Queen's birthday honour for inspirational 'face of Asda in Aberdare' Julie

October 9, 2020

Everyone at our Aberdare store is so proud of "face of the store" Julie Cook who's been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Julie, who's worked at the store since the day it opened in June 1999, was honoured for her work helping the local community throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Julie says the award was a total surprise.

She said: "I can't believe it! An elderly gentleman had said he wanted to write to Asda to say thank you for helping him, so when I heard I'd got an award I assumed it was something from Asda for that. I had to read and re-read it to see this was an official honour from the Cabinet Office, as I never imagined I'd be honoured like this! I was just jumping up and down when I found out, as I was so excited. I still am. I love to chat, so keeping it secret has been so difficult!"

During lockdown Julie, who's 56 and has three sons, helped local care homes and elderly and vulnerable people with their shopping, as well as dressing as the Easter Bunny to deliver Easter Eggs to local children.

Julie said: "Lockdown was difficult for so many people, so I wanted to put smiles on people's faces. I couldn't ignore anyone who was struggling just because it was lockdown, so I tried to be as normal as I could.

"I had no problem dressing up as the Easter Bunny. We followed social distancing guidelines and it was so lovely to see the smiles on the faces of these children who were from disadvantaged backgrounds when they saw that the Easter Bunny was still here and that they hadn't been forgotten about. It will be the same at Christmas too.

"Between myself, our home shopping manager and general store manager we made sure people had the shopping they needed and knew how to get on the list for the next time."

Just before the pandemic she also led the local community response to the devastating floods caused by Storm Dennis.

Julie, who's lived in the area all her life, is so well known in the town because of her work with Asda that she's often call the face of the store.

She said: "When I'm out sometime people say to me, 'you're the face of Asda in Aberdare' and I go, 'don't be silly', but they say mine is the first face they see when they look online for anything about the store. As I know so many people here they'll often ask me first about things – how I can help in the community, whether something's on special offer, of whether we've got some clothes they're looking for in their size."

Rea Raymond, the store's general manager, says the honour is a richly deserved award for Julie, and that everyone at the store is thrilled for her.

She said: "I'm unbelievably proud of Julie. She's an amazing person and an absolute pillar of the community. She is the face of the store and does so much to help so many people. She's truly inspirational.

"Julie's outstanding all the time but this year in particular she's been putting the needs of everyone else before herself and that's why we nominated her."

"She richly deserves this honour, but I also think this is for all her colleagues too. I'm so proud of Julie, but also really proud of everything that we have all done together as a team to support our local community during the last six months or so. I'm beaming with pride that Julie's got this award."

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