A horde of Abbotsford Rotary Club members hit the streets on Friday night to help Operation Red Nose make the community a safer place during the holiday season.
Around 30 members volunteered their time into the wee hours of the morning to assist ORN, a free designated driving service that gets folks who have raised a glass of Christmas cheer home safely.
The Rotary crew made up about half the three-person ORN driving teams that picked up clients and then drove them home along with their cars.
Although Operation Red Nose is free of charge, it is the primary annual fundraiser for PacificSport Fraser Valley.
Half of any donations from the clients who use the service go to develop young athletes in the form of travel and performance grants.
The remainder is used to develop and deliver sport programs and services in the Fraser Valley region.
Bruce Beck, community service club director, said helping out the ORN dovetails nicely with Rotary Club of Abbotsford's commitment to service and supporting youth initiatives.
"It's a great opportunity to put our motto into practice, which is 'service above self,' Beck said.
"But at the end of the day, it's a relatively easy thing to ask of our members because it's actually a lot of fun."
Linda Palm, general manager for PacificSport Fraser Valley, said the ORN, in operation for 17 years in Abbotsford, has greatly benefited from loyal volunteers hailing from service organizations such as the Rotary, Kinsmen and Kiwanis clubs.
"It's a wonderful response," said Palm.
"A lot of people who are part of the program each year like the social aspect and get familiar with one another and enjoy catching up with each other."
Beck, who has volunteered for ORN for the last seven years, agreed, saying he enjoys the camaraderie of the evening.
However, in the end analysis, he and other Rotary members help out at ORN because it saves lives and prevents tragedy.
"When I was a teenager, some friends were killed in an accident involving drunk driving. I know the impact it can have," he said.
"It creates a hole that doesn't go away. Those kids that died 30 years ago . . . their parents still miss them at Christmas."
Palm said that around 200 ORN volunteers worked a total of 464 shifts to provide 842 safe trips home last holiday season, and the organization hopes to improve on that this year.
Volunteers get great satisfaction from preventing serious accidents or loss of life, said Palm.
Beck said that while the dollars raised and number of rides can be tallied, the real value of ORN isn't concrete and has a larger ripple effect.
"You can't quantify how many innocent people on the roads we have kept safe . . . because of an unknown, unnamed volunteer who got everybody home," he said.
"It's about preventing any horrible Christmas nightmares, and that's the best gift a service organization can provide."
- This year Operation Red Nose service stretches to all the communities in the Lower Mainland with the exception of Vancouver. ORN runs Dec 14, 15, 21, 22 & 31, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. each night.Drivers can request the service by calling 1-877-604-NOSE. For more information on how to volunteer with or sponsor local ORN programs, call 604-515-NOSE or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.