With the holiday party season fast approaching, Operation Rd Nose Thompson launched its 2019 campaign Nov. 15 at its headquarters in the YWCA.
The service offers people who have been drinking the opportunity for volunteers to drive them and their car home. It is free of charge but donations are accepted.
“We need volunteers to make this work,” said Operation Red Nose Thompson committee president Dan Colosie, with positions available including drivers, navigators, escorts and dispatchers, as well as people to perform other tasks like getting food donations from local restaurants and gas card donations for volunteer drivers. “All that stuff takes a great deal of planning and effort.”
The service will operate for 11 nights this year, including Nov. 29-30, all four Friday and Saturday nights in December, as well as New Year’s Eve.
Thompson RCMP Const. Sandy Deibert says there is still too much impaired driving in Thompson and that she welcomes Operation Red Nose providing another safe option for people who have been drinking to get home with their vehicles.
“This is an initiative that’s so important to our community,” said Deibert, who will be a volunteer driver at least one night this year. “I do not want to see two, three impaireds per week … like we have been.”
Gig Birch of MPI said not getting behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs can save you a lot of headaches down the road compared to doing it and getting caught.
“We have pretty huge penalties for impaired driving,” said Birch. “Call your friends, call a taxi, call Operation Red Nose.”
Mayor Colleen Smook, who has been a volunteer driver in the past, said the service has really caught on during the 20 years it’s been in Thompson and heading into its 21st.
“You go into a social at night and you’ve got them booking rides with you,” she said. “The fact that we’re still getting a couple of impaireds a week in Thompson, that is a shame. I think you guys have all helped to bring this down.”
The YWCA stepped up to serve as the headquarters for the program last year and it worked out well, said YWCA executive director Kim Hickes.
“It’s about giving back to the community,” she said. “The community does support the Y very well.”
And while the YWCA isn’t directly involved with youth programming, which is where donations to Operation Red Nose go, it is important.
“It’s very much needed in the community,” Hickes said.
Last year, 146 Operation Red Nose volunteers gave 339 rides over nine nights of service and received $6,155 in donations. The Thompson program was fourth in the province in the number of rides provided, fifth in total donations and had the sixth-most volunteers.
Operation Red Nose has been in Manitoba for 25 years after being started in Quebec 31 years ago. This year, there are 11 communities offering the service, including Brandon, Flin Flon, Gimli, Portage la Prairie, La Broquerie/Steinbach, Saint-Malo, Selkirk, Shilo, The Pas and Winnipeg.
For more information about how to volunteer for Operation Red Nose, visit their Facebook page. To book a ride with Operation Red Nose on the nights when it is offered, call 204-778-8111.