Husband and wife Reverends Andrew and Carol Avery couldn’t hide their emotions when our Greenhithe colleague Bridget Sparks surprised them with a cheque for £10,000 to pay for a big storage unit for furniture, bedding and clothing they collect for local people and families who are vulnerable or in need.
Bridget had secretly nominated the couple, who run a project called Mary’s Child, for one of our Christmas grants from the Asda Foundation.
Andrew said: "Our reaction was absolute shock. My wife burst into tears and I thought ‘There are a lot of noughts on that cheque’. It is absolutely amazing.”
Bridget, our Greenhithe store’s community champion, helps out every week at a community cafe the couple run at Andrew’s church.
Andrew is priest-in-charge at St Mary Greenhithe, which acts as a community hub for local people, and wife Carol is curate at St Mary The Virgin in Stone, which is less than a mile away.
He said: “We speak to a lot of people in the area who have had to leave their accommodation for various reasons and we often come across a single mum with two children who's got nothing but an air bed. Our Mary's Child project aims to meet this need.
"It's called Mary's Child because Jesus was born in a borrowed stable with nothing to sleep on. We aim to provide starter packs of clothing, crockery and cutlery and welcome packs of food, candles and toiletries too, because when people are forced to move they often don't have these bits and pieces.
"We've had to store these items in the vicarage and in our garage – we've got items tucked in every corner of our house and the car no longer fits in the garage! So it will be great to have a proper storage unit, and we should also be able to buy new bedding to hand out to people too.
"We run a community cafe at the church every Wednesday, where we distribute food – and Bridget is one of the people who come in to offer support.
"Everyone knows Bridget – she's a fantastic ambassador for Asda and the community."
Bridget and general store manager Chris Fawn also presented Andrew and Carol with £350 from Asda Greenhithe to help pay for a Christmas Day meal for the needy, vulnerable and isolated.
Bridget said: "It was amazing to see their surprised reaction – they didn't have a clue. Carol just burst into tears. They're a fantastic couple and make a huge difference to the community.
"There isn't really a high street in Greenhithe so their church is a hub for the community. It's somewhere people can go if they need a little bit of help."
This Christmas our wonderful community champions across the country are supporting charities and local groups who do so much to help others – and springing some special surprises.