Cheraw Recreation Department Director Jay Bennett received the Cheraw Rotary Club’s 2013 Blondie Pate 4-Way Test Award during the club’s meeting Monday at Country Kitchen Restaurant.
Award recipients are not affiliated with the Rotary Club, and must exemplify the group’s code of ethics, “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Is it beneficial to all concerned?”
“Many of (Cheraw’s great athletes) got their start and learned the love of the game from programs through the Cheraw Recreation Department’s athletics department,” former Cheraw Recreation Department Director Phil Powell wrote in a letter nominating Bennett for the award. “When looking closely you will find Jay Bennett excitedly in the midst of each program represented. Jay is truly there because of his love of the game and love of the young people he sees moving up the ranks to become competitive sports enthusiasts. Whatever the sport, you will find Jay at the helm, planning the programs, working with the parents, as well as the youth, to find the perfect fit for the sport they want to become involved in, advising and mentoring each one.”
Bennett has been involved with youth sports in Cheraw since 1976 – working as a part-time umpire and athletic official throughout his high school and college years before accepting a position as the town’s athletic director and assistant recreation director. In 2010, he was promoted to director of recreation and leisure services for the town.
He has served as Eastern District and State Director of the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association’s Athletic Branch, and received the organization’s top athletic administrator award. He has also served as District, State and National Director of the Dixie Youth Baseball Program and is currently Vice President of Dixie Youth Baseball Inc.
The Cheraw Recreation Department has been recognized as one of South Carolina’s Best Recreation Agencies on multiple occasions during Bennett’s tenure. He is primarily responsible for the county’s special track and field program that is co-sponsored by the Chesterfield County School District.
As Cheraw’s recreational athletic director, Jay has employed and trained numerous student athletes as umpires, officials, field maintenance workers, field supervisors and scorekeepers, etc. – hundreds of local youth credit Jay as being their “first boss.” He has also helped many Cheraw students advance their education opportunities through contacts with coaches and scholarship programs.
Bennett said he was surprised by the award Monday. He attended the Cheraw Rotary Club meeting along with his family thinking he was there to hear his younger brother, David Bennett, speak. When David began his remarks, he said the topic of his talk would be on role models, and he provided stories of growing up with Jay.
Following David’s speech, Jay was surprised with the Blondie Pate Award.
“Y’all got me,” Jay Bennett said. “I really don’t know what to say, other than thank you.”
Bennett later credited those recreation department directors he worked under as being positive role models he learned from. He said a passion for working with youth has what’s kept him with the recreation department for 37 years.
Photo: Cheraw Rotary President John Goodwin (left) presents the 2013 4-Way Test Award to Jay Bennett on November 11.