Volunteer OC Transpo drivers liken WC flood zone to war zone

Special to WC Online

WEST CARLETON – Over his 17-plus years as an OC Transpo supervisor, Kevin Holmes has always operated on the value of supporting and motivating drivers. But his week on duty to handle the routing of the volunteer shuttles, Holmes saw how community spirit and civic duty motivated drivers to help with flood response.

Holmes was directing the five ParaTranspo buses that transported volunteers in the West Carleton region from the Dunrobin Community Centre to Constance Bay, Fitzroy Harbour, and Armitage.

The majority of the drivers volunteered to handle these 12-hour shifts. However, they never imagined the magnitude of the devastation of flood waters until they drove right into the flood zones.

“They couldn’t believe it,” said Holmes. “All the drivers compared their initial drive as travelling into a war zone.”

The drivers were taken aback. However, they coped with the bleak drive due to the spirit of the volunteers who they drove to the sites each day. The drivers and volunteers formed a real bond and kept each other in high spirits.

Holmes commented that the drivers were highly motivated. He said that they felt that this was more than just a regular shift; that they were making a difference in the lives of people who were battling to keep their homes and protect their families. On one day, the five ParaTranspo buses transported 1,000 volunteers by 4:15 pm.

Holmes and the drivers were also amazed by the efforts and dedication of the volunteers. Holmes saw people in their 60s and 70s going out to volunteer four days straight.

“At the start of the day, the volunteers were happy and enthusiastic,” recalled Holmes. “But at the end of day, you can see in their faces how tired they were. However, as soon as a city staff member on-site said thank you, the tired face quickly lit up and transformed into a huge smile. The city departments, along with the military, really came together to help respond to the flooding. It was really great to see.”

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