When the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III organized churches in some
of Boston's toughest neighborhoods a decade ago, violent crime
plummeted 62 percent and there were no youth homicides in 23
months, he said.
It was an aggressive attack. Church members commandeered the
street corners around their parish, identified problem kids and
steered them and their families into social programs to address
The church leaders also forged bonds with city police, civic
leaders and the local health and social service network to address
neighborhood problems at their roots.
Now Rivers is bringing his National Ten Point Leadership campaign
to Hartford. The Harvard-educated Pentecostal minister met with
West End church leaders, civic leaders, activists and a representative
of the police department Thursday night to see if the concept
would work here.
Rivers, whose effort to start Ten Point coalitions in 40 of
the country's most distressed inner-city neighborhoods has been
featured on CNN and in The New York Times, said Hartford sponsors
have their work cut out for them.
"This is not rhetoric, this is not a rally," Rivers
said during a break in a strategy meeting at the Connecticut
Convention Center. "We're talking about hard work on the
ground, measurable outcomes, seven days a week. Identifying and
mentoring some of the most at- risk kids, opening churches Monday
through Saturday and giving children a sanctuary."
Thursday's meeting was sponsored by the HOPE Community Development
Corporation, a West End faith-based civic group which invited
Rivers to give the keynote address at a fundraiser honoring the
group's first five years of operation. HOPE Community Development
recently adopted the Noah Webster Elementary School, and the
group offers a food pantry, youth mentoring, a homework center
and family support through its the HOPE Family Life Center on
But before Thursday's party started, church leaders got down
to business to talk about what they could do to help the families
in their community. Among those attending Thursday's meeting
were local activist Cornell Lewis, Deputy Police Chief Daryl
K. Roberts and Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
Perez, a former gang member who credits his involvement with
Hartford's Sacred Heart Church for helping turn his life around,
said the concept has merit.
"There are things government can't do that church folk
can do," Perez said. "And there are things human beings
can do for each other."
Lewis said having someone of Rivers' stature involved in Hartford
was beneficial to the city given his national reputation, his
contacts within the Bush administration and his ability to bring
money and attention to a cause.
Roberts said the police department is willing to work with local
church leaders to address problems in the community and help
empower residents to improve their lives. More meetings are planned
in the coming months.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at