Buckingham woman speaks of her reaction at learning she was in line for an MBE

Cynthia Tooley found out about the award while she was abroad on holiday
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A Buckingham woman has spoken about her reaction, on finding out she was being awarded an MBE.

Cynthia Tooley received the award for services to business, mentoring and charity in the New Year Honours List 2023. Cynthia is the founder of Jedidiah Pantry, on Castle Street, a free food pantry that gives away surplus food from the town’s supermarkets to anyone who needs it.

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Cynthia received the email telling her about the award while on holiday in Jerusalem, where her husband, James, had taken her for her birthday.

Cynthia Tooley outside Jedidiah Pantry in BuckinghamCynthia Tooley outside Jedidiah Pantry in Buckingham
Cynthia Tooley outside Jedidiah Pantry in Buckingham

She said: "It was the evening of the fourth day and we had seen so much and I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. So I told James that I didn't want to go out to dinner and wanted to eat in the room and just recover from all we'd seen and experienced.

"James started heading downstairs to grab the restaurant menus for room service, whilst I scanned through my emails.

"I saw an email from the Cabinet office and speed-read it in disbelief, and then shrieked: ‘James, wait! We are definitely going to dinner!’

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"It took a couple of goes for me to calm down and my words to make sense. And yes, we did go out to dinner, where I just alternated between grinning and shaking my head.”

Cynthia said her first thought was “How?” and her next thought was “Just what am I going to wear to Buckingham Palace?”

She kept the news as quiet as possible until the official announcement.

"James knew immediately, of course. Then I told my mum, who started dancing - typical African mum. That's it, no-one else. Then the night the embargo was lifted, soon as I could, I told my kids.

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"I'm just grateful to God for everything but I would really like to say a public thanks to the wonderful team of people who work at Jedidiah volunteering their time, their efforts, their ideas for us, day in, day out.

"One person can have an idea and start something but its important to remember those who work at it and keep it alive. The team of volunteers I've been blessed with at our different pantries are very precious to me and do so very much.”

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