Operation Red Nose looking for Ladysmith volunteers

The designated driver services kicks off this weekend, and volunteers are needed for a variety of jobs.

As it gets ready to launch its 18th year of operation out of Nanaimo, Operation Red Nose is actively looking for volunteers in our area to keep the roads safe this holiday season.

Operation Red Nose, which was formed in Quebec City in 1984, is a designated driver service provided during the holidays to individuals who do not feel fit to drive for whatever reason. The service is completely free — although donations are always happily welcomed — and it is a safe, confidential way of getting you, your passengers and your car come home at the end of the night by allowing a team of volunteers to do the driving for you. All proceeds are directed to local Operation Red Nose host PacificSport, which introduces children to athletics activity and supports elite athletes.

Don Allan, the co-ordinator of Operation Red Nose Nanaimo, expects this to be another busy year.

“We’re in full gear right now, signing up volunteers and corporate sponsors and getting pubs and restaurants involved,” he said. “We’re always looking for more volunteers, especially as we run later into the season.”

Allan says they usually need about 150 volunteers in the Nanaimo area.

Across the country, Operation Red Nose provided more than 700 rides and got more than 1,500 people home safely last year.

“We’d like to close in on 1,000 rides and 2,000 people this year,” said Allan. “The program has been very well received by the public and the business community. It’s been extremely successful, and it’s a great fundraiser for us. It gets us out in the community and gets us doing something very positive.”

Operation Red Nose provides an alternative to drinking and driving, and Allan says a lot of volunteers get involved because they want to keep the roads safe.

“A lot of volunteers have personal connections,” he explained. “I’ve spoke to a few who have been impacted negatively by drinking and driving, so it’s very personal. We have people who have volunteered for 15 years who come back every year. It’s a lot of fun.”

Allan says Operation Red Nose has some Ladysmith volunteers, and they’d love to see more.

“Next year, we’re looking at expanding farther south, so Ladysmith will become an even more important location for us,” said Allan.

Volunteers must complete a criminal record check, and they are offered by the Ladysmith RCMP free of charge.

Volunteers work in teams of three — an escort driver, a navigator and a designated driver. When they arrive at a location, the navigator and designated driver will drive the patron’s car home, and the escort driver will follow them. When they drop the patron off, they drive back to the headquarters in Nanaimo.

“If people don’t want to drive or they don’t feel comfortable driving, there are other things they can be doing,” said Allan.

Volunteers are also needed to answer phones at the headquarters. The headquarters is set up with coffee and refreshments, and restaurants donate food to keep the volunteers nourished.

Allan says Operation Red Nose is slower during November, but as they move closer to Christmas and New Year’s, it gets very busy.

Operation Red Nose runs Nov. 29 and 30 and then Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29 and 31 from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Pick-up and drop-off services are available anywhere from Lantzville to Ladysmith, and rides can be arranged by calling 250-755-6969.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact Allan at 250-740-6572 or Volunteer forms can be downloaded here.