Surprise Christmas grant for Mary’s Child project

Husband and wife team, Reverends Andrew and Carol Avery couldn’t hide their emotions when at their usual Community Café morning, the Community Champion from Asda’s Greenhithe branch, Bridget Sparks, surprised them with a cheque for £10,000.

Bridget had secretly nominated the couple, who run a project called Mary’s Child, for a Christmas grant from the Asda Foundation; the generous sum will be used to pay for a big storage unit to help store furniture, bedding and clothing that they collect for local people and families who are vulnerable or in need.

Andrew said: "Our reaction was absolute shock. Carol burst into tears and I thought ‘There are a lot of noughts on that cheque’. It is absolutely amazing.”

Asda’s community champion had come to know about the initiative after visiting and helping out every week at the community cafe run from St. Mary’s Greenhithe (see a video about the café here).

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. We should also be able to buy new bedding to hand out to people too.

"Everyone knows Bridget – she's a fantastic ambassador for Asda and the community."

Bridget and Asda’s 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.”

Caroline Clarke, Community Engagement and Social Responsibility Advisor for the Diocese, added her congratulations: “It’s humbling and a great blessing that Asda has given such a generous donation to Mary’s Child; they recognise the urgent and pressing need for this hands-on practical support in this area, and have recognised that this project and the Community Café are transforming lives in this community.   

We are very grateful that they have chosen to support our community engagement.” 

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