All America City
Home to nearly 100,000 residents, Roanoke is a mountain city and hub for innovation offering award-winning outdoor amenities, endless trails, friendly neighborhoods with character, public art, the famous Roanoke Star, museums, craft breweries, one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, and historical attractions. Our city is diverse, welcoming, and compassionate. Roanoke is also a National Civic League (NCL) 7-time All-America City and Hall of Fame Inductee and received the first-ever All-America City Hall of Fame Award in 2019!
Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the prestigious All-America City Award. The Award, bestowed yearly on 10 communities (more than 500 in all) recognized the work of communities in using inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses, nonprofits and government leaders.
Roanoke is excited to be a finalist for the 2022 All-America City Award. The 2022 theme is “Housing as a Platform to Promote Early School Success and Equitable Learning Recovery.”
Make sure to follow us on social media and join in on the conversation to celebrate our All-America City! #AAC2022
Roanoke’s civic infrastructure is focused on making a “collective impact” enabling our community to effectively address complex issues by employing grassroots, collaborative, data driven, evidence-based and comprehensive framework. This approach has established nationally recognized programs such as an early childhood learning initiative, addressing the opioid crisis, and enhancing access to health care. We utilize a Whole-of-Government Approach that combines the efforts of multiple City of Roanoke departments, community members, and new and existing partnerships to offer coordinated wraparound services. City of Roanoke leaders from government, healthcare, and nonprofit agencies practice more effective resident engagement collectively creating better conditions of health and well-being.
- Housing as a Platform for Education Equity
- Resource Hubs in Melrose
- Bringing Fresh Food to Neighborhoods
Since 2017, the Roanoke Public Libraries (a division of the City of Roanoke) has partnered with the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority as part of the National Book Foundation’s Book Rich Environments initiative. Through this partnership, which afterschool provider Kids Soar joined in 2018, the Libraries, RRHA, and Kids Soar have distributed over 2,000 books to children living at all of RRHA’s public housing properties and to children whose families receive housing choice vouchers. Most of these distributions take place at BRE festivals at public housing properties. These celebrations feature arts and crafts with librarians, police grilling lunch, zoo animal demonstrations, and healthcare providers sharing information.
During a site visit in advance of a Book Rich Environments family festival, staff from afterschool center Kids Soar visited the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Villages at Lincoln property. They noticed that Villages at Lincoln had an empty set of spaces, including classrooms. Kids Soar, which has been operating out of Old Southwest since 1989, had been interested in opening a center to serve children living in Northwest Roanoke for years. The Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Kids Soar came to a space usage agreement, and in the fall of 2020, Kids Soar opened a site at the Villages of Lincoln that features three classrooms, a library, offices, and a multipurpose space for family nights. This center will serve 75 students from the Northwest area of Roanoke, including many children who live in public housing.
The Roanoke Public Libraries constructed a new Melrose Branch Library in 2019 at the Goodwill Jobs Campus, around the corner from its original site. This new branch tripled the square footage of the previous branch and has given more residents access to jobseeker resources, including a mobile interview lab. The branch is also open until 8 PM on weekday evenings so children have a safe space to be in the evenings. Children participate in family programming and receive free meals during this time.
Slated to open in a new space in 2022, the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s EnVision Center connects all community members, not just RRHA residents, to local resources. This new space, across from Lansdowne Park in the old Melrose Branch Library building, will enhance the center’s offerings and opportunities for collaboration. It will feature a computer lab, dedicated meeting spaces, rooms for telehealth consultations, and a youth garden. In response to resident safety concerns, the City of Roanoke built a lighted walking path between the EnVision Center and the Goodwill Jobs Campus to better connect RRHA residents to both resource hubs.
Nearly one-third of Roanoke City children live in poverty, with many more on the margins, and these rates have likely increased due to the pandemic. We know that families in and near poverty struggle with hunger and with having access to healthy food. Since 2014, the Roanoke Public Libraries and Feeding Southwest Virginia have served over 200,000 meals to children 0-18 at library branches.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Roanoke community shifted to a curbside feeding model and expanded the range of locations at which families could pick up food. The Roanoke City Public Schools delivered food to families at bus stops and offered pickup at schools. Kids Soar began a weekly curbside food bank. The Roanoke Public Libraries and Feeding Southwest Virginia began curbside Feed and Read meal pickup in June 2020. Feeding Southwest Virginia began sharing free produce at children’s farmers markets outside neighborhood libraries starting in the summer of 2020.
In addition to the expansion of food offerings, Roanoke organizations have broadly cross-promoted food distribution opportunities across the community. The Roanoke City Public Schools, for example, shared information about the Roanoke Public Libraries’ Feed and Read program, and the libraries shared information about Kids Soar’s food pantry on the Star City Reads Facebook page. The Virginia Cooperative Extension also created a map of Roanoke food resources at https://roanoke.ext.vt.edu/FoodResources.html so people can find information about free and discounted food in one place.
An additional notable new feeding program is the Feeding Southwest Virginia Community Solutions Center. In 2018, the Community Solutions Center opened through a partnership between Feeding Southwest Virginia, the city, and the Roanoke Police Department. The center provides meal production training for adults, nutrition classes, and youth meals from its site on Melrose Avenue, the heart of Northwest.