A former top cop turned community champion has been doing her bit to ensure local people continue to have access to vital food and essentials.
Eileen Banton, who was awarded an MBE for her role helping to police the streets of South Derbyshire, is now a representative on the Western Membership and Community Council for Central England Co-op.
As the Coronavirus pandemic unfolded, she decided to split her valuable time supporting local food banks by collecting and delivering donations, with helping to stock the shelves at her local store, in Stretton, to support hardworking frontline colleagues.
She said: “I felt I needed to help the people who were working hard to keep our stores open, so I walked into the store in Stretton and announced that ‘I was here to volunteer’.
“I was a little apprehensive as I did not want to be an irritation but an asset. I need not have worried, from that moment I was welcomed by the colleagues and management of the store.
“The colleagues behind the scenes work so hard to ensure the customers have a great range of food to choose from on their shopping trip.
“It has definitely opened my eyes and Central England Co-op should be proud of their team.”
When not helping out in store, Eileen can often be spotted visiting Stretton store and others across the area to pick up food bank donations for local good causes.
She added: “The majority of food I drop off at the food bank where I am part of the team provides food for those in the community in need of that extra help.
“During this time we have seen a huge increase and are feeding, on average, 300 people every two weeks - adults and children.
“So the food that is very generously donated by Central England Co-op customers is needed more than ever.
“I am also part of another group called The Young Ones. We support families in crisis and provide emergency boxes of clothing and toiletries and Christmas and birthday boxes. Again, we liaise with the support agencies and use donations from stores such as toiletries and nappies.
“I personally am so grateful to Central England Co-op for supporting these good causes as we would struggle without the help. Thank you all for making a difference to those that, at this moment, need a little extra help.”
James Knight, Membership and Community Relations Officer, said: “Eileen is a true co-operator and is a great example of how we all here at Central England Co-op try to go above and beyond for our communities.
“She is a credit to our Society and I know her efforts have been well received by everyone.”