Election to a Hall of Fame, be it baseball, football, hockey or other, is a recognition of excellence. It is no different for the National Civic League, which instituted a Hall of Fame for their All-America City Award recipients. The first induction into this Hall of Fame is none other than Roanoke, in recognition of its multi-generational commitment to civic involvement and its nation-leading seven-time receipt of the All-America City Award. This is an amazing recognition for Roanoke. (Pictured below from left: Roanoke Public Libraries Director Sheila Umberger, Mayor Sherman Lea, and Youth Services Manager Amber Lowery at the 2019 All-America City Conference and Award Event in Denver, Colo.)
Best Among the Best
What this election as the first community into its Hall of Fame says is that, in its 70 years of awarding cities across the country for their civic engagement, we stand out above all of them—we are the best among the best! Why is this? Most recently it has been the result of people coming together to address early childhood learning and its role in disrupting the cycle of poverty that grips so many in our community. As Roanoke Public Libraries Director Sheila Umberger notes in her recent guest commentary in The Roanoke Times, one in three children in Roanoke live in poverty and children who are hungry cannot readily learn. Since 2014, in partnership with Roanoke City Public Schools, the YMCA of Virginia’s Blue Ridge, and Feeding America Southwest Virginia, the Feed and Read program, itself an off-shoot from the award-winning Star City Reads program, has served more than 57,000 meals to area children.
A Work Not Yet Complete
Perhaps most important with this recognition is the attention it draws to work not yet done in Roanoke, elsewhere in southwest Virginia, and in our Nation. Thousands of children across our Country still lack regular access to nourishing food. These same children fare poorly in learning at an early age and, if not sufficiently addressed, risk being another statistic, joining the thousands of families trapped in generational poverty. Here in Roanoke we have a plan and, more importantly, we have partners collaborating to act on those plans. In a partnership led by the United Way, we have a plan to lift 10,000 families out of poverty. In partnership with those noted earlier, we have a plan to ensure children get regular nourishing meals. And, in partnership with more than 30 local agencies, we have a plan to ensure all area children are reading proficiently by third grade.
We have a plan, we have collaborators, we have actions, and now we have an award to draw attention to this noble endeavor! I ask for your support of these efforts and that you join us in celebrating our induction into the Hall of Fame and with this call to action.