My mum got interviewed for the local paper back in Devon.
Lorraine Lee sees herself as much more than a post office manager – she considers her role to be a one-stop shop for community life. Customers can turn to her for all the usual mail-related services offered in branches up and down the country. But in Buckfast, near Totnes, the locals are as likely to pop into the post office if there is a problem with a fallen tree or a broken street light.
Mrs Lee, who has worked in the post office for 14 years, uses her extensive knowledge of the area’s residents to solve the problem as swiftly and painlessly as possible.
“People who haven’t lived here for very long don’t know who’s who,” she said. “I first moved into the area when I was two years old, and now I live just up the road in Ashburton. I know everybody and I try to help out if I can.”
Her caring nature also extends to the welfare of her customers. She said: “If somebody comes in regularly, and then suddenly stops, I do try to make enquiries on how they are, and whether I can help in any way.”
The post office is a valued community asset, with a loyal customer base, particularly since the only bank in the village closed its doors last year.
Rod Summerfield, chairman of the Buckfast Residents’ Society, praised Mrs Lee for her “professionalism and dedication”.
He said the shop provided a focal point for elderly residents, young mums and many others. “The post office and Mrs Lee are vital elements of the fabric of our community, fully deserving of our business and our gratitude,” he said.
Mr Summerfield nominated the Buckfast Post Office for part of the WMN’s campaign which features the services branches provide, amid fears that many post offices will close because of these services being withdrawn. Nationally three million people have signed a campaign to safeguard post offices.
It follows plans announced by the Government to scrap the Post Office Card Account, used by more than four million people every week to access their pension and benefits payments, by 2010.
Television licences can no longer be bought from local post offices while it is feared that car tax and passports could also come under fire.
There are also concerns that the Â£150 million a year Social Network Payment, which bolsters rural post offices, will be scrapped in under two years.
David Salter, of the Buckfast Spinning Company, said the business generated by the post office did not leave much change after wages were paid.
The firm, part of Axminster Carpets, bought the post office when it faced closure in 1993, when Buckfast Abbey shut a shop which it was once attached to because it was no longer viable.
Mr Salter is officially the post master, but he said Mrs Lee ran the service “as if it were her own”.
He said: “It would be devastating all round if it had to close. We will keep it going as long as we can, and as long as we are allowed to, but we can only do that because we are part of a larger successful business.
“It wouldn’t take much to see the post office become viable in its own right. We aren’t looking for a massive remuneration – it would just be nice to se some recognition of the community service it provides.”