Everett and Teresa Bennett have been active in many aspects of the community.
But the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce wanted to recognize them for all their accomplishments.
“The Bennetts have been instrumental in many, many different things in Forsyth County ... that are already having a very positive impact on our community and will for years and years to come,” said James McCoy, chamber president and CEO.
The Forsyth County natives, married 56 years, were presented with the 2010 Charles F. Welch Citizenship Award during the chamber’s annual meeting and dinner Friday.
“I was shocked,” said Everett Bennett. “It was quite an honor. I was humbled by the fact they did that, but many people in the county were more deserving than us, I’m sure.”
In 1968, Bennett and his brother, Larry, founded Bennett Brothers Printing Company, now Bennett Graphics. The Tucker-based company continues to be a family business, now run by Bennett’s son and son-in-law.
While the business is still going strong, it’s the work Bennett and his wife, the former Teresa Fowler, have done outside the company that garnered the chamber recognition.
Bennett is on the board of Literacy Forsyth and a deacon emeritus at Johns Creek Baptist Church. A 35-year Rotarian, he is also a charter member of the Rotary Club of Johns Creek.
Wherever Bennett has been, his wife has always been right there. She sold her family home and land to Forsyth County to be used as Fowler Park.
“They are still very much in love,” said Michael Hogan, founder of LEADER, the Lanier Extended Area Driver Education Resource.
The program, which helps prepare teenagers for the road through driver’s education courses, driving simulators and real-life road instruction, got a jump start with the help of Bennett.
“He’s been involved with LEADER since we started and he’s been a wonderful supporter since,” Hogan said. “He’s the guy you want to be ... he’s a gentleman, he’s quiet, he’s smart as a whip and he’s just committed himself to do so much for this community.
Most notably, Bennett is one of the reasons Northside Hospital-Forsyth, the county’s largest private employer, exists today.
A board member of Georgia Baptist Medical Center, Bennett had a proposition for his fellow members.
“I told them we should buy the old Lakeside Hospital,” he said. “I felt that the county was going to burst wide open.”
But Bennett said his suggestion to buy the site near Ga. 400 fell on deaf ears.
“They did not listen at all,” he said. “I went back the second month, and the same thing, and the third month. They finally said, ‘Everett, you’re not going to give up are you?’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’
“And that’s when they said all right, if you’ll get the support of the mayor and council and the county government and the doctors, we’ll consider it.”
Georgia Baptist ended up acquiring the Lakeside site, which it then sold to Northside Hospital in 2002. Northside has since more than tripled the size of the campus.
“Northside Hospital could do things Georgia Baptist could never do,” Bennett said.
Lynn Jackson, Northside Hospital-Forsyth administrator, said the local campus and the 100 acres it sits on were truly a Bennett vision.
“He had a vision for not only what Forsyth needed and wanted, but for what was possible,” Jackson said. “He was influential with the Georgia Baptist Board as well as the community ... he had just the right mix of interests to make sure this project was seen from its very infancy, including buying the old Lakeside Hospital, to really making Northside Hospital-Forsyth a reality.
“To me, you can’t put a price or a value on how many lives have been changed, how many lives have been saved as a result of that vision.”
Bennett had a similar impact on the Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, of Forsyth.
Like the court system, the association was a partnership with Cherokee County. But when the Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit was formed, Bennett “was directly responsible for that transition and for the split with Cherokee County,” said Janet Walden, CASA of Forsyth executive director.
“We were incorporated in 2004 ... and he was in the middle of all of that, helping with great leadership,” she said.
Walden said the Bennetts are longtime donors and supporters of the organization’s volunteers. The two will be at volunteer training classes and swearing-in ceremonies, and are quick to recognize the efforts of volunteers.
“He really appreciates and understands the work the volunteers do and is the first to have that applause for them,” she said.
“Teresa comes with him to all of the events. She’s always right there beside him to help support the work we’re doing ... I was thrilled when they received that award.”
District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said he was “extremely honored” to present the Bennetts with the award during the chamber’s annual dinner.
“Everett and Teresa have been good friends and strong supporters for many years and it was great being a part of this wonderful and most deserved recognition,” he said. “I cannot imagine a more deserving couple for this high honor.”
Everett Bennett said the couple is humbled by the award.
“We enjoy being involved in many aspects of the county, because this is home,” he said. “We believe in giving back to the community.”