We’re sharing the amazing stories of our 12 winners of the first ever Co-op-wide Thank you for Being Co-op awards.
Barbara has worked for nearly 40 years at our Plymouth depot. Here’s her story.
“I was just blown away when I found out I’d won. It’s fantastic. I had this big warm glow. The boys said to me: ‘good on you Barbara – you’ve put Plymouth on the map’. I felt ten foot tall. To think I can achieve something like that after all these years. I can’t believe it’s happened to little old me.”
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Barbara French is a remarkable lady. She’s the ‘mother’ of Plymouth depot. Without her the place would not be what it is. Many people talk about the family atmosphere that’s been created there – she’s the centre of it.
She’s coming up to 40 years’ service and knows all there is to know about working in a warehouse. Barbara even trained up Karen Demellweek, Plymouth’s depot manager, when she joined 32 years ago on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS).
Her energy, enthusiasm and warmth is clear to see. According to colleagues who’ve known her a long time, she works as hard now as she did the first day she set foot in Plymouth’s greengrocery (as it was then).
“For the first sixteen and a half years I worked in the greengrocery and that was fantastic. The boss was great. He mucked in with everything. It was like home from home. It still is now. The boys are brilliant with me. They’ll not see me struggle, they all respect me,” she says.
Barbara brings sunshine wherever she goes. Whether it’s meeting local causes, helping other colleagues, greeting ‘the bosses’ who come to visit, or sharing her experiences with other depots.
Her job as a cleaner means the depot is spotless. But her responsibilities don’t stop there. When she returns to the shop floor she works tirelessly to repackage stock and put it back on the shelf.
“I clean, and I love that because I’m mingling with everybody. Then I go downstairs and work my way through the damages. That always feels like an achievement. I save as much as I can, rack it all up and get it out into stores again so there’s no wastage.
“People think I’m mad when I say I love coming to work. Hearing what my colleagues have said about me inspires me and makes it feel really worthwhile.
“I’m going to carry on working for as long as I can. They’ll have to put a chairlift in the warehouse for me!” she laughs.
What colleagues said about Barbara
“Barbara lives and breathes Co-op every single day, and is truly missed when she is on holiday or has a day off. She is ‘herself always’ and greets everyone with a warm welcome and talks fondly of colleagues, always showing respect and giving praise for those who work as hard as she does.
“If somebody mentions, in conversation, ‘I need to do this/that’ she takes it upon herself to get there first and do what she can to help, she never stands still! She can often be seen stopping what she’s doing and running to help someone else if she sees them struggling.
“She is also the first to volunteer to do something different and get out in the community to ‘do the right thing’. I feel very privileged that we have a colleague like her in our depot who brings sunshine and a great attitude that brightens everyone’s day.”