Food Samaritan's gift to NHS workers and the vulnerable
Thursday 7th May 2020 11:00
Thames Water engineer Dean Vine is no stranger to providing life’s essential service to thousands of customers across London and the south-east.
As a leakage technician he helps maintain a network of pipes supplying homes, schools, hospitals and businesses with clean, fresh water. Now he’s gone one step further, using his own time and money to buy and deliver food parcels for those struggling to get by during the coronavirus pandemic.
To date he and his wife Natasha have spent £1,700 on more than 50 bags of shopping for NHS staff and the elderly and vulnerable near their home in Gravesend and Northfleet. Thames Water is now match-funding the amount with supermarket vouchers so Dean can continue supporting his community.
To further support customers during the pandemic, Thames Water has doubled its Trust Fund donation to £1 million. The fund provides debt advice and grants for essential household goods, including washing machines, fridges and beds.
Thames Water is also providing flexible payment options and committing £4m this year to its Customer Assistance Fund, which provides one-off grants to help customers pay off arrears on their water bills.
Dean’s own charity work started after he saw an elderly woman in tears because a shop had sold out of painkillers as people began panic-buying supplies.
The 33-year-old dad-of-five said: “I had a few other shops to go to and managed to get some aspirin for her at a pharmacy. She was so grateful it was like an epiphany moment. She said there were so many other people in her complex, with no family, in the same position as her, struggling to get what they needed.”
After putting a shout-out on Facebook for people in need to contact him, Dean began shopping for dozens of people. A typical package includes tins of beans, tomatoes and mixed veg, along with eggs, bread, long-life milk, a bottle of juice, snacks and toiletries.
Dean added: “I’d love to get more and more people on the list, so we’ve set up a Go Fund Me page so we can continue what we’ve started. I feel like we’re doing our bit to help, and if we can inspire others to do the same in their own towns and villages, then even better.”
Steve Spencer, Thames Water's operations director, said: “I see examples of our people going the extra mile for our customers every day, but what Dean and his family are doing to support those struggling to get by during the lockdown is truly exceptional.
“I am extremely proud to be part of our operational business, in which our dedicated front-line teams are out in the community, performing the essential role of keeping taps running and toilets flushing.”
Visit Dean’s Go Fund Me page to find out more, and read more details about Thames Water’s Trust Fund and package of financial help during the coronavirus outbreak.