Pride in giving back to community

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When Jono Gibson moved from Auckland to take on the role of funeral director and manager at Cambridge Funerals he fulfilled half of his career game plan.

Whanganui-born Gibson had always intended to return to the provinces as a partner in a funeral business – but not as an employee.

But then Gibson had not encountered the Legacy Trust business model before.

The Trust, which owns Cambridge Funerals, was established to plough profits back into the community and recently donated $1000 to the Cambridge Autumn Festival.

The donation comes on top of the $24,000 returned to the community in the last year through grants to Cambridge Primary School PTA, Cambridge High School Rowing Club, Cambridge Golf Club, Cambridge Tree Trust, Resthaven, and Wheels in Motion at Home of Cycling.

Gibson says he and his wife Ashleigh were keen to get involved in a community minded business.

“My dream was provincial New Zealand and starting a funeral home, but this opportunity came up and that’s all changed. I was quite keen to work for a company that gave back to the community.

“This position gives me a huge amount of pride, rather than working in the corporate model of a funeral home. I really enjoy my role here as it gives me the opportunity to care for families but also knowing that in doing so we are helping our local community.”

The business model was set up in 2007 by Tauranga identity Greg Brownless, who accepted $1 from the newly minted Trust for his two businesses, the Woodhill and Tauranga Park funeral homes, which had an estimated value of $1.2-million.

Stuart Houchen, who ran Cambridge Funerals for 13 years, sold to the Legacy Trust in August last year. In Tauranga, where the philanthropic business model has been in place around 12 years, in excess of $3-million has been put back into the local community through more than 400 local organisations who have received grants ranging anywhere from $100 to well over $250,000.

Brownless set up the Trust after working in Thailand helping repatriate bodies following the 2004 tsunami which killed more than 200,000 people in a number of countries.

“While he was there, he had an epiphany, and decided to make the Legacy Trust business model a reality in his lifetime,” Gibson said.

In Cambridge, Houchen has stayed on as the Trust’s area ambassador and helps decide on the twice-yearly selection of local charities earmarked for donations.

Gibson says people are sometimes suspicious of the business model at first but they are getting increased interest from organisations seeking funding.

“We have copped some flak as people don’t understand the concept or simply don’t believe it. The Trust is operated with complete transparency adhering to the strict rules regarding trusts and all donations are public.”

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