1992-1998: The early beginnings
Olu Jegede first discovered the Jane and Finch community as a York University student quite by accident. He was initially introduced to Christian Centre Church (a fifteen-minute walk from campus) by a friend and started becoming involved with various outreach programs.
He began volunteering at a drop-in recreational program that was aimed at providing a safe and secure environment for at-risk youth. Jane and Finch was a far cry from his suburban home life in Sarnia, Ontario. Through meeting different residents and hearing their challenges and stories, he fell in love with the people, in particular the youth.
Olu graduated from York University in 1995 and started his first career as a technical Business Analyst with a market research firm. Despite his busy work schedule, he found ample time on weekends and weeknights to volunteer with the church and mentor youth. These fun memories included snowboarding, camping, skating, beach walks, and out-of-town trips. Today, many youth remember the early days at Christian Centre where they could come to a safe space and know they were loved.
“I still remember the diverse mentoring activities that I plunged the youth into that allowed for relationships to be formed and new experiences gained,” Olu recalls.
2000: The Call to Serve
After a season of personal reflection, Olu decided to leave his well-paying job and accept a humble staff position as the Youth Outreach and Community Outreach Minister at Christian Centre Church. “I felt that assuming this full-time role would allow me to be truly involved in their lives. Rather than seeking monetary gain with a professional career, my new reward would be seeing them actualize their potential to be successful in life.” Through this action, he committed the next several years to serving the youth, their families and the Jane and Finch community.
Under the mentoring and tutelage of Pastor Billy Richards, Inner City Outreach is given Canadian charitable status in 2003.
2006: Moving into the community
Sensing that he needed to be closer to the community, Olu decided to re-locate into the neighbourhood and moved into one of the rental townhouse complexes near Christian Centre Church, along with his young family and several other key staff/interns.
As Executive Director, Olu re-launches Inner City Outreach. During this time, ICO’s youth programs strengthens, its donor base grows and its involvement in the neighbourhood spreads. He juggles many different roles as a community spokesperson, resident liaison, program supervisor, fundraiser, mentor and occasional bus driver.
Present: Moving forward
After being elected as Senior Pastor at Christian Centre Church, Olu continues to be a strong voice and leader in the community.