Youth counselor and street minister Jerry Parrish of the Manatee YMCA, who has spent the last 12 years guiding youth in the Pride Park/Oneco area of Bradenton away from gangs, is leaving the Y as of March 31, the YMCA announced Wednesday.
Parrish, who was the South Branch Program executive director, has decided to return to Oklahoma where he has family, said Sean Allison, chief executive officer of the Manatee YMCA.
“Jerry has made a huge impact in Pride Park and at the Y, and we are grateful for the work he has done here in gang prevention for the past 11 years,” Allison said. “During his time with the Y, gangs in Manatee decreased from 15 to as few as six, and he has helped different communities and neighborhoods in Bradenton find a common ground at the Y.”
Parrish said he is leaving at this time because he just felt God wants him to go to Oklahoma.
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“You know, it’s the Lord, it really is,” Parrish told the Herald. “It’s bittersweet for sure. The Lord has opened doors up. Right now I’m in negotiations to pastor a church in Oklahoma. My mother-in-law is there.”
Allison said there was no connection between Parrish’s resignation and events three years ago when an audit found that some officials with the YMCA defrauded Manatee County taxpayers of at least $100,000 designated for after-school and gang prevention programs.
The report specifically found that Parrish inappropriately used funds, the Bradenton Herald reported. Parrish’s travel logs did not provide times or purposes of trips, and some entries seemed like personal trips, such as visits to restaurants and stores, according to Herald archives.
“This was entirely Jerry’s decision,” Allison said Wednesday of the resignation.
Parrish also said the audit in 2014 had nothing to do with his resignation, adding, “I feel that was all political.”
YMCA board member Steve Cooper, franchise owner of the Batteries Plus Bulbs, 6340 14th St. W., near Pride Park, said Parrish’s abilities were uncanny.
“He was able to go right to the street level and see the need,” Cooper said. “He would boldly go where no one else would. Jerry would not be intimated about crime or drugs. He’s a street preacher with a positive message. He would tell kids, ‘We are here to help you.’ That was Jerry.”