Christine Stuart photo
Rev. Cornell Lewis (Christine Stuart photo)

Inspired by President Barack Obama’s call to action and the state of the economy, Rev. Cornell Lewis and a handful of volunteers have been handing out sandwiches on Albany Avenue every Saturday for the past two months.

“The economy is really, really bad,” Rev. Lewis said this past Saturday. “At this point in time in urban areas people of color seldom get a chance to access resources.”

“It’s an attempt by us to feed our people,” Rev. Lewis said.

Christine Stuart photo
Rev. Cornell Lewis points out improvements in the neighborhood to Avon Police Department volunteers (Christine Stuart photo)

Rev. Lewis said by doing something in the Hartford community “we’re trying to cover Obama’s back.” He said often times people rally around black leaders, but after a period of time have a tendency to leave them in the dust.

The program was also inspired by the current state of the economy.

In good times people grudgingly give people of color what they need, now that times are bad there’s no one left to give, Rev. Lewis explained. “In bad times we need to provide people of color quality food,” he said.

Nancy Bowden of Bloomfield, a friend of Rev. Lewis’ who helps out by making the sandwiches, said she supports places like Foodshare, but this program is about “helping people where they’re at.”

The program started with a $500 donation and has continued as donations have come in from a variety of places, including the Avon Police Department which helped out by donating the bologna, bread, snacks, and juice about two weeks ago.

Two of the program’s volunteers include John Rodenbush and Nicky Lewis who used to run the streets near where the sandwiches are handed out every week. Both Rodenbush and Lewis who now reside in a recovery program said they got involved to give something back to the community.

“For 52 years I ran the streets of Hartford,” Lewis said. “Now I’m giving back to my community.”

Rodenbush said he wants to show people that you can turn your life around. He said he also wants to make the street a safer place for his kids and wants to let them know “I’m leading a decent life.”

“It’s a place people can come when they’re in hungry and when they’re in need,” Lewis said.

Rev. Lewis and his volunteers are also delivering groceries to people’s homes Monday through Friday. “We thank them for taking the food,” he said of the program called Food with Dignity.

For the past two months the group has handed out about 200 sandwiches every Saturday. About 20 of the sandwiches each week are walked down to the Horace Bushnell Congregate Homes.

Rev. Lewis and the Men and Women of Color initiative have also started patrolling the Northend neighborhood on Friday’s to make sure its free of drug dealers and other criminal elements. Last week the group was joined by Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez.