Friday, September 5, 2014

TESTing Our Compassion

Portland skyline one stormy afternoon.                                                                                Photo by Katy Philp           
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It's rare to find people who actually care enough about others to do something. This week, I met such a person in Mike Luce. I know his son, and have both father and son as FaceBook friends, but had never met the former.

Mike Luce created TEST (Transit Employee Support Team) to help transit employees who are either injured or fighting a disease, and are unable to work. Spending thousands of dollars of his own money, he made his vision into reality in the form of a non-profit organization. Affiliated with United Way, TEST offers local transit employees the chance to contribute via paycheck deduction or cash donations. It has also partnered with Fred Meyer and other businesses so that a portion of each purchase by a registered participant goes to TEST.

In the past year, its notable achievements include providing financial support to a few of our own operators battling life-threatening diseases. It has also helped another who is recovering from injuries sustained in a horrible motorcycle accident last winter.

While TEST focuses on Portland transit employees, anybody can donate. We've had drivers stabbed, beat up and even threatened at gunpoint the past few years. These incidents are quite traumatic, often physically debilitating, for the victims. It is refreshing to know there is a group created by, and for the benefit of, Portland transit workers.

This is certainly worthwhile. Who among us hasn't asked "What if" when driving people of unknown emotional states? I shudder at the thought of my family trying to make ends meet if something catastrophic happened to me. So little as it may be, I am setting up a payroll deduction contribution.

The other day, I was speaking with a nice gentleman who happened to be standing with the younger Michael. We were discussing TEST, and he asked what I knew of it.

"Well," I stammered, quite off-guard, "not much except it was started by Mike Luce, Sr. and it's designed to help employees in need."

Having seen the cool hats sporting the TEST logo, the ads on some of our buses, and talk around the bullpen, I had made a "note to self" to find out more. Eventually. You know how that goes... life gets in the way and six months blow by. A minute later, Mike's son reminded his father he needed to get to his road relief, and realization struck me like a bus wheel bouncing off a streetcar platform. This guy was Michael's father! Another note to self: DUH.

While it was a tad embarassing, it was nice to meet this man whose dream has helped  his fellow operators in need.

Thanks Mike, for dedicating a large portion of your savings to creating this wonderful organization. May more of us donate with the same spirit of comradery, so that your devotion pays homage to the fact we are all family.
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For more information, please visit www.ourtest.org, and like the TEST FaceBook page.

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