This year, Cerro Gordo hosted the North Carolina Dixie Youth State Tournaments for the second time (previously hosted in 2010) and, he said, the Bentons stepped up with some financial support “to make sure the kids have nice equipment and a place to play.”
At the tournament, the Bentons seemed to be everywhere, working the gate, admissions, at the concession stands, etc.
“When they get involved with the community,…they really get hands on and kind of lead by example with that,” Mr. Hinson said. “They take a lot of pride in where they come from.”
Besides the baseball fields, Ricky and Dianne Benton also help out at various functions for the school children at West Columbus High School and the area's elementary school.
“They really focus on helping the kids and giving back,” Mr. Hinson said, adding that they're “super when it comes to stuff like that. They're very giving and very thankful.”
O.C. Jenkins, Ricky Benton's former teacher, explained to Tire Business that Mr. Benton was always raising money for children and sporting endeavors—even when he was a child himself.
“Ricky was a born leader in the eighth grade,” he said. “I was amazed at his talents.”
In addition to being a science teacher, Mr. Jenkins was also in charge of organized play at recess, but the school didn't have much in the way of supplies or equipment.
“He's quite the salesman,” he said about Mr. Benton's outspoken nature.
Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Benton, along with another student, decided that after school one day they would ask prominent members of the community for funding for school recreation. They raised $400 that evening and then an additional $600 the next day in the next town.
“He was quite talented in helping to raise that money,” he said.
In total, they raised about $1,800 to $1,900. He has come a long way from raising money for his own school. He also referenced how the Bentons, along with their three sons Rick Jr., Ryan and Jeremy—who all work in the family business—sponsor many little league baseball teams.
It's cooking time
Beyond their efforts with the Boys & Girls Home and local ball fields, the Bentons are also known in the community for cooking up a storm in support of various outings and fundraisers.
“You know we do a lot when we spend $40,000 a year at this grocery store. Just us,” said Michael Bass, longtime employee of Black's Tire and the main chef at these events.
“We are a tire store and one of their biggest accounts.”
In total, Mr. Bass estimated Black's Tire feeds about 20,000 people a year between school fundraisers, feeding employees at the local Goodyear plant twice a year, serving two schools steak suppers and cooking for football games, golf tournaments, customer appreciation days, races, the North Carolina Dixie Youth Baseball State Tournament and more.
“We cook at least twice a month,” Mr. Bass said.
All the cooking is done to raise money for an organization that needs it or to simply give back to the community.
“It's all for giveaway; it's not anything for us,” Mr. Bass said.
The philosophy is, if a person is down, you stop and help them back up, Mr. Benton explained.
“We're put on the Earth for a reason. We're supposed to help,” he added.
One of the biggest events they cook for is the local annual Relay for Life event.
“They just don't tell all the generous things that they do. Dianne is a great advocate for the American Cancer Society,” said Kay Bullard, who has worked in accounts pay¬able at Black's Tire for 20 years.
“She's very generous when it comes to that because she had a problem.”
She was referring to the fact Dianne Benton is a cancer survivor, so Relay for Life has special meaning to the Black's Tire family.
“That's a little soft spot for us,” Mrs. Benton acknowledged.
She also has a soft spot for her employees who are going through their own troubles.
For example, Wanda Bryson, a member of the corporate office team at Black's for the past eight years, had a meningioma brain tumor and had to have brain surgery. Because of the large incision needed on her head for the surgery, she had to shave part of her hair off.
Mrs. Benton not only visited her in the hospital, but brought her some of her wigs from when she waged her own struggle.
“They did so many things for me,” Mrs. Bryson said. “Dianne is the type of person who...acts like you are her family. She's very helpful and kind. She's just a wonderful person and Ricky is also.”
Employees are family
There are so many stories of the Bentons going above and beyond to support their extended family: their employees.
“Through all the hard times, they've never laid off any (employees),” said Delia Bullard, human resources employee with Black's Tire for 25 years. When her husband became ill, Mr. Benton helped her out by taking him to his doctor's appointments when she was unavailable.