Member of Milton Keynes’ Great Linford community awarded the British Empire Medal

Ruth Panther BEM was awarded the honour for her work in supporting the local community during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

During the course of the first lockdown, back in 2020, The Little ‘Bookshop’ Community Centre with its Community Fridge, had to close its doors.

Ruth, the Chair of The Little ‘Bookshop’ at the time and also Great Linford Parish Council’s Community Liaison Officer, decided that she needed to take matters into her own hands.

Great Linford Community Fridge was the only fridge in Milton Keynes operating during lockdown and, supported by two of The Little ‘Bookshop’s volunteers, Ruth arranged for both hot and cold food to be distributed outside The Little ‘Bookshop’ six days a week.

The daily food distribution became an essential lifeline for local families who were suffering severe deprivation due to COVID-19 with around 70 meals being provided each day that were either collected or delivered along with food parcels.

Peter Fraser, Great Linford Community Hub Committee Member, said there was an initial worry that there would not be enough food coming in, but Ruth was approached by a number of food outlets that had to close down and received generous donations of food to redistribute from companies such as Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s, Costa, Subway and Fareshare.

Working with MK Community Fridge, she collected excess food from Waitrose, Tesco, LIDL in Wolverton & Bletchley and their regular source, the Great Linford Co-op next door, to name but a few.

Where shielding individuals and families were unable to visit The Little 'Bookshop', Ruth arranged for food to be delivered to them.

This highlighted areas of poverty, isolation and loneliness in the community where help was needed.

People in need were provided basic furniture, white goods and household items (donated by the community) as well as a friendly face at the end of the garden path delivering a meal, shopping and newspapers. Where necessary, they were referred to relevant organisations for assistance.

A number of shielded individuals were suffering from loneliness due to the lockdown and Ruth arranged for volunteers from The Little 'Bookshop' to call them on a regular basis and to deliver essential food and other items such as newspapers.