Retail hero thanks

A Leicestershire pub chef who gave up her time to volunteer in her local store to help her community during these uncertain times has been given a fond farewell as she heads back to the day job.

Toni Lees, Head Chef at the Stamford Arms in Groby, has become part of the team at the Leicester Road Food Store over the last few months helping villagers to access vital food and essentials while the popular pub has been closed due to the lockdown.

However, as the pub prepares to open back up to the public in the coming weeks she said her goodbyes to the Central England Co-op team and Store Manager Maggie Cole said Toni’s help had been ‘invaluable’ and she couldn’t thank her enough for her support.

Maggie said: “Toni has been with us right from the start of all this. The pub has been fantastic from day one. It is a really tight community and the pub is a big part of it.

“They set up a WhatsApp group where local businesses could keep in touch and help each other out and when we were seeing incredible demand and couldn’t get deliveries out quick enough to restock the shelves the landlord brought a team down to help (pictured above in March, prior to guidelines around social distancing).

“Toni has stayed on ever since helping with deliveries and when one of our bakery colleagues had to shield she has been helped in the bakery twice a week.

“It’s absolutely amazing she would give up her time like this to help us and the community. It speaks volumes really. Even now she is going back full-time at the pub she said if we need any help to just let her know. We can’t thank her enough.”

While Toni has been helping in the Leicester Road Food Store she has still been working in the pub’s kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights providing a takeaway pizza service while the pub has been closed, as well as helping wherever she can in the village.

Maggie said she will be missed by the team who clubbed together to buy Toni a special leaving present – a vacuum cleaner.

Maggie said: “Toni has been moving house and we had spoken about whether she needed anything and all she wanted was a vacuum cleaner, so we got her one as a thank you, as well as hamper of goodies.

“She is an absolute breath of fresh air and really funny so has helped keep spirits up. We miss her already, even though she still pops in to say hi and get her shopping.”

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