90-year-old pickleball enthusiast nabs Myrtle Beach Volunteer of the Year award

vgrooms@thesunnews.comJanuary 15, 2014 

Rena Grant’s mission when she moved to Myrtle Beach was to get seniors up and out.

“You don’t have to sit on the couch,” said the petite 90-year-old, who began volunteering with the city’s recreation programs when she retired in 1996. “If you live in Myrtle Beach, you always have something to do. [The city] offers so much for seniors.”

Grant’s volunteer work ranged from hosting senior dances at the Base Recreation Center and forming the senior volleyball and snowbird tennis programs to bringing pickleball – a paddle game akin to badminton and tennis – to Myrtle Beach. The city rewarded her efforts Wednesday by naming her the 2013 Volunteer of the Year.

The announcement came at the city’s annual volunteer appreciation luncheon, which was held at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel to thank about 600 volunteers who serve the city in a variety of areas. Grant will receive a plaque and $500, while other volunteers received a copy of “I Remember Myrtle Beach When ...,” a collection of stories by J. Marcus Smith, edited by his son, J. Marcus Smith Jr., said city spokesman Mark Kruea.

Mayor John Rhodes opened the event with a proclamation making this week Volunteer Appreciation Week in Myrtle Beach, before announcing Grant, who began dabbing her eyes while Rhodes listed her accomplishments, as she began to realize he was telling her story.

Grant, a native of Tabor City, N.C., relocated to Pennsylvania, where she worked at the Bendix Corp. during World War II before marrying and raising a family. She also was a physical education teacher for 20 years, played and coached basketball, and was a national basketball referee.

“We are extremely fortunate that our Volunteer of the Year brought that energy, enthusiasm and persistence here to Myrtle Beach’s recreation programs,” said Rhodes, adding that Grant volunteered 788 hours last year.

For pioneering the city’s pickleball program, she was named a Pickleball Ambassador by the USA Pickleball Association in 2009 and received the Pickleball Pioneer Award in 2010. Her work culminated with the Myrtle Beach Seaside Classic Pickleball Tournament in November, which attracted 140 players from 12 states and Canada.

“You all deserve this same as I do,” Grant said to her fellow volunteers, “because without your support of all the things I’ve tried to do, I would not have received this.”

Grant said she was shocked to receive the award, and that she just does the things she does, and people come out and join in.

“That’s what keeps you young, and that’s what keeps you going,” she said.

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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