This is the wonderful moment our Larne store colleagues surprised Barbara-Ann Gilchrist with a £10,000 cheque for the befriending service she runs for local elderly people who live on their own.
The store's community champion Catherine McCallion nominated Good Morning Larne for the first of a series of Christmas grants from the Asda Foundation – and sprang the surprise at a party for volunteers and people who use the support service.
Barbara-Ann said: "I can't believe it! It's a great Christmas present for us – and it's going to make an immense difference."
Good Morning Larne is a telephone befriending service where volunteers call the elderly, isolated and vulnerable for a chat every weekday morning, provide companionship and organise social get-togethers for people who may otherwise be on their own.
Catherine volunteers with the group every week, and she went along with other colleagues from Asda Larne to help out at their Christmas lunch. She said: "I hid the cheque in a large cracker and invited Barbara-Ann to open it, telling her there was a surprise in it for her.
"I asked her to read how much it was and she couldn't believe it – she kept counting the noughts to check it really was £10,000.
"She kept saying 'Oh my God'. Then we hugged and started dancing around. Barbara-Ann and I have a great relationship, so it was amazing for me to give her this surprise."
Barbara-Ann said: "It's an enormous amount of money for us – it takes the financial pressure off us. We'll use some of the money to take the service users to more social events and extend our men's activity group. It really takes the financial pressure off us.
"The people we speak to could be recently bereaved, isolated or just needing friendship on the phone. Also, in the winter, people are out and about less and it's also a sad time of year for people who have lost somebody.
"Catherine is wonderful. She's so helpful and hands on – she's a huge asset to Asda and the community."
Catherine has volunteered with the group for four years after they first appeared in our in-store green token vote supporting three local good causes.
She said: "Every Thursday I help make phone calls to people who have been recommended for the service by social workers, doctors or friends.
"It's mainly elderly people who are on their own, to have a chat with them and check everything is ok. It's particularly important for people to hear a friendly voice at this time of year."