A little under a month ago, Sutton was awarded the Col. Jim Tucker Service Award by United Way of Bradley County president and CEO Matt Ryerson.
Sutton was, in a word, shocked.
The surprises continued recently at the 2014 Southeast Boys & Girls Clubs of America Leadership Conference.
Sutton sat surrounded by members of the BGCC staff and board.
He was only half-listening to the announcer. It was the award portion of the evening. Sutton had not received an award the first 21 years of his career with the BGCA and did not expect to receive one now.
Southeast Regional Director Chet Nichols began to speak.
“Our award winner was selected as his organization’s chief professional officer in 2005, inheriting an organization that had been wrought with a personnel crisis,” Nichols said. “Our award winner calmed the storm, and today, the organization has been built to a major powerhouse.”
He continued by reading a quote from a BGCC employee, “Our CPO is a very dedicated man with intention and focus, who makes the time to teach leadership to his team and his family. He values every second of his day and utiltizes every second to push those around him to become stronger than they were the day before.”
A board member described the award winner as a “very dedicated, driven and determined” man.
Something clicked in Sutton’s head as he listened to the board member’s quote.
Nichols continued to read the board member’s words, “From dancing to bike riding, neither age nor life has slowed him down. He is an active man, and activity is his life’s mantra.”
Sutton was then named the Robert M. Sykes Award for Professional Excellence recipient.
“Number one, it was amazing,” Sutton said. “It caught me totally off guard ... It was not at all expected.”
Nichols invited Sutton to the stage where he took a picture with Jim Clark, the BGCA president.
Director of Operations Derrick Kinsey explained the Southeast region of the BGCA covers 10 states. He said headquarters have noticed the physical and leadership growth of the Cleveland clubs.
Under Sutton, the area clubs have multiplied from two to seven, which includes development into Polk County.
Added Kinsey, “The thing about Charlie is he is always pushing us to be in line with a lot of the things coming down the pike.”
This point was aptly shown when George Johnson Teen Center director Wyatt Bevis attended a leadership conference.
According to Kinsey, the instructor began a lesson on elevator speeches by asking if anyone was familiar with the concept.
Bevis raised his hand. He then realized his was the only one in the air.
“They were in two classes, because the original class was so large they had to split it up,” Kinsey said. “The teacher pulled Wyatt up and had him teach part of the class because he knew the material. He knew it because Charlie had already told us about it.”
Sutton started his work with the local clubs 21 years ago as the Powers Unit director on Lay Street.
He said he has not worked hard for the award, but it did in a sense validate the hours of hard work.
“I didn’t think it was coming my way,” Sutton said. “I guess it was because I wasn’t going after it at all. It just happened by being deeply involved in the cause.”
A part of being involved in “the cause” is providing a world class experience for children who otherwise might end up involved in gangs or drugs.
Stepping in for physically and mentally absent parents can be taxing. Greeting, loving, encouraging and helping students to a brighter future is at times difficult.
“This is not for everybody. If you are here for a 9 to 5 job, you are probably not working in the right place,” Sutton said. “If you are here to make a difference in the life of a child, it goes more along the lines of whatever it takes to support them.”
The professional excellence award recipient said the clubs are often fighting against environmental pressures in the lives of their young members.
“When you put a club [in a low socio-economic neighborhood], suddenly everything they normally would have learned on that street [is challenged],” Sutton said. “They have an opportunity to become a contributor and a blessing to the community.”
There are currently over 2,000 members in the local clubs ranging from Bradley County to Polk County.