Tributes to 'hero' charity founder who dedicated life to Newham children
- Credit: Courtesy of the Jenkins family
Tributes have been paid to a community "hero" who dedicated his life to children in Newham following his death at the age of 62.
Kevin Jenkins OBE, who was co-founder of Community Links and founded the charity Ambition Aspire Achieve (AAA), died on Wednesday, April 7.
Mr Jenkins' wife, Paula Blake, said: "He was an amazing husband and dad. We're all just heartbroken.
"He's an inspiration to his children. He's always pushed us to succeed. He worked so hard. He's our hero."
Born in Plaistow, Mr Jenkins co-founded Community Links as a sixth former at then Langdon School - now Langdon Academy - in 1977.
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In his 44-year career, Mr Jenkins is widely regarded as transforming the lives of children from deprived backgrounds.
In 2016, the father-of-four set up AAA to help youngsters realise their goals from its base at the Terence Brown Arc in the Park.
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Paula said: "He was a great believer that things could be changed. That's what motivated him. If a young person had a barrier there, you can always find a way around it. Kevin was a great believer in that.
"The beauty about Kevin was he always kept his feet on the ground. He was a people person. He never forgot his roots. He always fought for what he believed in. He loved Newham. He committed his life to it.
"We're so proud of him. He's going to be missed like mad."
David Robinson, who co-founded Community Links, said Mr Jenkins was deeply loved by many people, more than might ever be known.
Mr Robinson said: "He had an enormous heart and huge amounts of energy but most of all it was his humanity and personal kindness I will treasure.
"He was an exceptional organiser and activist who was deeply kind to individuals. It was his humanity that shone through."
AAA chief executive, Jonny Boux, paid tribute to "a mastermind" who knew exactly how to develop projects for young people.
"He's made such a tremendous difference to the borough. He helped thousands of young people. He created AAA at a time when funding is very difficult for charities.
"He saw where the need was required most and found solutions. He's built something which is a very worthy legacy. We are determined to carry on that good work. But it's more than that - it's all the lives that he has changed. That's a huge legacy," Mr Boux said.
AAA patron, actor and comedian Ricky Grover, said: "He was my hero. He's one of those people everyone knew. If you had a problem and couldn't get help, he was the go-to man.
"There was a really lovely gentleness and calm about him. Nothing was too much trouble. I never heard him speak about his needs or wants. It was always about how he could help someone. He was a very special person."
West Ham MP Lyn Brown paid tribute to "a very close friend" who she had worked with since her early 20s.
Ms Brown said: "I am devastated. The loss to his family, to his friends, and to his beloved community in Canning Town and across Newham and east London is enormous.
"Kevin was so kind and generous. His dedication to the children of Newham is legendary, as a founder of Community Links and then Ambition Aspire Achieve, the Toy Appeal and Easter Egg Appeal, and so many unsung projects over his 44 years of service to us all.
"Through every day of his wonderful life he contributed so, so much.
"Many will never know about the enormous contributions he made through campaigning and influencing behind the scenes on behalf of his community, how he fundraised tirelessly and brought people together to secure opportunities and fairness for some of the most deprived people in the UK.
"I am going to miss Kevin so very, very much."
Mr Jenkins worked as a councillor for 28 years. The West Ham United fan was elected to Greatfield ward in 1986 and then East Ham South ward in 2010.
Stephen Timms MP, who represents East Ham, said: "Kevin had an extraordinary rapport with the people he worked with.
"He was deeply trusted, much more than is usual, by his constituents in south East Ham, where he was a much-loved councillor, and by the young people he worked with at Community Links.
"He won peoples’ confidence in a remarkable way, and he continued to do so in starting and building up AAA. We will miss him no end."
Former mayor Bryan Collier first met Mr Jenkins in 1994. He said: "It is with sadness that l hear the news of Kevin's passing.
"He's a man who has touched the hearts and lives of many people and will be missed - a hard act to follow. Our prayers and blessings are with Paula and the family."
Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz praised the community leader's tireless devotion to improving the borough.
"He will be sadly missed by all at the council and by the many whose lives have been touched by his work and commitment to the communities of Newham," she said.
Former Recorder editor Colin Grainger set up a toy appeal 44 years ago with Mr Jenkins, who has written a column for the paper since 2013.
He said: "If you are lucky in life you get to meet one truly great person. I met mine more than 40 years ago. It was Kevin Jenkins.
"Kevin was the most remarkable man I have ever met in my time on this planet. His death is a tragedy of immense proportions."
Chi Kavindale, director of Community Links, said: "We will be forever grateful and proud of our work together. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kevin and his family."