The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has awarded Coles regional manager John Appleby the Big Heart award for his efforts protecting the Batemans Bay community during the January 2020 bushfires.
Appleby also won the People’s Choice award, voted by community members for each category.
As bushfires ravaged the NSW South Coast communities of Batemans Bay, Bega and Eden, Appleby led a group of 120 Coles team members, working nonstop to provide supplies and fresh food to first responders and residents.
Despite road closures and power outages, Coles Batemans Bay was the only major supermarket in the area that continued its operations during the peak of the bushfires, with Appleby and the store team assisting more than 4500 customers in just a day.
The Batemans Bay store stood as a haven for families who had lost their homes and provided thousands of locals, stranded tourists, and emergency personnel with food and other essentials.
Appleby said he was thankful for the remarkable efforts the store team had made to help the community through the bushfires and the support of the entire Coles business.
“The dedication shown by the team in-store was simply inspiring – some of them had lost their own homes in the fires but still kept coming to work because they wanted to help the thousands of people who were relying on us,” he said.
“We also had constant support from the supply chain team, who worked with emergency services to ensure we could get replenishment orders through the roadblocks, management who gave us the green light to make necessary donations of supplies to the community and emergency services, and team members from all over Sydney who jumped on a bus to come down and give us a hand so the store team could have a break.
“That spirit of collaboration is part of who we are at Coles, but it’s in times like this that it comes to the fore – I feel very fortunate to work with such a dedicated team, and this award is really for all of them,” he added.
Coles CEO Steven Cain said Appleby’s actions reflect how each Coles team member should embody their purpose.
“John went above and beyond, ensuring our emergency services, volunteers and evacuees could get the food and supplies they needed, as well as helping our customers feel safe and calm in our Batemans Bay store,” he said.
“I am incredibly proud of how John demonstrated our values of passion and pace and responsibility in supporting his team and the wider Batemans Bay community in a time of great need.”
In its inaugural Biggies Awards, the BCA presents the Big Heart award to an individual who goes to exceptional lengths to help those in need, often while facing their challenges.