Local business investing in their local community

Why Sarah Jones, former NHS Surgeon turned Funeral Director, supports THE LOCAL FUND 

Sarah Jones, founder of Harrogate-based funeral directors Full Circle Funerals, talks about her career and why she chose to support THE LOCAL FUND for the Harrogate District.

If you are a local business with a passion for making a genuine impact and a tangible difference in the community where you operate I would highly recommend becoming involved with your local Community Foundation.

My path into funeral care was unusual to say the least. Most people choose this career path because they are following in their parents’ footsteps and going into the family business. I was an NHS surgeon who had branched out to work with adults with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. On the surface, it wasn’t a natural career move.

I believe I was motivated by two things – my upbringing and my experiences in the healthcare sector. I had always been interested in how we deal with death and dying, particularly here in the UK, as my mum is from the Netherlands where people talk much more openly about death than we do here. This and the end-of-life experience I’d had in my career and training led me to explore how to help people have a more positive funeral experience.

I wanted to take everything that I had learnt and create a service that was more therapeutic and based on health and social care principles. I opened my first Full Circle Funerals in Yorkshire in 2016 and we now have four sites, including Harrogate. In our first five years we have helped hundreds of people arrange the funeral they want, we have supported people with their own funeral wishes and we have established a thriving bereavement support group.

Covid and the Community

I realised very early on that a funeral home is right at the heart of the local community. This became even more apparent during the Covid pandemic when we, and others in our network who support bereaved people, found ourselves being called upon to help in unexpected ways. Suddenly everything had gone online. Face to face help for all the admin associated with death just wasn’t available anymore. Our role changed and we found ourselves supporting people with all sorts of tasks that wouldn’t normally be part of our role. We were desperate to help in any way we could and my team was absolutely fantastic.

Up until that point we had always been conscious of our social responsibilities. We had donated to charities and involved ourselves in community events. We ran – and continue to run – webinars on all sorts of topics for those involved in offering bereavement support. Since Covid we have stepped this up a gear. As a team we realised it was important that our actions would make a real impact.

The Full Circle team litter picking for the community

Why Support a Community Fund?

Personally, I am a long-term supporter of Leeds Community Fund. I have seen the community foundation model work well there over the years and I have come to know everyone involved.

Community foundations make a real difference by bringing together those in need with those who want to help. My lovely team at Full Circle Funerals recognise that communities everywhere are going to need extra help as we emerge from the pandemic and they want to do something concrete that will make a difference to the local groups that we come across in our day to day work. What these groups need most of all is financial support to put their plans and ideas into action.

Covid has made life extra hard for voluntary groups. Getting back up and running isn’t easy. Added to this is the reality that lots of organisations have seen their usual funding streams disappear.

As a team, Full Circle Funerals decided to  create a Full Circle Fund for Two Ridings  for grants that will support local voluntary and community sector organisations and charities across the Harrogate district. This has two benefits. It helps those who give up so much time and energy to organise activities and services for local people and it also means residents have access to a far wider range of support than they otherwise would.

It has been truly fascinating to learn about all the inspirational things that people are doing to help local residents in need. Reviewing the applications and understanding at an operational level exactly where our money will go and how it will help has been incredibly rewarding.

 

Sarah Jones is a funeral director and founder of Full Circle Funerals.

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