THE boss of a local taxi firm is setting off on a 1,500-mile mission of mercy to help Ukrainian refugees by delivering a  van-load of badly-needed supplies.

Darren Tait, who runs St Ann’s Chapel-based Darren’s Cars, made up his mind to run the supplies to Poland this weekend after watching harrowing scenes of families fleeing war-torn Ukraine on television. His wife Polly said her husband had never done anything similar before, but had told her: ‘I can’t just sit here and do nothing.’

She said their firm’s call for supplies from local residents to bump up the delivery had received widespread support from people all over the area, including their neighbours and residents from as far away as Okehampton.

Mrs Tait added: ‘The way things are going, I think we’re going to need a bigger van.’

Mrs Tait said: ‘Darren has been watching the news (about Ukraine) and it was after a six-year-old child was shot in his car with his parents that he said he couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.

‘He felt that since we have got the vehicles, we ought to try and do something.’

She added: ‘We have been overwhelmed with the amount of support we have received from people.

‘My office is filling up with stuff  we’ve got 15 bags of things people have donated, plus two tents. The ‘phone has been really busy — we’ve had people saying they are shopping in Tescos and asking what we need, we’ve had Specsavers from Okehampton ringing up and people from Torpoint and everywhere. I really think we are going to need a bigger van.’

Mr Tait’s mercy mission was receiving particular support from Tavistock on Facebook after residents saw the firm’s post appealing for any items people could spare.

Some residents were offering to drive over supplies from their neighbours and friends if they could not make the journey into East Cornwall themselves.

Mrs Tait said: ‘I think people have been anxious to do anything they can to help. People want to help, but they don’t know how to.’

She said plans were still being finalised for her 50-year-old husband’s trip, which he is due to start on Sunday.

Mrs Tait said: ‘He’s looking at a five-day turnaround. He’ll probably go to Poland, drop the stuff off and come straight back. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he makes a second trip.

‘I think he’s very brave. He’s making plans to do this trip and at the same time he’s driving up to Bristol on an airport run.

‘This is an entirely independent thing we are doing. In Poland, the Red Cross are setting up pop-up points where supplies can be dropped off, but it’s difficult to know where they will be because they keep on moving.’

Supplies which are needed by the refugees include new sleeping bags, new tents, First Aid kits, sanitary products, hygiene products nappies.

Other items include small ‘comforts’ for children, which can be things like picture books, colouring books, crayons and small teddies.

Anyone who can help with donations can deliver them to the firm’s office at Unit 1, Rylands Garage, St Ann’s Chapel.

People are advised to give the office a call first on 01579 556141 to make sure a staff member is available to receive them.

Meanwhile, West Devon Borough Council leader Neil Jory said the authority would be ready to offer help to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

He said: ‘Everyone at West Devon Borough Council is deeply saddened by the crisis unfolding in Ukraine.

‘As of yet, the council has not yet received the call to provide housing for Ukrainian refugees displaced by the conflict.

‘If and when that call comes, our team will assess exactly what we can offer and how we can help those in need.

‘We will keep following the news out of Ukraine closely and will be ready to offer our help if called upon.’

And staff at the Stannary Arms in Tavistock are holding a quiz on Tuesday, March 8 at 7pm to raise funds for the refugees.

The multi-media quiz will involve teams of four to six players, with each of them paying £5 to take part.