ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — A retired Roanoke pastor is using one of the darkest times in his life to help extend life for others in the Star City.
Rev. Dr. Bill Lee was a passionate pastor in the pulpit for nearly four decades.
“We’ve got to walk the same road and travel in the same direction for the good of all of God’s children,” Lee said during a sermon in 2016. “I hope we’re all moving in the same direction”
While his longtime ministry was thriving, his father was dying.
“My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 64,” Lee said.
In 1994, Lee’s father was not only uninsured, but had no easy access to healthcare while living in rural Virginia.
“He was fully metastasized with cancer by the time he was able to get healthcare,” Lee said.
His father’s battle lasted three years before he passed away. However, that death gave birth to a vision for Lee.
“I went home to fight and advocate for him.”
Not only for his father, but the thousands who could be just like him. Lee and a team of more than a dozen people began the work to create New Horizons Healthcare Facility in northwest Roanoke.
Linda Manns is a founding board member.
“We wanted an area and a place for them to feel at home. Comfortable,” she said.
It all started back in 2000 inside the historic Loudon Avenue Christian Church. Within a year, it moved more than three miles away to Melrose Avenue where it currently operates.
In 2020, the facility served more than 9,400 in the Roanoke Valley.
Phone: (540) 362-0360
According to New Horizons Healthcare, 62% of patients identify as racial or ethnic minorities. In addition, a majority of patients are low income, underinsured, or uninsured.
“To not have a primary provider in your community and having to get a taxi or whatever to go over to where they were, that was a big barrier,” Manns said.
That was a barrier she and Lee sought to break down. They made the facility a “one-stop shop” for primary and dental care, behavioral health and access to a pharmacy.
The care is available to those with or without insurance and not just for black people, but for all people.
“It feels like home. It’s an entity for them,” Manns said.
“They see this as theirs,” Lee said. “This makes people feel good about being who they are.”
Sonya Jackson is a registered nurse at new Horizons. She says it is a way she can give back to her own community, as she grew up down the street from the facility.
“I always see them as if they’re family. I want to talk to them as if they’re family,” Jackson said.
She takes pride in being a part of the solution to problem she has become too familiar with.
“To hear simple ‘thank you,’ or to have someone cry or just to get a fist bump or just even a hug sometimes just because we’re here,” she said.
Jackson, Manns, and Lee hoped to build trust when forming the healthcare facility.
“I hope the Roanoke Valley would move in the same direction, in the same road for the betterment of humankind,” Lee said while preaching in 2016 to his congregation.
It is a message that still rings true for him.
New Horizons Healthcare has satellite offices in other parts of Roanoke. The board members also aim to expand the facility in the future to serve more people in need.