Elmcor's Lou Benson touches lives in and out of the ring
by Melissa Tabatabai
Mar 05, 2010 | 23958 views | 8 8 comments | 447 447 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Miles Davis, Richard Williams, Lucius Benson, and Allen Winston pose for a picture during a Golden Gloves match at Elmcor
Miles Davis, Richard Williams, Lucius Benson, and Allen Winston pose for a picture during a Golden Gloves match at Elmcor
February 23rd's Daily News Golden Gloves event at Elmcor Recreation Center in Queens was filled with family, friends and fans of the fighters. As people filed through the gym, many stopped to shake the hand of Lucius “Lou” Benson. Others whispered kind words in his ear before they took to their seats. It was a packed house that night – a house that Mr. Benson built.

Over the past 40 years, the boxing program at Elmcor Recreation Center has helped shape the lives of hundreds of kids throughout Queens and the surrounding boroughs. The founder of the boxing program, and former middleweight, Benson has become a legend in New York City.

“Mr. Benson gets a lot of respect from the community,” said Allen Winston, one of Benson’s first fighters. “Everyone knows him – the parents, the teachers, the politicians, even the President.”

Benson started the boxing program at Elmcor in the late ‘60s. It was his passion for the sport and his love of children that motivated him to start the program.

“I wanted to get the kids off the streets, off of drugs, and away from gangs and violence,” said Benson. “This is the result of that.”

Benson took to the streets and walked through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the area to introduce at-risk kids to his program. Two of his earliest pupils were Winston and Miles Davis – who are now both working as administrators at Elmcor.

“These were two of the baddest guys on the street, and now they’re two of the best guys out there,” said Benson.

Davis calls Benson his “adoptive father” and credits much of his success to him. “He taught us that this is an alternative to the streets and prison,” said Davis.

Mr. Benson has noticed a huge difference in the youth within the community since the development of the boxing program. The kids go to Elmcor directly after school for practice 3-5 days per week, where they train for several hours. “This is a form of discipline, and at the same time we learn how to protect ourselves,” said Davis.

In addition to focusing on boxing, the program’s volunteers keep up with how the kids are doing in school. Administrators check report cards and communicate frequently with parents who have kids involved in the program.

“Boxing can’t take away from studies,” said Davis. “The kids can’t take the program for granted. It’s a privilege.”

Benson is hoping to launch the new pee-wee division of his boxing program in two weeks. It will be geared toward children ages eight and under. Benson would love to expand the boxing program even further, but right now resources are extremely limited. Administrators are looking for sponsors, volunteers and donations to help develop the program. Funds would go to buy more equipment and hire part-time coaches to reach more children.

“We aren’t asking for much,” said Benson. “We just need the support.”

As a member of the Elmcor community board and President of the boxing program, Benson remains heavily involved with the program. He continues to recruit kids in the community and frequently attends practice to help with training. When he’s not in the gym, Benson is in his office making phone calls, coordinating events, and managing volunteers and staff. At the age of 72, Benson is just as dedicated to the program as he was when it was developed over 40 years ago.

The children at Elmcor aren't the only ones who have been influenced by Benson. Benson raised his grandson, Philip Benson Jackson, in South Jamaica, Queens after his mother passed. Benson has been an enormous inspiration for Philip, a middleweight fighter with huge promise in the sport of boxing.

To date, Benson has watched his grandson twice become the New York Golden Gloves Champion and sign with one of the top promoters in the boxing industry. As a professional, Philip has had just one loss in the ring.

There is no doubt that Lou Benson has had – and continues to have – a huge impact on youth in the community. Perhaps the most passionate of his pupils is Gerald Smith, who was working as a security guard at the Golden Gloves that night.

Smith claims the boxing program at Elmcor saved his life. “I was an alcoholic, and Mr. Benson took me off the streets and gave me a chance. Now I have a family – two kids and grandkids,” said Smith. “Mr. Benson is a beautiful man. I owe him my life. We all do."

Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 02, 2011
I was once in the outpatient drug treatment program at elmcor and I must say that the experience changed my life for the better. I want to personally thank ms Carol Brown-Powell and Raymond DeJean for giving me a better outlook on life and the tools to succeed without using!!!
Evan Benson
November 04, 2010
i have alot to say but im going to sum it up by say, Lucious Benson, my gendfather, is the greatest man alive. he did and still does great things for everyone in the community, just think how he makes his family feel.. Grandpops your the best!
March 29, 2010
Elmcor has done such amazing work over the years. It is fantastic that Mr. Benson and his team continue to do outstanding work in helping others through their programs especially boxing. Queens Ledger has done a wonderful article here by Ms. Tabatabai.
March 07, 2010
Love this article!! :O)
c myers
March 06, 2010
Like the way you had points of views from boxers, coaches, participants, the founder etc - lets everyone know how well rounded the program is and how it touches multiple lives. Article flowed well - kept the readers interest throughout with good transitions. Suggestion: If you shop it around for donations might want to consider having a supplemental shopping list as to what certain funds will buy. for example $5,000 will buy 25 sets of gloves, or $25,000 will buy an assistant coach for a year or heavy bag... I doubt those numbers are right but you can get the idea. Donors like to know where their money is going. Nice job and know you will be successful!
Dr. Azi
March 05, 2010
Interesting article, sounds like he has contributed a lot to the community!
March 05, 2010
What a great story. Fantastic write-up!
March 05, 2010
I was once at an Elmcor Boxing event and the service they provide the Queens area is amazing. For years they have made a difference in our community and I am greatful for that. Thank you and continue the great work!