St. Christopher House, 1912-2012: a century of social services in Toronto

As part of its youth work strategy, St. Christopher House hired a young, black social worker named Conrad 'Connie' Carrington, as director of young adult programs. As a native of Kensington Market, Connie had first hand knowledge of local issues and quickly gained the respect of co-workers, local youth, and parents alike. He was also known for his casual attitude and snappy wardrobe. Under Connie's direction, the House basketball program ranked high within citywide leagues. In 1955, Connie helped found the Metro Toronto Jazz Society, along with Rupert Hodge, the House's basketball coach. The next year, the two of them began an innovative music program at the House, providing an interracial space for young jazz musicians to practice their craft in front of a crowd of fellow musicians and fans of the genre. Every Sunday afternoon, the large auditorium on the main floor of 67 Wales Ave. was booked. More than a few of the participants went on to find acclaim in the industry, including Sonny Greenwich, Wray Downes, Doug Richardson, Archie Alleyne and Connie Maynard.
In 2001, longstanding staff member Bob Ellis and the House Alumni began hosting a live jazz concert in the House’s courtyard at 248 Ossington Avenue. The event served the dual purpose of honouring Connie Carrington’s legacy and raise funds for a range of programs. Initially intended as a onetime event, the annual Connie’s Sunday Jam celebrated in 2011 its tenth anniversary. Every year, a lively crowd of jazz lovers and friends of the House gathered on an August afternoon to enjoy performances by such artists as Salome Bey, Jackie Richardson, Molly Johnson and Shakura S’Aida.

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