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Operation Red Nose cancels 10th season in Cold Lake

Operation Red Nose's safe ride campaign has been cancelled due to COVID-19
Operation Red Nose Cold Lake's safe ride program has been cancelled for the 2020 holiday season. File photo.

COLD LAKE – For the first time in its 10-year history in Cold Lake, Operation Red Nose won’t be offering residents a safe way home this holiday season.

Earlier this month, it was announced the program wouldn’t be taking place across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Unfortunately, it’s been cancelled due to COVID-19 and everything that’s happening with it,” noted Dustin Foulds, coordinator for the local Operation Red Nose program and president of the Cold Lake Ag Society. “I think everybody’s bummed and… sad that it’s not going on. It’s more or less a safety thing. It’s all about the safety of the volunteers, the people who are working and helping with it.”

During the holiday season, Operation Red Nose offers free rides home for people who are under the influence after an evening out. Three volunteers are dispatched after receiving a call. A driver gives you and your passengers a lift home in your vehicle, while an escort vehicle follows.

Foulds believes this year would have presented a number of different issues when it came to running the program. 

“The economy’s kind of been in a slump and getting the volunteers and sponsorships to help run it would have been a lot harder than previous years.”

This year would have marked a decade of the program running in Cold Lake and the Ag Society’s second time in charge of it.

Operation Red Nose came to the area in 2010 when a Cold Lake RCMP member launched it. The Cold Lake Victim Services Unit (VSU) was in charge of organizing it for eight seasons, until 2019 when they passed the reins onto the Cold Lake Ag Society.

When Foulds, who had volunteered with Operation Red Nose for a few years, heard the VSU was looking for another group to take over, he spoke with the Ag Society because he thought it was crucial to keep the program in Cold Lake.

“I think it’s important just due to the fact that we’re helping people get a safe ride home,” he noted. “We give them the opportunity to help support other community organizations that benefit from Operation Red Nose donations and we’re also keeping people safe by giving them the option of having a person who might think about driving home drunk not to drive home impaired.”

In 2019 alone, almost 70 volunteers provided 285 rides and wracked up over 5,700 kilometres helping people get home who weren’t fit to get behind the wheel.

The decision to cancel the safe ride service was reached after a survey was sent out to Red Nose communities across the country.

“They decided it’s just a lot of extra stuff that we would have to do to be safe and if they weren’t able to do it safely, they didn’t want to do it,” Foulds said, adding plans are in the works to launch an online awareness campaign during the holiday season.

“They’re still trying to figure out what they can do and how they can properly do this awareness campaign.”

Foulds offered his appreciation to the Cold Lake community for making Operation Red Nose a success over the years.

“Thank you for your continued support and we hope to be back on the roads again in 2021.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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