Years after Ben Piggott quit his job as supervisor at the William C. Sims Community Center, people kept stopping and asking.
Such has been his impact on thousands of children, whether providing them with free piano lessons, taking them on college trips, or giving them a safe place to play and do their homework afterwards. school.
Piggott’s spirit will always linger around the center on Alder Street in Happy Hills where he worked for 22 years. His imprint is now evident in a more tangible way.
In a ceremony last week, the center’s new gymnasium floor was named Ben Piggott Basketball Court. The still sparkling court features a design of his face near one sideline and his signature on another.
Piggott, who retired from City in 2017 after a 31-year career, shakes his head in disbelief at the honor.
“I’m very humbled,” Piggott said. “I always tell people that I was lucky enough to work with children. I feel like it was missionary work.”
People also read…
Appointed the center’s first supervisor when it opened in 1991, Piggott made the community center a haven for children growing up in the area and the former Happy Hills Gardens, a public housing complex that was demolished in 2004. Some of the children who went through Sims while Piggott was supervisor included Tory Woodbury, a former NFL player; DeRon Middleton, the football coach of Winston-Salem Prep; and L’Tona Lamonte, women’s basketball coach at Winston-Salem State University.
But there are thousands more, the common denominator being Piggott’s love for them all.
“I love the successful and I love the unsuccessful,” he said.
As Piggott spoke about his career with the Sims, Joshua Paige appeared in the center. Piggott recognized him from across the field and kissed him. Paige went to The Sims regularly in the 1990s.
They talked about the good old days and shared some laughs.
“He’s a person who’s been in everyone’s life,” Paige said.
Their memories include when David Lash, who exposed countless black kids to tennis, brought two special visitors to The Sims shortly after Piggott’s debut. Their names were Venus and Serena Williams, then about 12 years old.
When the rain started threatening the exhibit, Piggott lowered the posts on the volleyball net and turned it into a makeshift tennis court.
The children who were at the exhibit, now in their 30s and 40s, spoke about their memories of that day during the court unveiling last week.
“It was one of the greatest miracles that has ever happened here,” Piggott said.
A month after Piggott took the job, his brother Kermit was killed. Out of this grief, he started the Peace Toys for War Toys swap, in which violent toy guns and swords are traded for basketballs, puzzles, and other peaceful toys.
“I want to let kids know that just because you’re angry, don’t use violence to solve your problems,” Piggott told the Journal in 2017. “Fire brings more fire, but love brings more love.”
Piggott was a follower of academics. When children came to the center after school, they had to go to the gymnasium and do their homework at tables scattered on what was then a tiled floor.
His main message to all children was the same: “You can be anybody.”