Central England Co-op celebrates contributions of its ‘frontline fathers’ going and above beyond to support their communities in Burton and South Derbyshire

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 Central England Co-op Stapenhill Store Manager Paul Barratt and Measham Store Manager Lee Hardy.

Paul has been balancing leading his team at the Woods Lane store with being father to four children - Ryan aged 25, Sophie aged 19, Phoebe aged 17 and Olivia aged three – as well as step-daughter Amelia aged nine.

The 55-year-old said it has been a challenging time having moved to Stafford just weeks before lockdown and having his three older children living back in Derby, so he had been unable to see them at the height of the restrictions.

He said: “The two youngest were okay to begin with, but started getting a little bored, although having the good weather we have had has helped as they can play outside more.

“Amelia has struggled the most has she was only at her new school for four weeks before it was shut, and home schooling has definitely been a challenge.

“I have managed OK balancing work and home life. I try to switch off when I leave work and because of just moving we have had plenty to do at home to keep me busy.

“I do value my family time and it's been hard during lockdown as my three older children still live in Derby, so it’s been a lot of video calls at night keeping in touch and finding out what they have been up to.”

Paul said his children are proud of his role as a key worker and step-daughter Amelia even recorded a message which has been played on the in-store Co-op radio asking customers to adhere to social distancing to help protect her dad and his colleagues.

Lee Hardy, Store Manager at Central England Co-op in High Street, Measham, has two children – Olivia aged eight and Nathan aged five – and lockdown was particularly tough as he is separated from their mum which meant he was only able to see them through a window before Government restrictions were eased.

The 33-year-old said: “I did see the children most days, however it was through the window, which was a completely different experience. It was very tough not being able to be close to them however each time I went we had fun by talking, laughing and playing games like hangman, noughts and crosses and drawing pictures and solving maths problems on the window.

“They have managed really well considering the circumstances. They have found it tough being away from me so much, however they have done lots of fun stuff with their mum and also enjoyed having a walk every day. We have always spoken on the phone or Facetimed a lot which they have loved and so have I.

“It has been very difficult at times as work has been very demanding in different ways. It took a few weeks to get used to it, but after that it sort of became the new normal and I feel I have adapted really well and now it has just become a part of my life that I juggle around seeing my children.”

Lee is now able to see his children in person again and said the two months were very hard but really made him appreciate how much they mean to him. He said he thinks they are proud of what he does for the community.

He said: “They are very proud of me being a key worker and they clapped every Thursday and always said it was for the key workers as well. Olivia and Nathan have also drawn lots of pictures that are proudly on display on the front door windows at Measham.”

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

Email - publicrelations@centralengland.coop