Our Society President Elaine Dean has been out and about in her official role for the first time in four months after lockdown restrictions were eased.
Her first stop was a visit to our brand-new store in Barnby Dun, Doncaster, and she has talked about the visit in her own words.
“It has been a very long four months! The last co-oppy event I attended was the Derby Area Retired Employees' Spring Party back on 16 March and after that it was lockdown and my co-op excursions consisted only of twice weekly shopping trips to my local stores: Littleover, Tutbury Avenue and Langley Country Park. I've felt very safe in those stores.
I was delighted when Northern and Yorkshire Membership and Community Relations Officer and fellow Board member Tanya Noon suggested a visit to our new store at Barnby Dun, northeast of Doncaster, on 7 July. The store had opened on 3 July but, appallingly, on the 4 July it was ram raided by criminals with a JCB for the cash machine. It was quickly boarded up and operating normally but we felt sorry for Manager Neil Holmes who had moved there from Dodworth, near Barnsley, and with whom we had worked well in the Yorkshire Cluster group (now Yorkshire Member and Community Council).
Tanya and I have worked hard building relationships in Yorkshire after the Shepley and Wooldale societies transferred their engagements to us and with the expansion into South Yorkshire in Barnsley and now Doncaster.
We are looking at building a cluster group in South Yorkshire now that we have new community stores as there are very different demographics to the West Yorkshire stores.
It's a quick journey to Barnby Dun up the M1 and M18 and takes a shorter time than it takes Billie in the store to walk to work - an hour and forty minutes because there's no bus in the morning!
There's lots of parking but it was sad to see a front wall boarded up in what is a lovely community asset, but the colleagues there would not let it shake them.
Tanya and I had a good look round with Neil and we had arranged for two Doncaster based colleagues from the Co-op Group Members' Council to join us - one of whom's husband is working in our store! They are both local, have joined our Society and are keen to get involved and will hopefully be the driving forces to getting member and community activities up and running supported by Neil who knows the ropes!
We also met the lady from the local food bank that is receiving the donations from our in-store food bin.
After a lovely time getting the feel of the store, the colleagues and the area we set off home. Heavy traffic and an M1 closure saw us divert to Chesterfield and we called in to visit our fairly new (2019) store at Calow which I hadn't seen.
Manager Gary Bonsall did not know we were coming but was delighted to see us and showed us all round. He recognised me instantly as so many store managers do now due to me visiting stores and we had a tour of the store.
It was great to be back out and hopefully I will be able to undertake the cancelled visits with Operations Managers Adrian Dunn and Glen Barsby to their stores before too long. I'm sure I shall be back to the Anglia area before too long too.
On behalf of the board I want to thank all of the colleagues who worked through the lockdown for being so brave and public spirited and those who couldn't for various reasons of shielding and health I hope you are able to rejoin us soon.