Center Director Ben Piggott set to retire

Center Director Ben Piggott set to retire
November 02
06:00 2017

The name Ben Piggott is synonymous with the Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department, and the city of Winston-Salem for that fact.  On Nov. 30, Piggott will hang up his whistle and keys and retire as senior supervisor of the Carl H. Russell Sr. Community Center.

Piggott, a Winston-Salem native, attended Carver High School before graduating from East Forsyth.  He worked part time with the Recreation and Parks Department until he became the supervisor for the William C. Sims Sr. Recreation Center in 1991.  He has been the senior supervisor of Carl Russell since 2011.

“I thought about retiring a few years ago and my mother was always like a cheerleader for me, so when she passed, I started to think about things a little bit more,” said Piggott.  “I look at my tenure as a ministry because it’s not about the money, it’s about reaching out to the community and the kids.”

Piggott credits Denise Scott Johnson, former assistant director of W-S Recreation and Parks Department, for giving him his start as a director.  He says she was extremely instrumental in getting his career started.

He has touched the lives of thousands of children and the elderly people over the years in the department.  Piggott is also widely renowned for implementing numerous programs while working for the Recreation and Parks Department, such as Peace Toys for War Toys Exchange, Happy Hill community reunion and Bingo for Turkeys, just to name a few.

Along with starting programs, Piggott has been honored with countless awards over the years including: The Winston-Salem Chronicle Man of the Year, W-S City Employee of the Year, North Carolina Governors Award, Ameritech Award of Excellence (The National Crime Prevention Award given by Janet Reno, U.S. attorney general, in 2000) and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County High School Sports Hall of Fame.

The Ameritech Award is especially close to the heart of Piggott because he initiated a number of crime prevention programs following the murder of his brother in November 1991.  He says over the years, he has been able to forgive his brother’s murderer and even was able to embrace the man when they recently crossed paths to show there is no animosity toward him.

Art Blevins, recently retired director of the Hanes Hosiery Community Center, says Piggott will definitely be missed and they were more like brothers than anything else.

“Ben and I go way back, and he has been a treasure to the city of Winston-Salem,” Blevins said.  “I knew he was thinking about it after I left and then he called and told me he made his decision.  Everything he does is from the heart and the things he has done have all been for the kids.  Ben is something special, and I love him to death.”

Gary Lash, district supervisor of W-S Recreation and Parks Department, said Piggott is a great man that is “truly a servant of the community.”  He says Piggott’s impact will be missed for years to come.

“He is going to be dearly missed because of the innovative things he brought to the city and the community,” said Lash.  “He had a very creative mind for serving people and they respect and admire him.  He is basically a gentle giant with a very caring heart.”

Tim Grant, former director of W-S Recreation and Parks Department, says he has known Piggott for nearly 40 years and feels he has a passion for working with people, especially the young.

“He was always one who worked past 40 hours. A 40-hour work week never meant much to him,” said Grant.  “Ben has always had the attitude of how can he make a difference.  He has been a person that is passionate about the community and people.

“There is no way you can measure the amount of lives he has touched,” he continued.  “I’ve never met a person as humble and caring as him, and he is always trying to make a difference.  He has cared more about other people than he did about himself. It was always about helping other people with Ben.  God only allows you to meet a handful of those people during your life, and I am very grateful that God has allowed my path to cross the path of Ben Piggott.”

Piggott says he will definitely miss all of the people and employees from the center, but will return for special programs he wishes to continue even after his retirement.  He also wants to continue teaching the Sittercise class for the seniors as well.

“I will miss most of the interactions with the kids, and I think a lot of my time was spent with them,” said Piggott.  “I loved working with all the people in the rec centers and I enjoyed my relationships with all of my co-workers.  This was never about making money. It was a passion of mine to help these kids.”

Piggott says he is humbled by all of the love and support he has received from everyone across the city over the years.  He says the awards and honors he has received over the years have fueled his fire to do more because he was once one of the young men who also grew up in a recreation center as a child.

For Piggott, he says over the years he has come to the realization that the work he has done is bigger than him and further humbles him.  Not long before his mother passed, he said she showed him seven large scrapbooks with all of the newspaper articles he was featured in, which he never knew she had accumulated. Seeing all of those old articles just strengthened his personal belief, which is, “If my life can be spent helping children to survive, grow mentally, spiritually and safely, then I shall not have lived in vain.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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