Former homeless man, Graham Walker, who found love and a roof over his head through selling the Big issue in Totnes is the worthy winner of town council’s first ever Community Award.
The 68-year-old gained instant recognition through wearing a top hat and tails while selling the Big Issue in town’s around Devon for 15 years.
His fortunes changed 13 years ago when he met his partner and former customer, Pip Stonier, a taxi driver in Totnes.
She let Graham pitch his tent in her garden and one thing led to another and they now live together just outside the town.
He stopped selling the Big Issue seven years ago through ill health, but has remained a familiar face in Totnes through his selfless fundraising for local charities.
Over the past 24 years Graham has been an avid fundraiser in the town raising more than £150,000 for good causes including Bob the Bus and Totnes Caring through sponsored walks and selling Christmas cards in the High Street.
For Graham, it has been a way of giving something back to the community he considers home and because he enjoys being outdoors.
After receiving his award from Totnes Mayor, Cllr Emily Price, at a special ceremony Graham said he was both shocked and chuffed.
“Of all I have received during my tenure as a Big Issue seller, this award was for me by farm the most poignant and meaningful,” he said.
“Totnes was the place I came back to to re-energise when I was travelling around the South West, it’s the place where I met my partner and did my first fundraising 24 years ago when I was selling the Big Issue.
“My second life started here, it’s where I gained friends and received so much respect and love from the town - my first experience of Totnes just turned my world around and it’s been a pleasure to be hanging around ever since.
Graham added: “I really appreciate that the council felt it worthy to give me this award. I’m just shocked and chuffed.”
Cllr Price said: “These awards are our way to publicly thank those local people who make such a difference to our community.
"Whilst we would have loved to give an award to all our nominees, we could only choose one winner.
“Graham has done so much to help others in our town, raising over £150,000 for local good causes and I congratulate him for being our very first winner.”
The 2022 Totnes Community Award nominees were Malcolm Curley, whose creations for the ‘Totnes Safari’ bring delight to so many and have helped him to raise significant funds for charity; Pat Shepherd, for her work transforming The Mansion into a thriving hub in the town; and PCSO Jason Vasey for the compassion, care and dedication he shows while serving the town.
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