A kind-hearted plumber has spent £57,000 during the pandemic helping more than 10,000 vulnerable families fix their heating and plumbing for FREE.
James Anderson, 53, was left completely shocked and disheartened when he learned how elderly and disabled people were being scammed by rogue traders for thousands of pounds.
Since launching his non-profit community interest company Depher in 2017, he has worked a gruelling 70 hours a week without taking a single day off in more than three years.
James still relies on his full-time job as a plumber and is helped by donations in order to fund his charitable work.
The devoted man pledged to help disabled and elderly people with their plumbing and heating “whatever the cost”.
But he has since branched out in the pandemic and is now providing food parcels, PPE, and even paying bills for more than 10,000 families in need.
The dad-of-six said he’s spent £57,000 during the pandemic alone but added it was “worth every penny” if it kept people alive and warm.
Last year more than 17,000 people in the UK died because of cold homes and fuel poverty, and James has promised to do his part to reduce that number each year.
He is now raising funds in order to help thousands of households through the cold winter months.
James, from Burnley, Lancs., said: “When I first realised that these vulnerable people were being taken advantage of it broke me.
“I couldn’t believe it and I made it my life mission to make sure I could help as many people as I could, whatever the cost.
“If you’ve got disabilities, issues, sometimes these things can become too difficult to overcome and we want to make sure they’re taken care of.
“The reality they are living in is not what people see, it’s horrible. And seeing it first hand really changed my life.
“We’ve all got a social responsibility to each other – we need to be there for each other.”
He added: “It’s going to be so cold these months and people will need heating.”
In 2017, James was called to a home for a second opinion and caught a heating company who’d attempted to con an elderly and disabled man out of £5,500.
Disgusted and disheartened by this, he founded Depher (Disabled and Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response) and has since helped more than 10,000 families.
They’ve assisted with paying off bailiff fees, bills, redecorations and even brought a birthday cake for a seven-year-old girl.
James said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, about £57,000 was spent on all sorts.
“We started off just doing plumbing and heating, but we saw so many people struggling it felt like it was wrong to stop there.
“Anything we can do, we will try to do.
“We spent about £16,000 PPE for care homes and nursing homes, and members of the ambulance service.
“It’s worth every penny because it’s kept people alive – you can’t put a price on that.”
James currently works with plumbers based in Lancashire, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and parts of Scotland, and hopes to eventually cover the whole of the UK.
He said he had no plans to stop anytime soon and would continue until “the good man upstairs tells me I’m done”.
He said: “It’s been a lot of sweat and pain but we’re carrying on until the good man upstairs tells me I’m done.
“I work seven days a week, 70 hours a week. I haven’t taken a single day off, I’ll have enough rest when I’m dead.
“I still work normal hours and any money I make goes into the fund and we also have a gofundme – it keeps us afloat.
“Doing all of this has made me realise the reality of our communities, the amount of people who are struggling.
“And you can’t just sit by and do nothing.”
Between Christmas Day and New Year alone he and a team of just three volunteers, three apprentices and four engineers took on 93 jobs for free.
He said: “We did 93 free jobs over six days from Christmas to New Year.
“We won’t ever walk away from a customer who needs us. If you need help, we’re here.”
James’ acts of kindness first came to light last year after a picture of a £0 bill he left for a 91-year-old woman who suffered from leukemia went viral.
The receipt for the boiler repair was accompanied by a note which said: “No charge for this lady under any circumstances.
“We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible.”
James said he was humbled by the massive support he received, with the fundraiser hitting more than £18,000 so far.
He said: “The reaction from people has been so humbling and emotional for me.
“It’s brilliant seeing that smile when you walk away and you know they’re going to bed in a warm safe home.”
You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/depher-community-support-services