and a positive place for people to gather. Over time it was bought out, turned into a nightclub, and became a place of frequent violence. "I had a student who was stabbed here when it was a nightclub and almost lost his life," said Kevin McNeil. "I had another female student who was walking by here at night and was assaulted."

Kevin McNeil has lived in the Melrose neighborhood for 16 years. He says the building's new use will improve lives. On Wednesday Feeding America Southwest Virginia celebrated the opening of its new Community Solutions Center, a place where people in the neighborhood can find fresh food, community space, and an industrial kitchen to use. There is also an outreach space for Roanoke Police Department. A council made up of faith leaders, volunteers, and business owners will lead the center.

Feeding American Southwest Virginia partnered Goodwill Industries to help train students. They hope it will promote self-sufficiency. People will receive culinary arts training and professional development.

"It makes us feel amazing that we can help folks make a change," said Mary-Ann Gilmer. "There is nothing like the power of work to change a person, that will change a family, that changes a community." The organization hopes to train 40 students and produce 500 fresh meals per day.

"We've talked about this being a start of a movement, a renaissance period, great awakening," said McNeil. "This is the first piece in a new mosaic for this community."