Group provides support, care packages for truck drivers

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In March, some chain truck stops across the U.S. temporarily closed, leaving truckers that haul freight across North America without a crucial resource for bathroom breaks, showers and other services. Some Blaine residents took notice of the social media posts and news stories that followed and found ways to help.

“I saw that and just thought, oh my gosh, we have the truck crossing right here and obviously we have truckers going through our community every day,” said Blaine resident Rikki Lazenby (no relation to the reporter). “It would be great to be of service to them in some way.”

Lazenby reached out to a local community group and helped to start a support group for truckers during the coronavirus pandemic. Though most truck stops have reopened, closures related to the virus still make life challenging for those doing the essential work of moving freight. The Keep ‘Em Rolling initiative, part of BBSP (Blaine, Birch Bay, Semiahmoo, Point Roberts) Covid-19 Community Helpers, puts together care packages and organizes other resources for truckers passing through Blaine and Whatcom County.

The group has given out pizza, coffee, water and care packages at Yorky’s Market and at other local businesses, posted signs at rest stops throughout Whatcom and Skagit counties with the group’s contact information, and posted lists of truck-accessible restaurants as well as restaurants that will deliver to truckers.

“They’re facing challenges out on the road. We’re just trying to make sure that when they come out into our neck of the woods that they know we have resources for them,” Lazenby said.

Truck drivers are gracious recipients. The group is thanked constantly when handing out care packages.

“They were really sweet, they kept trying to give us money,” Lazenby said after handing out care packages at Yorky’s. “We told them, ‘This is a gift for you. We want to thank you,’ and they kept thanking us back.”

Marion and Dennis Louthan, Birch Bay residents and truck drivers, typically spend anywhere from a few days to two weeks on the road in their Kenworth, towing a 53-foot trailer. In between trips, they’ll spend a day or two at home before hitting the road again.

They have a microwave, fridge and coffee maker in the truck and keep it stocked with soup and coffee and are generally self-reliant, Marion Louthan said. They get fuel and shower at truck stop chains, and life on the road isn’t that much different than before the pandemic, she said, though items like disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are now almost impossible to find.

Marion Louthan got involved with BBSP Covid-19 helpers after she reached out to the group for hand sanitizer and Lazenby got her some. She’s since helped the group with other projects, including packaging and distributing cat food for those in need.

Though Louthan said life on the road is not currently much different than before the pandemic, truckers appreciate the care packages and the recognition that what they do is essential.

“Truck drivers have never gotten the respect,” she said at a rest stop, on the way to Nevada with a load of agricultural equipment. “People have ideas about truck drivers, that they’re lower class and all that, but I think that mentality is changing.”

Learn more or contact the group at facebook.com/groups/blaineareacovid19helpers.

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