Volunteers needed to give people safe rides home in Maple Ridge

Operation Red Nose kicks off at the end of this month

Operation Red Nose needs volunteers to get behind the wheel and drive partiers home safely.

Operation Red Nose needs volunteers to get behind the wheel and drive partiers home safely.

Operation Red Nose is in desperate need of volunteers again.

So far, there are only 46 volunteers for the Christmas program that kicks off at the end of this month.

Last year there were about 125 volunteers servicing Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and there were still some nights that Dena Sorley, volunteer director of Operation Red Nose Ridge Meadows, felt they needed more help.

“The number of calls we can service depends on the wait times, and the wait times depends on how many volunteers we have especially on the busy nights,” she explained.

This year they are looking to fill 380 volunteer shifts, 53 more than last year. One person can volunteer for four shifts.

“I would say it would be ideal if we had at least 135 (volunteers),” said Sorley, who requires criminal record checks from every volunteer.

“That’s kind of our biggest plea is to get out there and get the criminal record checks done now so they have enough time to get cleared and volunteer,” she said adding that last year there were people that waited too long and couldn’t get them done on time.

Operation Red Nose is a driving service offered by donation to people who do not wish to drive their car after a night out partying.

A team of three volunteers including a designated driver, navigator and escort driver will pick up the person and their vehicle and give them a ride to their destination in the service area.

Locally, Operation Red Nose services Abbotsford, Mission, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Money raised goes towards supporting local athletes and youth through programs and services.

In addition to drivers and navigators, volunteers also are needed as office staff, taking phone calls, sign in volunteers and help with the food.

The program also needs sponsorship to provide gas for the teams, food donations and cash donations.

John Retallick who started with Operation Red Nose 11 years ago will be making his 100th pickup when he goes out for the first time this year. The retired police officer has completed nine trips every year as a designated driver.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” said Retallick.

“The one thing about Red Nose, you go out with nice people, you meet nice people. They’ve had a good evening out and had the common sense to realize they shouldn’t be driving and the important thing with Red Nose is you get them and their car home,” he said.

In addition, after spending 14 years as a police officer operating a roadside breathalyzer, he knows that a lot of people he drives home at 11 p.m. through Operation Red Nose – still would be drunk waking up at 10 a.m. to retrieve their vehicle.

But, he has a lot of fun every year, and there is always a funny story to tell.

Last year, his team picked up three young guys from a Pitt Meadows bar.

The guys talked about all the stunts they pulled on their mom over the years for the drive home. When they arrived at their destination and they were pulling out their wallets to make a donation, their mother walked out of the house and said, “Hi John,” addressing Retallick in the driver’s seat.

“My response was, “Hi Denise, are these your kids?” Retallick chuckled.

“And you should have seen the money coming out of their wallets. I think 10 per cent was donation and 90 per cent was hush money,” he said.

Another time Retallick thought the escort vehicle was right behind him after leaving with a group of people from Swan-E-Set Golf Club until the vehicle pulled off down a side street after a couple of kilometres. When he pulled over to give the driver in the escort car a call he found out the driver was following another vehicle that he had mistaken for the client’s car.

“Luckily, we had phones,” Retallick laughed.

Retallick guarantees that once somebody gets involved with Operation Red Nose they will want to stay involved.

“Anybody who gets a chance to do it should do it,” said Retallick who plans to celebrate his 100th pickup with a piece of cake.

Last year, Operation Red Nose Ridge Meadows received $13,857 in donations and gave 474 safe rides home.

Anyone interested in volunteering can download the application form at  http://www.pacificsportfraservalley.com/orn/volunteer.

For more information contact James Palframan at 604-746-0604 or email orn.rm.volunteerdirector@gmail.com.

Application forms can also be picked up at Maple Ridge Towing at 23283 McKay Avenue or at the Canada Post Office at 20800 Lougheed Highway.