An east Belfast couple are the first recipients in Northern Ireland of a new Tesco award aimed at uncovering unsung heroes in the community.
Ricky Flanagan and his partner Daphne Barfoot were presented with a Tesco Local Community Hero Award for their charity work.
The couple both train puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, while Daphne also fundraises for the Northern Ireland Hospice.
Ricky said: “We are very surprised, but very honoured, to receive this award.”
The couple have been training pups for Guide Dogs for the Blind since 2010. The dogs arrive in their Chesham Parade home when they are seven or eight weeks old and spend the next 14 months being trained by Ricky and Daphne before being assigned to long term partners. One-year-old Lexie and 14-week-old Yvette are their current pupils.
Ricky and Daphne use the Tesco Cregagh Road store, and a larger Tesco store in nearby Castlereagh Road, as a training ground for the dogs.
“The dogs have to know their way around a supermarket once they are paired with a blind person. Tesco staff are very friendly and welcoming when they see the pups coming,” explained Ricky.
And he added with a smile: “We feel the puppies probably deserve this award more than us because they do all the hard work and have to concentrate on what they are being taught.”
Ricky and Daphne are the first monthly winners of the new Tesco award, which is aimed at recognising and rewarding people who have shown true hero qualities – either in the way they might have coped with adversity or the manner in which they have helped others.
Julie Cavanagh from the Tesco Cregagh Road store explained: “Ricky and Daphne do amazing work for Guide Dogs for the Blind and they are wonderful ambassadors for the charity.
“We look forward to them visiting the store while training the puppies. We have watched with complete awe how the puppies develop and are trained. It always gives us immense satisfaction that we have been very much part of their training.”
Further details about the Local Community Hero Award, including terms and conditions, can be downloaded at www.facebook.com/tastenorthernireland.
All entries are considered by Tesco NI’s team of Community Champions, who are based at various stores throughout Northern Ireland. The monthly winners receive a plaque and a £100 Tesco giftcard.