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Episode 26: Love Not Lost

I love meeting new people and while Zoom isn’t always the best way to meet, somedays it just has to suffice. The reality is that an amazing conversation can happen anywhere, whether in person or online. Today’s conversation is just that, amazing. When you meet someone you haven’t met before, you honestly never know what is going to happen? This one had me in tears, in the best of ways and I hope it does the same for you.

Join us today for an incredible conversation with Ashley Jones, the founder of Love Not Lost. Ashley shares her journey through grief with the loss of her young daughter and her transformational experience from loss to creating a remarkable organization that provides family photoshoots for the terminally ill.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Love Not Lost does?

Ashley Jones: Love Not Lost is on a mission to revolutionize the way we heal in grief. We photograph people facing
a terminal diagnosis, provide community support tools and resources to help people support others,
and we train leaders in the workplace to create cultures of caring around grief and loss at work. 

Charity Matters: Tell us about your earliest memories or experiences with philanthropy?

Ashley Jones: I have always had a heart to help people. As soon as I was old enough (around middle school), I volunteered in the kid’s ministry at my church and stayed involved for decades. Through a peer-mentorship program at my high school, I volunteered to help severely handicapped children at the local elementary school. After graduating, I went on an ArtsLink trip to support orphanages in Ukraine and also served neighborhoods in Northern Ireland through Youth for Christ.

When Compassion International came to my university, I signed up to support a kid in India. After my daughter died, I volunteered with Help-Portrait, which helped lay the foundation for creating my own nonprofit. I had zero experience starting a nonprofit and leading a charity, but I knew I would figure it out. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Love Not Lost?

Ashley Jones: As I photographed Kevin Hill on his very last day on earth, fighting Stage 4 Melanoma Cancer, I knew this was part of my purpose; helping other people through suffering and loss. When his wife, Rachel, shared the impact the photos had on her kids in their healing, I knew this work was important. I kept volunteering portrait sessions for families facing a terminal diagnosis and launched it into a nonprofit the day my husband came to me and said, “I love you and your giving heart, but we simply can not afford to keep giving everything away.” I knew I could find other people who wanted to help me give it all away to these families. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Ashley Jones: One of our biggest challenges is pioneering in a world that is taboo. People are reluctant to talk about dying and grief, let alone engage with it on a deeper level. Our first hurdle is getting people to connect with our mission. Another hurdle is finding people who are willing to give to support people in grief. It’s hard to understand the depth of impact if you haven’t been through it.

Covid was obviously a huge challenge. We lost close to half of our expected annual donations due to canceled events and people not giving (which I completely understand), and we’re still recovering from that. We’re hoping our virtual wine tasting event will be a big help this year! 

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Ashley Jones: The thing that keeps fueling me to do this work is the impact. When I hear someone tell me that the photos we gave them helped them heal, or a support tool gave them the courage to reach out to someone to show them love, or I’m talking to someone and can see the “ah-ha” moment when something clicks and they have a moment of healing right there on the spot. It’s a beautiful thing, and that’s how this world is going to change for the better. Each one of us healing our wounds, one moment, one person at a time. 

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? 

Ashley Jones: We’ve photographed close to 100 families now, impacting thousands of people through their friends and family grieving. We’ve given over 5,000 support cards out, not to mention the visitors and users on the digital version, HowCanILoveYouBetter.com… We’ve given thousands of empathy cards out to people to send to spread love and care through loss. And we’ve done it all on a shoe-string budget, but we’re facing max capacity and we really need to raise more to grow and serve more people. 

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for your organization, what would that be?

Ashley Jones: As I dream for Love Not Lost, I imagine a world where everyone feels loved and supported in grief. A world where people know what to say and do, and collectively we help each other heal. I see Love Not Lost having photographers in every major city across the globe. I see us being the number one place people turn to when facing a terminal diagnosis or loss of any kind. We will continue creating tools and resources to help meet unmet needs and build bridges to connect people with empathy and love. 

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Ashley Jones: I have learned some incredible life lessons on this journey so far, and I am sure there are many more coming my way. The first is that love heals. We all have wounds and we all experience loss. First, we need to love and care for ourselves; do our own work to heal before we can help others who are hurting. I believe hurt people hurt people, but healed people heal people. Changing the world truly does start with each of us doing our own work. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Ashley Jones: This journey has broken my heart a million times over. But each time, I get to rebuild my heart. And each time, I find that it gets bigger and bigger. I have grown so much in empathy, understanding, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and seeing people’s pain first. I’m much slower to anger and much more open to possibility. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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