Roanoke Rescue Mission introduces incoming CEO

Local News

The Roanoke Rescue Mission introduced its soon-to-be CEO on Friday.

Incoming Rescue Mission CEO Lee Clark received a standing ovation as he spoke at the Rescue Mission’s weekly Rally.

Longtime CEO Joy Sylvester-Johnson is retiring at the end of the year, bringing the end of an era for an organization that has been in her family since the very beginning.

“I just don’t remember not being at the Rescue Mission,” Sylvester-Johnson said. 

Back in 1948, Sylvester-Johnson’s parents started the Roanoke Rescue Mission in a storefront on Salem Avenue. From the beginning, she said, it was welcoming to all people in need, an idea that wasn’t universally popular at the time.

“In 1948, it was unheard of to have black people and white people and brown people eating at the same table, sleeping in the same dorms, but they knew from the very beginning that the Rescue Mission had to be for everyone,” Sylvester-Johnson said. 

For soon-to-be CEO Lee Clark, joining the Rescue Mission means coming home.

“I was here at the Rescue Mission for ten years, and I worked in a couple different capacities as a fundraiser and loved that,” he said. 

Clark has most recently served as the Virginia chief operating officer for the American Red Cross. The first thing he wants to do as CEO, he said, is spend time with people at the Rescue Mission and get to know those from all parts of the organization.

“The Rescue Mission has been here for 70 years and has done so many good things and continues to do so many good things,” Clark said. “It’s such a great place that people’s lives are changed.”

“The future of the Mission is as bright as the promises of God,” Sylvester-Johnson said. “This is an amazing group of people. The Mission will continue to evolve and blossom and continue to be a beacon in the middle of the city.”

Sylvester-Johnson is expected to officially retire on January 2. She said she will continue to donate and help out at the Rescue Mission, but also plans to travel, spend more time with family and work on a housing initiative during her retirement.

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