As a young cab driver touting for business by the Docks in 1948, Sir Jack Petchey would never have dreamed that one day he would hold keys to the grand Dockmaster’s House in West India Quay.
The historic Georgian building close to Canary Wharf is the new home of the charity the Jack Petchey Foundation he started in 1999 to help young people.
It has moved to Tower Hamlets from its former home of Ilford where over the last 18 years it has invested over £110 million in youth projects across London and Essex.
It now supports more than 2,000 schools and youth clubs and a whole range of programmes, touching the lives of almost half a million youngsters each year.
The new offices will also enable the Foundation to offer a new training and meeting space to the schools and youth groups it supports.
At age 91, Sir Jack still works at the charity and said he remembers coming to the area when he was starting out to tout for trade as a driver for his first car hire company.
His journey into the world of business began in 1947, when he returned home from the Navy and began working as a clerk for the Solicitor’s Law Stationary Society.
After being told he was “not management material” he invested all the money he had, £66, into starting a car hire business.
Jack would drive down to the Docks to meet any boat that came in, day or night, to offer sailors and passengers a ride to their final destination.
His unconventional tactics worked and his business grew and Jack started up businesses spanning motor car dealers, garages, property, travel and investment.
He went on to become well known for his philanthropy and was knighted in 2016 for services to young people in East London and Essex.
He said: “I am delighted with our new offices, especially with the prospect of offering a new work space to the youth groups and schools that we support.
“It’s a funny thing working in this area again 50 years later. I never would have dreamed back then that I would being running my own foundation from this building.
“It just goes to show that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. As I tell young people- if you think you can, you can.”
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