A Rotherhithe shopkeeper was in ‘tears for three’ hours after receiving a letter on behalf of the Queen for his ‘exceptional contribution to life’ in London, writes Simon Throssell…
Vimal Pandya, who works at Halai General Stores on Gwent Court, selflessly helped 55 families with free deliveries and emotional support on the phone.
The rush of panic buying during the first lockdown meant that many of Vimal’s vulnerable customers were worried about coming into his shop.
Seeing these people like his family, Vimal took it upon himself to go to the cash and carry every morning and stand in very long queues to make sure that he had plenty of stock.
He would put a notice on his door inviting people to call him for a free delivery, which he would do on foot until 11:30 PM at night most evenings.
Vimal didn’t want to take advantage of his customers during this difficult time so would charge people the lowest cost price and let them pay when they were able to.
On his day off, Mr Pandya would speak to families for hours on the phone and offer a listening ear.
Word of Vimal’s outstanding community service quickly spread and on 12th February this year , he received a letter from Sir Kenneth Olisa, the Queen’s personal representative in Greater London.
The letter read: “It has come to my attention that you are one of those people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help others during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am therefore writing to personally thank you for all of your efforts and to encourage you to continue making a positive difference to Londoners.”
Remembering the moment it arrived on his doorstep, Vimal said: “I was in tears for three hours. I thought OMG what is happening here. I was so overwhelmed.
“I really really want to thank Mr Olisa, the people who come to our shop, and my girlfriend who is always there by my side.
“This is something that is going to be with me for the rest of my life.”