“It’s a program where we drive the clients, the people that call us, home in their own vehicle. It’s not a taxi service. They can’t phone us and we can’t help them if they don’t have a vehicle,” said Sandy Slavin, a co-ordinator with the volunteer-run group for the past 20 years.
Slavin said if party-goers are going to go out and enjoy themselves over the holiday season they can give Operation Red Nose a call on the nights the service is in operation and a team will be sent to bring the party goer(s) and the individual’s vehicle home.
“When they call we give them a rough idea of how long it would be until a driver could get there,” she added.
Operation Red Nose, Slavin said, is a free service but is also a main fundraising initiative. “We do accept donations. Over the 19 years that has steadily built and I would say our average donation now is over $20 a trip. We also have a number of businesses in Lethbridge that sponsor the program. Between those two things — that’s how we generate some revenue that goes back to the Pronghorn Athletic teams,” said Slavin, adding other clubs also help out with volunteers and some of the funds raised go back to those clubs, as well.
Operation Red Nose typically hits the road the last weekend in November and ends on New Year’s Eve. This year ORN kicked off last Friday night. ORN service runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in December until Christmas and will run New Year’s Eve. Call 403-320-4155 for service. Slavin added the phones are usually turned on by 9:30 p.m. on the nights of operation and the service runs until 3 a.m. To volunteer call Pronghorn Athletics at 403-329-2681.
About 20 years ago Pronghorn Athletics and the U of L at the time, Slavin explained, was facing serious budget cuts.
“We knew we needed to find some new ways to generate some revenue in the community.”
At the same time, Slavin said, Operation Red Nose was looking to expand. The program started in Quebec and were looking to expand across the country, said Slavin.
“Those two things kind of collided at the same time at the end of 1994 and we were up and going with the program in 1995,” said Slavin.
Last year, Slavin noted, Operation Red Nose provided 1,254 rides and had 641 volunteer shifts.
“Just an interesting statistic — over the course of the month Operation Red Nose travelled about 23,500 kilometres,” said Slavin, adding last year Operation Red Nose helped raise close to $40,000 in donations.
Operation Red Nose is also set up to cover Lethbridge, Coalhurst and Coaldale.