'I wanted to help': Karen's so passionate about supporting her local community
Our Tonypandy store's community champion Karen Thomas is so passionate about helping the local area. She's helped a range of local good causes secure donations from the Asda Foundation, arranged donations from the store, helped with fundraising and awareness, and rallied round to help people in their hour of need after the floods in 2020.
As our community programme celebrates its 10th anniversary, Karen has been looking back at some of her proudest achievements since becoming a community champion in 2016.
She said: "The reason I became a community champion was that I had helped fundraise in store and joined in activities the previous community champion arranged and really enjoyed engaging with colleagues and customers. We talked many times about what was happening in the local area, and I wanted to help.
"The first group I worked with was Rhondda Foodbank, taking over from the previous community champion, and I still volunteer with them every Tuesday.
"So my very first one that I started from scratch was Canolfan Pentre, who had sent a donation request, as they had taken over a community centre a few months before.
"I started volunteering that week in July and I am still there six years later!
"With my help they were given a significant grant so the electrics could be fixed. Without the funding they would have closed, and the community would have lost a vital hub. They were also given a surprise Christmas grant of £10,000 which helped them for a few years.
"They are always so grateful, not just the volunteering, but the support I can give with the contacts I have built up. I've brought many of them together, and used our local Facebook page to increase awareness of what they do.
"I have made many friends within Canolfan Pentre and Rhondda Foodbank – you do if you're a long time volunteer, as they see you as one of the team which is such a lovely feeling.
"Many of my groups that I support say the same – that without Asda's support they would either not be running now or struggling to keep going."
Karen highlights the way the local community rallied round after the devastating floods of February 2020 as one of her proudest moments as Asda Tonypandy's community champion.
She said: "The next morning I went to the store very early and started putting plans in place with the Asda Foundation team and the help of a manager and section leaders, as news got around we were helping with emergency grants.
"From there we were give thousands of pounds of equipment, mops, buckets, cleaning items and so on which were delivered to our store. So I phoned around my contacts – the foodbank, local PCSOs and even colleagues with cars who could help transport and unload it to Canolfan Pentre to be sorted. From there it was given out by the many volunteers who came out to help.
"For the next few days I was in the community – cleaning thick mud out of people's homes (it was so deep that it was over my boots at times), supplying and serving hot drinks and helping people get food.
"It was devastating to see people's homes in an uninhabitable state, especially those with children and the elderly, many of whom I'd got to know from the centre.
"I was so pleased that Asda were able to help so many people and so fast. And I was able to do my bit on behalf of Asda too. I felt I had achieved so much that week."
Karen says colleagues at the store get behind the events she organises to raise money and awareness for good causes like our Tickled Pink breast cancer charity, the Poppy Appeal and BBC Children in Need.
"Colleagues will join in events in store and also help raise fund for many good causes outside of the store for their charities, said Karen. "Managers change over the years, but I have always been supported and feel proud of what I've been able to do."