Mention the name Jerry Carlton to many people in Yadkinville and they’ll tell you that that name is synonymous with volunteerism.
Carlton, a lifelong resident of Yadkinville has spent his 50 years of his life dedicating his time to the needs of others and bettering his community.
“In the early 1960s my teacher got me to come down and referee his ball games on Saturday night for small kids,” Carlton said. “It gave me a good feeling when those little kids would stand up cheering when I walked in the door. I guess that gave me a taste of volunteering.”
Not only did this experience give him a taste for volunteering, but Carlton also continued to officiate basketball at the elementary, middle and high school levels for over 20 years.
Carlton has spent all of his life in Yadkin County with the exception of his years spent in the service and a couple of years at college.
Carlton served three years in the Army.
“I wound up at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas,” Carlton said. “They sent me out to what they call McGregor Range where they tested missiles out in the desert. I did not care for that, and I left there and went to Vietnam.”
Carlton said he was just as homesick during his time in El Paso as he was in Vietnam. During his time in Vietnam, Carlton found himself in the middle of the Tet Offensive.
“I kept a diary, and there were over 40 days that we got incoming rounds,” Carlton said. “The attacks always came at the most inopportune moments, usually one or two in the morning most times.”
After Carlton returned home from the Army he spent a few years in Charlotte studying and then returned to Yadkinville to open his own business. Carlton opened JH Clothing with his wife Hilda. The business operated in Yadkinville for 10 years.
Once Carlton felt that his clothing business had run its course he and his wife opened JH Travels in downtown Yadkinville in 1996.
“It’s a small town so we’re not setting the woods on fire, but that’s OK,” Carlton said. “It gives me something to do.”
When Carlton isn’t busy being a businessman he often donates his time to those who need him. He was an active participant on the Yadkinville Town Park committee and he led the capital campaign for the Yadkin Home Place. He also ran the little league program at the Yadkinville Sports Club for 10 years.
His service to his community even earned Carlton the Governor’s Medallion Award in 2010.
“There were only 20 people in the state of North Carolina that she gave that medallion award to in 2010, and I thought that was pretty special,” Carlton said.
Carlton is often best known for playing a major role in bringing the YMCA to Yadkin County.
“We were not sure if the YMCA would even be interested in coming to Yadkin County but when I went and talked to the CEO at that time he assured me that it was a possibility,” Carlton said. “We undertook something here that hadn’t been accomplished before money-wise.”
Carlton and other members of the YMCA capital campaign board spent five years presenting to anyone who would listen and raising the money to bring their dream to life.
“What I like about the YMCA is that it is for all age folks,” Carlton said. “I guess the gratifying part is that I do have a lot of the older population to tell me how much they appreciate it. And they still do even today after it’s been open for 10 years.”
In March, the YMCA honored Carlton by inducting him into the Red Triangle Society, the highest honor a YMCA volunteer can receive.
Carlton has also been an active leader in the community. He was a founding member of the Downtown Business Association, charter member of the Yadkin Civitan Club and former chairman of the administrative board of Center United Methodist Church.
Carlton said that he would continue to be an active member of his community for as long as he’s able.
“The question has been asked to me several times as to why I devote so much time,” Carlton said. “I tell them there’s going to be a day when I can’t do it so I’m going to do it while I can.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.