A SHOP assistant has won a national ‘kindness’ competition after being nominated by her colleagues.

Emma Payne, from Tow Law, has worked at Next at Tindale Crescent for the last nine years and was shocked when she discovered the news.

She was lured into the store by her colleagues on the pretext of an ‘extra shift’.

It turned out to be a huge celebration when it was revealed she was the winner of a nationwide competition to find the kindest employee.

The company sent out an email to all employees asking if they knew of a ‘Kindness Hero’ who had made a difference and shown ‘an unbelievable amount of kindness that had made everyone feel better.’

From the 550 Next stores in the country, there were 1,400 people nominated – and Mrs Payne came out on top.

Mrs Payne, whose official job title is Sales Consultant, is also the store’s Team Voice and a Team Coach, amiably cajoling the workforce through some tough times, not least the Covid pandemic.

Caroline Herd is just one of her colleagues who nominated her for this award.

Mrs Herd said: “Emma is so loved and respected by everyone she works with and we are so very proud of her and thrilled that she got the recognition she so deserves.

“She’s not one for glory but everything she does is from her heart and she has done so much for so many people, and animals.

“It’s especially nice that she received this award in such challenging times.”

Her colleagues who put her name forward nominated her for many different reasons, including her extraordinary fundraising work for St Theresa’s Hospice and Durham Chemo Unit, which is a cause close to her heart.

She has organised many diverse events, including a bake-off in the staff room, an 80s themed event, a Movie Madness night and a Halloween bash.

Mrs Payne and her colleagues also rallied around collections and the distribution of blankets and much needed food for the Stray Aid shelter.

Mrs Herd said: “Emma was the driving force behind so many collections at work that had such amazing impact on personal lives

“Whether it be a Christmas hamper for our cleaner at work or when someone has lost a family member.”

“Emma is so kind and caring and always thinking of others. She comes from such a close family who support her in everything she does but her Next colleagues are her extended family and we support her too because she has a big place in everyone’s heart.“I know she doesn’t enjoy the attention and hates fuss but I truly believe this world could do with more Emma Paynes.”

Mrs Payne said:“I would never expect any recognition for helping others. "People go through struggles we know nothing about and by being supportive we might just get them through another day.”