Nova Scotia “angel” dishes up free grub to hungry truckers during COVID-19 pandemicBy Carter Hammett
Despite the fact that truckers are considered essential workers who transport about 70 per cent of Canada’s goods, most of them are have trouble finding a washroom and a hot meal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s because most restaurants have either shut down or in some cases, are refusing service to truckers because they’ve been travelling.
Crystal Blair to the rescue.
The demure 45-year-old Blair is the owner-operator of the popular restaurant and truck stop at the Glenholme Loop Petro Pass near Masstown NS. Along with other restauranteurs across the province, she planned to close down her business following orders from the Province March 18.
But that changed after she saw posts from truckers on social media describing how difficult it was to find shower facilities and even a hot meal.
“I said to my husband I can’t do this to my drivers,” she says. “I reached out on Facebook and said I was open for breakfast. Initially I was offering a breakfast sandwich and coffee for $4. I just thought I’d give breakfast and see how this goes.”
She went home, posted the act on her site and before you know it the post went viral.
“The next day someone called me up and said they’d like to pay for 10 drivers’ meals and then another called and said they’d like to pay for 12.”
Then donations started pouring in. Some were small, some were large she says. One donation reached $2,000.00. Before long local businesses hopped on board with donations of fruit, vegetables, potatoes, sausages and even serving trays.
The kindness has been such that Blair finds herself offering almost a full menu now, all of it free of charge.
Keeping social distancing in mind, the food is all take out. Blair keeps a grab-and-go table at the front of her restaurant and truckers help themselves to lunch bags along with coffee and a host of goodies.
With her own self-care in mind, Blair closes shop around 1:30 pm before heading home to rest up for the dinner shift. The parking lot is normally full by the time she returns at 5 she says.
The restaurant has been part of her life for three decades, ever since she was hired as a server at the tender age of 15. Twelve years ago the owners decided to sell and, deciding to take a chance, she bought the establishment.
“I’ve always excelled at my job,” she says. I learned how to bake along the way and everyone called me The Energizer Bunny,” she laughs. “I just thought I should give this a try. I felt I could do it and that I’d make a good boss.”
The fact she was pregnant at the time had no bearing on her decision.
She’s proud of the fact her restaurant, which offers home-made food including turkey dinners and fish and chips, is nearly as popular with the locals as it is with truckers.
“It’s like home here,” she says. “Most of the customers call it their second home.”
And now, apparently, so do a lot more truckers.
“I’ve known a lot of these guys most of my life so it’s natural to support them,” she says. “Their work is on the road and they work long and hard. I’d think twice if there was no washroom or shower available.”
It appears her generosity has also been a catalyst for other local businesses who have chosen to step up to the plate and support the truckers as well. Indeed, some hotels have opened their guest rooms for 30 minutes so truckers can take advantage of the shower facilities while others are offering meals.
And truckers are showing their appreciation. Blair says she’s received phone calls from as far away as Florida, Kentucky and Texas.
“They just call to say that I’m an inspiration to them. It’s amazing to think you’re reaching people so far away.”
But Blair insists she’s just doing what comes naturally to her.
“I’ve always been a helper,” she insists. “My friends are afraid I’ll be taken advantage of because I’m so good-hearted and I always tell people I’ll never change.
“Now I’m getting paid back in a big way. So many people say I’ve restored their faith in humanity. But if I touch one heart it’s been worth it. It keeps me going.”