Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Safe-drive service needs help

Operation Red Nose asking volunteers to step up for shift

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THEY say how you spend New Year's Eve sets the tone for the year ahead. If you like to drive, explore, meet new people, stay up late and give back to the community, then Operation Red Nose might be your perfect date.

In Winnipeg, volunteers are still needed for New Year's Eve, said co-ordinator Sharra Hinton.

On Saturday, just over half of the volunteers needed to drive folks home on New Year's Eve were lined up, she said.

"My target this year is 40 teams," said Hinton. "Right now we have 22 teams." She said a criminal records check is needed for volunteers, and she can arrange that on Monday for any last-minute helpers.

Operation Red Nose is a unique December-only designated driver program that operates for free.

Drivers who've been drinking or are just tired from staying up too late can call to get a ride home for themselves and their passengers and have their vehicle safely driven home at the same time. The service is free with donations going to youth sport programs.

So far this season, Hinton said they've given more than 1,000 rides on the nine nights they've operated the service with close to 30 teams of three per night.

"Our numbers are up from last year," she said.

Hinton first volunteered as a driver to raise money for her daughters' Manta Swimming club.

New Year's Eve is a big night for Operation Red Nose and its bright-eyed volunteers.

"You need a willingness to stay up late," said Hinton. "Our phone lines stay open till 3 am." Often, teams are not back before 5 a.m., she said.

"It's a busy night with lots of people to get home," she said. "It's a very late night but a lot of fun. You're busy and the time flies -- you don't realize how late it is," said Hinton.

"You meet interesting couples and nice people and drive to all different parts of town -- some you don't get to very often," said Ken Chartrand, who volunteers every year with his wife Lynne. Their two daughters are Manta Swimming club members.

Their son Danny, who turned 18 this year, volunteered for the first time with Operation Red Nose, he said. Chartrand said driving a variety of vehicles has also been interesting.

"Last year I drove a Mercedes, this year we drove a Lexus. But mostly it's a lot of trucks," it seems, he said. One in particular this season stood out.

"We drove home a pickup truck that was an old piece of junk," he recalled. "It was -30 and the heater didn't work."

That was a memorable night, he laughed.

To volunteer in Winnipeg, call 204-794-7339 or email volunteer@rednosewpg.ca

To get a ride on New Year's Eve in Winnipeg, Headingley or St. Norbert, call 204-947-6673.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 30, 2012 A3

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