Private sector steps up to house a pair of James Island heroes

BY ON JANUARY 14, 2015

James Island native and community hero Clay Hampton lost his north-area home in March of 2014

James Island is a place where neighbors help neighbors, strangers are willing to lend a hand, and folks simply want to do right by their fellow islanders. And while most of the efforts of the good-hearted go unnoticed, a trio of organizations in our community is working to change that, one individual at a time.

Upstate-based JumpStart Ministry, along with their partner and public relations arm Custom Development Solutions (CDS) is currently building a home from the ground up for James Island native and North-area community hero Clay Hampton. The home will be constructed for Hampton, whose house tragically burned down in March of last year, largely free of charge to the 72-year-old.

Here on James Island, Miami-based Lennar homes has taken up the cause to retrofit the home of decorated veteran and Purple Heart awardee (now Staff NCO) Scott Petrie, who served for 19 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Petrie was wounded in Afghanistan, barely making it out alive and losing several of his brothers in arms in the fight. Lennar Homes Coastal Carolinas Division president Jason Byham is spearheading that cause.

James Island Native gets “JumpStart”

James Island native Clay Hampton is probably better known in the north area than here on James Island, especially when it comes to the younger generation. The proud graduate of Gresham Meggett High School left James Island for North Charleston, specifically the “Neck,” (the upper peninsula contained in North Charleston’s city limits), where he’s spent the better part of his later life dedicated to those who matter most, the youth.

Hampton is best known for his efforts to offer at-risk youth the opportunity to put their energies into football, thereby getting them off the streets and into a positive, safe environment in which they can grow as people.

He is the man behind the Charleston Blazing Hawks, a semi-professional football team he founded in 1978. And while his accomplishments are too innumerable to list here,  one of note that bears mention is the community garden he started back in 2011 where folks can grow their own produce. Taken as a whole, Hampton’s contributions are hard to quantify.

Last year however, on March 23, the community leader lost everything to a home fire investigators couldn’t explain. He lost his personal belongings, his family photos, his truck … everything. The most important loss however, was the entirety of the football equipment the Hawks players don each time they take the field at Stoney Field orNorth Charleston High School. Equipment for dozens of players, perhaps as many as 60, was consumed in the blaze.

Hampton fell in love with football at the old Gresham Meggett High School on James Island. Since founding the Blazing Hawks in 1978, his mission has been to help at-risk youth get off the streets. The loss of the equipment was significant, as he had reportedly 50-60 uniforms with equipment for football players alone, in addition to a plethora of other sports-related gear.

JumpStart had been working to acquire a property to house graduates of the JumpStart program, which transitions non-violent criminal offenders back into society in a truly meaningful way. The nonprofit was able to purchase a home in North Charleston, but in the end they could not use the home because it was too close to a school and a day care, a problem considering a number of the JumpStart graduates have some kind of sexually-related charge on their record.

Literally the day following the fire, Hampton met CDS President David Phillips, whose consulting firm was then working with JumpStart Founder Tim Terry on making inroads to expand their ministry to the area. The meeting had nothing to do with the fire, they’d simply set a meeting to coordinate efforts with the community stalwart.

The news regarding the home being wrong for their usage was exacerbated by the fact that, as a non-profit, JumpStart is also restricted from selling for profit. Left with few options, a lightbulb appeared over Phillips’ head one day … Clay Hampton.

For Phillips, the decision was a no-brainer. “It was like …” began David, hesitating while looking for the right word. “It was like a God moment,” he says.

A Home from ‘Homefront’

PetriesOperation Homefront is working with Lennar Homes to renovate the Petrie family’s home to make it easier to navigate for Petrie, who was wounded in Afghanistan. Jason Byham, president of Lennar Coastal Carolinas Division, talked with Scott Petrie about the renovations to his home on James Island.

Space now carries added value in the Petrie home, so Lennar Homes’ Jason Byham stepped in. He is president of the Miami-based home builder’s Coastal Carolinas Division and is credited with the idea for Lennar Homes to work specifically with military veterans and their families.

“We are home builders, and there are a lot of military families in Charleston,” Byham recalls thinking. “Are their families we could help?”

Lennar partnered with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that connected him with the Petries. Now Lennar, its supply vendors, and Operation Homefront have joined forces to renovate the family’s home. They hope it becomes a regular outreach to wounded troops.

Byham noted that almost 20 subcontractors have stepped up to donate materials and labor for the project to refurbish the Petrie family’s residence. They have poured a concrete driveway, replaced and repaired flooring, and now are building a master bedroom suite in an attached garage so that Petrie doesn’t have to climb so many stairs in his two-story home. They also are adding a physical therapy room and workout space in a detached structure in Petrie’s backyard to boot.

The Clay Hampton Fire Relief Fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank; tax-deductible donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch across the country. For more information on the Blazing Hawks Football Team contact Mack at (843) 331-9004, Tony Lewis at (843) 735-1725 or Hampton at (843) 425-9724. Info on JumpStart can be found at their website, For more information on Custom Development Solutions, see


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