Member Article

Award of Friendship Bench Leads to New Business Concept

Michelle Jones was recently awarded a friendship bench to applaud her fundraising efforts. Here she shares what it has lead to and why kindness is not about opinion but about action:

‘Friendship Bench’ what a legacy you have created.

As I shyly strolled back to my Husband’s side, tears streaming down my face, my heart bursting with pride, he whispered in my ear, “you normally have to die to be honoured with a bench”. I smiled as I looked at the brightly coloured rainbow bench sitting proud with the words ‘Michelle Jones, Friendship Bench, Come and Make a Friend!’

For a decade I had thrown myself into our local community. I have always been a keen volunteer, but I became extremely passionate about creating a positive impact when I became a Mother. I endeavoured to remove disadvantaged barriers and provide opportunity to create inclusion for all and believed that investing in our young people created and protected a kinder future for us all. Kindness was the foundation to everything I did, committing myself for a decade to the community, with just the one goal, make a positive difference to the lives of the children and families I was serving.

The bench was gifted to me in honour of my kindness and I’m delighted it sits proudly in the community encouraging friendship, it is one of the greatest gifts we can give another Human; our friendship, it was the perfect tribute for my work. The timing of this moment came at a crucial point for me in relation to my career and business choices.

Light bulb moments, we’ve all had them, inspirational ideas that fill our minds with a vision. In business they are usually the innovative solution to a problem. But often a business concept is developed from an idea that has burned away for many years coming to fruition over time, usually a significant moment in time is the catalyst either way, such as a pandemic or being honoured for your kindness, in my case it was both.

Throughout my years working in the voluntary and charity sector, running a small creative business, and managing chronic health conditions I identified several disadvantaged gaps within society. The need to remove barriers, help people overcome adversity and provide opportunity to create a more inclusive society grew deeper, an itch I wasn’t sure how to scratch.

As we entered lockdown, as many of you are aware, I set up a free crisis management service for the wedding industry through my business Michelle Jones Weddings, which exploded, adding more fuel to my itch. My community work shifted every day to meet the needs arising from the COVID-19 situation. It was like a rollercoaster of emotion, I spent days helping people overcome the adversity they faced, I had comments such as, ‘you’ve saved my family’s life’. It all came with much stress, tears, and exhaustion but rather than dimming my flame, it added so much fuel and Kind Currency emerged.

Then, came the ‘Friendship Bench’, the power of this gesture compounded my passion to develop the Kind Currency idea into a business concept. Ann English of the fabulous Creative Intrigue was one of many that commented on the legacy I had created in the community, but Ann suggested the bench was a symbol of the kindness I wanted to create through the Kind Currency concept, commenting “communities up and down the country need and will be filled with the Michelle Jones Friendship Bench legacy”.

With hope and aspiration, Kind Currency is the solution to close disadvantaged gaps and provide opportunity, resolving the identified problems to create a more inclusive kinder society, protecting, sustaining, and celebrating, kind people, kind businesses and kind causes.

Imagine a world where kindness is currency! More information on the exciting concept and it’s north east pilot will be revealed soon.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Anna Toms .

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