It’s easy to see the impact of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida on Jerry Demings. Without his involvement in a Club, he may not be Orange County Sheriff.
“If I had not been involved in programs like the Boys & Girls Clubs, I could have easily gone down a different path and ended up on the wrong side of the law,” Demings says. “It was this type of community asset that provided me a way to stay out of trouble.”
Demings’ brother was not as fortunate. Several years older than Demings, his brother took the opposite path. He started using drugs and breaking the law. Unfortunately, he died at an early age.
The Demings grew up in Washington Shores, which was a much different place in the 1960s and 70s than it is today. There were new schools and a new community bank. There was a shopping center and the Demings’ family owned the community fish market. It didn’t make them rich, but it showed Demings the value of hard work.
It was Demings’ mother who made certain that he was involved in the church, youth sports and other positive activities for children. He and his friends spent time at the Carver Shores Boys Club, which had the primary basketball gym for the community. “It was a place that provided a positive alternative and kept me out of trouble,” Demings says. “They were not going to allow bad things to happen to you at the Club. I didn’t have to hang out in places where I would get arrested.”
The Carver Shores Boys Club, now the Universal Orlando Foundation Branch, was also the center of the community. It was a place where all the great basketball players, such as NBA legend Daryl Dawkins, would play. Churches and community groups would use the facilities on the weekend. At the time, the Club was a place where both youth and adults gathered.
While the Clubs of today are much different than the Clubs of Demings’ youth, he understands what it takes for youth to stay on the right path. He’s encountered plenty of those who haven’t stayed righteous throughout his career. For all youth, he gives simple advice: “Pray first, aim high and stay focused.”