Pub chef given fond farewell after volunteering her time to support retail heroes provide community with food and essentials

A Leicestershire pub chef who gave up her time to volunteer in her local Central England Co-op 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.

“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.”

People can keep up to date with what is happening in their local community by visiting a dedicated online hub at


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 for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood

Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle

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