A TEIGNMOUTH mobility charity run by three elderly men is crying out for new volunteers.

Teignmouth Shopmobility, based at the Quay Road car park, provides scooters and manual and powered wheelchairs on a short-term basis to people with mobility problems.

John Birch, one of the three running the operation, is in fact the founder of the charity.

He said: ‘I began it 27 years ago at the time of the Disability Discrimination Act. At the time I was chairman of Teignmouth Disability Action Group. Teignmouth had a pedestrianised shopping area and I realiseded how people with disabilities would find it difficult to access, so I followed other models.’

John retired from running Teignmouth Shopmobility some 10 years ago when his late wife became ill and it was managed

He’s now back as a trustee and chairman, and said: ‘I was told it was running down because it was no longer needed.’

‘They said that everybody who needed a scooter already had one, and there was no use for us. Well in fact it’s so popular we can’t cope – we’re as busy as hell!’

John, 86, runs the office with Mike Conliffe, 76 and Dave Cragge, 85.

He said: ‘We need young blood, we need a new chairman, treasurer, committee members and volunteers to help run the place and deal with the public. Some days we have more customers than we can handle.’

Retired policeman John has a long history in the field of mobility. He established the Dawlish Ring and Ride service and demonstrated it across the county. After seeing a Shopbility set-up in Plymouth he established the Newton Abbot Shopmobility centre, and then the Teignmoth version. ‘We’re helping the weak, the weary and the aged,’ he said.

The team deals with a variety of people, those with chronic mobility issues and short-term ones.

It’s not just locals who rely on the service, holidaymakers also need assistance. He explained: ‘One instance for example was last week when a Danish tourist came in. She’d broken her foot and needed a wheelchair. At the end of her stay she’d left the chair outside with a note signed by seven of her party. They said “you’re a wonderful lifesaver! Without you we wouldn’t have been able to see Teignmouth and the surrounding area”.

‘That shows how our being here benefit the traders in the town.

‘People who wouldn’t be able to visit the pedestrianised area can now do so. One regular from Starcross has been ocming here to shop for many years.

‘Last year we did a two-week survey of our friends – we don’t call them customers or clients – and we reckoned they had spent several thousand pounds in the town over just that short period.’

As well as a new chairman and committee members, John and the team are crying out for shop workers.

At the moment the trio can only manage opening the office from 10am-2pm Monday to Friday. They’d like to expand that to 9am-4pm, and are seeking anyone willing to help with offering advice, taking the money and handling paperwork.

If you would like to help, contact the Shopmobility office during opening hours on 01626 777775.

John added: ‘At times it becomes a bit too much for us. We’re not a business, we are a service. We’re here to help, not hinder.’