Our Colne store's community champion Diane Springthorpe wanted to help children from a local charity she supports have a magical Christmas – so she secured funding from the Asda Foundation and arranged for Jean-Christophe Novelli to surprise families with a cookery demonstration in the store's community room before Santa and his elves arrived to hand out presents and hampers.
Many of the families helped by Home-Start East Lancashire – a charity offering support for families with young children going through challenging times – hadn't seen each other since the start of the pandemic, so Diane wanted to do everything she could to bring them together and help spread Christmas cheer.
Rachael Tunnacliffe, the charity's family co-ordinator, said: "We can't thank Asda and Diane enough for what they have done. We all were just blown away. It was just so good for the families as some of them do struggle at Christmas. It was a real surprise for them all; they knew they were coming to see a chef, but they didn't know who or that there was going to be a winter wonderland too.
"The families were really overwhelmed. Some of them started crying as they had extra children who weren't there and they were given presents for those children too, so we did have a few tears.
"After his demonstration, Jean-Christophe got some of the families to join in and make some as well, which was really nice. They all said how much they enjoyed themselves."
The charity runs a local community network of trained volunteers offering expert support for families facing issues including post-natal depression, early childhood development, isolation, challenging behaviour, physical and mental health problems and bereavement. Families receive the support of a volunteer who will spend around three hours a week in a family’s home supporting them.
Rachael said: "We are unique in the fact that we don't have a time limit on our support. Some services have 12 weeks but we don't. We offer help until the families don't need us.
"It was quite challenging during the pandemic with us not being able to see our families so we were offering daily phone calls. We set up a lot of WhatsApp groups and Zoom groups so people could keep in touch with one another."
The Asda Foundation provided a grant which allowed the charity to buy some recipe cards which were delivered to families and then they did a cookery session online.
Rachael said: "Diane even came onto some of our Zoom groups through lockdown. We have a really good relationship with her. You can just tell that she cares for her community. She even arranges a trolley for us in the store so customers can put Christmas presents in for us. We're so glad that Asda keeps supporting us!"
Diane said she was so pleased that she was able to make a difference to those families this Christmas.
She said: "The whole event was amazing; just brilliant. It was quite moving for me. As a community colleague you can't help but get attached to your groups and Home-Start is one that is quite close to my heart as I've seen the impact they make. If they are helping little children it is still having a knock-on effect with their parents, their grandparents and even their great grandparents, so it's helping the whole communities.
"Jean-Christophe was brilliant. He was really funny and so warm with the kids and the group. He was just so good with them. The kids were mesmerised by it all!
"They were awestruck by the way the room was decorated too with Santas's sleigh and a big chair and you should have seen the kids' faces when Father Christmas walked in. You can't buy that sort of reaction. It was incredible – it was so nice to be a part of it."
This Christmas our community champions like Diane will be busy helping more people enjoy magical moments together, doing their bit to spread Christmas cheer.