When Sue Freestone received an email informing her she’d been awarded an MBE, she took the advice of the IT department at Allinson’s Flour Mill and immediately deleted it.
And when a second email arrived a week later, she did the same thing.
It was only when she received a pleading phone call from the Cabinet Office a week later that Sue realised her award was for real and that she would soon be off to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.
“We’d been told to look out for suspicious emails, and when I saw it had been sent by the Cabinet Office I immediately thought it was spam,” Sue says. “After all, why on earth would I be getting an MBE?
“Even when they called to find out why I hadn’t responded I thought it was some sort of trick. You can’t be too careful these days. When I realised it was genuine I was mortified!”
Office manager Sue, whose career at Allinson’s has spanned more than three decades and included a variety of roles including HR and finance support, has been recognised as a ‘Covid Hero’ in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, and awarded an MBE for services to the Food Supply Chain.
Despite being due to retire in May 2020, after 31 years of loyal service, she decided to remain working at the firm’s Bishop’s Stortford mill to support her colleagues during the early stages of Lockdown as they responded to exceptional increases in volume demand, while also implementing strict social distancing controls.
During the pandemic peak volumes ran at over 22% higher than normal – equating to over an extra day’s output per week, and Sue was responsible for co-ordinating all aspects of Covid-19 screening procedures for all personnel entering the site.
In March of last year the mill featured on BBC News as an example of the unsung heroes in the food supply chain.
General manager Matt Lupton says: “Sue was always at the heart of our Stortford family, and it makes us all incredibly proud for her to be recognised on the Queen’s Birthday honours list. She has always been a hero to us.”
Sue was finally able to retire in March this year. She says: “I’ve had a wonderful time working with some fantastic people, and when the pandemic hit there was no way I was going to retire if I could be of help.
“This award is a huge honour, but everybody at the mill did their bit in making sure we got through the difficult times. It’s as much an honour for them as me.”
Martin Brewis, managing director of parent group The Silver Spoon Company, adds: “Sue has set an example for us all. She put her colleagues and feeding the nation ahead of her personal plans. We couldn’t be prouder of her, and all she has achieved. To be recognised as a Covid Hero, is the perfect way to end her fantastic career.”