For the past six years, Jeri Lewis has driven around Middletown’s Sherman Park neighborhood, checking on those who may be struggling with drug addiction, mental illness or prostitution.
She calls those areas “darkness” and her goal is to shed light by pulling over and praying with people.
“People who look like they need good conversation,” she said.
She starts the talks. “How’s it going? How can I pray for you today?” she asks.
“I usually get a bucket list from people,” she said.
She has been known to U-turn if she sees someone who needs assistance. She jokingly calls the neighborhood “my beat.”
“I consider myself a missionary and this is the mission field,” she said. “We got to get outside the walls.”
Last week, Lewis and numerous volunteers finished a lunch feeding program at Sherman Park. Community members provided food to children during the summer.
Lewis compared the program to “planting seeds, watering them and seeing the harvest.”
“We are coming up on a harvest that’s amazing to watch,” she said.
“It takes everyday people to do this,” said Rodney Muterspaw, Middletown’s police chief. “People say, ‘Where is the government and the police in all this?’ But it takes people at home to fix the problem. We need people to help us. This is a social problem.”
When asked how he feels about the community’s involvement, people like Lewis taking action, Muterspaw said: “That’s awesome.”
Heroin, Lewis noted, is taking lives too soon. When she hears that another person has overdosed, her emotions shift from anger to sadness, she said.
“We are all at a point of not knowing what to do,” Lewis said. “I’m not shocked anymore. At some point we got to stop talking and we got to start doing to help the community. We need to do whatever it takes to build up this community. Everybody is at a point, ‘OK what are we supposed to do? What can we do as a community?’ That is a place we haven’t been before. There are tons of people now who are part of the conversation. That’s a good thing.”
Lewis said she will continue driving around her “beat.”
She was asked what would happen if she could snap her fingers and rid the country of heroin.
“I think we’d be in heaven. All of us,” she said. “Because with it here, it feels like hell on some level.”