Clay Hampton was standing outside his new house in North Charleston on Wednesday when two school-aged boys rode by, sharing a single bike.
“That’s who I’m working for,” Hampton said, pointing at the boys. “Those are my kids, and I want to teach them. Go tell those kids to come get some food.”
Hampton, 73 and a community activist and long-time mentor to children in North Charleston, was presented with a new home in the Dorchester Waylyn neighborhood, replacing the house he lost in a fire in March of 2014.
The three-bedroom, 1,200-square foot home on Ranger Drive was renovated as a joint project of Metanoia Community Development and Jumpstart Prison Ministry. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey cut a red ribbon in front of the house as raindrops fell on a small crowd in the front yard.
“Showers of blessings,” Summey said with a grin.
Summey said Hampton will be a blessing to his new neighbors. Hampton is the founder of the Charleston Blazin’ Hawks semi-pro football team, which he started to provide an outlet for young men. He tends a community garden on Spruill Avenue, and makes it a habit to reward children if they can answer his spelling and math questions.
“Mr. Hampton is one of the people that contributes back to the community all the time,” Summey said. “Sometimes we go through life without people acknowledging who and what we are. With this effort, we’ve said, ‘Mr. Hampton, thank you and well done.’ ”
Hampton had been sleeping on a couch in a single room since he lost everything in the fire, including all the Blazin’ Hawks’ uniforms and equipment. The team has not yet been able to replace that equipment, worth some $40,000.
“This just means I’ve got to work harder,” Hampton said of his new home. “Imagine sleeping on a chair in a room for almost two years. It wasn’t a hard life, because I’ve been doing that all my life.
“I’m 73, but I’m a baby in my world, because I’ve got 73 years to go.”
The renovation of the house on Ranger Drive is one of several similar North Charleston projects in recent years, Summey said.
“We try to find places that we can go in and renovate,” Summey said. “This one was unique because we used Metanoia, and a team from Jumpstart to do the work, a team of people who’ve gotten out of prison.
“So they are contributing back to the community, and then we present the house to someone who is in need. So they are enhanced, the neighborhood is enhanced, and it’s a true coming together of all elements to make it work.”
Metanoia is a nonprofit group, begun by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina in 2002, and now partners with Trident United Way and the city of North Charleston. Jumpstart Prison Ministry is a prison re-entry program that aims to reduce rates of recidivism.
Hampton, who played football at the old Gresham Meggett High School on James Island, said he was grateful to both groups for his new home. He plans to spruce up the backyard with some of his beloved plants and flowers.
“This is for my neighborhood,” Hampton said. “I’m not like most guys, I’m with the poor people. I want to guide these kids. Don’t look at the guy on the corner; come talk to me.”