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On Island Profile: Daryl George

July 9, 2006 – The walls of Daryl George's office on St. Thomas seem to tell the story of his life and loves — from the stacks of pictures of his children and students to newspaper clippings written about the Junior Firefighters Corps, a youth initiative he runs throughout the year. There are also several watercolor paintings of local scenery, images of the people who have influenced him throughout the years, and some Fire Services memorabilia stacked upon the shelves.
On the floor, there's even a "SpongeBob SquarePants" beanbag – a resting place for his 2-year-old son, Deandre, who comes to visit George during the week.
After watching George operate in this environment, it's not hard to see why he always has a smile on his face – for an individual who characterizes his job, volunteer activities and family as the most "essential things" in life, he has everything he needs right at his fingertips.
"I love the things I do," George said while in his office Sunday – still dressed in his firefighting uniform. "I love fighting fires. It's like a rush for me. It's always been my dream, and it will continue to be my dream until the day I die. And I love working with the Junior Firefighters – it gives me an opportunity to be a facilitator, a person who can help the kids with their problems. It makes me feel like I'm making a positive contribution to the community."
There is more to the story, however. While firefighting is his passion, and mentoring his "hobby," the two activities also give George a way to indirectly assist the people who encouraged him to live up to his potential.
George explained that while he was attending high school, former Sen. Carlton Dowe was putting together the Junior Firefighters program. "He recruited me for it," George said. "So I went one Saturday, and I kind of liked it. So from 1980 to now, I've been part of the Junior Firefighters and Fire Services family."
George said that once he got involved with the youth program, he was "groomed" by some of the older, now retired, firefighters. "They took me in and supported me," George said. "And when I dropped out of high school in 1985, they told me that I was smart, and that I should live up to my potential. They told me to go back to school. So I took online courses for four years, and in 1994 I got my high school diploma."
Right away, George got involved with the Junior Firefighters, leading the charge as its program coordinator. Then, in 1995, he was hired by Fire Services. "My first year on the job, I was voted employee of the year. Then I became the firefighters union president in 1997. And I've served in that position for four consecutive terms," he said.
George said this life experience has allowed him to bring a positive message to the Junior Firefighters table. "I see kids every day that seem to be going the way I did," he said. "And for me, while I had two wonderful parents who gave me everything I wanted, my behavior was still unbearable, until the day I decided just to quit school. That's not something I want to see these kids doing, and it makes me feel amazing when I'm able to talk to them, bring them back in and see them graduate."
In his personal life, George is also committed to his family, which includes his four children and father. "I spend time with all of them each day," he said. "My father right now is paralyzed, as a result of several strokes. But my brother and I take care of him, and I'm waiting for the day when he'll be able to walk again."
And while his life at times seems hectic – George wakes up at about 6:30 every morning and goes to bed around 11 every night – he is still ready to take on more responsibility, including the expansion of the Junior Firefighters program.
While the program — housed in a small, bright yellow building in Estate Bournefield — already consists of a summer camp and after-school program, George said he wants to develop a steel pan orchestra. "It's something that I'm working hard on every day, but right now I need a contributor," George said.
Additionally, George said his long-term goals include: serving as a firefighter for 20 years (he currently has 11 years under his belt), developing his own youth program after he retires and possibly seeking political office. "My real dream, though, is to one day be the director or head of Fire Services," he said. "I have the experience and the fortitude, and I really think I can make a difference."
When asked how he plans to balance all those future responsibilities, George replied, "Once you're committed to something, all you have to do is get everything in balance. And we're talking about my love and my family here, so I'll do what I have to do and make the necessary sacrifices."
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