COLD LAKE - The Cold Lake AG Society is resuming "Operation Red Nose" for the holidays. This volunteer-driven program provides a vital service - ensuring safe transportation for individuals who have consumed alcohol and need a safe ride home.
Dustin Foulds, President of the Ag Society, reflected on the program's legacy, stating, “It will be the 40th year that “Operation Red Nose” will be working. It started in Quebec, where it became a national campaign. It’s been in Cold Lake for 10 years.”
Volunteers, who are dedicated drivers and navigators collaborate to offer complimentary rides to those unable to drive due to alcohol consumption. Beyond ensuring the safety of individuals and others on the road, this service plays a critical role in raising awareness about the potential effects of impaired driving.
Foulds emphasized the program's impact by stating, "There has been a significant reduction of impaired drivers throughout the holiday season, and it has been attributed by the RCMP to Operation Red Nose in Cold Lake. Ten seasons ago, there were over 30 or more impaired drivers that were charged, and now there are down to less than five.”
The program was transferred over to the Ag Society in 2019, where they continued to run the program until the following year. The program did not run from 2020 to 2021, due to the pandemic. “We weren’t able to do it in 2020 or 2021. It just wasn’t viable,” Foulds explains.
The first year the ag society did the program, it was very successful. “In 2019, our first year of taking it over, we had 172 volunteers, provided 285 rides, and had donations of over $6,300 that we were able to give back to the community.”
In 2022, the program didn’t do as well, as it got fewer volunteers and fewer donations.
“In 2022, we figured we would do it later on in the year, so we only ended up with 67 volunteers and had 87 rides for $125 in donations,” Foulds says. “It was a little less, but I know this year we are expecting to raise the bar again and come back to 2019 levels."
With all the donations that the program receives, the society likes to share the funds with the community. “We are a little different from most Red Nose groups. We like to split it up amongst our community in different avenues and different sources,” Foulds explains.
The program operates during the late evening hours, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., running every weekend from Nov. 24 through to Dec. 31.
For those interested in volunteering for the cause, individuals can access a registration form and volunteer letter by visiting www.coldlakeag.com/forms or they can get further details by calling 780-594-0667.
Volunteers are required to undergo a criminal record check, which will be reimbursed.
Donations are greatly appreciated. To contribute, the Ag Society accepts e-transfers sent to [email protected], ensuring the continuation of the initiative.