Sheila Pledger has been recognised for her dedication and loyalty to customers throughout the coronavirus lockdown, keeping Pledgers family bakery open six days a week.
The pensioner, who runs the Kempston bakery, was declared runner up in the Tiptree World Bread Awards Heroes with Brook Food for East England, in a special online awards evening on Tuesday (13 October).
Throughout lockdown, Sheila managed to keep Pledgers, the family bakery she has run for 66 years, open six days a week, starting at 5.30am every morning.
“It has been kept open with only her serving behind the counter all during lockdown, and she is in her eighties and finds it difficult to stand and move, but she is always cheerful, asking how everyone is,” said Elizabeth Webster, who nominated Sheila for the award.
“Sheila employs local people, and I have not known a day when the bakery has been closed, save for her husband’s funeral.
Sheila is helped at the bakery by her son, Chris Pledger and Paul Dennis, who has worked at Pledgers since childhood and is now almost at retirement age.
“Sheila said that she could not run the shop without them, as they do the work in the back, while she works in the front,” said Elizabeth.
In normal times, the Awards are held to celebrate bread and hundreds of loaves would be delivered for assessment by a panel of judges.
Instead, in a special edition for 2020, the Awards recognise the people behind the loaves: the bakers, millers and farmers.
Hundreds of nominations for the Bread Heroes were sent in from across the UK.
“All the nominees in this year’s Awards truly deserve recognition for their generous, considerate and often altruistic initiatives to help others.’ said Stephen Hallam, chairman of the judges.
12 regional winners were selected by the judging panel. One of the judges, Emma Freud, executive producer of Comic Relief, said, “These nominees were so well found – each of them have done remarkable things for their communities, using their talent with bread to make life easier for people who need support.
“It was a seriously tough choice, but I am confident we got the right winners.”
“The efforts of the bread community during these challenging times have been truly inspiring.’ said Scott Goodfellow, Joint Managing Director, Tiptree, ‘We are delighted that this year’s Awards have been able to shine a light on their incredible endeavours.’
An exhibition of portraits by photographer Henry Kenyon of the 12 Bread Heroes will be touring the UK, including a display at the City Food Lecture 2021, the annual lecture on the future of the food industry, organised by the seven food-related City of London livery companies.
Article edited on Friday 16 October at 15:30 to amend Sheila’s length of service to 66 years and to include the names of Chris Pledger and Paul Dennis.