I'm proud to have been Asda Barrow's community champion for the last seven years. In that time I've built up a wide network of contacts across the local community, from various local government agencies including the police to local community hubs, Barrow Food Bank, charities, community interest companies, self help groups, schools and junior sports clubs.
They've all received my support, donations or Asda Foundation grants and in the last year alone I worked with more than 30 local good causes on behalf of the store.
During the pandemic I've been in close contact with local mental health charities and agencies, as well as putting together a mental health board in our colleague canteen.
On a weekly basis I volunteer for outreach with two local charities. The first being Age UK Barrow & District where I take a cooking class for elderly gentlemen. This is not only a new skill for them to learn, but an important way of tackling and alleviating isolation among the older generation. The class is social, and the clients engage in conversation and reminisce, culminating in them coming together to eat their creations.
My second regular outreach is with our local Blind Society. The group I volunteer with come together once a week to socialise, enjoy a hot drink and cake which I help to make and serve to them before we get down to the business of bingo, when I become a 'bingo buddy' and either call the numbers or support the clients as they play with special boards and counters. I really enjoy it and it's great to be helping people who may otherwise feel isolated.
I also regularly volunteer with self-help groups and with our local police where we are part of the local Community Alcohol Partnership group. The group come together to tackle the effects and dangers of anti-social behaviour on the local community from underage drinking. Together we deliver education, training and diversionary activities. I am also available for ad-hoc volunteering with local schools and junior sports clubs.
I also arrange product donations to help the fundraising of a wide range of local groups, and I add that extra sparkle to them by wrapping and dressing the donation, making a more appealing prize for the group to raise much needed funds.
In store I encourage colleagues to actively take part in national awareness and fundraising events, including special 'dress up days', all of which raises the profile of the charities and groups in our local community to customers and colleagues alike.
I post on social media about the activities that have taken place in or out of store to raise awareness of the good things being achieved – like here where we're donating supplies to the local food bank:
With the help of my colleagues and our generous customers last year we raised a grand total of £5,843.75 for our Tickled Pink breast cancer charity campaign and BBC Children in Need. We were also proud to support the Poppy Appeal and lots of local good causes in their fundraising efforts.
This Christmas the Asda Foundation are going to be awarding six charities in our area with £300 each. Customers are invited to nominate their local charity, good cause or a non for profit group that you believe has gone above and beyond during the pandemic.
Forms can be found online at www.asdafoundation.org. Once you've filled it in, please hand it in at the customer service desk in store, marked for the attention of the community champion. Paper forms will also be available from the community board. Nominations are open until Wednesday 30th September.
I feel immensely proud everyday in my role as Asda Barrow community champion because I know that the work I do in our local community really does have a direct impact and makes a difference to people's everyday lives.
Over the years I have been successful with two fairly large amounts of funding, the first for £8,000 for a working farm where on hand learning was delivered for children and young people for one reason or another were not in mainstream education.
The second for £10,000 was to a local community hall for modifying areas and decoration so that they could open up to more varied groups and community activities to take place there.
All the groups I support are hugely appreciative of the support and aid that Asda provides, especially the small local groups in our community who find the enthusiasm, guidance and advice that we can offer, or signpost them to those that can, a genuine force for good and them achieving their aim for their community.
I have a qualification in mental health, and the moment I'm most proud of in my time here was when I was able to help a young adult who was crying their eyes out outside our store early one morning. I managed to connect with the young person and eventually they told me a little bit about their issues. It was obvious that this person needed professional help, as they were extremely vulnerable and low. I know a social worker from one of the groups I support, and the young person agreed that I could give them a call, which I did, and they came to store. After sitting, talking and gently encouraging the young person to open up to us we told them about the group my contact works with and they agreed to go along and see how they could support them. It could have turned out so differently, so that gave me a sense of pride.