Continuing a family tradition of giving back

27th April 2021

Good fortune and adversity have both been part of life for Jo Precious and have strengthened her resolve to help others. 

Born into a family who once owned the Trebor company, Jo grew up in Ingatestone. When the family’s firm was sold, her father, Ian Marks CBE DL and his wife Angela, founders of Essex Community Foundation, set an inspiring example of how to be an innovative philanthropist. 

Jo’s contrasting experiences of being the youngest daughter in a family with a privileged heritage and having her own struggles with cancer and two marriage breakups have given her great insight and an inbuilt empathy with people from all backgrounds. 

She has an established charitable fund with Essex Community Foundation (ECF) to help tackle issues that she sees as crucial in society, but many find too difficult to confront

Caroline Taylor, CEO of ECF said, “Our relationship with Jo is a great example of how we work with our fundholders to tackle issues that matter to them.

“It is a mutually beneficial experience; she has a deep interest in helping people who are so often overlooked or find it difficult to get the empathy and support they really need, and we know the charities and voluntary groups that are tackling these issues in their local communities and need funding to support their work.”

Recent grants have supported projects that are providing training for companies around domestic violence, supporting women working in the sex industry in Southend, supporting victims of rape and abuse and helping children whose parents have an alcohol or drug addiction. 

“It is so important that people going through such traumas are given the right support and have some hope, particularly at this time when everything is being pushed to the boundaries,” said Jo. 

“If people who have been through abuse and trauma can get the help they need they can move on to recovery and do really well. 

“Much of my focus is on children, because I feel that the experiences they have in their early years are vital for their future development.”  

Jo’s fund with ECF is called The White House Farm Charitable fund, named after her home in Suffolk. She still has a great affinity with Essex, which is why grants from her fund helps voluntary and community groups giving support to people in the county. 

“My mother Angela still lives in the house in Ingatestone where I was born and my father Ian, who died three years ago, was an amazing role model and is an ongoing inspiration to me,” said Jo, who has three children and two grandchildren. 

“When my children were little life was difficult, becoming a single mum after a divorce.  Going through breast cancer and recently the end of another marriage has also been difficult, but I feel stronger and happier now.  

“I am lucky to have my family around me, I keep on counting my blessings and more than ever, I want to give back as much as possible to make a difference to others. 

“When I was in the beauty business and clients came for treatments they would openup about their lives.  It gave them someone to talk to and gave me a greater understanding of what people go through and some of the issues they were dealing with. 

In 2015, Jo was part of a Domestic Abuse Project and a ground-breaking partnership between ECF, two Essex Hospitals and Basildon, Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuges.  The pilot scheme involved specialist Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) being placed in accident and emergency and maternity departments at Basildon and Colchester hospitals.  They offered women immediate and ongoing support, and trained staff at the hospitals to recognise and deal with patients who had suffered domestic abuse.   

ECF provided a grant and harnessed additional financial support from other sources, including the AIM Foundation, Fowler Smith and Jones Charitable Trusts and The Mulberry Trust towards the overall cost of the scheme.  Jo was part of the committee that was set up to monitor progress of this project which is still in operation and is now delivered by Changing Pathways based in Basildon. 

Jo said: “Across the UK, at least two women a week are killed by their partners which is shocking, so when ECF asked me if I wanted to be involved in the Domestic Abuse Project, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.   

“It just seemed to be a commonsense approach to look more deeply into the causes, when a woman who has suffered unexplained or frequent injuries comes into hospital.  Rather than just patching them up and sending them home they can be relieved of the suffering caused by a harmful relationship.” 

Jo describes herself as a practical and hands-on person and she is optimistic about the future and how we can all re-assess our priorities. 

“Having a fund with ECF is something I value very much. They can see what sort of person you are and can help you realise what is possible, linking up with your own interests and focussing on issues that are important to you. 

“I am proud that my parents founded an organisation that is achieving so much and is keeping their wonderful philanthropic spirit alive.” 

To find out how you can set up your own charitable fund, click here.