Trivallis‘ Hometown Hero campaign aims to shine a spotlight on those going above and beyond to support people in communities across Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) through challenging times.
James Thomas from Gilfach Goch, aka Beefy, received a record number of nominations for his work delivering free meals to vulnerable and elderly people in his community.
We caught up with James to unmask the hidden hero and find out more about how he’s been supporting communities with his epic meals.
“It all started when I got made redundant from my scaffolding job after 23 years. I had a friend who owned a burger van but was thinking of selling up, so I got in touch with him and asked if he would consider selling it to me.” James told us.
“At that point, I had loads of experience of eating from burger vans as I love my grub, but I had no experience being on the other side of the counter. My mate phoned me back and said I could buy the van and I haven’t looked back since” He added.
Beefy’s Baps is the name of James’ burger van, which he runs with his partner, Adele, on an industrial estate in Tonyrefail. During the COVID-19 outbreak, James and Adele, along with their daughter Courtney and James’ sister, have made and delivered over 1,100 meals to elderly and vulnerable people in Tonyrefail and Gilfach Goch, completely free of charge.
James said: “We’re always happy to help out. At Christmas we took the van to Cardiff and cooked 86 dinners for the homeless there. It’s just nice to be able to help people out where I can, I never know when I may need some help myself. It’s not something I do for publicity but it’s really lovely that people have nominated me as their hometown hero.”
Each week James puts a call out on social media for anyone in the area who is vulnerable, or who knows someone who is, to contact him. He then gets his Beefy’s team together to work through the messages and plan their weekly meal run to around 140 homes, which can often take as long as 3 hours for deliveries alone.
Marian Owen is 92 and lives in Tonyrefail. Her neighbour contacted James about his food donations, he agreed she was eligible and Marian received James’ 1,000th lockdown delivery. She said: “The food was delicious and having it delivered really made my day. It’s lovely to see local businesses looking out for people in the town and I hope that the people of Tonyrefail and Gilfach support James with his food van in the future. It’s important to remember who was there for us during all of this.”
The cost of each meal James delivers is around £3, which comes to over £300 per week with the volume they are donating. Initially, James and Adele paid for this with their own money, however, as the weeks have gone on, they have received support from those in the community who want to help.
James said: “Gilfach Goch Rugby Club donated money to cover two weeks’ worth of meals and we’ve also had funding from RCT Council to use for the elderly and vulnerable. The support from customers has been amazing and many have been donating money that they’ve raised by holding street bingo games or having a whip around. Adele is also making bows for people to display on their houses or cars and we just ask for a £2 donation for them which all goes towards NHS charities.”
James’ aim is to make and deliver 2,000 free meals to people who need them most.
Shauna Thorne nominated James as her Hometown Hero and said: “I want to say thank you to James for what he is doing and I’m sure there are lots of others who are really grateful for all that he has done. He often delivers free meals to my nan who lives in Trivallis’ Swn Yr Afon sheltered scheme and she always tells me how delicious they are.”
James’ Stepdaughter, Courtney, also got in touch with Trivallis and shared this message: “I am so proud of you and what you have done and continue to do for the community. The commitment you have shown over the last 10 weeks has been outstanding. Nanny would be beaming, you’ve really done her proud! Keep up the good work! You’re our hero.”
Thank you to James, this week’s Hometown Hero, and his family for their continued support in the community.
If you know someone who is going above and beyond where you live, you find out more about the campaign and nominate them as your hometown hero, here.
Visit our Hometown Hero Hall of Fame to see the other heroes in our communities, here.