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Good Samaritans offering free boosts

Warming hearts amid deep-freeze

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Steve Genaille's car is running all day due to his job as a courier.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Steve Genaille's car is running all day due to his job as a courier. Photo Store

Just when you thought everything was frozen solid, here are some folks who will warm your heart.

At no charge, or for a nominal fee and responding faster than CAA or other companies, there are people boosting batteries for those in a bind.

They're getting the word out with advertisements on Kijiji, a website where you can place free ads for buying or selling items or offering services. Go to winnipeg.kijiji.ca, go to 'services' and click on 'other.'

When you see the ad for "Free Boost," that's Curtis Holmes and it's true. No charge, no catch.

"A couple of my friends, around Christmas, couldn't get their cars going and needed to do some running around to do shopping for their kids and stuff. Since then, the response has been just great," said Holmes, 42, who uses a portable battery charger he bought recently for $600 just for this purpose. He has provided more than 50 boosts since posting his ad about two weeks ago.

"I helped one lady last night, a single mother. She called me after and really thanked me. She had to run her kid to the hospital right after I left and she was able to do that, so that felt really good," said Holmes, a maintenance technician who boosts batteries in evenings after work.

"I don't feel comfortable taking money from people. Mom taught me well. The expressions and how grateful people are, it's pretty much why I keep on doing it."

On Monday, CAA was behind by about 24 hours on calls for assistance. Holmes said one person told him the wait for assistance from another company was 10 hours and Holmes was able to get to that call in about 30 minutes.

Steve Genaille, 44, has two jobs but found time to help his neighbours free of charge on Tuesday. Earlier this week, he posted his ad on Kijiji as "Booster Man" for $20 per vehicle.

A dad of five children aged six months to 12 years, Genaille is the caretaker of an apartment building and drives a courier van for his wife's 4Directions Courier company. He uses the van to boost the batteries as it is running all day while he does deliveries and he has been able to assist people in less than an hour.

"I figured tow trucks are behind and there's a lot of people who need help," said Genaille, who has boosted about a dozen vehicles since posting his ad earlier this week. "I told the people I gave a boost to, if stuff ever happens to me, return the favour. If it happens to someone else, help them out. That's the way it goes. You get it back."

Kent Brown, a 23-year-old dad of two children aged one and three, posted his ad "Offering car boosts. $20 per vehicle" about two months ago when his work as a self-employed general contractor slowed down. He uses a portable battery charger he carries in the trunk of his car.

'The expressions and how grateful people are, it's pretty much why I keep on doing it'

-- free boost operator Curtis Holmes

"With CAA being so far behind, there's so many crashes and stuff, and being after Christmas, not everyone has a lot of money, so I wanted to keep it affordable," Brown said, noting he was out in the recent -50 wind chill. "I was running out of cash so this was one way I could help some people out and make a bit of money."

He helped one woman recently who said her car, purchased just two months ago, was "a block of ice." When he arrived, she said she hadn't been able to plug the car in because it didn't come with a block heater.

"That didn't sound right so I searched around the engine, I found the block-heater cord for her and pulled it through. I hope I saved her a bunch of money," said Brown, who assisted another woman this week while driving his wife to work.

Another young Winnipegger, Stacy Huen, had posted his offer for boosting services on Reddit Winnipeg for about two weeks during Christmas and New Year's and boosted the batteries of two strangers, as well as some friends for no charge.

"I was just doing it to help people out. When they offered money, I just told them to pay it forward," said Huen, 24, a sales representative with Shaw.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 A5

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