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Just Between Friends Franchise CEO and Co-founder Shannon Wilburn Donates Kidney to Stranger

Posted May 25th, 2018

Giving to others is more than just a business philosophy for Wilburn

Just Between Friends co-founder and CEO Shannon Wilburn is accustomed to being in the spotlight, but late last year, she made news headlines that had nothing to do with business, franchising or consigning kids’ items.

Wilburn donated one of her kidneys to Walt Erwin, who is a member of the church where her husband is the senior pastor.

“This story is touching and remarkable on so many different levels,” says Lori Lalli, franchise recruiter for Just Between Friends. “I want people to understand that Shannon doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk. She has built JBF on an foundation of integrity and stresses the importance of helping others and giving back in business. Well, she embraces that in her personal life, too.”

The Christian Chronicle recently highlighted Wilburn’s story with a feature by Bobby Ross, Jr., titled, “When God wants your kidney.” Below is an excerpt:

Shannon Wilburn and Walt Erwin, in matching outfits, visit after the surgery.

“It’s you, Shannon.”Shannon Wilburn heard the voice in her head.

What she didn’t know was whether the voice was her own or that of the Holy Spirit.

Wilburn, whose husband, Mitch, preaches for the 1,700-member Park Plaza Church of Christ in Oklahoma’s second-largest city, was sitting in worship one Sunday in September 2016.

That morning, an announcement informed the congregation that Walt Erwin, a member of Park Plaza’s branch campus in suburban Jenks, needed a kidney donor.

Thirty-five years earlier, Erwin, now 66, had received a kidney from his older brother, Frank. But he desperately needed a new one. And he was having trouble finding a donor. Without a suitable match, he faced ongoing dialysis. That would mean a decreased quality of life and a shortened life expectancy.

But was Walt Erwin’s health really Shannon Wilburn’s concern?

“What is going on?” she thought as she wrestled with the voice in her head. “I barely know this guy, and I don’t need to give him my kidney.”

Wilburn, now 47, had plenty of reasons to ignore the voice.

For one, she is extremely busy.

She is the CEO and co-founder of Just Between Friends Franchise System Inc., a children’s and maternity consignment business with more than 150 franchises in the United States and Canada. Her full-time job keeps her in the air frequently. She also serves on the board of trustees of Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City.

Another argument against paying attention to the voice: Her husband had battled cancer the previous year. He had undergone surgery in early 2015 and been declared cancer-free later that year. She, too, had been hospitalized after a scalp infection had caused her to start losing hair.

Lying down on another gurney wasn’t on her wish list.

Shannon Wilburn with loved ones, including her husband, Mitch; her son, Jake, and his girlfriend, Kenzie; and her daughter, Ashton.

Just before Christmas in 2017, however, the kidney transplant operation took place. Doctors described it as a total success, and Wilburn and Erwin recovered nicely. Read the entire story here.

Today, Wilburn is back at work, leading Just Between Friends and helping franchisees thrive in their businesses and serve their communities.

“Shannon is a leader who has a heart for God and others. She lives out her faith, and I can’t think of a better example of that than what she’s done for Walt Erwin. That love and caring spill over into JBF. When people join us as franchisees, this is the woman they’re signing on with — a woman of God who truly lives selflessly, both personally and professionally,” Lalli says.

JBF franchise owners give to others

If you’re looking to begin a business that allows you to give back to others while providing for your family, JBF may be perfect for you. Our business model is based on altruism: by helping more than 1 million families nationwide save money on buying children’s clothing, games and toys, and maternity and baby gear, we have become the leading pop-up consignment franchise in North America.

All JBF owners care about their communities. So it’s an easy next step that when our owners set up their sales events, they partner with a local nonprofit. We see our role in the community as an essential part in fulfilling our company’s mission: “To glorify God by bringing communities and families together in a welcoming, friendly venue that allows them to care for children and be good stewards of what they have been given.” We’re a faith-based business, and for us, that faith comes first.

To learn more about franchise ownership, explore our research pages or request a copy of our free Franchise Information Report.