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  • Taking Care of Truckers – an Interview with Crystal Blair from Angel's Diner

    September 5-11 is National Trucking Week in Canada. During this week, we take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the 400,000 men and women in the trucking industry who keep Canada's freight and economy moving. Over the last 18 months, the importance of those who live their lives on the road – whether delivering food, medical supplies or toilet paper – certainly came into sharp relief.

    But in the early days of COVID-19, a lot of truckers were without support, even while supporting us. Many truck stops were closed, as were other businesses that truckers relied on for essentials.

    But in Glenholme, Nova Scotia, the Glenholme Loop Petro-Pass and restaurant stayed open. Not only was it open, but Crystal Blair (the owner who is affectionately called "Angel" by the truckers who pass through her stop) provided meals, free of charge, to any trucker who needed it.

    Crystal at Angel's Diner

    I sat down with Crystal to hear about how things were at her truck stop during the first wave of COVID-19 and how she and her truckers are doing now.

    PumpTalk: What were things like in the first few weeks of the pandemic?

    Crystal: It was a very confusing time. People said I should close my restaurant, but when I was on social media, I saw that so many places were closed and truckers, who live on the road, couldn’t get a meal or find facilities – I knew I had to do something.

    I didn’t want to put my staff at risk, so I didn’t ask them to come in. I figured out what I could do by myself, which was open up the showers and provide breakfast sandwiches, just for truckers, on a strictly take-out basis. I was often the only place open for hundreds of miles.

    PT: And you provided the meals free of charge?

    Crystal: Yes. Though several truckers did put in a contribution – I had a bucket on the counter. As soon as the community heard about what I was doing, they really rallied around the truckers. Donations came in – people starting sending them so that I could keep providing free meals and staying open. And food donations were sent from places like local produce companies and other businesses.

    PT: How did truckers respond?

    Crystal: Every trucker who came in was so kind and appreciative. Soon I had truckers coming in that I didn’t even know – they’d just heard of me from one of their buddies on the road. Even these days, I’ll occasionally have a driver come in and ask, “Are you Angel?”

    A wonderful surprise from the truckers came later in the year when they started the Angel Diner's Chicken Light Cruise. It’s a fundraiser for the local community that they started in my honour. Last year, we donated money to families of the victims of the tragic Nova Scotia shootings. This year, the Cruise was held actually just a couple of weekends ago; we raised funds for Cystic Fibrosis – one of my customers has CF. Each year we plan to raise funds for a different cause.

    PT: Now that it’s been about 18 months since the first wave of the pandemic, how are things different?

    Crystal: Well, we’re open again to the general public – both take-out and eat in – with proper distancing. Still seeing lots of truckers, of course. The diner’s Facebook page isn’t quite as busy – I used to get 100s of messages a day. But I still post there. A lot of people found it to be place where they could get hopeful and positive messages during a time of isolation.

    PT: And how are your truckers?

    Crystal: So many of them are still isolating from their families, wanting to keep them safe. Places may be opening up, but truckers are cautious and concerned. They’re such a kind and loyal bunch. And most of them are family men and I know their wives quite well. One of them had a birthday recently and her favourite dessert is coconut crème pie – so I sent one to her for her birthday.

    PT: Speaking of pie, I’ve seen on your Facebook page that your desserts often sell out, especially your blueberry cheesecake parfait! Any other trucker favourites?

    Crystal: Fish and chips is popular. Big burgers. Any of my homemade specials, really.

    PT: It’s been 18 months and we’re certainly not out of the woods entirely vis a vis the pandemic. But you’ve remained so positive. What are some of the best moments from the past year or so?

    Crystal: It’s been so inspiring to see how the community has come together. The community helped feed all our truck drivers for free for over 3 months - so amazing! And now the truckers are giving back to the community with events like the Chicken Light Cruise. It’s been really wonderful to see.

    ~ | ~

    Crystal, thank you so much for sharing your story and for taking care of truckers during a very difficult time! Make sure you stop by Crystal’s Facebook page and leave a friendly hello.

    ~Kate T.


    Celebrating International Dog Day with Joe and his Petro Pals

    It seems like I’ve always had a dog in my life. Honeybear, the fluffy and gregarious Old English sheepdog, dominated my childhood. An incorrigible black lab puppy named Lucy ruined several of my university textbooks. And four Sharpeis (not all at once!) have blessed my adult years. The most current is Pumbaa – she’s a sweet one-eyed girl adopted from Korea. Look at that face!

    Smiling dog, Pumbaa

    August 26th is International Dog Day – a holiday first celebrated by American Colleen Paige in 2004 to draw attention to the number of dogs in shelters. It has grown in popularity and is now celebrated across the world. I thought today would be a fitting day to introduce Joe Rustad and his @Petro_Pals account on Instagram.

    Joe is the site manager at the full-serve Petro-Canada station located on Lakeshore Road in Kelowna, BC. When you’re working full-serve, you interact with customers a fair bit, including the furry-faced customer peering out at you from the window of the vehicle.

    Joe Rustad and his @Petro_Pals Instagram account

    Joe noted that the station has always been a treat-friendly place for dogs and he just ramped that up a bit when he started taking selfies with the dogs. The customers asked Joe to post them online and, voila, @Petro_Pals was born.

    Joe doesn’t currently have any canine companions: his Mastiff/Ridgeback/Pittbull cross, Buddy, passed away from cancer and his black lab/Rottweiler cross, Keena, passed away a few years ago – she was 14. Taking the selfies is a way to have interaction with dogs. Joe believes that “Dogs are the gateway to a happy life.”

    The account is popular with customers and employees alike – there’s even been a little family rivalry to see whose pup takes the best selfie. Some customers stop by just to get their dog’s picture taken. It’s easy to understand why - who wouldn’t love seeing a pic of their happy pet with a friendly fellow like Joe?!

    We’re featuring more of Joe’s Petro Pals over on Petro-Canada’s Instagram account today. Check them out and be sure to give the @Petro_Pals account a follow for more cute pics of pups.

    ~Kate T.


    Tuning in to Watch Our FACE? Athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

    The Olympic Games are the ultimate sporting event – bringing the world together to watch athletes put it all on the line. But that's only half the story of our country’s incredible athletes. I’m here to tell you if you aren’t watching the Paralympic Games – you’re missing out on seeing some of the best competitors in the world. Too often, they take a backseat to the Olympic Games but anyone who has watched the Paralympic Games knows exactly why they deserve their own spotlight.

    Wheelchair Basketball Players

    I’ve played basketball my whole life – I’ve always been on the taller side and can shoot a mean free throw. I’ve also followed professional basketball and occasionally caught a match or two in the Olympic Games, but I remember what blew me away were the wheelchair basketball events at the Paralympic Games. Even as a younger athlete, I knew that what they were doing took incredible skill; it was so exciting to watch! It’s some of the best hoops competition I can remember seeing, and I still hope to catch it live one day!

    The Paralympic Games show what can happen when people dedicate themselves to their passion and push boundaries. A perfect example is wheelchair basketball star, Bo Hedges. He’s the captain of this year’s Canadian team and won a Gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He credits the words from his coach, Joe Higgins – “Practice with purpose” – to remind him of all that he’s achieved and the drive that got him where he is. You can watch an interview with Bo on the playlist below.

    Petro-Canada is proud to support Canadian athletes striving to represent Canada in the Paralympic or Olympic Games but who don’t yet qualify for government funding through our FACE?, or Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence, program. Every year, we select 55 up-and-coming athletes and their coaches from across Canada to receive a FACE grant.

    This year we are thrilled to have 24 FACE athletes competing in Tokyo in sports from Boccia to Wheelchair Rugby, including Olivia Meier who will be the first Canadian to compete in Para badminton – a sport making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games! You can see the full complement of FACE athletes competing in Tokyo over on our Facebook page.

    The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will run from Aug. 24 – Sept. 5, and it’s easier than ever to catch all the action. You can watch live coverage on CBC/Radio-Canada or CBC Gem online as well as catch competitions on the Canadian Paralympic Team’s Twitter Account and Facebook Page. Make sure you tune in to cheer on the Canadian Paralympic Team!

    ~Allison D.