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News - Poppy Campaign - 7 Nov 2018

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Poppy Campaign: 7 Nov 2018
GRT workers come together to cover the cost of Remembrance Day buses for veterans

Grand River Transit driver Michael Hogue, left, and Royal Canadian Air Force Association and Royal Canadian Legion member Sid Kenmir. Hogue raised enough money to cover the cost of the buses which run a loop between all six of the local legions and veteran service clubs. The loop was originally implemented by Kenmir to prevent drinking and driving. - Peter Lee , Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO REGION When bus driver Michael Hogue heard local veterans clubs were struggling to afford chartering two Grand River Transit buses needed for Remembrance Day, he reached out to his colleagues for help.

"We got to do something," said Hogue, who for years has driven one of the Remembrance Day charters.

Since 1984, local legions and veterans service clubs in Kitchener and Waterloo have pooled resources to charter buses to take veterans and their friends and family to Remembrance Day ceremonies and then to the open houses at the clubs.

So Hogue started a collection. He reached out to operators, mechanics, service attendants, retired employees and others, asking if they would give what they could in hopes of funding the two city buses needed.

"They gave hard," Hogue said of his co-workers. "They gave basically what was in their wallet at the time when I asked them."

All together, they raised $2,650 enough to cover the cost of the two buses and then some. The cheque was handed to the Kitchener-Waterloo Veterans Council in the spring. Six legions and veterans clubs in the two cities belong to the council.

"We were flabbergasted at first," said Sid Kenmir, 85, who heads up the council. "It's like Santa Claus came and did a real good one."

It was Kenmir's decision decades ago to get the bus charters for the veterans as a means to prevent drinking and driving.

After the cenotaph ceremonies on Nov. 11, the buses run a loop between all six of the local legions and veteran service clubs, such as the Royal Canadian Air Force Association. Each club hosts an open house with food and drink.

Kenmir said veterans get the chance to hop from club to club and meet up with friends they haven't seen in a while.

"They mourn the dead in the morning and celebrate the living in the afternoon," said Kenmir.

While the legion also rents two school buses at a much lesser cost this year, the school buses were provided to the veterans for free he said they are intended to move the "young and the agile."

The city buses, which cost about $125 an hour, are more suitable for those who have mobility challenges, explained Kenmir. But it has become increasingly difficult for the local legions to afford the cost of bus charters due to a dwindling membership.

"When I joined the Air Force club everybody was a Second World War veteran," he said. "They're just about all gone and there's nobody replacing them."

Kenmir said he is grateful to Hogue and his co-workers for their donation., Twitter: @BoothRecord

Laura Booth Waterloo Region Record/AA

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