The coronavirus heroes honoured by the Queen

They are the ordinary people who have gone above and beyond during the coronavirus crisis.

From the shopkeeper working round the clock to ensure his customers get everything they need, to the railway worker who volunteered to help build Manchester’s Nightingale hospital, they are living proof that the worst of times often bring out the best in people.

And now their extraordinary efforts have been recognised in a Queen’s Birthday Honours List unlike any other.

Normally published in June, this year it’s been delayed to recognise the incredible way people pulled together during the pandemic.

Here are the Covid heroes from Greater Manchester who have been honoured by the Queen.

Gareth Mallion

Gareth Mallion MBE 

When the call went out for volunteers to help build the North West’s Nightingale Hospital, Gareth Mallion ‘didn’t think twice’.

Within an hour the Network Rail operations manager was on-site at Manchester Central Convention Complex.

And then the hard work really began.

Working 13-14 hour days, seven days a week, Gareth, from Timperley, co-ordinated deliveries for everything the hospital required – from building materials and medical equipment to the sheets for the hospital beds.

Using Network Rail trucks and the organisation’s huge warehouse in Warrington, he made sure everything ‘got from A to B to where it needed to be’.

Remarkably just 14 days after construction began the hospital was ready to take its first patient.

The dad-of-four, 40, said: “It was a massive thing for the North West. It was an incredible achievement and I feel proud to have played a part in it.

“It was a great experience and I met some incredible people.

NHS Nightingale Hospital North West

“There were so many different disciplines and so many people there, but everyone worked together and there was no mither, no arguments. 

“It was chaos though – I was trying to be the calming influence that made sure everything got from A to B to where it needed to be. 

“You’d walk through the hall in the morning and when you walked back past the same spot later on a wall had been built, or a cubicle had gone up.

“For me I thought some of my family members or people I know could end up in here, so when the SOS went out at work I dropped everything. I didn’t think twice about it. 

“It’s really something to be look back on and be proud of what it means. 

“But it really feels like I ma accepting it on behalf of all the Network rail staff who helped build the Nightingales.”

Talk Talk manager Peter Harding from Whitefield, has been given an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to critical infrastucture during the pandemic
Peter Harding
(Image: Handout)

Peter Harding MBE

During the pandemic our ability to communicate with each other was more crucial than ever.

And that’s where Peter Harding, from Whitefield, came in.

During the first three months of the pandemic the 40-year-old, a jeopardy escalation manager at telecoms firm Talk Talk, and a his team got key infrastructure connected to broadband despite unprecedented logistical challenges, including the Nightingale Hospitals in ExCel London, Harrogate and Exeter, 80 care homes, 80 GP surgeries, 200 schools and 250 food distribution and logistics providers, among others.

They managed to get the new sites connected in less than 72 hours, when normally these connections would take several weeks to install.

Peter said: “As weird as it sounds I have enjoyed it.

“I’ve been lucky – a lot of people haven’t been able to work – but me and my team have been really busy doing something that is beneficial.

“Normally our job is getting a circuit in for a customer who wants it quickly, but this has the added benefit of helping the country.

“We had to get a lot of extra people in to help and we were working much longer hours than normal, but it was just ‘This needs doing, let’s get it done’.

“A lot of people put in a lot of effort.

“It does give you warm, fuzzy feeling. knowing that we’re helping at a time like this.

“But I just see it as my job. It’s nice getting the reward, but it’s not something I coveted and it’s very much a surprise.”

Leon Mundell

Leon Anthony Harley Mundell MBE

The African Caribbean Care Group in Hulme is a lifeline for many elderly members of the community.

But lockdown struck the charity had to close its doors to visitors and many of its users suddenly found themselves isolated and lonely.

However long-time charity worker Leon Mundell, from Whalley Range, was determined that vital connection wasn’t going to be lost.

‘The Dinnerman’, as he’s affectionately known, began working from home, cooking and delivering hundreds of meals to pensioners either shielding or unable to get out to the shops.

He also makes around 30-40 phone calls to week to his clients and even carries out chores and does the odd spot of gardening on the weekend.

And it’s all done to the soundtrack of him cracking jokes and singing old Caribbean songs.

The dad-of-four, 68, said: “I love to see people cheerful, I love to see them happy.

“I love working here, I love seeing their faces and their smiles.

“If I’m driving around in my van I just go and knock on them to check they’re OK.

“When they called me from the Cabinet Office I was like ‘Pull the other one’. I had to sit down and really think about it.

“But I am very, very proud. I’m just sad my mum isn’t here to witness it.”

Simon Lea
(Image: Asda)

Simon Lea BEM

When panic buying stripped the shelves of the essential and supermarkets experienced one of their busiest periods ever Asda store manager Simon Lea could have been forgiven for concentrating on his day job.

But alongside working extra shifts and giving up his holidays, Simon 43, took it upon himself to make sure many of his Marple store’s elderly and vulnerable customers were OK.

He gathered shopping lists and then picked and delivered groceries and care packages to customers who were struggling to get out.

The dad-of-two, from Marple Bridge, even got the National Lottery to stump up for an electric bike, so yet more deliveries could be carried out.

When one customer faced the prospect of celebrating her 98th birthday alone while shielding, he rallied staff and customers and delivered gifts and cards to her home.

Simon pictured on his rounds delivering shopping to elderly customers

And even though he’s since moved stores he’s still delivering to between 30-40 homes in Marple every Wednesday on his day off.

Simon, who is now general manger at Altrincham Asda, said: “It’s amazing. I’m really chuffed.

“I’m just looking after customers and looking after the community.

“I just look at things a bit differently and I just want to make sure people are alright.

“You don ‘t do things like this for the recognition, you do them because you want to help.

“But it is a nice thing to be recognised. I am really proud.”

Kathryn Davies

Kathryn Davies MBE

Keeping busy was Kathryn Davies’ way of coping with the worry and stress of lockdown.

Kathryn, 48, of Tameside, normally works in the complaints department of the Co-operative Bank’s city centre headquarters.

But when the lockdown was announced she stepped up and took on lots of extra roles and responsbilities.

She helped hundreds of customers navigate online banking for the first time and assisted holidaymakers stranded abroad or who were struggling to get refunds from travel companies.

And she also volunteered during her spare time to put together comfort packages for NHS workers and patients from items that had been donated by Co-op Bank staff.

Overall 400 packages, including items such as iPads, walkie talkies and toiletries for use by patients and toiletries, were sent out to hospitals across the North.

Kathryn, who has daughter and a step-daughter, said: “It was a very, very scary time for everybody, but I think me keeping busy and focused was a positive thing I could do.

“I think that was the best way for me to cope with everything.

“I talked to lots of people who were working from home or had been furloughed and they had lots of time to worry about what was happening, whereas I was just focused on helping.

“It’s only now when I look back that I realise how much I did.

“At the time I was just so busy it flew by.

“But I am incredibly proud of what I did and feel really, really lucky to get this recognition.”

Shopkeeper Damian Edwards has been honoured for going above and beyond for his customers
(Image: Damian Edwards)

Damian Edwards BEM

During the pandemic Damian, who runs Damian’s Genral Store in Alkrington, Middleton, has been working almost around the clock.

He visits a cash and carry at 5am every day and has even been live streaming what he buys on Facebook, so customers know what he’s got in.

The shop is open from 10am to 6pm, and once it closes, he spends the night driving around to drop off deliveries to vulnerable people and customers who are self isolating, until 11pm, somehow also finding time to stack the shelves.

He’s been delivering to nursing homes and customers across a 50 mile radius.

The 42-year-old said: “I am really overwhelmed and very, very proud.

“My mum died 10 years ago, but she would have been absolutely delighted and very proud.

“It really is an absolute honour and I hope I’ll get to meet the Queen at one of her garden parties because I’m a big fan.”

Michele Nel

 

Michele Nel MBE

When Michele Nel did a favour for a friend early in the pandemic, she could have never imagined helping make and deliver more than 13,000 headbands for key workers.

Headbands for Heroes, set up by Michele, is now a team of 99 sewers, four administrators and 73 couriers.

Michele, 58, of Standish, is proud of how far the volunteer group has come in the past six months.

She said: “It’s just been an incredible adventure.

“I started it when a maternity nurse friend of mine told me her ears were really painful and asked if I could make anything to help.

“I made a few and more people kept asking and then within a week it was a little out of control.

“With the distribution I asked a gentleman from church, who is a biker, if any of his biker friends could help. The next thing I knew, 60 or 70 bikers were lined up collecting orders from the house. It was just mind-blowing.”

Michelle will be awarded an MBE for services to the community and frontline workers in Wigan during Covid-19.

It’s something she could have never dreamed of when she moved to England from South Africa 22 years ago.

“It’s a total shock and a bit overwhelming,” she admitted.

“It’s not something I would have ever imagined and thought of. I didn’t believe it at first and it was only when I researched the phone number and email address.”

Pat Mayle

Pat Mayle MBE

Girlguiding has been a huge part of Pat Mayle’s life for more than 50 years.

Five years ago, following the death of her husband, she came up with the idea of the ‘Comfort Bags Scheme’ for people who have unexpected stays in hospital.

“They’re essentially bags of toiletries,” the 73-year-old from Eccles said.

“The bags are given to visitors that have to stay in hospitals overnight unexpectedly, because if you have to stay in hospital unexpectedly, you’re obviously not in a very good state and will have nothing with you.

“It just took off, it’s been incredible. Within 12 months we’d given out 1,000.

“Girl Guides of all ages can help with it as well. The young ones can bring things in they’ve collected and the eldest can make the bags for us.”

More than 18,000 comfort bags have now been made and distributed by Girlguiding units across the north west.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Pat has delivered 2,600 bags to hospitals over the North West through her network of volunteers and units and, for NHS staff, started to include over 700 treat bags, containing hand cream, coffee sachets, sweets, hand sanitiser, and drink cans.

Around 1,000 laundry bags have also been distributed NHS staff to store their scrubs prior to washing.

On her MBE, Mrs Mayle added: “I’m a bit astounded by it.

“It came as a bolt from the blue, I heard about it around two weeks ago but I’ve had to keep schtum.

“I’ve had such a good team and it wasn’t just me. The other leaders have been brilliant.”

Here are the other people from our region honoured for their efforts during coronavirus:

MBE

Gary Frith, Bickershaw: Health and safety advisor, Her Majesty’s Prison, Hindley. For services to prison staff, their families and prisoners during Covid-19.

Juliana Mary Taylor, Manchester: Nurse consultant in urology service, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. For services to the NHS during Covid-19.

BEM

Steven Barton, Stalybridge: For services to the community in Tameside during Covid-19.

Anthony Lee Cocker, Oldham: Plumber, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. For services to the NHS during Covid-19.

Eno-Obong Esin, Denton: Ward clerk, adult critical care services, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. For services to the NHS during Covid-19.

Malcolm Kilpatrick, Saddleworth: Electrician, Royal Oldham General Hospital. For services to the NHS during Covid-19.

Vajid Mahmood, Bury: PPM strategy and implementation lead, NHS England and NHS Improvement. For services to the NHS during Covid-19. 

Helen McMahon, Middleton: Home manager, Four Seasons Healthcare. For services to care homes during Covid-19.

Tracey Ann Pearson, Stockport: Senior care worker, Grove Lodge Care Home. For services to care home residents during Covid-19.

Kirsty Taylor, Wythenshawe: Co-ordinator, Bideford Community Centre. For services to vulnerable families in Wythenshawe during Covid-19.

Andrea Margaret Greenall, Bolton: Health care assistant, Royal Bolton Hospital, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. For services to the NHS during Covid-19.

|Ma Evening Post