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Volunteers create roadside oasis on the prairies for truckers
Lena Derksen organized a roadside stop at the Flying J Station in Lethbridge, Alta., to provide truckers with free food, PPE, coffee and a bathroom.
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Truck drivers travelling across the country in the pandemic may be allowed to cross the border, but good luck trying to find a decent meal or even an open bathroom.
That's what Lethbridge resident Lena Derksen heard when she would ask her truck driver brother how it was going.
“My brother is a trucker, he drives and I got friends that drive, and just by what they have told me, there is no place for them to go to the bathroom or get a good meal,” said Derksen, who decided that was no way to treat the people keeping the shelves stocked across the country during a harrowing time for the planet.
Derksen organized a roadside stop at the Flying J Station along 43 Street in Lethbridge, offering food, personal protective equipment (PPE), coffee and a bathroom for truckers passing by, all of it for free.
“Drinks, hot coffee, we have some lunch and breakfast stuff,” said Derksen.
The word is spreading, and the big rigs are finding their way to Derksen's little southern Alberta slice of heaven.
“I’ve had between about 20-30 (truckers stop by) on a regular day.," she said. "Monday was our busiest day: we had 44 truckers come through.”
Which every one one of them appreciates. “Getting a coffee or going to the washroom or [just to] get oil or anything like that, it's handy instead of trying to run around trying to find a place," said truck driver Randy Thomas.
And coming at a time when driving a rig is a lot lonlier and more challenging than ever, Derksen's sandwich bar doesn't just fill a need in his stomach. It also fills one in his heart.
“Feels good," he said. "I mean, driving along and [it's kind of like when] you see a little sign somewhere that says something about truckers keep doing a good job.”
The truck stop runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It's also attracting help from around town, with donors offering food and money - including vegetarian selections.
“[There are] lots of truckers from the Sikh community and we have a dietary restrictions that we only eat vegetarian food,” said President of the Lethbridge Sikh Society Gurpreet Singh.
The group of volunteers isn’t just limiting their services to helping truck drivers, Derksen adds. It extends to all front-line workers finding their way through the pandemic.
“Taxi drivers or tow truck drivers," she said. "Yeah we say truck drivers, but we mean everyone. If you're an essential worker, come and see us."
The group says 100 per cent of any donations goes towards helping essential workers.