Sun City residents rally around homeless Ridgeland family

cconley@islandpacket.comMay 19, 2012 

  • Donations will be accepted at S.C. Bank and Trust, under the "Leon Smith Burnout Account." Smith can be reached at 843-226-0998 to arrange pickup of donated furniture, tools or housewares.

By most measures, Leon Smith and his family had a pretty bad week: their uninsured home sustained heavy damage in a fire late on May 12.

A day later, the fire reignited, destroying what little was left.

Since then, the family has been living in a hotel, unsure of their next move.

But after receiving a trailer-full of donations from a group of Sun City residents and local thrift stores, Smith said he feels truly blessed, despite everything that's happened.

"I can really say I am the richest man in town," he said Friday, referencing George Bailey's famous line from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." "I can actually say that."

While Bailey had guardian angel Clarence, the Smiths have Bobbi Rice and her Sun City Hilton Head neighbors.

"I saw (the fire) on the news over the weekend, and something just jumped out at me and I thought, 'I've got to help that family,'" Rice said.

She called neighbors, and at least six families gathered clothes, beds, and a dining room table, among many other things, to help out. She also called God's Goods thrift store, Hearth to Home thrift store and Vintage Market, all of which gave the Smiths clothing and other needed items.

"It's unbelieveable how much people got together, and they need so much help," Rice said of the family.

Meanwhile, a special account set up at S.C. Bank and Trust has received about $4,500 in donations, Smith said.

Leon and Renee Smith were at the hospital with their two children when the fire broke out at about 9:30 p.m..

Their 10-year-old daughter, Brooke, was being treated for a minor injury to her ear. Soon after they left home, a neighbor called and said the family's Bass Lake Drive house was on fire.

Ridgeland firefighters quickly knocked down the blaze, sparing part of the house. But sometime around 7 a.m. the next day, another fire ignited and the house and their belongings were lost.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Ridgeland Fire Chief John Mingledorff.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at

Related content:

Sheldon family displaced by fire, 05/16/12

Kitchen fire displaces 2 Port Royal residents, 05/14/12

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