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Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Home News Operation Red Nose returns after hiatus looking for community volunteers

Operation Red Nose returns after hiatus looking for community volunteers

Operation Red Nose returns after hiatus looking for community volunteers
(L to R) John Alexandersen, Randy Braaten, Lynn Braaten and Garry Beaudry of Operation Red Nose pose in front of their tracking board from 2019 at their press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Lions Club Room. -- Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Lions Club announced on Wednesday that they will once again host Operation Red Nose for an 11th year in Prince Albert. 

The program did not operate in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID-19. Lions Club member Randy Braaten said they were excited to be back.

“Well we got caught up on a lot of sleep over the last two years so we should be able to really go good this year,” Braaten said during the Operation Red Nose kickoff at the Lions Club Room in Prince Albert. “We had a training run during the Optimist gala, giving a safe ride home for that. We are trained up.”

Operation Red Nose is an annual December campaign intended to reduce impaired driving.  It provides free volunteer-based designated driver service catering to all motorists who have been drinking or who do not feel fit to drive their own vehicle.  It provides patrons a safe, confidential ride in their own vehicle without getting behind the wheel themselves.

Although the service is free, clients provide donations, which under the provisions of the Operation Red Nose Program must be allocated to youth groups or groups that support youth in Prince Albert and area. 

 The Prince Albert Lions Club has selected local elementary schools as the recipients of these donations to assist with programing for students.  In 2017, $7,200 was donated to 12 schools in the area, in 2018, $8,000, and in 2019, $6,600.  The funding was given directly to the schools to provide their own programing.

“I think it’s important, these donations go back to the schools, and the schools really appreciate it,” Braaten said. “It helps with their daily programming and that. If you look at it over the last number of years, I figure we have kept 300 unsafe drivers off the city roads. I think that’s really important to get out.”

In 2017, Operation Red Nose provided 302 rides in Prince Albert to clients who got home safely. In 2018, 779 patrons receive 364 rides, and in 2019, 313 rides were given to 673 patrons.

Operation Red Nose depends on volunteers from the community to run a successful campaign to get people home safe in their own vehicles.  The volunteers can choose to work one night, a weekend or the whole season. 

“We are really pushing for community volunteers,” Braaten said. “In all of the other years, we had the policing program at Sask. Polytech and it was a requirement for volunteer hours. Well now that part of the program is run out of Saskatoon, so we have lost a pile of volunteers.

“I know Terry Fleury there was going to run it by the students and that to see if they were still willing to volunteer, but in their absence we are really encouraging community to get out and volunteer.”

The 2022 edition of Operation Red Nose starts on Friday Nov. 26 at 9 p.m. It will run on the 26th and 27th in November, and the 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, 30th, and 31st. The service runs until 2 a.m., but goes a bit later on New Year’s Eve since it’s the organization’s busiest night of the year.

“Usually we wrap up about 2 a.m. in the morning. I think that one year I got home at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Braaten said.

Volunteer teams, made up of an escort driver, a designated driver and a navigator ensure the individuals and their vehicles get home safe. An escort vehicle, provided by dealerships in the city, follow and pick up the driver and navigator to take them to the next pick up or back the program headquarters for coffee and food, donated by community business.  Volunteers do not have to use their own vehicles.

The services runs roughly 10 kilometers outside of Prince Albert in all directions.

Braaten said they often get texts afterwards thanking them for their service.

Garry Beaudry of the Lions Club wanted to challenge people in the community to volunteer.

“If you could throw in a challenge to the schools to come up with a team and to volunteer for one night, that would be three people. City Police, Fire Department, EMS, RCMP—it’s an open challenge to any organization, City Council. I would like to get a celebrity team of our elected officials together.”

Beaudry explained that in all of his years on Operation Red Nose he could not think of one person who left unhappy.

John Alexandersen, the volunteer dispatcher who is not a member of the Lions Club, said donations from the community go a long way to making Operation Red Nose happen.

“The donations towards the program, the car dealerships that offer their service vehicles so we don’t have to use our personal vehicle and the escort vehicles, that is a huge donation,” he said.

Alexandersen said that various restaurants such as Tim Hortons, McDonalds and countless others donate something to feed volunteers should also be recognized.

“It’s huge towards the success of the event,” he said.

“Absolutely none of the patron’s donations can be used towards operations, 100 per cent of operations has to come out of corporate donations or other donations,” he added.

Volunteers and sponsors have already begun to come back after the hiatus. Co-op, Econo Lumber and Canadian Tire have already donated cash.

This year, in order to not interfere with the Stepping Stones Shelter, the Coronet Hotel has graciously agreed to provide us with space for a headquarters.

“We figure with the Stepping Stone, we don’t want to interfere with their operations,” Braaten explained. “With the comings and goings, we thought it would be really confusing.”

The Lions said the partnership with the hotel was just excellent.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can call 306 763-6673. Volunteers can also email rbraaten@sasktel.net or princealbert@operationrednose.com, or leave a message at or text 306 425-7804.

Volunteer registration forms may also be downloaded from https://www.operationnezrouge.com/en/fiche-volunteers/prince-albert.

Volunteers are required to provide a criminal record check, which will be provided free of charge by the City Police or the RCMP with a letter from Operation Red Nose.

“We will give them the application (or) they can also download the form from the Operation Red Nose website and it’s important. With the City Police, it’s seven to 10 days to process a Criminal Record check,” Braaten said.

Once the program begins operation, patrons can call 306-763- NOSE (6673) to request a pickup.