'Diamond' geezers: Garage owner lives at work for three months to keep Devon Freewheelers on the road during the pandemic

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A ‘diamond’ car mechanic from Honiton lived round the clock in his garage for three months to help the Devon Freewheelers continue operating through the pandemic.

The charity thanked selfless Paul Richards who in March 2020 created a micro flat above his Heathpark Industrial Estate garage, staying on site 24/7 to keep the charity’s vehicles on the road throughout lockdown.

And the Devon Freewheelers heaped praise on windscreen repairman Andy Hutchings, from Exeter, who waived his £160 fee ‘for friends’ when an ambulance needed work.

Russell Roe, Devon Freewheelers Deputy CEO, said the good Samaritans’ generosity, helping to keep the charity’s wheels turning, had been ‘heartwarming’.

He said: “What Paul and Andy have done to allow us to keep our vehicles on the road so we can continue doing what we do for the community and for the NHS is phenomenal. It’s fantastic.

“Because if we don’t have the vehicles, we wouldn’t be able to assist.

“It’s heartwarming that there are people out there that are giving their time and money to the charity so we can keep on going for the people who need us.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the help of our volunteers and the public.”

Garage owner Paul, who repairs the charity’s 4x4 and emergency vehicles, rallied into action on March 23, 2020, when Boris Johnson announced the UK was to go into lockdown to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, and protect the NHS.

Using empty office space above Paul Richards Motors, in Footprint Place, the mechanic set up a bed and sitting room above the workshop, living, sleeping and working onsite 24-hours a day.

Paul said: “I lived and stayed on site all the way through the first lockdown. I put a bed upstairs and made a micro flat.

“I wanted to do it for the Devon Freewheelers. They needed somebody they could call on if they had a vehicle break down.

“As they do such a great good job, I felt somebody should help them.

“It was difficult sometimes and I felt very alone, but sometimes you have just got to get on and do things that are outside your comfort zone.

“I did whatever was needed. They needed the vehicles to do their job and without help they couldn’t do it.”

Andy Hutchings, of AAA Car Glass, fitted an ambulance windscreen for free, keen to help the charity continue its ‘brilliant work’ during lockdown.

He said: “I couldn’t bring myself to take £160 of their money. If you can’t help a charity out at this time, when they are trying to help others, there’s something wrong. What’s £160 between friends?

“It takes a fair while to raise that amount of money just in donations, with a couple of quid being given here and there.

“I used to collect for the Royal British Legion and I know how long it takes to collect that money, where it goes and who it helps.

“The Devon Freewheelers do some brilliant work. Like any charity, they are helping people less fortunate.”

Russell Roe said Paul and Andy were ‘diamonds’, and ‘dropped everything’ to work on the charity’s vehicles, having them back on the road within hours.

  • Photo shows Paul Richards, left, and Andy Hutchings.


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