James Anderson is a man on a mission. The 53-year-old English plumber from Burnley, Lancashire is using his skills to ensure vulnerable populations in the UK do not go without essential necessities such as heating and plumbing, offering free services to those who are financially insecure.
In 2017, Anderson was called for a second opinion on some heating repairs an elderly person needed done on their home. James was shocked to learn a heating company had quoted the homeowner, who is also disabled, a whopping £5,500 (about $7,400) more than was actually necessary in order to complete the repairs.
“When I first realized 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” Anderson said.
The incident led the plumber to establish a registered nonprofit Community Interest Company called DEPHER (Disabled and Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response). The organization provides free or severely discounted services to the elderly and disabled, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since its birth in 2017, DEPHER has helped 10,000 vulnerable families.
The DAILY MAIL states that in the U.K. alone, more than 17,000 people died last year due to lack of heat in their homes. In battling these numbers, James has personally and consistently worked 70 hours a week for the past three years without taking a single day off, and still depends on his full-time job as a plumber to cover a good portion of his charitable work, while also providing for his own family.
The father of six has been putting in even more grueling hours since the coronavirus pandemic began, and has personally spent £57,000 ($77,800) this past year to help fund his work through DEPHER. When Covid hit the U.K., Anderson was presented with even more needs while he was in homes making repairs, and the kind-hearted Brit refused to let any need go unmet. He now provides food, cleaning supplies, and even pays bills for families struggling due to the pandemic.
“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.”
Winter time keeps them especially busy. James said that just in the8 days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, he along with three volunteers, three apprentices, and four engineers provided free services to 93 local homes.
Due to the increase in need because of the Covid shutdowns, Anderson has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the increased costs of covering essential needs in the winter months. One donor by the name of Judith Stonier donated £20 was a beneficiary of DEPHERs charity, and left a comment saying:
“As pensioners we are grateful that there is someone we can trust to come out if we have a problem with heating or plumbing who we can afford so are happy to donate when we can.”
James has partnered with other plumbers around the U.K. who have joined DEPHER, and the organization now services thee needy in Lancashire, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and parts of Scotland. His goal is to have a presence in every part of the U.K.
Christine Ann Rowlands shared a screen shot and this story to her Facebook page of her mother’s experience with James Anderson and DEPHER:
“Went to mum’s yesterday and big drama boiler was leaking and I phoned my sister Delta who managed to contact a plumber
“James Anderson ”
He was just dropping someone off near to mum’s and called in to fixed the boiler . I asked how much for the cost he said he would email me the invoice Xx
As a friend said an Angel dressed as a plumber
How kind is this”
“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,” Anderson says. “We’ve all got a social responsibility to each other – we need to be there for each other.”