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Huntly volunteer driver honoured for going the extra mile during Covid-19 pandemic

By Pat Scott

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A volunteer driver who moved up a gear to ensure that the Huntly Community Minibus responded to the Covid-19 pandemic has been recognised for his outstanding service and commitment.

Norman Kinnaird, a stalwart driver with the group shared the volunteer driver/escort of the year title at the Grampian Volunteer Transport awards.

Pre Covid-19, the minibus was in demand by groups to get to regular gatherings or for outings.

But when they shut down, Mr Kinnaird wasted no time and came up with a plan to deploy the minibus, which would otherwise have sat parked up, to help people during lockdown.

Debbie Haefner who co-ordinates the bus service and nominated Mr Kinnaird for the award said: "He wanted to help those who needed transport to get for shopping and other essential outings. He prepared leaflets that he popped through letterboxes and posted on social media explaining how people could use the bus - word soon spread."

The availability of the bus was also promoted through the Grampian Coronavirus Hub

For four days every week through lockdown and beyond, Mr Kinnaird transported people from their houses, in Huntly or further afield in Rhynie and Lumsden and other rural areas, to the supermarket.

Some of the villagers shopped for neighbours who were shielding and Mr Kinnaird was always ready to help them with the shopping bags.

Each trip was for just one person or household and he would wait patiently until they were ready to go home again.

Between each journey, the bus was thoroughly cleaned and sanitised.

Ms Haefner added: "No journey or distance was a problem, Norman was the perfect chauffeur, telling stories and chatting with his passengers while getting folk safely from one place to another during what was a scary time.

"The bus became a vital service for people cut off in rural communities. For some of them living alone, their bus outing provided a much needed source of human interaction."

Mr Kinnaird's dedication was recognised locally and on social media people regularly posted their appreciation.

But Mr Kinnaird is modest about what he did and said it would not have been possible had the management committee not met all the running costs of the bus for three months.

He said: "All credit to the committee. I am cock a hoop for the whole team who drive the bus. I am pleased people felt able to put their trust in the bus, we even helped with non urgent medical trips for people who could not get patient transport."

Mr Kinnaird has been a member of the driver rota for nearly six years and is always willing to step in if another driver becomes unavailable or there are last minute requests.

The biennial awards were introduced to highlight the vital support that community transport provides and the work of volunteers.

Each winner received £250 donated by Colin Lawson Transport.

The awards are supported by the Grampian wideHealth and Transport Action Plan and a spokesman said: “The awards are an opportunity to shine a light on those who gave their time to help keep people connected, safe and well.

“The nominations reflected an amazing contribution to our communities."

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