Nova Scotia

'They need me': N.S. woman giving free meals to truckers amid COVID-19 closures

A woman who runs the restaurant at a truck stop outside of Masstown, N.S., is giving away free meals to any truck driver who comes by.

Restaurant is closed to the public but open for truckers to eat, shower free of charge

Crystal Blair closed her truck stop restaurant to the general public, but keeps it open to serve free meals to truck drivers. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

A Nova Scotia woman is serving up free meals to truck drivers at a time when COVID-19 has made for few options for food on the road.

Crystal Blair runs the restaurant at the Glenholme Loop Petro Pass near Masstown, N.S. She planned to close up shop entirely last week, but changed her mind after seeing truck drivers posting on social media about closed bathrooms and restaurants at truck stops.

"I just went into a panic. I was like, 'I can't do this to them, they need me,'" she said.

The restaurant is closed to the general public, but is open for truck drivers to have a meal, use the bathroom and take a shower. Blair sent her staff home as a precaution for them and customers.

At first she was selling meals to truck drivers at a discount, but after posting about it on social media the response was quick.

Donations of food and money started pouring in from the community. After just one day, she had enough to offset her costs and give out the meals for free.

The inside of Blair's restaurant is full of food donations from the community, which make it possible for her to provide meals for free. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Since she started giving out meals more than a week ago, Blair said she's had calls from owners of trucking companies, thanking her for what she's doing.

"Some of them cry on the phone, they get so emotional over this," she said.

Wayne Whiffen is one of the truck drivers who stopped at Blair's shop for a hot meal before heading on a two-day trip to Ontario.

"It's nice what she's doing here, to be able to support us like that. It shows a lot of gratitude, and we're very thankful for it," he said.

Wayne Whiffen said he appreciates what Blair is doing. (Submitted by Wayne Whiffen)

Whiffen has a fiancée and three young children at home in Cape Breton. He said they worry about him getting sick on the road or whether he'll be allowed to come back home, because sometimes his work takes him across the U.S. border.

In Nova Scotia, people returning from outside the province are required to self-isolate for 14 days, but truck drivers are exempt because commercial trucking is considered an essential service.

Trucking is a lonely life under normal circumstances, but Whiffen said it's been harder since the pandemic hit because some truck stops are refusing to let drivers in since they've been travelling.

"You get out of your truck just to go into the restaurant, just to be able to move around and socialize with people, and now you can't do that," Whiffen said.

But the parking lot at Blair's restaurant has been fuller than usual lately, and she said if the donations keep coming, she'll keep handing out free meals.

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