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At your service: Why myself and my colleagues were proud to support key workers and local communities during lockdown – Robyn Wallace, Communications Executive at Arnold Clark

Robyn Wallace is part of the Charity and Sponsorship and Events Team at Arnold Clark, the UK’s largest independently owned car retailer. She joined the company in 2017 as a communications assistant, before being promoted to communications executive in April 2019. Robyn studied public relations at the University of the Arts in London, where she also gained a foundation degree in photography.

Robyn Wallace

“…To be able to help organisations who deal with the daily needs of our communities, such as food shopping, collecting prescriptions – and even transporting people to Coronavirus testing centres – is a real privilege…”

My career to date

I studied public relations at university in London and then went on to work in the music industry and the health and fitness industry. I moved back to Glasgow three years ago and started working for Arnold Clark in their communications department, where the Charity and Sponsorship and Events team is based.

This small team of nine people looks after all charity and sponsorship requests that come in to Arnold Clark, as well as all of the events both internal and external. When I started there were around 30 events a year, now there are at least 100, ranging from employee recognition awards ceremonies at the SEC in Glasgow to car launches and offsites.

Impact of the COVID-19 crisis lockdown

To protect the health and wellbeing of employees and customers, Arnold Clark made the decision to shut down their branches, with the exception of some garages who were open to provide servicing and repairs for emergency services vehicles. We donated £20,000 of parts free of charge during the lockdown to help with this.

A small amount of staff, myself included, continued to work for the Group during lockdown to ensure business continuity, but also to help local communities and key workers with vehicles.

Obviously, many aspects of the business have had to be put on hold, including events like our annual Motability Roadshow and sales employee recognition awards. Since lockdown though, by taking car retailing online and introducing safe, contactless sales processes in branches, it feels like the business is adapting really positively to change.

Helping communities during lockdown

We have always tried to support as many communities as possible, especially local ones where our branches operate. We worked closely with our Rental department and agreed to arrange community vans that would be free of charge for 14 days at a time, which meant that foodbanks, community groups and registered charities could all use them to help continue their fantastic work.

On top of this, we wanted to support our NHS as much as we possibly could. We arranged 120 9-seater vehicles for the hospitals to use for their staff and we provided individual vehicles for NHS workers who were struggling to get to and from work.

So far, we have provided over 650 vehicles to key workers across the UK, donated all available PPE from our garages and helped the Scottish Ambulance Service with 12 delivery vans so that they can get equipment to staff. To date, they have distributed over £52,000 worth of PPE.

Practical challenges faced by our teams

We needed to make sure that the vehicles we were providing were safe and sanitised. Our rental branches were closed but we have a group of volunteers who would make sure the vehicles were thoroughly cleaned before handovers and when they were returned.

Our coachbuilders team in East Kilbride also spent time building and fitting partitions between the driver and staff in NHS minibuses to keep everyone safely distanced. The minibus adaptations started with a request from the NHS for a couple of the 9-seater vehicles but it worked so well that we agreed to install these in all of the 9-seaters we provided to them.

Impacts of the support for recipients in the local community

We’ve had some great feedback from local community charities who have used our vehicles to continue their vital work during the crisis, like the Scran Academy in Edinburgh, who were able to deliver more than 34,000 meals to vulnerable people thanks to our vehicle support.

To be able to help organisations who deal with the daily needs of our communities, such as food shopping, collecting prescriptions – and even transporting people to Coronavirus testing centres – is a real privilege.

Tackling challenges from Inverness to Southampton and beyond

Although this year has been extremely challenging for so many people, it has been a great experience. We have been very lucky to be able to work during the pandemic but also to be able to support and help so many people during these really difficult and uncertain times – not just in one area but across the entire UK. We have had people as far as Southampton get in touch and all the way up to Inverness.

Coming up next

We’re hoping to continue to support as many local charities and community groups as possible in the future and a few of my colleagues are working on some exciting corporate social responsibility projects which we’ll be presenting to our board of directors soon. Fingers crossed these will be approved and we can carry on helping people when they need it most.