Three years in, Prince Albert’s Operation Red Nose program stands as a major component of the program in Saskatchewan, according to figures released by SGI.
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 31, 615 Operation Red Nose volunteers in Prince Albert, The Battlefords, Regina and Saskatoon provided 725 safe rides home.
With 154 Prince Albert volunteers offering 181 rides home, P.A. represented almost exactly 25 per cent of the program’s total rides across Saskatchewan.
“It’s pretty cool,” SGI media relations manager Kelley Brinkworth said, adding that “it is only in the four cities right now, but we’re kind of hoping that when other cities learn a bit more about the program and maybe see these kinds of results, they’ll consider bringing it to their city because it is available anywhere.
“You just need to have somebody like the Lions Club in P.A. that is willing to do the volunteering.”
Along with Prince Albert, Operation Red Nose volunteers in Saskatoon and The Battlefords are chiefly made up of Lions Club members. The Queen City Kinsmen are the primary source of volunteers in Regina.
Volunteers across the province raised nearly $16,000 in donations that will go towards local youth and amateur sports organizations in the participating cities, with Prince Albert’s share of donations amounting to approximately $3,450.
Brinkworth noted that the program is based completely on such voluntary donations, but that the size of the donation is less important than the social benefits that accrue from having fewer impaired drivers on the road.
“It’s up to the person getting the ride -- how much are they willing to put in it or how much can they afford to put in?” Brinkworth said.
“But if you kind of look at it from the perspective of, ‘I’d rather see this person doing that and not putting in as much than taking the risk of drinking and driving and hurting themselves or somebody else’ …it’s a benefit to the community either way, and the $3,500, that’s just a bonus, basically.”
Where program statistics are concerned, city size is less of a factor than one might imagine for Operation Red Nose, which first made its provincial debut in The Battlefords in 2009 before expanding to P.A. in 2011, Saskatoon in 2012 and Regina in 2013.
We’re kind of hoping that when other cities learn a bit more about the program and maybe see these kinds of results, they’ll consider bringing it to their city. Kelley Brinkworth
“Saskatoon is a lot bigger, so in theory you should be able to get way more volunteers,” Brinkworth said. “There are more people there that would be needing the rides.”
Flouting such expectations, it is The Battlefords -- with the smallest population of the four areas -- that actually had the highest numbers for Operation Red Nose.
Over the program’s duration this year, 174 volunteers in The Battlefords provided 249 safe rides home in total.
“Now, that’s pretty impressive,” Brinkworth said. “But also they began first, so they’ve just kind of maybe built up that relationship with the community ... because sometimes people just don’t even know what it is or they don’t even know that it’s offered yet.
“So I think as the program gets more exposure and people in Saskatchewan get used to hearing about it, it’s going to grow in popularity.”
Operation Red Nose may yet expand into more Saskatchewan communities.
Residents in Swift Current have expressed some interest in joining the program. Moose Jaw, meanwhile, already runs a similar program -- but the possibility remains of more formal co-operation with Operation Red Nose.
Brinkworth characterized volunteers as the key component for any city that adopts the program.
“I think it’s great that we have the volunteers that are willing to give up their time to do this, to help keep their community safer, and then also it’s nice to see that people are using the service and that they’re not chancing drinking and driving,” she said.
“So it’s kind of a good community spirit-type of initiative -- and helps keep the road safer, which is always a benefit.”