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Jenkins Orphan Aid Society

Charleston, South Carolina

In 1891, the Reverend Daniel Jenkins, pastor of a small African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, stumbled on a group of four black youths huddled in an abandoned building on the edge of town. Not only were the boys under the age of twelve, but as Jenkins discovered, they were all orphans. Their plight had special meaning to Jenkins. Born a slave on a plantation just outside of Charleston, Jenkins himself had been orphaned at a young age and had been turned off the plantation. Reverend Jenkins decided to organize an orphanage for young African American children, the first of its kind in Charleston.

The original site of this orphanage was at 20 Franklin St. in the Old Marine Hospital. This National Historic Landmark, designed by Robert Mills, served as home of the orphanage from 1895 to 1939. Then it moved to its present location, a farm along what is now Azalea Avenue, just outside of Charleston.

To raise funds for the orphanage, the Jenkins Orphanage Band was organized. The Jenkins Orphanage Band, wearing discarded Citadel uniforms, performed throughout the United States and even toured England raising money for the support of the orphanage. William “Cat” Anderson, Jabbo Smith and Freddie Green are but a few of the alumni from the band who made it to the big time.

Today, what is now known as the Jenkins Orphan Aid Society still continues to serve the community as a sanctuary for children. It is located upon 64 acres of beautiful, wooded, land fronting the Ashley River. In an effort to improve the facilities that develop these children into young adults, the Orphan Aid Society sought the services of McDuffie Consulting and Medicine Wheel, LLC to create a master plan that would assist in providing revenue to the foundation. A brand new Campus is planned for the property to include modern dormitories, an adult living facility to house young mothers in need of assistance, a state-of –the-art sports and activities center, and a working community garden will be the genesis of continuing the work Reverend Jenkins began over a century ago.

In addition, a Conference Center, an Assisted Living Facility, a Health and Wellness Center, Townhomes, a small Chapel, and Museum dedicated to the legacy of Jenkins Orphanage will provide much needed revenue to the foundation. Approximately 25% of the property will be set aside as a community park with potential to link to the proposed Ashley River Corridor.