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Pastor helps teenager on verge of robbing a store to feed his family

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Pastor Eugene Hamilton

Pastor Eugene Hamilton. Provided

Pastor Eugene Hamilton is startled by an urgent knock at the door one day in January as he works inside his office at Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church. He flicks on a security camera and recognizes a 16-year-old from the Dorchester Waylyn neighborhood. 

The teen bursts inside, begging for $20 to feed his four little sisters. The girls are home crying. Their mom, a recovering crack addict, has been gone for days. He shows Hamilton a gun. He says he's thinking about sticking up a corner store. 

"Help me not do the wrong thing," the teen pleaded.

Hamilton recalled that he toted a gun for protection when he was the teen's age. He wanted to look like a tough guy. Hamilton eventually grew out of that phase, but some of his old friends weren't so lucky. Many ended up incarcerated or dead.

The pastor decided to buy the teen $100 in groceries in exchange for washing his car.

"If you die, who's gonna be here for your sisters?" Hamilton said to him. "You're the only constant in their lives."

Hamilton sees himself much the same way in this neighborhood. His church sits at the entrance to the Waylyn along Dorchester Road, and people here have grown accustomed to seeking him out for help when they see his car parked in the lot. 

He tends to their problems even though most residents never attend his services. That's just part of pastoring in an urban area, he said. 

Then one day his car is gone. He's been called away to minister to another flock in another state. The neighborhood is left to wait for another pastor to cycle through.

Reach Angie Jackson at 843-937-5705. Follow her on Twitter at @angiejackson23. 

Angie Jackson covers crime and breaking news for The Post and Courier. She previously covered the same beat for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com in Michigan. When she’s not reporting, Angie enjoys teaching yoga and exploring the outdoors.