Operation Red Nose has quickly found traction in St Malo, where organizers announced last Friday the chapter has already amassed a substantial number of volunteers and donations for its second year of operations.
Coordinator Charmaine Gosselin said 160 volunteers have already signed up. About 30 more are still needed, mainly for the hard-to-fill New Year’s Eve shift.
The St Malo group, established last year, is one of 12 local chapters of the free and confidential holiday ride service operating across Manitoba this Christmas season.
Vincent Dureault, vice-president of the St Malo Chamber of Commerce and MC of last Friday's kickoff event, held in St Malo Parish's Iberville Hall, said volunteers will service the area between Highway 75 and Highway 59, from the Perimeter Highway to the United States border.
Proceeds will once again benefit Iberville Hall, which offers community programming for children, families, and other groups.
Father Dominic La Fleur said the $13,000 raised last year was used to purchase tables, chairs, a sound system, and other equipment for the hall.
This year, La Fleur is hoping donations will reach $20,000, to be used toward a $30,000 renovation of the hall’s kitchen.
The higher goal seems within reach. Organizers said sponsors have already pledged a total of $10,000.
La Fleur attributed the strong support for Operation Red Nose in St Malo to tight connections in Francophone communities in the Southeast.
Troy Pauls, a STARS flight paramedic, said he was thankful for the spread of Operation Red Nose in Manitoba.
Pauls spoke of the toll impaired-driving related accidents take on first responders with the air rescue service, which is marking 10 years of operation in Manitoba.
"We like to think that we’re the best part of somebody’s worst day, that’s our goal."
A STARS helicopter can reach St Malo in as little as 13 minutes. A STARS nurse and three flight paramedics live in southeastern Manitoba, Pauls said.
Since 2011, STARS has carried out 44 missions in the RM of Morris, 36 in Hanover, 16 in De Salaberry, 15 in Emerson-Franklin, and six in Montcalm.
Pauls said about half of those missions are scene call emergencies, while the other half are inter-hospital transfers.
Cst. Chris Leroux and Cst. Jeran Long of the St Pierre RCMP talked about the role law enforcement agencies play in keeping drivers safe over the holidays.
Leroux explained recent changes to impaired driving laws that allow RCMP to perform more roadside alcohol screenings.
Long said members of the RCMP’s traffic services division are now equipped with a saliva test that can identify 10 different drugs known to cause impairment.
On average, 1,500 impaired driving charges are laid in Manitoba every year. Leroux said Operation Red Nose is helping to reduce that number.
He offered a simple rule to those attending a holiday party.
"If you’re having a really good time…use Operation Red Nose."
Fatigue is another reason to call Operation Red Nose, Long added.
Operation Red Nose St Malo is active Fridays and Saturdays from Nov. 29 through Dec. 21, as well as Dec. 31. Volunteers are available from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Riders and volunteers can register by dialing 204-347-5518 or emailing email@example.com.
More information is also available at operationrednose.com.