Francis Ball (pictured), who was managing director of Costco UK from 1993 to 2006, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
He founded the charity Bridge Community Farms in Ellesmere Port in 2015. The 10-acre farm grows vegetables, salad and fruit using organic methods and sells organically grown delivered vegetable boxes throughout the Wirral and West Cheshire.
The charity also provides support and a therapeutic environment for those with mental health and lifelong learning difficulties as well as work experience for young people and the long-term unemployed.
During the pandemic, Bridge Community Farms launched a dedicated service to help vulnerable and elderly people so they could continue to receive vital provisions. It recruited 30 extra volunteers, including drivers, to help with the distribution of its weekly vegetable boxes after a fourfold increase in enquiries from older people confined to home and worried about getting fresh food.
A Bridge Buddy Club was launched to help vulnerable customers who were feeling isolated, lonely or anxious at home. A Bridge Buddy would call them for a chat as often as they liked.
The charity also produced nearly 10,000 free meals for struggling families during the school holidays, delivered to their home by Chester charity Passion-for-Learning.
Ball said: “I am greatly humbled to receive this honour, knowing how many Bridge Community Farms and Bridge Community Wellness Gardens colleagues, both volunteers and paid staff, have worked so hard through the pandemic to bring fresh food and some comfort and support to so many people across The Wirral, Chester and West Cheshire.
“We love what we do and we love the responses from our thousands of veg box customers, wellness clients, volunteers and supporters. And we are deeply grateful to our major funders for making our work possible.”