Customers and former staff turned up at a surprise party for a woman who has worked 35 years at the Dagenham McDonald’s fast food outlet.

Barbara Whitmore began in the kitchen at the branch in Whalebone Lane South in 1989, just a year after it opened.

She then worked on the tills before getting involved in organising coffee mornings for pensioners, beauty sessions for mothers and daughters, visiting schools and organising litter picks.

Barbara even threw a welcome party for children settled in Dagenham from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

“This party was complete surprise,” she said. “My team have made the 35 years so special — they’re like family to me.”

Barbara, who lives in Romford, is also a fundraiser of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provide free home away from home accommodation for families with children in hospital.

One customer who turned up for her surprise party recalled how she had organised two of her daughters’ birthday parties 20 years ago.