December 2020: As sweet as pie – Flo feeds the community

Since soon after the outbreak of COVID-19, Rosebank Park resident Flo has been defying small-kitchen logistics by providing hundreds of pies to the people of Harwich who are most in need. Her extraordinary, selfless stints at the oven aren’t just celebrated by the people tasting her perfect pies, though – her inspirational efforts have earned her admirers from around the world!

We spoke with Flo – and, because she’s so modest and a little hard of hearing - with one of her proud daughters, Brenda.

How the pie-making began

Flo has always baked, ever since she was a little girl, taught by her grandmother. And we’ve been lucky enough here at Rosebank Park to taste Flo’s baking for ourselves – she’ll often bake pies for the staff! “When the virus started,” says Flo, “my son said he was making food for the old folk in Harwich and I said I wanted to help.” Flo’s son, Graham, who runs the Samuel Pepys restaurant in Harwich, had begun volunteering his services as a chef to local charity N.E.S.T. (North Essex Support Team), which helps struggling families and individuals in the area. “I baked 20 pies in the first session!” says Flo.

“I’ve made more than 200 now, easily,” she adds. “Sometimes it’s for 50 people, sometimes less – I just wait for the orders to come in!”

Proper homemade pies

“Apple pies, cherry pies, meat pies - I buy all the ingredients and make them all from scratch, including the pastry,” says Flo. There isn’t an even an electric mixer in sight – just a standard electric oven in her flat – and the recipes are her own. “I’ll be making sausage rolls for Christmas, too. I love it, I just love doing it!” she laughs.

There are few things more uplifting than a good-news story, especially in difficult times, to it’s no surprise that Flo’s phenomenal efforts have gone viral. “Last month, she won a Points of Light award for her community baking,” says her daughter, Brenda, “and received a certificate and a letter from the prime minister! She’s even had cards from strangers as far away as Canada, thanking her for her generosity. People have sent gifts and chocolates and, Mum being Mum, she’s passed them all on to N.E.S.T. to be given to other people at Christmas. She’s always been this way, always wanting to do something for other people. She says it keeps her active, keeps her busy. We’re very proud of her.”

Flo turned 90 this month, but there’s no sign of her slacking off. As Flo herself says: “As long as I’ve got two arms and two legs, I’ll keep going!” Up most days at 4:30am, she’ll have made a couple of batches of pies while most of us are peering bleary-eyed at the first tea or coffee of the day.

Flo has been at Rosebank Park since 2017 and we’re lucky and proud to have her as part of our community. She’s a little taken aback by all the fuss, of course, but she deserves every moment of it.