What a wheelie great idea!Posted 24th March 2021
With work slowing during the pandemic, two cabbies in the town could have parked up their motors and put their feet up for a few months. But they wanted to do something to help during these testing times.
Now they are as busy as they ever were, ferrying people to get their vaccinations. And they are doing it for free. Sammy Jones found out more…
We’ve all heard about spats between cabbies and unofficial turf wars. It makes for good reading, but if you are hoping to find one of those stories here, you are out of luck and should turn the page.
Instead, this is a tale of two drivers who share a mutual respect and have teamed up to benefit Northamptonshire residents – by offering free return trips to covid vaccination appointments. Nick Metaxas who heads up Holcot Cars and Freddie Fudge who runs Flat Cap Cabs are offering the service to everyone.
“We really are in opposition,” Nick promises, “But we get on really well, and work well together too.”
With the pandemic doing nothing to help business (“there aren’t so many calls for airport pick-ups just now”) they decided to give back to the community by using their everyday tools – this is all about wheel power!
Nick had the brainwave when he took his mum for her jab: “The site staff, the administration staff and the Doctors were all smiling. They were all in a good mood. How often do you go somewhere like that? It put me in a good mood too, and I was left thinking ‘how can I do more to help?’” Nick quickly came up with the idea of the free taxi service and called in his mate Freddie, who agreed to get onboard.
“Freddie had already supported the community earlier in lockdown, by offering free shopping and chemist runs for those in need. I knew he was the right person for the job, and he loved the idea,” Nick recalled.
Since launching at the start of the month, they have been inundated by people keen to take up their kind offer. Dozens of patients have already taken advantage and had their vaccination centre visit. And with some people otherwise having to take up to six buses to make a return trip to a participating centre, the service has been an invaluable help to a great many people.
Getting the jab is what it’s all about, but for many of those hopping into Nick’s car, the chance to enjoy a good natter and a bit of a laugh is welcome too. So many folks have been shut off and isolated for the past year – getting out and about again is a real tonic for some of those being looked after on these trips: “I took one girl who had been shielding since March and has a number of health issues,” Nick recalled, “She was clearly nervous about the whole thing but she relaxed and had a scream there and back in the end. We had a real laugh!”
No-one is at risk from the drivers either: “We are classed as voluntary health workers now and have both been inoculated.”
And Nick and Freddie have struck up great relationships with those manning the vaccination centres they deal with: “The staff know us and are happy for us to bring patients in when we like; they know that the more we can do, the better it is for everyone.”
The two promise to keep up the lifts (and the banter) until the need for them is over. The whole venture is being made possible thanks to a charity that wishes to remain anonymous, which foots the expenses bill. The rest is down to Nick and Freddie. Generosity is a shared trait.
“We have the vehicles and the expertise and we are good at logistics,” Nick says, “The thought that someone might not be able to get to their appointment because of an issue with transport? I don’t like that and want to make sure it doesn’t happen. All we are doing is connecting up the dots,” he says modestly.
While Nick certainly isn’t quids in from this arrangement, he is finding his riches in another way: “I feel useful again,” he told Pulse, “It’s soul rewarding. It’s nourishing, that’s what it is,” he said, before grabbing the car keys and heading out to collect his fifth passenger of the day.
Nick and Freddie’s service is open to everyone, and getting connected is simple –
Support you can bank on during these challenging times
These are testing times, and circumstances mean that some of us are struggling to put food on the table. It’s a horrible situation to find yourself in, but help is available and anyone in need is being invited to reach out.
The University of Northampton has been supporting the community in a number of ways during the pandemic, and earlier this month it supported local food banks with a huge donation of food cupboard essentials. It means that more families will now be able to access essential food items, tinned fruit and sweet treats – and the donation came just in time to service families ahead of half term.
In all, more than 6,000 individually packaged items were given – everything from packets of biscuits to nutritious ready meals featured in the parcels which were gratefully received by the Hope Centre, who were tasked with distributing the food across the Northamptonshire food banks to the places where it is needed most.
“With the covid 19 outbreak continuing, more people are likely to turn to a food bank for help,” said Chris Rockall, business development manager at the University of Northampton.
“I’m delighted that the University has been able to arrange this donation.”
Louise Danielczuk is the fundraising and marketing manager for the Hope Centre.
“Each week we are seeing new people joining the already swelling numbers of people unable to afford to eat and now, more than ever, we need to pull together as the University has done, and support those in need,” she added.