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Community champion recognised after going above and beyond during pandemic response

A community hero at Central England Co-op who helped to lead a project to deliver vital food to the vulnerable at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic has received special recognition for his efforts.

James Knight, Member and Community Relations Officer at Central England Co-op, managed a ground-breaking project launched at the onset of the pandemic working in collaboration with councils and community organisations across the Midlands.

In less than three months, the community hubs project helped over 1,800 people identified by partners in Lichfield, Burton, Derby, Stafford and Leicester and then supported by our team with the creation and delivery of vital food packages from stores in the area.

James has now been given a Special Contribution Award at the Central England Co-op Leading Brilliance Awards, which aimed to recognise the incredible efforts of our 7,750 colleagues who have gone above and beyond for their communities in these uncertain times.

James was praised by judges at the virtual ceremony for his ‘leadership, teamwork and true co-operative spirit to help those in need’.

James said: “It was a really nice surprise. The community hubs project was a massive team effort but I’m very honoured to receive this award on behalf of everyone who worked on it.

“The whole project was a brilliant example of people and organisations working together to support vulnerable people to get food quickly at a time of great need and challenge.

“It is nice that other people see the work which I and my fellow Member and Community Relations Officers do. It is was our job, but we do sometimes go above and beyond, and it was nice that people see the importance of the different work we do to support our communities.

“I’m proud that I work for an organisation that enabled us to do something like that. It was solely about helping the community in a time of need and making sure the vulnerable members of our community got supported.

“For us it wasn’t just about getting the food out to people we were also taking calls and spending a few minutes chatting to people as sometimes we might have been the only person they spoke to that week.”

While the community hubs project finished in the summer, Central England Co-op launched a Call and Collect Service for members, although this is currently open to non-members as well while lockdown restrictions are in place.

The service sees users call a dedicated number and place their order, their local store will then pick and pack the order that day before having ready to be collected in the afternoon the day after.

The user or a nominated person can then visit the store and collect the shopping. Payment for the food and essentials are taken over the phone from our head office.

Items available to order include everything from fresh food to cupboard essentials.

James encouraged those who need support with getting their shopping in these challenging times to take advantage of the Call and Collect scheme.

He said: “It is a brilliant service and it is simple and easy to use and can be a lifeline, particularly for vulnerable members of the community. I know many we helped in the community hubs project have found it to be of huge help.”

Full details, including the items which can be ordered, is available online at https://bit.ly/35TZRpz

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