Big Issue seller Andrew McGarry feels like “local celebrity” after award

The generous vendor came out on top in Devon Community Honours’ Friendly Community Together category for his charity work

A big-hearted Big Issue vendor says that he feels like a “local celebrity” after winning an award for his community work.

Andrew McGarry, who sells the magazine near Cathedral Green in Exeter, was given the Friendly Community Together gong in the Devon Community Honours awards at Exeter Castle on Tuesday.

The 51-year-old was nominated for the award, which acknowledges people who reduce isolation in the local area create great places to live.

And Andrew, who attended the ceremony on Tuesday after a shift on his pitch, has certainly been hard at work to do just that since moving to the area from Towcester to sell the magazine 12 months ago, becoming well-known for his charity work and fundraising to help others.

He said: “It’s amazing and it was such a great experience to win the award.

“I had no idea I had been nominated until I got an email telling me that I was up for the award. I was completely in the dark but I must have got quite a few votes to win.

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“People know me as a street vendor here and I suppose I am quite a bit of a local celebrity – I use some of the money I get from selling the magazine to help other people and I suppose that is quite unique.

“It was quite hard going when I first moved to Exeter a year ago but I think I’ve shown that with dedication and hard work you can make a real success.”

The award marks a landmark year for Andrew, who uses a portion of the money he earns as a vendor to help local homeless shelter, St Petrock’s – donating £100-worth of socks and underwear in June. And he was part of a group of Big Issue vendors invited to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster by Big Issue founder Lord John Bird in July.

He also joined Bishop Martin Shaw in a talk about homelessness at Exeter Cathedral in September and is now launching a voucher scheme to help those living on the city’s streets as well as supporting St David’s Church soup kitchen in the city.

This year has been no one-off either – Andrew used trolleys borrowed from the Co-op to collect lots of tents, sleeping bags and warm clothes, before donating the gear to a church in Towcester in 2015.

After the thrill of the awards ceremony Andrew is now back on his pitch, so drop by and congratulate him – and pick up a copy of the magazine of course!

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