This is a brand new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.
It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. This week we're featuring Live Bearded Team Member Jonathan Jones and his desire to spread love and hope.
It’s 5 a.m. on a scorching hot Saturday morning in the city of Glendale, Arizona.
The sun’s not even out, but Live Bearded team member Jonathan Jones has been up for a while.
No big deal, though; he has work to do.
Jones is busy smoking 30 pounds of pork shoulder as part of a meal that will feed about 200 homeless individuals in downtown Phoenix.
This wasn’t organized through a food bank. Or a church. Or a non-profit organization.
It was simply a way to make a positive impact on the world. To change the narrative.
“I’m not looking for credit or notoriety,” he says emphatically. “I’m just trying to give folks a little hope.”
You see, Jones doesn’t consciously try to be a good person.
It’s just who he is.
Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, Jones and his four older sisters had what he considered to be a pretty typical life. That is, until his parents divorced and he moved to Arizona with his father.
“Those were some of the best times,” he said. “It was just my dad and me. I missed my mom and sisters, but my dad always made me feel better. He was always helping somebody. My dad coached me in basketball and football. The majority of life lessons he taught me were through sports; it was his life’s language.”
Jones didn’t necessarily know it at the time, but looking back, Jones saw how much his father sacrificed for him. They lived in a small apartment for years before his dad surprised him with some life-changing news.
“A house!” Jones remembered. “I couldn’t believe it. I know how difficult my dad and his family had it in the 60s. To end up in Arizona with a brand new house, as a single black man, was unbelievable to me. I knew how hard he worked for so long and I was so proud of him.”
Their house in South Phoenix was new, but the neighborhood around it was not. Gang activity flooded the surrounding area.
“We moved to South Phoenix from Tempe right before I started 7th grade,” Jones said. “Within my first week I had witnessed multiple gang-related activities. Heard about kids being pregnant. It was definitely a shock at first. I used my humor and wit to get through tough situations in school.”
Jones was always a good kid. Never really got in trouble. And being a new student at a new school, it’s natural to try and fit in - to “act” the part. Because of that, falling in with the wrong crowd can happen without you even knowing it.
“When I was about 13 years-old, I was hanging out with some friends and got in trouble,” Jones said. “It was one of those wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time situations. Seeing the look on my dad’s face was enough for me. I never wanted to let him or my family down again.”
During his sophomore year, though, Jones and his dad moved to Surprise, AZ. Now away from the majority of trouble surrounding him, he felt like he could be himself again.
“That’s really when things turned around,” he said. “I graduated high school and moved on to Glendale Community College to study multi-media. I always loved shooting video and this was the perfect opportunity.
“That’s when I started dating my wife, Ariana.”
It’s been said that being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, and loving someone deeply gives you courage. That’s exactly the type of love that Jones has with his wife. At the mere mention of her name, Jones beams with pride. Both Jones and Ariana grew together in college and then eventually as a married couple.
“Ariana saved my life in a lot of ways,” Jones said. “My progress and growth in life are directly correlated with meeting her. She had me wanting to do better before it was a Live Bearded motto. I knew I had to be around her all the time. She’s just such a damn good person; I had never met someone so selfless before.”
Now a father of two beautiful kids, June (2) and Jackson (4), Jones says Ariana’s unrelenting, positive influence has been a driving force in him to give back on a different level. In fact, that’s where the idea to provide home-cooked barbecue meals for those less fortunate - something Jones calls Smokin’ Hope - stemmed from.
“I love to barbecue,” Jones said. “Posting cooking videos on social media is cool, but after some self-reflecting, I felt the desire to do something more meaningful. To leave a greater impact. There was one time I cooked a bunch of food for a party, and plans kind of fell through. I had all this food leftover and wasn’t going to throw it away or eat it all. So we just packed it up and gave it to people who had nothing.”
To Jones, it was a no-brainer. Plus, it dramatically helped the people they gave the food to; they had nothing to eat and weren’t sure where their next meal was coming from.
Perhaps most importantly, it inspired Jones to do more.
And combining his love of grilling with his passion for videography was a perfect fit. It allows Jones and his volunteers to contribute in some way towards making the world a better place.
“I’m blessed to be able to tell stories visually as a career,” Jones said. “It’s only right to do that through Smokin’ Hope. It’s all about changing the narrative. I want people to see what we’re doing and feel inspired to give back in their own creative ways. I think we all want to make a difference, but actions are greater than words.”
Jones started the Smokin’ Hope movement a little over a year ago and has already had five large cookouts - feeding about 800 people. In the end, though, it’s not about the number of people they feed; it’s about the positive impact on people going through a tough time.
In short? It’s about love.
“Your life is a reflection of what you do,” Jones said with passion. “Smokin’ Hope is exactly that. We’re trying to build people up. Just a small act of feeding someone can have a huge impact on them. We want people to know that we see them; I mean truly see them. We’ve had people wait in line for food and then give their meal to someone even less fortunate. How amazing is that? We have to be the change we want to see in this world. People need something like that to strive towards.
“That’s true hope.”
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!