I was so excited to be part of the launch of Asda’s community programme back in March 2012. A scheme with high ambitions of enabling Asda stores to become the hub of the local community through colleague volunteering, donations of goods, opening up our foyer space for bucket collections and awareness campaigns, plus the launch of the innovative “Chosen By You, Given By Us” green token programme.
I was just getting used to the routine of what was happening in my town – helping at coffee mornings, delivering healthy eating activities in local schools and working to support local charities when, out of the blue, in 2013, Boston became victim of a tidal surge and thousands of homes were left under water.
We knew that we had to help – and fast – but with no procedure in place at the time and no company precedent to follow we responded as best as we could.
We made up and delivered hundreds of emergency care packs to affected streets, we worked closely with the council to provide nappies, baby milk formula, candles and duvets to residents who had lost essentials. We even managed to donate two pallets of microwaves to families who were forced to live on upper floors of their properties as the ground floor was so wet and their ovens were filled with dirty river water.
We were contacted by our local Trussell Trust food bank who were distraught that their stocks had been cleared as local residents who had been put into emergency accommodation by the council had been given food parcels. We quickly re-assured them that we would do all we could to help and advised them to bring a van to our warehouse door.
At times like that, a community really comes together, and a local business let them borrow one of their vans which we proceeded to fill with food and drink essentials – three times over!
After this disaster, it became clear that Asda needed guidelines to enable other stores to support their own communities in extreme times of need. From this point, the Asda Foundation developed its Emergency Grant.
Whether a local family tragically loses their home and possessions in a devastating fire or a whole community is hit by severe flooding, Asda community champions are able to work hard to ensure that people receive the emergency supplies that they need.
I recall one person who received Emergency Grant funding after a house fire was so grateful to, in her words, just have some clean knickers and be able to brush her teeth!
Of course, Emergency Grants, thankfully, aren’t a large part of the Asda Foundation grant giving programme. There are grants available for all kinds of different local community groups.
For funding up to £500 good causes can apply to take part in our Green Token Giving scheme. This is probably the most high profile part of our in-store programme with each customer being given a voting token at the checkouts or, since the start of the pandemic, voting online at https://www.asda.com/green-tokens.
Not only does taking part in the green tokens vote give local groups exposure from being on the community board and the website, customers can learn more about the group’s activities and often become members or even sign up as a new volunteer.
Our medium grants are constantly changing, reacting to local and national needs. Whether it’s extra funding for essentials for people struggling through the pandemic, additional food for children to fight hunger through the school holidays, kit and equipment for local hobby groups and clubs, there’s £500 to £1,500 available through a variety of funding pots throughout the year.
We can also help groups access the Asda Foundation high value grants and, while the application process is more involved, Boston has been very successful over previous years.
In 2015 we received £6,450 to improve a children’s play area.
In 2016, £7,000 for a community centre’s kitchen.
In 2017, £2,000 to help a group of adults with learning difficulties put on drama shows.
In 2018, £8,093 was awarded for a community computer hub to help those without internet or IT skills to access online forms such as Universal Credit.
In 2019, £27,612 was paid to a local homeless charity to purchase a brand-new van.
In 2020 the toilets at a local community centre received £25,000 for a total refresh of male, female, accessible toilets and baby changing facilities.
In 2021 the high value grant scheme relaunched.
I’m looking forward to reading about the groups in our local area that have received funding as part of our 10-year celebrations this year.
I've had some great times during my 26 years with Asda. I've been to America as part of our Walmart Shareholders event, and I've met their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But nothing beats the feeling of local people recognising the Asda logo on my uniform and then proceeding to tell me about how we transformed their local village hall, delivered a lesson at their grandchild's school or gave an Asda Foundation grant to a local charity that's dear to their heart.
It makes me immensely proud to have had the opportunity to make a difference to the community around my store.