Roanoke gun buyback event scheduled in June

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 7:33 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - People lined up around the block for the first “Groceries Not Guns” event in August. They traded more than 90 firearms for more than $14,000 worth of grocery store gift cards.

Now, the groups that organized the gun buyback event say they plan to do it again next month.

“Any small thing that we can do to make it better is what we should be doing,” said Rev. Amy Hodge, pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church in Roanoke. “And Groceries Not Guns is a wonderful thing.”

“We’re trying to save lives,” said Brenda Hale, President of the Roanoke Branch NAACP. “And this is our way of trying to save lives with the collaboration and partnerships that we have.”

The NAACP is partnering with the Roanoke City Police Department and other community organizations. The event is Saturday, June 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Melrose Community Center at 1427 Melrose Avenue NW.

“I think this event is important because it’s one more step,” said Dr. Mike Heller with the Roanoke Quaker Meeting.

“Today, we want to tell folks, there is a different way. There is a better way,” said Dr. Catherine Koebel Stromberg, grant writer and event coordinator. “And that is that we don’t need to be gunned up against our neighbors.”

For many it’s a personal mission.

Rita Joyce is a founder of the group Fed Up. She lost her son to gun violence.

“We need this to stop. That is my prayer,” Joyce said during the news conference. “Do something, but doing nothing creates nothing.”

Hale shared a personal story she rarely discusses in public, describing how her father shot and killed her mother when she was just six years old.

“The fact of the matter is we can’t sit idly by,” Hale said. “We must do something.”

A grant from the Roanoke City Gun Violence Prevention Commission is supporting the effort.

The groups are still fundraising and hope to have about $45,000 in hand for this year’s event. And they say they have funding that will allow them to do it again next year.

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