The village of Eglinton was left devastated when the ‘once in a century’ floods hit in August, leaving many homeless.
But in the hours that followed, a local Tesco ‘Community Champion’ made contact with the Red Cross to implement an Emergency Agreement, which made funding available, allowing the charity to purchase vital goods which homeowners in the area needed.
Irene Hewitt, who works at the Strand Road store in Derry, said it was the first time in 25 years the emergency policy was invoked.
The Red Cross were subsequently able to purchase essential supplies for homeowners, products such as mops, bleach and nappies, for homeowners in Eglinton thanks to the policy.
When Irene and her fellow Community Champions from the Lisnagelvin and Limavady stores met with their colleagues from across the province in Belfast later that week, they decided to take a hands on approach, and help with the clean-up operation in Eglinton.
The group of 11 travelled from stores across the north including Antrim, Newry, Carrick, Magherafelt, Portadown and Lisburn to tackle two homes in Eglinton which had been devastated by floods.
They gave practical help to the two homeowners when they arrived armed with mops, buckets and rubber gloves in a bid to restore some level of normality following the devastation.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week, Irene said: “We spent the day cleaning two homes. It was an emotional and draining experience.
“We told the residents that when they were ready we would return and help them paint their rooms.”
Irene said one staff member, from the Sandy Row in Belfast, became “very emotional” when she returned to her warm, dry home later that evening.
“Working with the Red Cross was a very humbling experience. People in our area needed help and they responded.
“Over 100 home owners were left devastated as the flood water destroyed their homes. “We may not have done very much in the grand scheme of things but, as we say in Tesco, ‘Every Little Helps.’
“Thank you so much to each and every one of our team members who travelled to Eglinton that day,” added Irene.
Linda McLaughlin, Emergency Response Officer for the Red Cross had high praise for Irene and the other Community Champions from Tesco stores.
“I would like to thank Irene for contacting us at the height of the recent flooding emergency to offer access to emergency supplies.
“The Tesco UK Emergency Agreement exists to provide vital supplies for local people during a Red Cross emergency response deployment.
“Thanks to the teams at local stores, we were able to obtain a large range of items .
“This included mops buckets, bleach, nappies and plastic gloves, which, as you can imagine, were very gratefully received by so many families across the North West.
“While the circumstances were unfortunate, it was a great pleasure to meet and work with Irene and her Tesco team.
“Thanks again for all your help, it was very much appreciated,” added Linda.