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Farmers Market Yields Some Help: Dispatches from Garden Street

Helen Ubinas

August 08, 2009

Three of Hartford's 21 homicides this year have occurred on Garden Street; another six nearby. Courant columnist Helen Ubinas and photographer Rick Hartford spend the week in and around the North End neighborhood talking to residents about living, and surviving, one of Hartford's tougher neighborhoods. Below are excerpts from her blog.

Eating healthy in the 'hood...

It's not easy finding healthy and affordable food here. On one end of Albany Avenue, there's a Dunkin' Donuts and a Subway. On the other, a McDonald's. And in between are lots of bodegas and convenience stores that people here told us pretty much extort the already poor and vulnerable by extending credit with exorbitant interest rates. Buy $30 worth of groceries, we were told, and get charged $60 by the time you come back to settle the tab.

It explains why on days when Foodshare distributes bags of food outside the community health center on the corner of Garden and Albany, the place is packed. It was less so today for the farmers market, but an hour or so after it began, the 80 coupons the center gives out for fresh produce were already gone. (The farmers market is held there every Friday from 8 to 11 a.m.) It was the first time for Dahlia Bryan, who came with vouchers she got from the nearby WIC office. It only took the mother of three a few minutes to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for her children. "I love this," she said. "It's good food and it's right here in the neighborhood."

Bring me your tired, your poor ...

That, Willie Floyd told us when we talked at the health center on the corner of Garden and Albany Friday, was Dr. Evans Daniels' philosophy when he started his North End clinic back in the 1970s.

The health center was first located at 1023 Albany Ave., then moved to a partially empty Stop & Shop building until it finally relocated. The name on the building may now read "Community Health Services," but ask Floyd and he'll tell you that everyone knows this is "Dr. Daniels' building."

"He was a phenomenal man," remembered Floyd, who has worked security for the center since 1990.

"He'd come in at 7:30 in the morning and wouldn't leave until 10 or 11 or whenever he was done treating the last person to come to him."

"I remember once telling him after a really long day how tired I was and Dr. Daniels turned to me and said, 'Imagine how tired they are. They don't have money or health insurance. You should be proud to be here.' "

"I never told him I was tired again," Floyd said, laughing.

Dr. Daniels, who was later appointed CHS' first executive director and medical director, was active in the center until his death in 2005. But even after his death, Floyd said, his legacy lives on with the health center, and the thousands of people who come looking for health care they could otherwise not access. (Dr. Irving Buchbinder, who's worked at the center for 10 years and who gave us a tour of the place Friday, said that more than 30 percent of patients, most from the neighborhood, have no way to pay for care.)

"It was an honor to work for him," Floyd said of Daniels.

"And it's an honor to still work here and see his good work live on."

They'll be at the parade

They had just closed up and gone home for the night, the stylists at Main Street's Hair Power recalled.

I'd stopped by to chat about the violence that erupted just steps from their salon at the end of last year's West Indian Day Parade.

A relative of the city's police chief was killed. Six others were wounded, including 7-year-old Tyrek Marquez who lay in a pool of blood just steps from their shop on the corner of Main Street and Cleveland Avenue.

"My kids had been out there watching the parade, too," said one of the stylists.

All week, cops we talked to were bracing for today's parade: Planning, preparing, hoping this year's parade won't play out the same way. But when I asked the women about their preparations - maybe closing up shop? I suggested - they looked puzzled. We live here, they told me. We have a business here. They'll be open for business today, they said.

And they'll be at the parade.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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