BURNLEY’s hometown hero has again been recognized for his service to the city, picking up a gong at the Pride of Manchester Awards yesterday.
The awards were back and in person to honor the unsung heroes of Lancashire and Greater Manchester and to celebrate ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.
Hosted by actor Kym Marsh, the awards were presented last night at a prestigious, star-studded event at the Kimpton ClockTower Hotel in Manchester.
The past two years have shown that recognizing and rewarding people who go the extra mile to make a difference is more important than ever.
This year, plumbing boss James Anderson, 52, of Burnley, was announced as the winner of a Pride of Manchester special recognition award, for providing £1.2million in support to vulnerable people for help them warm up.
James was a successful heating engineer when he came across an elderly client who had been ripped off.
The gentleman had been left without heating or hot water by a crook trying to get him to pay £5,000 for a new boiler.
Furious, James arranged to have his heating fixed, then set about protecting other vulnerable people and helping those who couldn’t afford it.
He founded the community benefit society Depher, which provides free or heavily subsidized services to keep people warm and safe.
Since 2017, he and his team have helped more than 39,000 families, including free boilers, emergency plumbing and heating services, free bathrooms, funeral expenses and surprise birthday parties for children. children in and around his hometown of Burnley.
James’ wife, Babs, also often steps in to help.
Between 2020 and 2021, they provided £60,000 worth of PPE and food to families, care homes, frontline workers and emergency services at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He has now closed his own profitable plumbing and heating business to work full-time on the project.
James remembers a family that inspired him, a young couple with two small sons.
“They were freezing,” he said.
“Two engineers had already charged £40 each without solving the problem. The family could not afford any further repairs.
James fixed the boiler for free. “The mom was sitting there crying,” he added.
“She said to me, ‘All I want is to keep my children warm.’ It made me realize that you can walk past a house and it might seem normal.
“But you don’t know what’s going on inside. Of the people we help, 90% live on the poverty line without telling anyone.”
James has another personal motivation. He and Babs lost their baby son William in 2011 when he was just 16 weeks old.
“I promised him the day we turned off the machine that I would be the man he wouldn’t grow up to be. I know he’s up there on a cloud kicking up and say, “That’s nice, daddy.
Charlie Briggs, former mayor of Burnley, said: “James is an amazing person, I wish there were more people like him.
“He’s not interested in medals, all he cares about is helping the community.”
Ann-Marie Holliday, manager at Depher, added: “James is very well known at Burnley. He loves helping people and has a big heart.
Previously, some Pride of Manchester winners have been recognized on the national stage during the Pride of Britain Awards, which air on ITV in the autumn.
Since the first Pride of Britain Awards in 1999, royalty, prime ministers and hundreds of figures from show business, sport, politics and the arts have all taken part.
Last year Pride of Britain honored the 2021 Pride of Manchester winners, Burnley boys Freddie Xavi and Hughie Higginson.
Best friends Hughie and Freddie captured the hearts of the nation and served up two of 2021’s most unforgettable TV moments when they were surprised by Ant and Dec, then stole the show at Pride of Britain with the singing sensation KSI.
The couple received the Good Morning Britain Young Fundraiser of the Year Award for raising over £200,000 after Hughie was diagnosed with leukemia and Freddie vowed to help thank his doctors and nurses.
Kym Marsh said of the winners: “It’s so exciting to be back in Manchester for a full live awards show for the first time since 2019.
“The winners are incredible – they truly embody all the qualities that make us so proud to be from this incredible region.
“They are so selfless and brave, and of course the kids will melt your heart. I can’t wait to meet them all.”