While many Winnipeggers are preparing for a night of drinking and merriment, others will spend their New Year's Eve driving them home. Manitoba's Operation Red Nose is preparing for its busiest night of the season.
"New Year's (Eve) is the grandest of grand, as far as nights go," said Mike Waite, president and CEO of Safety Services Manitoba, which hosts Operation Red Nose.
The service, in its 15th year, provides motorists who've been drinking with rides home in their own cars. It operates in cities and towns across the province and relies on volunteers.
"The volunteers just continue to overwhelm me," Waite said.
The service is free but donations are welcome. The funds collected in Winnipeg go to the Manta Swim Club and those who use the service are happy to chip in. "It'd be extremely rare not to get a donation," said Waite.
The service is wildly popular, according to Operation Red Nose co-ordinator Ted Ash.
"People love it when we're working," he said. "People would like us to operate more often."
Operating the service year-round would be a bit too much to handle, he said.
"It's such a very, very high-maintenance operation. Even for the month of December it's a lot of work," Waite said.
This year, they had to cut back to 10 from 13 nights of service because Christmas fell on a weekend, tying up potential volunteers who had family plans.
Despite the cutback, they've given the same number of rides as other years, meaning a hike in popularity, Ash said.
But the volunteer list for New Year's Eve in Winnipeg is still low. It's difficult to get people to commit to driving others home when parties abound.
"You get a special type of volunteers on New Year's Eve; those faithful volunteers that come out," Ash said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Winnipeg had just 20 teams of three set to go out tonight, a far cry from the 50 teams Waite would like to see on duty.
"That's low. So we need volunteers," said Waite. "If anybody's got a free night and has some time, come out and join us!"
Volunteering for Operation Red Nose isn't just a good cause -- it's good fun, said Waite.
"It's a chance to get out and meet people."
Want to help out?
Operation Red Nose needs volunteers for New Year's Eve. Fax applications to Ted Ash at 956-7728 by noon today. Registration forms can be found at safetyservicesmanitoba.ca/rednose