Interfaith community supports RYSE initiative

newspaperLeaders representing various faith groups within the Roanoke Valley gathered on Wednesday to learn and engage with a program that serves one of the community’s most vulnerable populations: homeless children and families. The group, gathered by Kathy Cohen of Temple Emanuel Roanoke, was hosted in the Metropolitan Community Church where attendees set aside religious and cultural differences to band together in support of local youth.

With more than 600 students in the Roanoke Valley leaving school everyday unsure of where they’ll lay their heads that night, United Way and its partners had no choice but to act, and thus began the creation of RYSE (Rehousing Youth for Success in Education). The RYSE program provides case management to secure services related to the families housing and income needs but the program does not stop there. RYSE adds another layer of support to also address each family’s underlying challenges in the areas of academic support, employment, health/wellness, adult education, food assistance and other crisis interventions, moving families to a sustainable position of self-sufficiency.

The initiative, which was publicly launched in May began providing support to three families in September and has a goal to help more than 50 families with the first phase of development.

The highlight of the breakfast event included an announcement of Islamic Relief USA’s (IRUSA) support of the RYSE initiative with a $40,000 grant. IRUSA, an organization based in Northern Virginia, operates under a mission to provide relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals and give them a voice in the world. United Way president and CEO, Afira DeVries stated, “As early adopters in support of the RYSE initiative, Islamic Relief USA is a beautiful example of faith-based leadership and investment in community work. IRUSA’s commitment to fight for our friends and neighbors in poverty is a perfect match to United Way’s vision for the Roanoke Valley.”

The RYSE program has also benefitted from support from many local organizations including WSLS 10, Green Memorial United Methodist Church, Allstate, Appalachian Power, Carilion Clinic, and other community leaders. The program partners with the City of Roanoke, Roanoke City Public Schools, ARCH Services, Family Promise of Greater Roanoke, The Salvation Army, Council of Community Services’ Community Housing Resource Center, Blue Ridge Continuum of Care, Blue Ridge Interagency Council on Homelessness (BRICH) and other community nonprofits.


About United Way of Roanoke Valley

United Way of Roanoke Valley has been dedicated to improving lives in our community for 92 years, proudly serving the citizens of Roanoke, Salem, Vinton and the counties of Botetourt, Craig and Roanoke. UWRV envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their potential through: Education, Income Stability and Healthy Lives. To learn more about United Way visit


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