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Stranded travellers seek refuge at egg farm

Much of Canada has been following the stories this week of hundreds of drivers stranded along a particularly trecherous stretch of highway in southern Ontario. Kudos to these egg farmers for taking the lead on helping some of those motorists and thanks to the Toronto Star for covering such a touching story! - OFAC

Stranded travellers seek refuge at egg farm

December 15, 2020 Toronto Star - http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/907199-stranded-travellers-seek-refuge-at-egg-farm?bn=1

Debra Black

 The storm started Sunday night and it didn’t seem all that bad to Heather Helps, a 50-year-old egg farmer near Reeces Corners, Ont.

“We farm and so we have a snow day with the kids and that’s fine,” she told the Star.

But suddenly Monday the storm became severe. The Ontario Provincial Police shut down the nearby highways, and paralyzing winds and snow left more than 360 travellers stranded in their cars.

“We’ve never had bad weather like this. I don’t ever remember it being this bad,” she said.

The Helps’ 17-hectare egg farm — as well as dozens of others —fronts onto London Line, or Highway 22. It was there on Monday afternoon when Helps saw the first collateral damage from the storm: a cube van was stuck in the middle of the road and beside it was a very cold young man.

That driver, Ryan Thomas, became her “first wayward traveller,” joining her husband, Scott, and their two boys in their home Monday afternoon. By 6 p.m., Thomas was joined by Ron Knapper, a mechanic who also got stuck in his truck down the road from the Helps’ farm. He was sent there by neighbours.

The two men joined the Helps’ family for supper. They watched television, visited and then went to bed, expecting to leave in the morning.

But on Tuesday, the storm was still blowing. At about 7:30 a.m., Scott Helps went out to clear his laneway, hoping a feed delivery for his chickens would make it in.

To his amazement, the road was dotted with people in cars and trucks. They had spent the night, sleeping in their vehicles.

“They saw him [Scott] shovelling and removing snow,” explained Heather Helps. And they came flocking to the Helps’ front door.

“They didn’t realize the house was there” on Monday night because the snow was blowing so badly, she explained.

One by one they came, including Dave Parks, a 43-year-old truck driver, fellow trucker Sylvain Brisebois, 40; Paul Belonga, a 53-year-old vice-president for the Michigan-based McLaren Health Systems; Matei Lega, a 70-year-old Torontonian and director of engineering for a waste management firm and a retired couple from nearby London, Erika and Rainer Palme.

They all arrived at her door “cold” but grateful to have found shelter from the storm.

Belonga had spent Monday night in his car, sleeping for two hours and then waking up and turning on the engine to heat the car up. He had been on his way to work when he got caught in the storm. Fortunately, he had a pillow, some extra clothing, a blanket and some food.

But when he woke Tuesday morning and saw the Helps farm, he felt blessed. “This was a godsend,” he said. “It was like waking up on Christmas morning and the presents were there.”

By day’s end Tuesday there were about 10 stranded travellers staying with the family. It didn’t phase Heather Helps at all. “I just made a pot of soup and they’ve been having coffee,” she said.

And, of course, if she runs out of food, well, there are always eggs — lots of eggs.

The strangers passed their time talking about their lives, their families, eating. Some had never been on an egg farm before and helped with the chores; others did dishes. By the end of the day they all felt like family.

“We’ve told a lot of stories, talked about sports, taxes, everything,” said Belonga. “This has been as much fun as one could have in somebody else’s house that you don’t know at all.”

“You can’t ask for too much in these crazy circumstances,” said Parks. “It has been a fun get together. We’re being very patient and having a good time. Everyone is happy, cheerful. No one is mad . . . I should be in Chicago by now. But due to weather and circumstances you have to make due with what you have.”

“I’m enjoying the day,” said Lega. “They’re all very nice people. We’re making the best of this not very nice incident.”

Erika Palme, who along with her husband missed a flight to Germany because of the storm, couldn’t agree more. “The people are absolutely tremendous. You couldn’t ask for better accommodation.”

With files from Lesley Ciarula Taylor


Posted by FFC on December 15th, 2010 :: Filed under Canada,Education and public awareness,eggs,Farm life
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