Bus driver awarded BEM in Queen's Birthday Honours for hundreds of hours NHS volunteering in lockdown
A bus driver and supervisor with First York has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his NHS volunteering during the early months of lockdown.
Chris Koksal, 64, completed at least one volunteer duty every day over the two months he spent furloughed, totalling more than 80 trips to fetch shopping or collect prescriptions for elderly and disabled people in York.
His dedication and selfless commitment have been recognised with the award of a BEM.
He said: “It’s incredible. I can’t believe it; I just wanted to do something with my time on furlough and now it’s ended up with this honour. I had a letter three weeks ago but have had to keep it a secret. That’s not been easy.”
Chris, who works on the York Park & Ride, responded immediately to the call for NHS volunteers back in April, and was signed up and as soon as the scheme was launched. It proved to be the beginning of hundreds of hours availability and volunteering throughout the pandemic.
After a week logging on to the ‘GoodSAM’ volunteer responder app he decided to leave it ‘on’ permanently, rather than limit his time to a few slots during the day.
“I decided I might as well leave the app on as I’d go to bed but I wasn’t that tired,” recalls Chris, who has worked at First York for 22 years. “I don’t sleep much, so if they needed me to go somewhere, I’d be happy to.”
His journeys became so regular that he kept a stock of disposable gloves, wipes and sanitiser in his car, so that he was ready to respond at a moment’s notice. His dedication to the NHS volunteering programme meant that he was available day or night to support those in need. After little more than a month from the start of the scheme he had clocked up 750 hours of volunteering time.
He was shopping so often when the Government advice was only to go out once day, that some security guards at a local supermarket became suspicious. He had to explain that he was an NHS volunteer and show his profile on the app.
Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, was full of praise at Chris’ royal recognition. He said: “This recognition of Chris’ efforts in supporting his community here in York is well deserved and the whole team at First York is immensely proud.
“It is reflective of the efforts of so many of our colleagues who during these unprecedented times have gone above and beyond to support each other and vulnerable members of our community here in York.”
Born in Turkey, Chris had been a young player with top Istanbul professional football club Fenerbahce before moving to the UK to learn English. He changed careers and worked in hospitality and a variety of other sectors before moving to York in the mid-1990s.