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Sunday supper is his gift to the hungry

Published May 13, 2011

Cornelius Hamilton stood on a street corner and shouted into a bullhorn: "Who's hungry? We got food!"

Dozens had already lined up a block away. Now more stragglers trudged toward Hamilton's voice - the one that's been calling the hungry to eat on this stretch of N Florida Avenue nearly every Sunday for the past two years.

Every day across the city, churches and homeless shelters hand out free meals. But Hamilton's Sunday supper is noteworthy: the 32-year-old owner of Big Bru's BBQ & Caribbean Food cooks and pays for the meal himself.

Hamilton, who has an extensive criminal past, says he has turned his life around. He recently spent more than $200 to feed about 250 people - nearly all with claims to a bed at the Salvation Army next door. A dozen volunteers shoveled yellow rice, black beans and chili from giant pots and an orange Gatorade cooler into tortillas on flimsy white plates.

"He's our lifeline on Sundays," said Harvey Simmons, 51, noting the Salvation Army doesn't provide meals on the weekends.

In recent months, volunteers from the Walk Church in North Tampa have aided Hamilton, serving food and giving out donated clothing and shoes.

"Can I get a 'Thank you, Jesus'?" Hamilton shouted into the bullhorn as the breadline thinned.