‘People’s hero’ collapses and dies at just 54 while volunteering at foodbank

A foodbank volunteer who died while helping the needy has been described as a 'people's hero'.

The daughter of Stephen Flannery, 54, said it felt as if her "heart had been ripped out" by his death.

Stephen was dedicated to helping others even when Universal Credit sanctions and periods of poor health meant life was tough.

He collapsed from a heart attack at a church in Dingle , Liverpool, on Tuesday May 14, and, despite the efforts of paramedics and hospital staff, could not be revived.

Stephen's family described him as someone who instinctively "stuck up for the underdog", the Liverpool Echo reports.

His heartbroken daughter, 26-year-old Debenhams worker Cassianne Flannery, was in London with friends when she received the traumatic phone call about his death.

She said: "My phone had been in my bag and I had a voicemail from the Royal [Liverpool Hospital] saying can you ring the Resus Unit regarding your father.

"I rang them back and the woman said 'are you on your own?' I realised then, I watch Casualty and I know what Resus means.

"They said 'we did all we could but he has passed away'. They did do all they could, they were great."

Fighting back tears, Cassianne said: "I just felt like my heart had been ripped out, you know because it's my dad."

Cassianne said she remembered her dad bursting into song at any opportunity, and said she was inspired by a poignant reminder only days after his death.

She said: "Every time my dad would come into the kitchen he would say 'let's sing a song'. I remember one of the last times I saw him he sang Your Song by Elton John.

"On the Friday after he died I had a driving test booked. I had failed it twice and I thought I'm just going to do it, and just before it started Your Song came on and I passed."

His sudden death prompted outpourings of grief and fond memories of the former factory worker, who made his mark on the community he loved.

Proud mum Lily Flannery, 85, said she found comfort in the fact her son died in the church he did so much to support surrounded by fellow volunteers.

The retired florist said: "He could have died alone or in the street, but I am glad it was there."

One of Stephen's four brothers, 57-year-old care home worker Chris Flannery, said: "Our Ste, he was his own man, he was a free spirit. He did whatever he felt like doing. He would not stick to a rule if he thought it was unfair.

"He was always on the side of the underdog; if someone said 'oh don't bother with them' he would bother with them."

Chris said while the rest of his family were obsessed with football, Stephen and his friends were into music, film, photography and fashion and would rather head out into the city making home videos and taking pictures than watch even high-profile matches.

But family and friends said what Stephen mostly felt like doing was helping people with their problems, whether he had known them for years or whether they were complete strangers.

Alan McKinnell, a minister, was with Stephen at the foodbank when he died.

He said: "I have been here about five years and during most of that time he has always been there looking for people to help; bringing them to the foodbank.

"He would go out and speak to the unemployed, the homeless, those with addiction problems. Not everybody wants to use a foodbank even when they have a need to use one, but Stephen would talk to them and persuade them to come in."

Chris said his brother had struggled in recent years with the pressure to meet the Universal Credit requirements, and had taken several jobs that his health made it difficult to do.

He said: "He had been diagnosed with diabetes and lost a lot of weight, but he ended up at this job at a factory picking boxes up off the floor.

"He couldn't do it but the DWP sanctioned him because he had been offered work. He had to apply for jobs every day even when he knew they didn't exist."

But despite his personal struggles Stephen always found time to help those even less fortunate, even visiting homeless people he had met in hospital "because they had no-one else."

Chris recalled Stephen's long-time love of boxing and said he volunteered on the pads at Golden Gloves gym in Lodge Lane, helping local youngsters with their training.

He also spent much of his time out in the community, and he was especially well known in the Park Road area.

Stephen was described as a man who hated seeing people left alone, and made friends with people from overseas who were new to the city.

Cassianne said: "I had a Muslim man message me who told me he had no friends when he came to the city, but after meeting my dad he has hundreds of friends. He said he was like a brother."

Chris said: "He was like the people's hero. Don't get me wrong he had a temper and was never afraid of pulling you up on something, but he never held a grudge and we were always laughing. He was a lovely man my brother."

Stephen's other brothers are Paul, 49, James, 52 and Michael, 50.

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