Framlingham/Wickham Market: Thousand rides for volunteer, Michael
After covering two-million miles as a truck driver, you’d forgive Michael Diggens for wanting to put his feet up in retirement.
But the Suffolk 70-year-old instead volunteered his own time and vehicle to helping people with limited access to transport.
Mr Diggens has just celebrated his 1,000th journey for Community Action Suffolk’s voluntary transport scheme – a milestone made particularly memorable by the passenger he went to collect.
The former lorry driver set off on his first journey on July 27, 2010 and first picked up Norman Bennett less than a month later. Since then he has become not only a regular passenger – travelling between his home in Wickham Market and the day centre at Lehmann House Residential Care Home – but also a firm friend.
“I used to work as a truck driver out of Felixstowe and drove on the Continent for five years, but I had to stop driving long distances after I had a heart attack 16 years ago,” said father-of-one Mr Diggens, who lives with wife Jeanette in Framlingham.
“I still drove trucks locally until I was 66 but when I retired it was like cutting off my arms. My wife was still working an the local tea shop and I was at home twiddling my thumbs.
“My sister-in-law suggested volunteer driving but I wasn’t sure because I had always driven alone in trucks. I gave it a month and loved it.
“I think I’ve taken Norman more than anyone else – he has become a personal friend. I actually fitted in a couple of jobs so that Norman would be my thousandth customer.”
Most of Mr Diggens’ passengers need transport to and from the doctors or hospital. He keeps a record of every journey, making up to 34 per month. All of the journeys are made in his own car and passengers contribute 33p for each mile travelled.
And Mr Diggens isn’t thinking of stopping now that he has passed the 1,000 mark. “It really helps me as much as it helps the passengers,” he said.