Home Culture This Jersey City Resident is Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to Spread Awareness for Parkinson’s Disease

This Jersey City Resident is Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to Spread Awareness for Parkinson’s Disease

by Hoboken Girl Team
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Every year, 30,000 climbers attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the fourth most topographically prominent peak on Earth, located in Tanzania. One such soon-to-be climber is Joanne Simmons, originally from London, England, now a Jersey City resident – who decided to establish her life in Hudson County back in 2005. Joanne is a business owner locally; the artist behind The Silver Sculptor — and is inspired by nature, architecture, and her own customers — working to create minimalist jewelry inspired by her European roots. But besides being a local entrepreneur, she’s also raising funds for Parkinson’s Disease in the most monumental of ways. Joanne is set to climb Mount Kilimanjaro —  in honor of her dad’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s, in an effort to help find a cure for it. Read on for our interview with Joanne Simmons.

mount kilimanjaro jersey city joanne simmons

Photo Credit: Joanne Simmons

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HG: Tell us about your journey to Jersey City.

JS: I was born and raised in London, England and moved to Jersey City in 2005. At the time I worked for the tourist board for the UK and an opening came up in the New York office, so I applied, got the job and moved. I decided to just stay for a year, but I loved living here so much that I decided to stay. It also helped that I met my (now) husband in that first year!

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HG: What about the area made you want to stay here?

JS: Living in Jersey City it made sense to have the business here, my studio is in my home, in downtown Jersey City, which is convenient to meet a lot of my customers. Jersey City has a thriving small business community and it’s a great place to open a business.

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HG: What is your favorite aspect about living and working in Jersey City?

JS: I just love the community here, I love knowing local store owners and neighbors and saying hi on the street. I love the arts community here.

Everything I need is on my doorstep and it’s a lovely mix of community and city, you don’t have to feel anonymous like you do in a big city, but you still have the benefit of being able to walk to all the amenities. Jersey City has changed a lot in the last 18 years that I’ve lived here, but fundamentally it is the same, the values of the city remain the same: community, a friendly welcome to all and support (in all different ways). That’s how I see Jersey City and it’s what I personally have experienced and how I want to give back to the people and businesses of Jersey City. I do this by mentoring local young people in jewelry making and making sure that I patronize the local stores. I’m proud to call Jersey City my home.

HG: Tell us about your business.

JS: I design and make jewelry that is inspired by the past whether that is a design element from architecture, or something from nature. Or even using customer’s gemstones that they may have inherited that they want to re-imagine into a new piece of jewelry that they will wear.

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HG: What inspired you to get into this business?

JS: I’ve always been creative and when I couldn’t find any jewelry that I liked, I decided to try my hand at making something. I realized that I was actually quite good at making jewelry, so I just kept going and then friends and family wanted me to make them jewelry and from there I started selling at craft fairs. The business started to thrive and it was my side hustle for many years. When I was in my full-time job it was my creative outlet, somewhere I could get away from things going on in my life, getting lost in making something come to life. My jewelers bench was where I would meditate and lose myself for hours.

I definitely have a European design aesthetic. If you look at a lot of contemporary jewelry in Europe, it has a very minimalist style — and that’s definitely the aesthetic that I have in my designs. It’s not something that you often see in jewelry here in the US.

HG: What’s something about you or your business that people might be surprised to learn about?

JS: I really enjoy connecting with my customers and creating something special for them. A lot of my work recently has been taking people’s gemstones from old pieces of jewelry that have been passed down through generations to them. I’ve been creating engagement rings using those pieces so that the lucky wearer is able to incorporate elements from ancestors and is able to keep them alive by repurposing the jewelry into something new. There’s nothing more that I love when presenting the final piece to my customers and seeing the absolute joy that they have when they see it.

HG: Tell us about the climb! What inspired you to set out on this journey?

JS: Honestly, climbing a mountain is nothing that ever crossed my mind to do. I am a city girl through and through having been born and raised in London and now living in Jersey City, being out in nature is not somewhere I feel comfortable. I also hate camping! One thing I do love though is a challenge and I enjoy pushing myself. And with this climb I’m definitely getting out of my comfort zone.

joanne simmons hiking

Photo Credit: Joanne Simmons

 Last year I raised over $3000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. I did this because my dad was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He and the rest of my family live in the UK, so there is only so much support I can offer from afar, so for me raising money for the nonprofit is something that I can do that will benefit not only my father, but everybody that comes after him that has the disease. 

When I read about this opportunity, I knew it was going to be a stretch, not only raising $10,000 but also getting into shape for the climb. I was already in fairly good shape but I knew that I needed to get even stronger.

HG: What are you most excited about? Looking forward to? Scared of?

JS: I’m most excited about meeting the other climbers. There are seven of us in total and we are all complete strangers. We have met online a few times but other than that we don’t know one another so I’m looking forward to getting to know them better and hearing about their life stories. 

joanne simmons jersey city resident

Photo Credit: Joanne Simmons

I’m also excited about being the strongest, healthiest and fittest that I’ve ever been in my life. Exercise was not something that I really ever enjoyed but the last few years I’ve found a new respect for it. It’s empowering — feeling strong.

HG: What is the training like?

JS: I have been working out at Jane Do in Jersey City for a number of years now and as I said earlier, I’m feeling pretty strong and that’s due in part to working out at Jane Do. They are incredibly supportive, and they have grown a community that is like no other I have experienced in the fitness arena. I work out there at least four times a week. 

I also go to Row House by Exchange Place and I have been working out there once a week. Rowing is really a great exercise for your leg strength which is something that I definitely need for the climb.

I have also been walking/hiking for at least 5 miles once a week with a weighted backpack and I have been cycling on the Peloton once a week.

Photo Credit: Joanne Simmons

I only have a few weeks to go now, and I need to up my mountain hiking to at least twice a week. I’m looking forward to not having to spend so much time training!

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HG: What has been the highlight in your career/life so far?

JS: A highlight for me, and my career has definitely been when some of my jewelry was selected to feature on the Young and the Restless soap opera. Seeing my jewelry on the small screen was a thrill that I would love to do again.

HG: What are some of your favorite local businesses?

JS: Well, as I said before I love Jane Do and I would highly recommend them. Their classes are so much fun. They are supportive and it doesn’t feel like exercise when you’re having fun on a trampoline.

I would also recommend Row House. Their classes are always great fun, they really push you and time goes fast. I think there’s something coming through here, exercise for me has to be fun or fast so that it doesn’t feel like I’m really doing exercise!

joanne simmons mt kilimanjaro

Photo Credit: Joanne Simmons

I love going into Love Locked, Kerry and the team make me feel so welcome whenever I go there and you can also find some of my jewelry there too. Recently, I’ve enjoyed eating out at Boots and Bones. I’ve also become a regular at Acuworx. They are miracle workers whenever I have a pain they are able to relieve it.

HG: Anything else you want to share about the climb, your business, or yourself?

JS: If you’re looking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, please get in touch, and I will tell you all about my experience so far! And if you’d like to donate to my fundraiser, you can do so here.

mt kilimanjaro jersey city joanne simmons

Photo Credit: Joanne Simmons

You can find Joanne on Instagram at @silversculptor and thesilversculptor.comread more people button

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