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Put on a red nose this winter and volunteer

Photo courtesy Karoline Cullen

Photo courtesy Karoline Cullen

Christmas is a wonderful time of year where friends and family get together and indulge in good company, good food and sometimes a little bit too much drink. Sadly, there are still people who make poor decisions during the holidays to get behind the wheel and drive home while under the influence of alcohol.

That’s why Carlene Lewall of the Delta Gymnastic Society is putting out the call for volunteers to help with their Delta/Richmond Operation Red Nose (ORN) this year, so every party goer arrives home alive.

Carlene says they need roughly 400 volunteers to work weekends beginning Nov. 25 and continuing until New Year’s Eve.

“The more driving teams we have the more people we can get home safely,” says Carlene.

Volunteers are split up into teams of three, each person having an important role in getting a client home safely. When somebody calls ORN, all three will drive to meet the client in the “escort” vehicle. At that point, a designated driver will get behind the wheel of the client’s car, the navigator will join the driver and coordinate with dispatch, while the escort driver will follow the client home.

Dispatch can get quite busy at peaks times with a wait time of up to an hour, so Carlene says more volunteers will reduce those times. She estimates they will need between 11 and 15 teams on any given night.

Delta Gymnastics has been running the Delta/Richmond chapter of ORN for 14 years, but the origins of the safe drive program began in 1984 at Laval University. Jean-Marie De Koninck, a math professor and coach of the swim team, wanted to find a way to provide bursaries for student athletes, while also helping reduce the frightening statistics of drunk driving.

That initial contribution to amateur sport began a global trend, and today ORN is present in more than 100 communities across seven provinces in Canada, providing safe designated driving for over 56,000 Canadians. Each year, more than $1.5 million in ORN proceeds is redistributed to non-profit youth and amateur sports organizations, including right here in South Delta.

ORN is also spread across the Lower Mainland, so you could technically get a ride from North Vancouver to Chilliwack, with transfers across districts, of course. Carlene provides an example for a person who lives in Walnut Grove but goes to a work party in Ladner:
“We have a system that we call transfers and we would phone the Langley team and they would arrange for our car to meet with a team from Langley and drive you the rest of the way,” she says.

There’s definitely benefits to being a volunteer beyond simply doing a good deed for your community. Volunteers are well fed thanks to donations from Thrifty Foods, Save on Foods and Fresh Slice Pizza.

As well, the free Volunteer Apprection Dinner at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn is held every year at the end of January or early February, with prizes and gifts for all the hard-working drivers, navigators and dispatchers.

If you’re interested in volunteering go to and complete the volunteer form, complete the Delta Police criminal record check and take it along with the attached letter to the Delta Police (the letter will allow you to have the check down free of charge). When completed return to Delta Gymnastics at the Delta Sport Development Center at 4680 Clarence Taylor Cres.

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