For a number of years, Biblical and Reformed Church leaders in Roanoke asked why we could not do more together to minister in the Roanoke Valley. A group of men and women came to the conclusion that God wanted us to be bolder in loving our neighbors with mercy and the Good News of the Gospel.
A turning point came in September 2016 when Pastor Doug Hart and wife Ginnie attended a conference in Ft. Myers, Florida. They “just happened” to sit next to David Spickard, CEO of Jobs for Life. David shared how in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond, Charleston and many others, networks of churches were working together to help many folks not only find meaningful work but restored relationships to their God, community , themselves and their work. As they prayed together about starting such a network in Roanoke David commented, “Someday Doug, we will look back and remember how God used this meal together as a catalyst to begin a wonderful ministry in Roanoke.”
The first step happened early in 2017 when David came to Roanoke and met with a group of pastors and leaders at Westminster Presbyterian Church for lunch and a discussion about the ministry of Jobs for Life. Over 35 attended and interest was high.
At our first training in May 2017 we had over 30 people trained by staff from the Jobs for Life office. We learned what was needed to begin Jobs for Life Classes and to begin to cross denominational, class, economic, racial and cultural barriers with the mercy and hope of Christ.
In our first class in the Fall of 2017, over 10 students from the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Lodge attended classes at Christ our Redeemer Community Church at the Jefferson Center. Eight men graduated and successfully found jobs or took next career steps. Volunteers from Christ our Redeemer, First Evangelical Presbyterian, Christ the King Presbyterian, The Gathering Place, The Salvation Army, Grace Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church provided leadership, mentorship, and food. Our first graduation at First EPC featured Mayor Sherman Lea as our keynote speaker, caps and gowns, and a great celebration!
Our second class was held in the winter of 2018 at Grace Church. Students again came from the Salvation Army and included three young single mothers who added enthusiasm and determination that was contagious. Some very encouraging relationships were built, and jobs were landed by our 7 graduates.
Our third class in Winter 2019 focused on young adults, ages 18-30. We met at the Salvation Army’s New Day Center and used the Powered for Life curriculum for young adults.
Beginning in mid 2018, the leadership recognized the need for more organization of our efforts as well as the potential need to expand the ministry beyond Jobs for Life. As a result, Restoring Hope Roanoke, Inc. (RHR) was incorporated in Virginia as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Our directors Doug Hart President, Ken Ferris Vice-President, Lanell Otey Secretary, Mel Lester, and Ben Wisdom.
Since the establishment of RHR, the leadership has been focused on several new initiatives: