Having come from a large family of 16 children, where money was scarce, George Smith knows all too well what it is to grow up in the constant fear of not having enough as a child. His passion to help children in need comes from the place of knowing. There is no better understanding than personal experience. George did not fall victim to his past. Instead, he became a victor in his present through his efforts to rally the support needed to create a brighter future for other children in need. He was inspired by the families who were there for him during difficult times in his youth, individuals whose generosity lifted him up and showed him that people do care and want to help. George shares heartfelt stories of how encouraged he as when eh would receive invitations for dinner from neighborhood families who had more and were willing to share, or people reaching out, befriending him, and taking him under their wing by giving him a job and an opportunity to learn the value of hard work and earning a living.
When George was older, he met a woman named Patricia. They fell in love and married in September of 1966. The two moved from Brooklyn to Long Island, where they put a down payment of $10 on their new home in Selden. As time went on, Pat became a deacon of a little church down the street called Grace Presbyterian. One day. Pat returned home from the church visibly upset. She told George that some neighborhood kids had broken into the church a fifth time. This time, they had relieved themselves, by urinating and such on the church altar, before stealing church property on their way out. This got George’s wheels spinning. It was clear that these kids needed a positive influence in their lives, and he had an idea of how he might be able to help. First, he needed to know who owned the land behind the church. So, he me with the Pastor and discovered the church owned the land; four acres to be exact. He then made a request to the church and session to lease him the property for $1, and he would clear the land and build two baseball fields for the children in the community. The church agreed.
Excited at the prospect of helping to change the focus of the youth in the community in a positive direction by beginning this new venture, George reached out to friends, neighbors, and family members to ask for their help. They all got to work. At that time, George was a self-employed contractor who also owned DeePat Auto Body on Middle Country Road in Selden. He was a motivated possibility-thinker with business savvy. He knew how to launch a startup and get things going. He was already a man of the community with connections to sponsors and donors and the support of friends and family.
A year later in 1977, Selden Centereach Little League was born. This league was special in many ways. On stand-out difference was the decision to charge only $5 per child for their uniforms and equipment, when the going rate at that time was three times that amount. S.C.L.L’s missions was to reach every child who wanted to play ball. For those who couldn’t afford even the $5, the children played for free. Their desire was to leave no child behind and to give all children the same opportunity.
Years past and George and Patricia eventually sold their home in Selden to one of their three daughters, Tricia, and they moved to Manorville. One day, while George was in the old neighborhood visiting their daughter, he noticed the property behind the church was being built up again. For many years, it had gone unused and was left unkempt, since the league had moved to a different location. He was surprised to see two beautifully groomed Astroturf fields. There was a gentleman in the parking lot; the Deputy Commissioner of the Brookhaven Department of Parks, Recreation and Sports. George wanted to know who was involved in making this happen, and he was told it was the Brookhaven Councilman, Kevin LaValle’s project. George knew he had to meet with Mr. LaValle. He needed to meet the man who had brought this property back to life, as George himself had done in years past. The two met, and as they traded old stories, Kevin revealed to George that he had played ball on those fields when he was a child. It had been Kevin’s dream to redo the old fields, and one day build two more, along with a full complex. After talking with Kevin and seeing the tremendous impact the league had made on him as a child, It made George that much more enthusiastic about the organization he started in 2011 for underprivileged children, called Youth Economical Support aka Y.E.S.
Today, George still enjoys playing ball and continues to support startups for children in the community and beyond through the efforts of his Y.E.S. organization. Selden Centereach Little League still exists today at a different location on Hawkins Road in Selden with a new board running it. You can still find DeePat Automotive on Middle Country Road in Selden, under new ownership, and Grace Presbyterian Church is a their original location, where they continue to reach out to the community and help in whatever way they can. George and Pat’s daughters are still able to visit their childhood home in Selden as Tricia still retains ownership of the home.
So, I end this inspired and encouraged by this truth: no matter who you are or where you come from, when friends, family, community, a little church, a dream, and a whole lot of love come together, one dollar can and will go a long way to touch and transform lives for the better!