A MUM who is facing a hefty bill to replace her daughter’s memorial bench says she has been ‘overwhelmed’ by community support.
Michele Johnson has set up an online donation page after numerous requests and kind offers and words from Echo readers and well-wishers.
Portland couple Michele and Andy tragically lost their 14-year-old daughter Jess in 2006.
The Dorset Echo revealed last week that council workers had removed Jess’s bench from its spot overlooking Chesil Beach after it was destroyed by vandals.
And to make matters worse for the grieving family, they are now facing a bill for more than £745 bill to replace it.
But thanks to the kindness of Dorset residents, mum Michele, 50, said they were hoping to raise the required funds.
Michele, who works at Criterion Restaurant in Weymouth, said: “It is absolutely fantastic and most appreciated. We just can’t afford that kind of money. It has shown me how kind and supportive our community can be and it is nice that everyone really understands.
“I’ve had phone calls about it with offers to donate and my daughter-in-law says the Echo story was shared many times online.
“With so many people saying they would donate we decided to set up the donation page.”
Jess, who suffered with a heart condition, collapsed at a friend’s house and was dead on arrival at Dorset County Hospital.
In a bid to help the grieving family remember their ‘fantastic’ teenager, Andy’s former work colleagues chipped in for a bench to be installed overlooking Chesil Beach.
Sadly, vandals destroyed the memorial bench last month and it was removed by council workers due to ‘safety reasons’.
Michele claims that not only did the council fail to inform the couple that the bench was going to be removed, but also failed to post the letter to their home address.
Instead, the letter was found on her husband’s desk at work in a hand-written envelope.
The original letter, sent by borough council parks supervisor Tara Gooding, said: “It is with regret that I must inform you that the seat donated in memory of Jess Johnson has been rather badly vandalised and has been removed for safety reasons.
“Should you wish to consider donating a new seat in the same location the cost will be £745 plus VAT.”
When contacted by the Echo, the borough council confirmed that the ‘ongoing responsibility for replacing broken or worn out benches rests with the family’.
Last week, Michele spoke of her ‘shock and disgust’ that her family were being asked to pay for what vandals had done to Jess’s memorial bench, which was situated in a place she used to hang out with her friends.
TO DONATE via PayPal the email address is jessbenchmemorial@ outlook.com or visit the Facebook page titled Jess Memorial Bench which includes details on how to do this.
If unable to do this, then email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07821 161 482 or leave a comment or message on the Facebook page