Central England Co-op celebrates contributions of its ‘frontline fathers’ going and above beyond to support their communities in the West Midlands

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 are Sutton Coldfield Store Manager Lee Mullis and Acting Store Manager at the retailer’s Walmley Food Store, David Mills.

Lee, 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.

The 28-year-old, from Hartshill, Warwickshire, said: “It has been quite challenging in lockdown – both my wife and I are doing 40-hour weeks and were balancing work with trying to home school. “The option was there for them to attend school but thankfully we were able to have my sister-in-law in lockdown with us to make sure we had childcare and continue to be flexible at work. It was difficult even with the live-in help to be able to find a routine of and it’s difficult to motivate them when they are away from their teacher and classmates.

“That being said we were able to remote learn with the teacher over Zoom and the kids also hijacked Zoom to meet up virtually with their friends for hours on end! We did the school set assignments but felt it’s equally important to spend the additional time when we are off work, doing things as a family.

“My youngest has had her third birthday in lockdown which involved us camping out in the garden. It was a great experience for the kids and they loved it - the wife and I not so much! Our whole street sang happy birthday to her (after doing the clap for NHS workers). It is great how communities are coming together and supporting each other at this time.

“I think overall we have made the best of the situation. I have been able to remain flexible at work and support colleagues to do the same.”

Lee said the experience has made him value family time even more, particularly after the worries of his mum contracting Coronavirus.

He said: “It has definitely made me value the time with the family even more. It was scary how quickly my mum’s symptoms came on and how ill she became. She has come through and is now back and (almost) fighting fit.

“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.”

For David, who lives in Longbridge with partner Lisa and his two children, he has had to balance being acting manager of Central England Co-op’s food store in Walmley with being father to daughter Mia aged six, and son Alfie aged two.

Talking about how his children have coped with lockdown, the 36-year-old, who joined Central England Co-op when he was 16 and has just been appointed to his first permanent store manager post in Brandhall, Oldbury, said: “My son has been doing really well as I think he likes his big sister around. My daughter is in Year One at school, so we have been trying to fulfil the work set for her and at the same time trying to keep learning fun as she is very intelligent.

“While in lockdown we have managed to teach Mia how to ride a bike with no stabilisers which is a great thing. This situation has really has made me value the time I spend at home and I am extremely proud of how my partner Lisa has coped not being able to go out with the children while I've been at work.

“My daughter is extremely proud that I am a key worker and drew us a rainbow which is on the window at work. If I wasn’t at work on a Thursday evening, we let her stay up and clap for the key workers and NHS before she went to bed.”

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