Asda delivery driver Geoff Norris and a hero of the pandemic awarded the BEM in Queen’s Birthday Honours
PUBLISHED: 08:21 09 October 2020 | UPDATED: 23:27 09 October 2020
Pandemic hero Geoffrey Norris – who took extra special care of the vulnerable and elderly by shopping for them on his days off – has been awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours announced today (Friday).
Awarded for hands-on service for those who have made a significant difference, the 53-year-old home shopping delivery driver at Wisbech Asda store certainly did that this year.
He sought volunteers from among his colleagues to help in their own time to deliver food to those who were self-isolating and vulnerable due to Covid-19.
And he took orders by email and phone with the help of his wife or daughter, or if customers contacted the store directly colleagues passed on the order to Geoff.
“Some of the people who contacted him lived many miles away but were calling, panicked about how to get food for vulnerable parents who had no internet,” says the Cabinet Office.
“Geoff would then go into the store every Sunday morning on his day off, pick the shopping and then go through the tills before delivering it in his own car.
“This was a lifeline to the elderly.”
The Cabinet Office says the list, which was due to be published in June, was postponed to consider nominations for people playing crucial roles during the first months of the Covid-19 effort.
The citation adds: “When Geoff learned that a regular customer would be by herself on her 90th birthday, he organised a surprise for her.
“Observing social distancing guidelines, Geoff and colleagues decorated the outside of her bungalow with balloons, brought her cake and flowers and read out birthday messages from her family (who live in New Zealand) before singing happy birthday.”
Geoff said “I’m absolutely gobsmacked to be honest. I did not have a clue at all.
“When the honours office contacted me, I thought it was a joke at first, a wind up!
“I then checked through the email and saw a form to fill in for acceptance so I thought maybe it is real.
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“Then I saw it was from the Cabinet Office and realised it’s not a joke.”
Geoff, who’s married to Vanessa and has a 22-year-old daughter Anna, said: “We never, ever expected anything like this. My wife and daughter were as shocked as I was.
“There were a lot of people out there who were in need and couldn’t get anything and I knew I had to do something to help.
“Some of them were in tears. It was not just me; my wife and daughter were taking phone calls, and a lot my colleagues at Asda helped too. They were fantastic.”
Roger Burnley, Asda CEO & president said “I cannot express how proud we all are to have Geoff recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
“A key worker along with thousands of others, Geoff has done an amazing job looking after our customers in phenomenally challenging circumstances.
“I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to him for the way in which he has risen to the challenges of the pandemic and played a vital role in feeding the nation.”
Geoff’s acts of kindness were described as a “lifeline” by one elderly shopper, while another said they had been “life savers.”
Matt Morris, Asda Wisbech store manager said “I’m incredibly proud that Geoff has been recognised for all his efforts in serving our community: he’s really gone above and beyond to ensure our vulnerable customers had what they needed.
“As with all my colleagues in store it makes me burst with pride how we’ve all stepped up to support customers and communities during the pandemic. Well done Geoff - we’re all really proud.”
Geoff said he wanted to help as soon as he found out that some self-isolating customers were struggling to go shopping to get the supplies they needed.
He said: “I went back to the team at Wisbech and said we needed to support them. Straight away five drivers said they would help deliver and about eight or nine pickers said they would help too.”
Geoff and the team, including Gemma and Donna Wheatley, cover a 30-mile radius covering Wisbech, Holbeach and towards March.
He said a lot of customers were housebound and would have been stuck without help.
Valerie Thurkle, 84, said the deliveries from Geoff and the team had been a “lifeline. I live on my own as I’ve got no family around me”.
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