Yet, it happened Tuesday night during the festive — and reflective — United Way of Bradley County Annual Dinner when the executive director of the Cleveland Family YMCA was named recipient of the second annual Jim Tucker Award.
United Way’s newest individual honor made its debut last year when it was presented to James Anderson, executive director of the Family Resource Agency. The award is bestowed upon a community service worker, whether or not the nonprofit agency is a member of the United Way network of 27 partners.
Making the Tucker Award presentation was Mickey Torbett, city president of United Community Bank and a longtime United Way volunteer. Ironically, Torbett presented the evening’s first major award to McChesney, but then returned to the podium only minutes later to accept United Way’s top volunteer honor, the William F. Johnson Sr. Community Service Award.
Before announcing the Tucker Award recipient, Torbett reflected on the honorarium’s namesake, a civic leader and community servant he described as having “... a passion for young people.”
He added, “Jim was truly a man who cared about, and for, everyone.”
Torbett pointed to the community impact of Tucker during his living years, and the lasting memories he has left behind at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, United Way of Bradley County and Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, among other special causes that were deeply rooted in his heart and which guided his moral compass.
“As most of you know, we lost Col. Tucker a few weeks ago, but his legacy still lives on,” Torbett told the sold-out crowd of almost 400 in the Professional Development Center at Life Care Centers of America.
Torbett continued, “He was one of the most loved men in this community, not only by those who knew him for many, many years, but even those who just met him such as the youth now attending the Boys & Girls Clubs.”
The presenter gave a brief history of the award and credited the late military officer and dedicated Cleveland social servant as being a credible namesake.
“United Way wanted to create an award to honor an individual whose service to the community deserves praise,” Torbett said. “To name it after Jim Tucker seemed most appropriate, and to present it to James Anderson of the Family Resource Agency last year also seemed appropriate.”
He said McChesney is every bit as worthy as the award’s inaugural recipient because the two are cut from the same fabric of community service.
Later into the evening, United Way President and CEO Matt Ryerson agreed with Torbett’s assessment.
“Last year, it was nice to honor James Anderson, who actually attended the [former] Boys Club of Cleveland when Col. Tucker was there and who considered him a mentor,” Ryerson cited. “This year, we feel the selection of Lee McChesney is very well-deserved, and we believe that Col. Tucker would be pleased with this choice.”
McChesney, who has been affiliated with the Cleveland Family YMCA since the mid-’90s, began his service career by working at the YMCA in Grundy, Va., in 1983. A year later, he was hired as the physical director at the YMCA in his hometown of Bristol, Va.
He moved to Southeast Tennessee to work at the Downtown YMCA in Chattanooga in 1994, and three years later was promoted to the position of assistant executive director. Soon, he came to Cleveland to accept the role as executive director of the Cleveland Family YMCA.
“It wasn’t long after that our award recipient got a core group together who shared the vision of building a flagship YMCA facility in Cleveland,” Torbett reminisced during his presentation. “And look at our Y today ... what a tremendous asset to our community!”
In accepting the Tucker award, McChesney held fast to the plaque and spoke of his memories of Jim Tucker and how the community servant took him under his wing during his early years at the local YMCA.
“I got to know Jim after he retired from the Boys & Girls Clubs,” McChesney told the appreciative crowd.
The YMCA leader said Tucker always offered a welcoming ear and a friendly voice, as well as a calming hand on his shoulder when times were challenging. McChesney remembered Tucker as a man of wisdom whose years of experience spoke volumes, and as a friend who gave his support unconditionally.
“I’m honored to receive this award,” McChesney stated. “I want to thank you all ... [it reminds me of the saying] that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to have a United Way. Without you, we would not be able to do what we do.”
McChesney and his wife, Robin, have been married 29 years. They have two children, Ben and Katelyn. He is an active member and elder of the First Presbyterian Church.
A member of the Cleveland Rotary Club since 1997, McChesney also is a member of the Cleveland Parks & Recreation Board, has served on the Board of Greater Cleveland Soccer, and serves on the Steering Committee for Creating Christmas Memories.
During his introduction of McChesney’s award, Torbett quoted an observation about McChesney made by his YMCA colleague, Rodney Murray.
“Rodney told us that one of the greatest influences on our recipient’s life is something his mother said to him every time he walked out the door; and that is, ‘... Remember who you are and what you represent,’” Torbett stressed.
He added, “Lee represents the YMCA and Cleveland and Bradley County very well indeed. And I think his mother would definitely be proud.”