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Rodney Lewis, the owner of Rodney’s Kitchen at 624 Sycamore St., has been honored for his work in the community.

WATERLOO — Waterloo business owner Rodney Lewis received the Paul Mann Memorial Human Relations Award presented by the Iowa State Education Association.

Lewis was honored at a special awards banquet Monday at the West Des Moines Sheraton in West Des Moines before a group of more than 200 educators.

Lewis is chef and owner of Rodney’s Kitchen & Catering, a restaurant located in downtown Waterloo offering a menu that mixes American grill, soul food and Mediterranean dishes. While Lewis’s restaurant serves up great food, his work in the community, specifically for hungry kids, is what earned him ISEA’s honor.

“The Paul Mann Memorial Human Relations Award is about giving back to those in need and helping people succeed. Rodney certainly embodies this award with his hard work and efforts on the job and in his community,” said Mike Beranek, president of the ISEA. “Rodney’s compassion for helping others knows no bounds. The ISEA is proud to present Rodney with the Paul Mann Award.”

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Saying he was once one of those kids who went hungry on the weekend or during school breaks, Rodney’s Kitchen often serves meals to neighborhood kids who would otherwise go without.

Serving more than 300 meals so far, Rodney knows many parents are out working during the day and many kids come from single-parent homes like he once did. Lewis has made it his mission to ensure kids can get a meal. He started a program offering free sack lunches Tuesday through Thursday for kids in need and keeps an eye out for others.

The Paul Mann Memorial Human Relations Award honors an individual or group for exemplary contributions toward the advancement of human and civil rights. It is named in memory of Paul Mann, a veteran Des Moines teacher and human rights activist who passed away suddenly in September 2006.

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