SURREY/LANGLEY — The gift of more volunteers is needed most by those who run Operation Red Nose in the Surrey-Langley area.
This year, the by-donation designated driver program is a little short of volunteer drivers and other helpers.
“The need for rides is more than we can possibly give, because we’re short of volunteers,” said Melissa Coombes, one of the program co-ordinators.
“We know people want the service, which is good. People are just busy, so it’s always hard to get volunteers, but this year it’s a bit tougher to get them, for some reason.”
Coombes manages the gym for Langley Gymnastics Foundation, which serves as headquarters for Operation Red Nose in Surrey and Langley. The non-profit organization receives donations from those who use the service.
“We took on Operation Red Nose 17 years ago, and it’s a great way to raise funds but also do something for the community,” Coombes said.
For nine nights in December, the local program runs between 10 and 15 driving teams per night, plus call takers, hospitality helpers and others stationed at ORN headquarters.
“Ideally, we need around 60 volunteers per night, but we have around 30 to 40 per night,” Coombes noted.
Drivers and navigators are still needed for New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31), the final night of local Operation Red Nose services for 2015. To help, sign up online at Langleygymnastics.ca or email email@example.com.
With ORN, a team of three volunteers is dispatched and the motorist is driven home in his or her own vehicle. The number to call is 604-532-0888.
Barbra Spaans has volunteered with Operation Red Nose for 13 years.
“I grew up with a good family, I live in a good country, so I think I have to pay back, and I do that through volunteering,” she said.
“I do all kinds of volunteering but this (with ORN) is one I do year after year.”
Over the years, the success of Operation Red Nose has spawned a small industry of for-profit designated-driver services. Among them is Sober Girls, a Surrey-based company in business since September 2014.
“We have nine teams on the road right now and we started with one,” said Brandy Parlett, who runs Sober Girls with the help of her teen daughter.
(PICTURED: Brandy Parlett and Sam Allaby with Sober Girls Designated Drivers, a Surrey-based company launched in 2014. Photo by Tom Zillich)
The company is currently holding a drive for blankets and coats. For customers, Sober Girls is offering a $10 discount to anyone who uses the service and donates a blanket or coat.
“We’re not just a business, because I really see us as a community service, too,” Parlett added.
Sober Girls can be reached at 604-369-6229 or Sobergirls.ca.
Those who run Operation Red Nose welcome the help from the for-profit companies, Coombes said.
“They’re sort of competition for us, but not really,” she explained, “because the demand (for rides) is so high that we can’t possibly service the demand. We appreciate the help because we just can’t do it all, right, and it does get frustrating for people trying to use our service, but can’t. People want to use the service to be safe, but we just can’t keep up with the demand without more volunteers, unfortunately.”
Last year, ORN provided 825 rides in the Surrey-Langley area.
The hours of operation are from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on the designated nights this year.
“We do have people calling every day of the week, even though we only operate on the nine nights in December,” Coombes said. “I’m impressed because people do call us before they go out, making sure we’re operating that night. One thing is, we don’t take reservations. We just can’t with the system we have.”
with files from Langley Advance