Winnipeg technicians volunteer to give health-care workers free oil changes

On the last day of its week-long promotion, Super Lube Auto Centre's McPhillips Street location had dozens of health-care workers lining the streets in their vehicles as they waited for an oil change on the house.

McPhillips Street Super Lube did hundreds of free oil changes for front-line workers this week, manager says

Lube technician Donovan Platt said it means a lot to him to be able to help health-care workers in Winnipeg during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

For Donovan Platt, changing the oil in a car is business as usual. But this week, the task has meant a lot more to the technician at Super Lube Auto Centre on McPhillips Street.

Since May 2, the business has been offering free oil changes at its locations, up to a value of $100, for health-care workers in Winnipeg. 

Platt said it's a small gesture to thank front-line staff for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic — and for the former Grace Hospital employee, it feels personal.

"I know how hard and difficult it is, because I've done it myself," he said. "So when they asked us to volunteer, I was one of the first ones to jump on there."

On Saturday morning, the last day of the promotion, dozens of cars lined up down several streets around the McPhillips Street location waiting for their turn. Platt said it's been so busy, the shop is at risk of running out of oil.

Cars were lined up down Notre Dame Avenue on Saturday morning for the last day of Super Lube's promotion giving free oil changes to health-care workers in Winnipeg. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"We've got some ordered. We're just going to do as much as we can," said Platt.

While the business is considered an essential service and was allowed to stay open during the pandemic, Jim Brousseau, who owns the Super Lube Auto Centre shops in Winnipeg, said they've been closed since the end of March as a precaution to keep employees safe.

"I was a little concerned about my people," he said. "Closing a business wasn't going to be as difficult as closing a coffin, so taking a few weeks off didn't bother me."

Brousseau said his staff started asking about whether there was something their workplace could do to help people during the pandemic.

"We couldn't make masks, we don't make clothing," he said. "But this was something we could do for the health-care people, the health-care heroes."

Dozens of cars lined up at Super Lube on McPhillips Street for a free oil change on Saturday morning. Owner Jim Brousseau said his shops have done about 4,000 free oil changes for health-care workers this week. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Almost every single one of Super Lube's approximately 100 employees offered to come to work for free, Brousseau said.

"They all came back and volunteered a whole week of their time," he said. "I was absolutely amazed."

Brousseau said his employees, along with a generous price from their oil supplier, have allowed Super Lube to do about 4,000 free oil changes for health-care workers since last Saturday.

The shops will reopen to all customers starting Monday, he said.

For health-care aide Marianne Lywak, who waited around two hours for her oil change at the McPhillips Street location on Saturday morning, the gesture went a long way.

"It just goes to show that appreciation is there in some way," she said."It's a long wait, but it's worth it."

Health-care aide Marianne Lywak said the nearly two-hour wait to get a free oil change on Saturday was worth it. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Tommy Lloyd also showed up for a free oil change on Saturday.

"I decided, you know, why not take advantage of that?" he said. "Every day we go to work, and we're putting ourselves in harm's way of possibly catching the virus."

Tommy Lloyd said it was nice to be recognized for putting himself at risk of catching COVID-19 when he goes to work. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Chris Medland, the manager of the Super Lube on McPhillips, said his shop of 15 employees has been getting great feedback. 

He said for the past week, about three-quarters of their customers have been health-care workers — some of whom have shown their gratitude with free coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches for the technicians.

Medland said the shop has been getting upwards of 70 customers every day for the past week — a record they were hoping to shatter Saturday.

"[We want] to show our support for all of the health-care workers [working] so hard to keep us safe," he said.

"While I was at home relaxing, they were out battling this. I appreciate everything that they're doing for us."


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