It’s a fair question: How fun can it be to give up your Saturday night to driver drunk people home?
Turns out, pretty fun.
That’s what keeps hundreds of volunteers coming back year after year to donate their time to Operation Red Nose, including Delta MP and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough, who along with her husband Eron Maine has volunteered for the past three years.
“We actually fell in love with it two years ago. The first year we had such a great experience and it doesn’t feel like you’re volunteering. It’s a fun night out and everybody’s in a good mood,” Qualtrough said.
The North Delta Reporter recently spent a few hours on the road with Operation Red Nose, visiting various bars, restaurants and Christmas parties in Delta. Over the course of the night one thing became clear: people in Delta recognized and appreciated the service ORN provides.
“You don’t have to explain what Operation Red Nose is anymore; People recognize the vests. It’s a real testament to the culture shift around drinking and driving. People just don’t do it the way they used to,” Qualtrough said. “The generation of 20- and 30-somethings now, they just plan not to drink and drive, and this is one of the tools they have at their disposal at this time of year.”
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough and Rudy, the Operation Red Nose mascot, bring a little Christmas cheer to a party at Beach Grove Golf Club in Tsawwassen. Photo credit: James Smith
Operation Red Nose (ORN) was founded in Quebec in 1984 to combat impaired driving while at the same time supporting amateur sport in Canadian communities.
By simply calling the dispatch number (604-943-0460), anyone who has been drinking, or is too tired to drive, can get a team of three volunteers to drive them home – in their own vehicle – for free. The only caveat is that clients must have a vehicle to use.
ORN Delta-Richmond coordinates with other teams in Metro Vancouver, meaning they can get you anywhere in the Lower Mainland you need to go. (The one exception to this is the city Vancouver, which is covered by a different service.)
Donations or tips are greatly appreciated and all proceeds are directed to amateur sport to benefit children and youth in Delta and Richmond.
With 8 of the 9 nights completed for this season, ORN Delta-Richmond, which is organized by Delta Gymnastics, has provided over 400 rides with the help of 350 volunteers. But with New Year’s Eve, their busiest night of season, still ahead of them, the organization is still looking for a couple dozen more volunteers to help keep things moving smoothly.
“If you are celebrating, we encourage you to call us and book a ride to take you and your vehicle safely back home,” said Carlene Lewall, coordinator of ORN Delta-Richmond. “The service is open that night between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. and we recommend you call 30 to 45 minutes in advance of your desired pick-up time.
“If you don’t have a lot planned, we invite you to consider volunteering and celebrating New Year’s Eve in grand style with a fabulous dinner and start your 2017 hearing a lot of stories from revellers and receiving a lot of warm and thankful hugs.”
This year, Delta Gymnastics is offering a night of fun indoor play in the gym, plus snacks, crafts and movies, for the children of the New Year’s Eve volunteers, and when they get tired they can snuggle into their sleeping bags until their parents are finished with their shift.
A big part of the fun for the volunteers, of course, is all the people they get to meet over the course of the night.
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough takes a break with Rudy, Operation Red Nose’s mascot, outside the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 61 on Ladner. Photo credit: James Smith
“People share, because of course they’ve had a couple of drinks so they’re open, and they just talk to you,” Qualtrough said. “They tell you about their families and their kids and their bosses. They’re like confessionals. It’s very fun. And exhausting. But you know, the six or seven hours that you do this, it doesn’t feel like it’s that long.”
Of course, not everyone is a chatty, friendly drunk. But surprisingly, negative experiences are rare, something Maine chalks up to the clientele who chose to use the service.
“The people you meet are self-selected, right? The people you meet have called because they want you to come and pick them up,” he said. “When you’re doing the early part of the evening, when you walk through the bars and you’re dropping off the cards, some people are happy to see you, [and] there’s a few people who clearly just want to be drinking. But once you’re called out to the house, they’re happy to see you because you’re their ride.”
“This is a very well run operation,” Qualtrough added. “It’s safe, it’s on time [and] you usually get there when people expect you to get there, so you don’t get a lot of complaints.”
To join the ORN team, visit operationrednosedelta.com/volunteer-information or call 604-943-0460. Navigators and escort drivers must be 19 years old or older, and designated drivers must be 21 or older.