Clemson-area veteran gets a helping hand

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

CLEMSON — Local businesses and vendors teamed up recently to help an area veteran.

For two years now, Eric Newton, owner of Tiger Properties, has been looking to hep people. That’s led to the Build Up Clemson Initiative.

‘We’re in a college town here, there’s a lot going on,” Newton said in a recent interview. “Sometimes we don’t really put a whole lot of attention on our people in need in the community — and there are people in need here. We started this initiative to help those people.”

Newtown said the effort aims to provide a helping hand, not a handout.

“I’m not one to help those who are a mooch on society but I do want to help people who can’t help themselves,” he said.

When driving around doing business in Clemson, Newton noticed homes that had fallen into disrepair.

“I’d wonder why they were in disrepair and come to find out people didn’t have the financial resources to keep their homes up or weren’t physically able to keep their homes up,” he said.

His business was in the perfect position to help out.

“Our vendor network is full of local people who are willing to donate time or money,” Newton said.

Once a candidate in need is identified, many people band together to provide a “mini-Extreme Home Makeover,” he said.

“We go in, evaluate their home, see what needs they have,” Newton said.

Carrie Adams worked with Derrick Popham with Upstate Warrior Solutions this year to identify a veteran who could just a helping hand.

It was great timing, as Vietnam veteran Richard Perry had recently reached out to that organization for some help. Perry had recently purchased some skirting to put on his home, but soon realized he wasn’t physically able to do the work himself.

“He was hoping Derrick could find someone to help with that labor,” Adams said. “”We all went over there together.”

Adams that said after the group took a look at the exterior, Newton asked Perry if they could take a look inside.

“And Eric said, ‘What if we paint, fix this flooring, etc.,’” Adams said.

As the group was leaving, Adams said Perry began to cry.

“He said, ‘I’ve become so cynical and I just didn’t think anybody could be so nice,’” Adams recalled.

The effort packed a large amount of work to the home into a short amount of time.

“We’re going to tear off and replace the siding, repair rotten wood, rebuild the deck, paint the entire exterior, remove an old fence in the side yard, do some yard work,” Newton said.

More painting was to be done inside the home and the flooring in the wet areas of the house was to be removed and replaced.

A number of area businesses joined the effort, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, Classic Lighting, Harris Carpeting, Cram Electrical, Palmetto Homes, All-In Yard Care and Sherwin Williams.

Clemson University Student Government provided volunteers to assist with the repair work.

The work was set to be completed in just two days, Newton said.

“It’s very rewarding,” Newton said. “It’s pretty exciting. The people are very appreciative.”

The group is already looking ahead to next year and encourage the community to contact them about people in need.

Those selected for assistance have to meet certain criteria, Newton said.

“They have to demonstrate that they’ve worked hard in their life, that they are just no longer physically or financially able to do work on their homes,” Newton said. “They have to be gracious, they have to be somebody not asking for a handout. I’m all about helping the helpless but I’m not about helping the hopeless.”

Those selected must also own their homes.

“That’s tough one,” Newton said. “Sometimes you’ll identify a candidate and they meet 2 of the criteria but they don’t own the home.”

Newton said sometimes people don’t want to ask for help themselves, because they’re embarrassed to do so.

“They’re proud,” he said.

He said the work can always be done discretely, so as not to draw unwanted attention to the homeowners.

“We can provide that service to them and not make a big deal of it,” Newton said.

The response from the community has been gratifying, he said.

“We put it out there and it’s been amazing, how many people respond, how many people want to be involved, contributing their time and their money,” Newton said.

The response has been so great, that there’s a large possibility the effort will be expanded to help two or maybe three people next year.

“So many people want to be involved, we can’t have them all,” Newton said. “They’d be stepping on each other’s toes. We know that the people in need are out there. There are more people out there than you would think.”

If you know of someone who could use some assistance next year, either in the Clemson area or within a 6 to 8 mile radius of it, contact Tiger Properties in Clemson.

“This thing could get big,” Newton said. “Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s just a nice little gift to give someone this time of year.”