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Truck stop taxi driver looks out for truckers

January 13, 2006|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Knowing what it's like to be homeless, hungry and in need of a helping hand, Brian Platt reaches out to anyone in need.

Platt, 40, known to truckers as "Pooh Bear," provides free roadside assistance to motorists, free rides in his 1986 Ford Ranger pickup for truckers who need to go into town or to a hospital, and a meal for anyone in need who comes to the Travel Centers of America truck stop at Pa. 16 and Interstate 81.

Platt said he drives truck drivers to Wal-Mart, drug stores, Food Lion, Family Dollar or wherever they need to go. Some tip him, others don't, and either is fine with him.

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A truck driver himself for 20 years, Platt says "every American should spend a week inside a big rig with a trucker to see the stress he has. It's a hard life.

"This country treats the average trucker like trash. Many don't make enough (money) to survive. Some of them live in the truck. Others have families" and the expenses that entails. "And they're eating at truck stops 90 percent of the time, which runs into money."

Sometimes truckers will stand outside the truck stop trying to sell CB radios or other equipment so they can buy food, Platt said, and he buys a meal for them. Sometimes he buys coffee for four or five truckers at the counter, just as a way of saying thank you to them, he said.

Originally from the Florida Everglades, Platt said he walked out of his parents' home at age 15. He met his future wife, Felicia, when he was 19.

He said they were homeless and hitchhiking one day when Greencastle residents Barry and Ruth Keefer picked them up.

"They took us in, gave us a place to live for a month, and we got jobs. I never stole and I never bummed when I was homeless. I got jobs. I loaded and unloaded trucks across the country."

Now the pastoral couple at Upton Full Gospel Church, the Keefers are godparents to the Platts' children, Christine, 19, and Christopher, 17.

Some of the waitresses tell Platt he goes overboard with helping people.

"One guy sat in here all day. He knew Pooh Bear would buy everything for him. He was taking advantage," waitress Kelli Fordyce said.

"Not everyone is a rip-off," Platt responds. "If you get that one person who really needs it, it's worth it. We have to take care of each other."

Platt, who works part time at Farberware in the Prime Outlets in Hagerstown, estimates that he helps 10 to 15 people per week, more when it's snowing.

"I don't push religion on anyone. I had enough of that when I was homeless. If someone asks, I tell them (what I believe)."

Modest and self-effacing, Platt adds, "I'm not a good Christian. I smoke, I lose my temper. I'm nothing like Christ. I'm a born-again believer struggling to be a Christian."

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