A huge well done to our inspirational colleague Rachel Heydon who's assembled a team of 1,200 volunteers to tackle litter and keep Wigan tidy.
She was moved to do something after noticing rubbish starting to pile up in the town and wanted to set a positive example for her four-year-old daughter Phoebe. In February she set up the Wigan Litter Pickers Facebook group, organising and encouraging people to do their bit, and now the group has 1,200 members and is starting to make such a difference that Rachel was shortlisted for an environmental award by Wigan Council.
Rachel, who's a pharmacy assistant at our Wigan store, said: "It started about three months ago when I noticed that Wigan was getting a bit untidy and needed something doing about it. I also thought about the impact on my daughter because she's five in October and I wanted to teach her something positive about the area we live in and taking pride in our local area.
"I looked into whether the council supported this sort of thing and saw that they offered equipment, so I ordered some for myself and the following day all the equipment arrived. I started it up myself but then I thought 'I can't do all of Wigan on my own, so I posted about it on a local Wigan group with 43,000 members. I thought I would see what the appetite was and if people would join in – and the response was fantastic! I set up another group, Wigan Litter Pickers, and that's gone from there. At the beginning I was encouraging people to do it as individuals or household bubbles but as restrictions have eased we've been able to do larger-scale group picks.
"The council are keen to work with us and I'm trying to get schools and local businesses on board."
Her group received a donation of hi-viz jackets, gloves, as well as goodie bags for children, from the Asda Foundation after Liz Cotterill, the community champion at our nearby Warrington store, heard of Rachel's work when she called in.
Liz said: "Wigan Litter Pickers is a fantastic group with Rachel leading the way. What a fantastic idea Rachel – we are proud to support you. Well done!"
Rachel said: "As luck would have it I saw a poster from Liz asking if any local groups would needed any help, so I told her about the group and she brought us a big donation which was wonderful. She's also put up posters in the store to encourage colleagues and customers to get involved."
Working at Asda is a family affair for Rachel, who recently transferred from our Leigh store. Her husband Robert works alongside her at our Wigan store as a home shopping picker, her dad David Sanderson has just retired from Asda and her brother Matthew Sanderson is a section leader at our Birchwood store.
She said: "As Robert also works for Asda a few people from his department have got involved as well, so there are at least five of us from the store who are part of the Wigan Litter Pickers group."
Rachel, who's 37, has been making headlines in the local media for her hard work:
She says it's great to see that the group's efforts are being noticed: "I'm getting lots of great feedback and when we're out and about people say to us, 'what a difference you have made – it's fantastic to see'. Or random members of the public will inbox me to say thank you and that they appreciate it.
"It was lovely to be nominated for the award, but I couldn't have done it without the other members having the enthusiasm to help me. I don't like getting the credit for it, as it really is a community effort.
"It's also really nice knowing it means something to people and I've had some good news stories from members of the group saying it's helped them. There's one guy in his 70s who lives on his own who says he never went outside during the lockdown and was bored and lonely. Then he came across our group and he comes out every day doing a litter pick and says it's given him a much better feeling about life.