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United Way honors Judy and McCray Benson, McGradys, Dr. Jan King

The United Way honored Judy and McCray Benson with the Rob & Ginger Cranford Community Service Award. The United Way honored Judy and McCray Benson with the Rob & Ginger Cranford Community Service Award.

The United Way of Henderson County honored the recipients of distinguished awards to community leaders and corporate giving partners during its virtual Annual United Way Celebration last week.


“While we couldn’t gather in person this year, we wanted to celebrate the great things that support from individuals and companies made possible last year amid an ongoing pandemic,” said Denise Cumbee Long, United Way’s executive director.
Three awards were presented to individuals receiving special recognition:
• The Rob and Ginger Cranford Community Service Award is presented annually to an individual or couple who exemplify the extraordinary community service the Cranfords demonstrated throughout their lives. This year’s Cranford Award honored McCray and Judy Benson. McCray Benson has been president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Henderson County since 2005. Judy Benson, who died last June, spent her career as a licensed clinic social worker and mental health therapist. “When the pandemic hit last spring, McCray and his team partnered with United Way staff to create the Covid-19 Response Fund which raised and distributed over $440,000 to local nonprofits on the front lines of the pandemic,” Long said.
• Named for a beloved former executive director of United Way of Henderson County, the Edward C. Brisley Jr. Award recognizes outstanding volunteer service. This year’s Brisley Award was given to Dr. Jan King. King recently retired as assistant superintendent for instructional services for Henderson County public schools after almost 30 years serving the students and staff in the school system in various roles. King is also a member of Women United and a founder of the Girls EMpowered mentoring program for girls at three local schools.
• The Outstanding Philanthropist Award, a new award in 2021, was presented to former state Rep. Chuck McGrady and his wife, Jean. The award recognized the McGrady family’s generous $100,000 gift that kickstarted the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund and honored the couple’s ongoing support and commitment to the community, particularly as the pandemic crisis took hold last spring.
The annual celebration also included the presentation of annual campaign awards, given to companies that went above and beyond during a challenging campaign season to sustain United Way support through employee and corporate giving:
• The United Way Employee Giving Award, in recognition of highest overall employee contributions, was presented to Wilsonart International. The United Way Outstanding Campaign Giving Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the 2020 Campaign, was presented to Meritor Inc.
• The United Way LiveUnited Awards, given in recognition of model employee campaigns that are making a significant impact in Henderson County, were presented to Kimberly-Clark Corp.; GE Current, a Daintree company; and Printpack Inc.
• The United Way RiseUnited Awards, given in recognition of companies making a big impact in Henderson County through diversified support of United Way programs and initiatives, went to Champion Comfort Experts, Morrow Insurance Agency, Vulcan Materials Co. and Beverly-Hanks & Associates of Hendersonville.
The celebration also honored 2020 Campaign Co-Chairs Ruth Birge and Henry Johnson for their leadership and dedication to serving United Way and the community throughout the campaign, as well as United Way’s 2020 Gold Campaign sponsors Wilsonart, AdventHealth and Gaia Herbs. The celebration of impact and presentation of awards can be viewed at https://youtu.be/W7a00pSJV-0.