We are here to help in tough times says Waitrose’s community champion
You could call it green gold – all those little tokens you see piling up each month in the plastic boxes in Marlborough’s Waitrose. And in these tough times the supermarket is conscious of the part it plays in donating £1,000 a month to local charities and community projects
That’s why Janice Kingstone (pictured), an all-rounder at the store where she has worked for 28 years, is being given extra time to play her official role as Community Matters Champion, one she has taken up with pride and enthusiasm.
“It is important and something we are passionate about,” she says. “You do need time to do it properly. You can’t sit on a till and concentrate on the community as well.”
“The funds we donate are something of a lifesaver for some organisations, especially in these difficult times. The trouble is you want to help everybody. That’s why those we do help – three different ones every month – are voted on democratically.”
A special forum of staff, known as partners in the John Lewis organisation, decide in advance the charities and projects that are to benefit. They come from 12 categories, ranging from education, welfare and environmental projects to care for the sick, the elderly and Marlborough’s Christmas lights appeal.
What each organisation receives is according to the actual weight of the green tokens customers put in the boxes. Last month, for example, the Aldbourne Band received £287, Oare Church of England primary school £415 and Aldbourne Youth Council £298.
And now 59-year-old Janice, who has worked in virtually all sections of Waitrose, including the wine department, for which she received special training, is being given time by manager Andy Davies to visit some of the charities.
The aim is to discover more intimate details about their operations and have a closer understanding, other members of staff being invited to play a role too whenever possible.
One of them is Wiltshire Air Ambulance, perhaps the most favoured Waitrose appeals, especially by children attracted by its helicopter logo, a link with the RNIB is being planned along with others groups.
“We’ve got a big appeal coming up for St John’s Ambulance, who want to buy a defibrillator for the town,” says Janice. “It’s an organisation which one of the lads working here helps whenever he can.”
She hesitates when you suggest that being Lady Bountiful must make her feel good. “I always feel good when I wake up in the morning,” she insists. “I’m glad to be alive and to be able to help others.
“Our tokens are like green money when you think about it. Our customers certainly do like the system. And if people from the various charities come in to shop, then they can put their green token into the appropriate slot.
“It’s a two-way thing really, a way of giving that helps us both.”