Caroline Halfhide, publican of The Bell Inn in Ash, has been awarded a MBE in The New Year Honours 2021 list for ‘Services to the Community’ in Martock, Somerset during the Covid-19 response.
In March 2020, during the first national lockdown, Caroline and her partner, Kerry Taylor, launched the ‘Store Cupboard Basics’ shop to help the Parish of Ash on a delivery or collection basis. The shop stocked bread, milk, eggs, cheese and bacon. The idea then evolved into a takeaway and delivery service for hot meals with Kerry in the kitchen and Caroline making the deliveries. Awareness of this soon spread and Caroline received the support from the local Co-op and Morrison’s supermarkets, who gave permission to buy unlimited numbers of restricted items. This meant Caroline could buy items for ‘Store Cupboard Basics’ in bulk.
The efforts of Caroline and Kerry soon got recognised and they were registered as a Community Group. This meant that not only were they given access to unlimited shopping but they also received several donations of ‘life limited’ products that could be distributed within the community.
In conjunction with the pub paying for stocks, additional financial support came from a Full Scale Ltd, who secured wholesale stocks for the cause. Further help came from Gillard’s Worldwide Warehousing and Distribution, who collected items from the wholesalers for us and delivered them free of charge. Housing over 70 products – ranging from bin bags to fresh veg, The Bell Inn had everything necessary to keep people supplied with every basic imaginable – all priced at the lowest price possible. This initiative was not about making money, it was about keeping people safe. By buying in bulk, and breaking products down into household sized packs, the pub had all the items in short supply at the shops, such as flour, pasta and toilet rolls.
Further support was given by Ash Parish Council who printed order forms and distributed them to every household in the area. Three Parish Councillors also volunteered their time to help Caroline in the deliveries around the community.
Caroline said: “Whilst feeling totally humbled by the award, I am so proud that it was for doing my utmost to look after a community that I care about deeply and am so chuffed to be a part of. Many others within the hospitality industry took the same tact. Rather than dwelling on the fact that their businesses had been forced to close, they rolled up their sleeves and got ‘stuck in’ helping everyone they could within their local communities.”
At Easter, Caroline hatched a plan to deliver hot cross buns to every household in the Parish and an Easter Egg to every child under 16. Caroline and three Parish Councillors become Easter Bunnies and delivered the sweet treats among the community. The shopping list included 125 packs of hot cross buns, which were donated by Bakery Roy-Al in Martock for free, and 105 Easter eggs, which were supplied by Yeovil Morrison’s also free of charge.
Caroline continued: “As we enter another national lockdown, it seems incredible that it was almost twelve months ago that this nightmare of Covid-19 began. A nightmare that has affected every single person in the world. I would like to thank everyone who helped and supported me and my team. My involvement in the community is very important to me. Continuing to help where I can, and if required, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”