WHILE two Northamptonshire neighbours will be partying later this year to mark their respective ruby anniversaries, their celebrations will also fondly remember a late, great Northampton businessman who played a huge role in their inception.
Michael Jones, who ran the eponymous jewellers in the town, was a founding father of both Workbridge, the centre which helps people with a mental illness, learning disability, autism or a brain injury develop work skills, and wholefood retailer Daily Bread, the co-operative which employs those with similar issues, which nestle alongside one another on their shared Bedford Road site.
Later this year, each will be marking their fortieth birthdays with respective craft and food fairs and, with 80 years' service between them, Michael's widow, Anne, says he would have been thrilled to see them reach their impressive milestones.
"Michael and I were part of a church communion group which wanted to develop a business founded on our Christian beliefs so, led by inspirational fellow member, Roger Sawtell, Daily Bread was set up as a wholefood store and the very first co-operative under what were new operating rules," said Anne.
"Around that time, Michael was also approached by a social worker at the then St Andrew's Hospital, Dorothy Davidson, who was looking to create a local centre that could provide a bridge to work for those recovering from various forms of mental illness and so Workbridge was also born - the two side by side in spirit and location.
"Sadly, Michael passed away in 2017 and won't be here to raise a glass at the parties in the summer but I know that he would be incredibly proud that both organisations not only are still here, but also have expanded dramatically and are flourishing, not to mention the many, many vulnerable adults whose lives they have each helped to transform over the decades."
Far from stepping back after their formation, both Michael and Anne continued to play active roles in the new businesses, she working unpaid in Daily Bread's shop for the first 18 months - where she recalls they took £4 on the first day and £6 on the second - and he, more formally, as Chair of Workbridge for some 18 years.
Indeed, Michael remained as a volunteer with what is now St Andrew's Healthcare, the charity which merged with Workbridge in 2009, for 25 years until his death three years ago.
As Anne revealed, the couple lived by the words of St James - that faith, without deeds, is not enough - and to this day, she remains a loyal customer, taking the regular stroll from her nearby home to both venues, whether to pick up a plant from Workbridge's nursery or to buy a bag of one of Daily Bread's much-loved cereals, whose recipe she herself created - Anne's Muesli.
To that end, she is encouraging others to support both causes in the hope that they will be able to continue to offer their vital services into their fiftieth anniversaries and beyond.
"It's incredibly difficult to explain just what a difference these two venues have made to so many people but I know for example of one troubled lady who made such a recovery as a result of the support that she received that she obtained an NVQ in office skills and went on to become a secretary of a firm of solicitors on the south coast," said Anne.
"So I would urge everyone to do what they can to show that they care and what better way than to join these birthday celebrations and make them events to remember."
Circumstances permitting, Workbridge, which offers vocational training through its garden centre as well as canvas prints, coffee and charity shops, is staging its free celebration Spring Craft Fair on Saturday 16 May (10am to 4pm), selling not only plants but also woodwork, textiles, canvas prints and ceramics made by its users. It will also include over 40 independent crafters, artists and food suppliers from across Northamptonshire.
Meanwhile, Daily Bread's Food Festival, again free to visitors, is planned for Saturday 4 July and will see a plethora of tasty treats on offer, as well as live music and other attractions. More details, including news of a very special guest, will be revealed in due course.
The Workbridge Coffee Shop will be open for both events, while there will also be display of photos marking the two venues' four decades, so if you have any pictures of the Bedford Road site, particularly from its early years, please call the Daily Bread shop on 01604 621531.
Meanwhile, for more details of the respective ruby anniversary celebrations, visit www.workbridge.org.uk or www.dailybread.co.uk - where you can also order its wholefoods, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, herbal remedies and cruelty-free body care and cosmetics online.