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April 2 Celebration To Kickoff Jenkins Capital Campaign
3/23/2016 4:47:48 PM

The Jenkins Orphanage Band became such an international sensation by the early 20th century, that the group was invited to play for King George of England. The history and legacy of the band will be celebrated during the anniversary event.
By Barney Blakeney

On April 2, the Jenkins Institute for Children will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding with a festive event, “The Legacy Moves Forward”. The four-hour affair beginning at 4 p.m. will include music, food, beverages and more.
Johanna Martin-Carrington, former executive director at Jenkins who now sits on its board of directors, said the celebration also will serve to kick off the Jenkins’ capital campaign to fund construction of a new cultural center at the campus located 3923 Azalea Dr. in North Charleston. Tickets are $50 per person.
Jenkins Institute for Children, formerly Jenkins Orphanage, was established in 1891 by Rev. Daniel J. Jenkins after he found four orphaned young Black boys huddled against the cold on the streets of Charleston. Originally located on King Street, the orphanage doubled as a day school.

Jenkins converted a cabin on the lot into housing for the boys. Other boys soon joined them. Within six months the number of students at the school grew to 96 though only a small number of students actually lived at the orphanage. In 1892 Jenkins, who was pastor of Fourth Baptist Church, led his congregation to form the Orphan Aid Society which built a new school and 24-room orphanage on two lots on H Street adjacent to the King Street school.

As the orphanage grew, the need for space led Jenkins in 1893 to purchase a building at 20 Franklin St. where he housed his orphans and continued his school. By 1894 he had incorporated industrial education into the school’s program. A proponent of the self-help concept, Jenkins implemented a structured program emphasizing trade and craft skills that would benefit the orphanage and the youngsters.

That year, Jenkins acquired 100 acres of land in Ladson from a wealthy New York manufacturer where he grew cotton, raised livestock and sold lumber. Greenwood Industrial Farm allowed the orphanage to become an independent enterprise.

Funding was a consistent problem. The orphanage used its farm to supplement its income provided through donations from individuals and local churches. In 1937 it moved from Magazine Street to a 220-acre farm in the North Area on the banks of the Ashley River. It still is located at that site.

One of the orphanage’s best known programs was its band. The band gained national and international recognition as a result of performances across the United States and abroad. The band’s performances generated substantial funding for the orphanage. A number of band members went on to perform with bandleaders such as Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. Other residents of the institute became doctors, lawyers, ministers and teachers. Jenkins died in 1937, but the band he formed cemented the institution’s renown.

The orphanage Jenkins founded continues to serve children. About 16 residents live at the 70-acre waterfront campus. Martin-Carrington said the proposed $1 million cultural center will provide a resource where genealogical and historical information can be stored and maintained for public viewing.

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