Christmas may be over but we still have some of our coldest nights ahead. For many elderly people in the UK this is a source of anxiety as they simply cannot afford to pay their heating bills. Some people will face living in freezing conditions this winter without anyone to turn to ask for help. That’s where James Anderson comes in.
In 2017, James, a plumber from Burnley, was shocked when he came across an elderly disabled man who had been living in a freezing cold house after a rogue plumber had left him with no heating. After taking a look at the heating system himself, James helped the elderly man and got his heating back up and running.
That night James went home but he couldn’t get the elderly man off his mind.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about him. This guy was immobile just sitting there in a freezing cold house.”
At that moment, James decided to do something about it. In 2017 he closed his private business and launched a not for profit company called Depher.
“It made me realise that there is a community out there that is ignored. People leave elderly people to their own devices but they need our help. It’s a massive issue and it’s worldwide.”
Depher offers services to elderly people who cannot afford their heating bills. Depher’s plumbers give their labour for and receive £30 through the scheme to cover their expenses.
Two years on and the company has recruited 32 engineers from across the UK, offering services in Manchester, Lancashire, Leeds and further afield.
“So far we have done hundreds of boilers, repairs, we’ve bought food, clothing, paid bills and even paid mortgages,” said James.
“I know that people are put into desperate situations where they can’t overcome certain obstacles, I want to remove these obstacles.”
But, James admits that in order to keep offering services, he needed to find a way to keep money coming in, that’s when he considered crowdfunding.
He set up a GoFundMe and hoped the money would roll in. It did not.
“Initially I got a little bit of a response but it was slow to pick up. I didn’t realise how helpful it could be.”
One day someone posted a bill online showcasing James’ generosity when he charged a woman with leukemia £0. This post quickly went viral and James became inundated with people wanting to help.
“People were posting about it. So I decided to update my campaign to explain a little bit more about what I was doing with Depher.”
James’ campaign quickly began to grow in donations and currently stands at just over £11,000.
He said he was shocked by the response.
“It went even more viral, I was on TV and radio, just totally manic.”
James said he was also contacted by a number of people who needed his help.
“I had one woman who was quoted £3,000 for a boiler, two days later we gave her one for.
“She told me that her husband fought in Normandy but never came home. That just made me break down in tears.
“A lot of elderly people have fought to protect our freedoms so now it’s time we look after them. For us to ignore them is a disgrace,” he said.
James says he wants to protect vulnerable people in society.
“My mission is to take down rogue companies who take advantage of vulnerable people, so that’s what I’m going to do, I have had enough.”
So, what is next for James? He plans on continuing his fundraising efforts and ultimately hopes to make Depher a publicly owned company. His current goal on his GoFundMe page stands at £30,000 put James has higher hopes.
“If 500,000 people donated just one pound a month we would have £500,000 and that would be incredible.”
The plumber also hopes to start a new project called LIFE. LIFE stands for low income family enterprise. James wants to expand his services to offer support to low-income families who cannot afford their heating bills.
“We want to help anyone who needs it, We want to bring the community together all ages and all aspects.”
Inspired by James? Here are his top fundraising tips:
Share your campaign
“I initially set up the campaign and didn’t think much of it. Once it went viral and people started to share it, I noticed a real difference.”
“Once my campaign started to get donations, I started updating people with where their money was going and how it was helping people.”
“When the campaign went viral I couldn’t believe how many people got in contact. We even got a donation from the Saudi Royal Family! The princess is currently seeing if there is a way they can help us more permanently which would be amazing.”