For nearly every year since its inception, Randy Braaten has been a familiar face behind the wheel as part of Operation Red Nose.
Both Braaten and the annual ride service are back in Prince Albert for another year, as volunteers and Prince Albert Lions Club members look to get as many people possible home safely starting on Nov. 30.
This year, Braaten takes over as chairman of the operation. He said more and more people are hearing about the service every December, and he’s eager to answer the call once again
“The people are so appreciative of (Operation Red Nose) getting themselves and their vehicles home safe at night, especially in some of the colder winters we worked,” Braaten said during an interview on Thursday. “One guy said, if they had to leave their vehicle in the parking lot then they’d need a tow truck and a boost and everything else. We get them home safe and we make sure they get in their front door.”
Sometimes that last part can be the trickiest. Braaten said he’s occasionally had to help riders get into their own residence because they’re so inebriated. Still, he’d rather help them with simple tasks than see them try and drive themselves home.
He also said people are becoming more and more comfortable with using the service, which is entering its seventh year of operation in Prince Albert.
“People are spreading the word around and the promotion of it makes people more aware,” Braaten explained. “I think people are getting a little more cautious too about making sure they get home safe.”
In fact, demand has increased so quickly that there sometimes aren’t enough drivers to meet demand. That’s especially true on New Years Eve, which is typically the busiest, and latest, night of the holiday season.
“It gets disappointing because we have to turn riders down because we don’t have enough volunteers,” Braaten said. “New Years Eve, we tend to run a lot later because it’s mostly house parties instead of bars and things like that.”
For the Prince Albert Lions Club, which oversees the operation, Operation Red Nose isn’t just about getting people home safe, although it is the most important part. The organization asks for donations in exchange for driving residents and their vehicles home, and in past years they’ve raised as much as $6,000 over the holiday season. The Lions then use the money to help fund various programs at different Prince Albert schools.
Operation Red Nose is in service every Friday and Saturday night in the month of December, as well as New Years Eve. Users can visit www.operationrednose.com or use the organization’s new mobile app to see the operating hours. To request a ride, call 306-763-6673.
Volunteer application forms can be found online, or by phoning 306-763-7434 or 306-764-3632.
Prince Albert is one of five Saskatchewan communities taking part in the Operation Red Nose campaign. The campaign first began in 1984 and has since expanded to 102 communities across seven provinces.