Central England Co-op celebrates contributions of its ‘frontline fathers’ going and above beyond to support their communities
Central England Co-op is marking Father’s Day this Sunday by celebrating some of the fathers who have been working on the frontline in its food stores and funeral homes during these uncertain times.
Over the past three months colleagues in the Society’s 262 food stores and petrol stations, as well as 132 Funeral Homes have been providing vital food and essentials and supporting families during such difficult circumstances.
Many at the same time have had to balance their key work for their communities with the challenges of disruption to home life with the closure of schools and nurseries, dealing with life in lockdown with small children and often unable to call on family for support.
To mark Father’s Day, Central England Co-op is shining a light on some of its ‘frontline fathers’ and finding out how they and their families have managed during these challenging times.
Among them is Arron Billett, Store Manager at the retailer’s Stone Road Food Store in Stafford, who along with his fellow key worker wife Kelly, has had to balance his vital work serving the community with taking care of seven-year-old son Elliott.
The family have also had to cope with the loss of a beloved family member and being unable to say goodbye because of the crisis.
Arron, 32, said: “During lockdown me and my partner have had to split the parenting of Elliott, by ensuring we are working opposite shifts to accommodate for childcare whilst he is off school as she is also a key worker.
“The most challenging part is hardly seeing my partner whilst working opposite shifts from each other and having to play pass the parcel with Elliott between each of us finishing and starting work.
“The only other thing which has been difficult for all of us was my Grandad passing away as the Coronavirus pandemic was beginning. This meant we were unable to attend the funeral which hit Elliott really hard as he as so close to my Grandad
“Elliott is really proud of me and my partner for being key workers and got really in to the clap for the key workers on a Thursday evening by banging his pots!”
Aiden Phillips, Central England Co-op Senior Funeral Director in Corby, Northamptonshire, has been working tirelessly to support families through these unprecedented times while balancing two young children at home – Ethan, five, and Arthur, two.
The 35-year-old said: “It has been difficult at times, but my line manager has been really supportive which has helped a lot. Family time has always been very important to me, but the current situation definitely makes you value family time even more.
“I think the boys are proud of me being a keyworker, although I’m not sure they fully understand what’s involved with my job. Both the boys seem very happy to see me when I get home which is lovely!”
Store Manager at Central England Co-op in Sutton Coldfield, Lee Mullis, has two daughters – Khloe aged six and Olivia aged three – while his wife Susan also works full-time for the retailer in Atherstone. He has also had to cope with his NHS worker mum contracting and, thankfully, recovering from the virus.
He said: “It makes you value your family even more and drive home how precious time with the kids is, as well as how quickly they grow up. It is important to have a great work life balance which I am fortunate to be able to say I have, even at this time.”
People can keep up to date with what is happening in their local community in response to Coronavirus by visiting a dedicated online hub at www.centralengland.coop/updates
Notes to editors
About Central England Co-operative
Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral, travel and property investment.
Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish.
Our 7,900 colleagues serving our Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.
Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
We are proud of our reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.
We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.3 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.
Visit www.centralengland.coop for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood
Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle
Phone - 01543 421390