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Opposite, top: Boots on the Ground volunteers come from all walks of life. Mike Thornton (right), the outreach pastor at Global River Church in Wilmington, leads a prayer walk with Jamison, who pastors Hope Baptist Church for All Nations and co-pastors Church Without Walls, January 2016. From left: Jamison’s wife, Jewanta (center), helps serve at Houston Moore. Scott Burrell grills chicken at Creekwood, December. Vance Williams plays basketball with Creekwood residents in February 2016. 33 From the beginning, Boots on the Ground was formed to go into dangerous areas and to make a difference to people living in at-risk areas. “One day, the chief of police called the African- American pastors into a meeting,” Jamison says. “He said, ‘I need your help. I’m going to be straight up with you. A large percentage of the crime is happening in your community.’ He said, ‘It only makes sense that you guys help.’ I appreciated his honesty. People will think it, but he said it. It was the truth.” That was in 2011. “We started an initiative called Boots on the Ground,” he says. “It consisted of midnight basketball, mentoring, and community outreach. For the last six years we’ve been in the community just loving them, making our presence known.” The name came about by accident. “We were in this meeting, and I don’t like meetings,” Jamison says. “Everybody was talking: We can do this, we can do that. I was ready to leave. I said, ‘Let me tell you something right now. Unless you’re willing to put boots on the ground, all of that stuff is pipe dreams.’ I was going to walk into the sunset. And somebody said, ‘That’s right, we’ll call it Boots on the Ground.’” The roots go even deeper than that. Jamison grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, a place called Southfield Village. The police affectionately called it the Cage. He left town abruptly to join the military — to escape some violence, he says. Tough love from the military and mentors along his path helped him get straight. That’s what he wants to pass on in places like Creekwood, where he has volunteered for more than 20 years. “When I first started this was really in 1995,” he says. “A lady in this community came to me and said, ‘Pastor Jamison, I’ve got to sleep on my floor at night for fear of being shot. What can you do?’ It brought tears to my eyes. I went and got seven men. We started walking the streets of Creekwood from 10 to 2 in the morning so that lady could sleep in her bed at night. We brought hot chocolate, doughnuts and stuff, and we fed the peo-ple. They were out here smoking weed, so you know they wanted food. We’d feed them and love them. That was called Operation Nightshift.” Jamison’s commitment and consistency have given his group credibility. When a hurricane left Creekwood without electricity for three days in October 2016, Jamison was right there with a team, feeding people. “Because we’re in the community so much, when the power went out after Hurricane Matthew, we were able to come in here at night and stay until 1 in the morning serving food without fear of any injuries or violence or anything,” he says. “It’s one of the perks of coming out and loving them constantly. You can come out at night. We have no reason to fear, and they have no reason to feel threatened.” It is a fact that crime and violence take place at Creekwood and the other public housing properties where Boots on the Ground operates. But Jamison says it is overstated. “Creekwood gets a bad rap,” he says. “There has always been more good than bad in these areas. I was head of security in these areas for 10 years. So I know what I’m talking about when I tell you that 80 percent of the people that do violence in this area don’t live here. It’s a mixture of gang-related and stupid.” Cordia Sloan, vice president of the Creekwood South Resident Association, says Boots on the Ground helps with the crime prob-lem just by its ongoing presence. WBM FILE PHOTO www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM


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