Eye town mayor taking residents to their vaccination appointments
A Suffolk town mayor has gone beyond the call of duty by personally transporting residents to their coronavirus vaccine appointments.
Eye mayor Johnnie Walker has taken around half-a-dozen people to their local hub centre in Debenham after they found themselves with no other means of transport.
His neighbourly efforts long pre-date the pandemic; five years ago, the former electrical engineer enlisted himself as a driver for Eye Volunteer Centre, which takes elderly or vulnerable residents to their medical appointments.
In the past six years, he has taken an impressive 700 people to various appointments in his Vauxhall Passat.
The father-of-three, who has served as mayor since May, decided he wanted to help around five years ago after a neighbour was struggling to make an appointment.
“A neighbour of mine needed to go to hospital,” he said.
“They were in their 60s, had MS, and had also had a stroke, and they were told to get a bus. I said ‘don’t be so silly, I’ll take you’.
“Later, I happened to see a notice in the window of the volunteer centre looking for drivers.”
In addition to offering community transport, Eye Volunteer Centre, a registered charity, offers befriending services for isolated and lonely people through its main office in Broad Street.
Since the pandemic began, 72-year-old Mr Walker has had to restrict the number of journeys he could offer, but continues to take a select few to get their jab if they have no other means of getting there, maintaining the same Covid-safety protocols one would expect with a regular private hire firm.
The trips have proven mutually beneficial, also helping the Glasgow-native learn more about his adopted home.
“I’ve found it fantastic,” he added. “I’ve made a lot of friends from it, and I’m interested in social history; when you’re taking an elderly person and you’re talking, you get to know all about the history of Eye.”