In her 13 years volunteering with Operation Red Nose, in all sorts of stormy weather, Barbra Spaans has only been witness to one minor accident.
One night, when the late fall chill transformed asphalt into ice, a reveler’s car driven by an ORN volunteer skidded one way, then the other, before settling into the ditch. No one was injured, and the car was pulled out of the ditch by a tow truck.
The ORN client, whose car only suffered minor scratches, was driven home – in his vehicle that was involved in the minor mishap.
“I called 911,” related Spaans, who will lend a hand with ORN Langley-Surrey again this year.
“I recalled that I couldn’t see anyone in the car at first, so I thought we might need an ambulance.”
The ORN navigator opened the door and answered “yes” to Spaans’ question of, “is everybody okay?”
Other than that night, it’s been a smooth ride for Spaans and other ORN volunteers, many of whom return time and again to make the roads safer during the holiday season.
The designated driver program kicks off another year this weekend (Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28) and runs Fridays and Saturdays in December leading up to Christmas (Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, and 18, 19) as well as on New Year’s Eve, Thursday, Dec. 31.
Hours of operation those days are 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Last year, ORN Langley-Surrey provided 825 rides.
People needing a ride home in Langley, Surrey, or White Rock, can call 604-532-0888.
The goal, as always, is to keep roads safe for both drivers and pedestrians.
People who had one too many, who are tired, or who are simply not able to drive their vehicles are encouraged to call ORN .
A team of three volunteers will be dispatched and the motorist will be driven home in his or her own vehicle.
One hundred per cent of the funds raised are turned over to local youth and amateur sports organizations. And while donations are gratefully accepted, even if a person’s pockets are empty, ORN elves will provide a ride home.
One of those elves is Spaans, a mom to two grown daughters.
She said she “totally believes” in the program.
“I grew up with a good family, I live in a good country, so think I have to pay back, and I do that through volunteering,” she said. “I do all kinds of volunteering but this [with ORN] is one I do year after year. I’ve had a lot of good experiences doing volunteer stuff.”
The long hours with ORN (Spaans said she has volunteered until seven in the morning on New Year’s Day) is worth it, mainly for the appreciation heaped upon volunteers during the season.
“One time we stopped in McDonald’s for coffee and a young guy came up to us and said, ‘You guys saved my life last year,’” Spaans said. “That’s everything.”
As for the winter conditions, Spaans is fully prepared to get behind the wheel.
“Oh yeah,” she replied when asked if she was prepared to drive on icy, snowy roads.
“I learned to drive in Lillooet and Vernon so I’m okay with that.”
Each December, Spaans sees the same familiar faces at the Langley Gymnastics Foundation, which for the 17th year serves as the Langley-Surrey ORN headquarters.
“I met one young fellow and he’s still my friend,” Spaans said “He started volunteering when he was 22 and at the time I was so impressed that a young person would volunteer during party season. He’s now 28.”
Volunteers are needed, urged Spaans, who was happy to see so many younger helpers take part in ORN, recently.
“Even if you can do one night it helps,” Spaans said. “We are treated so well and the Langley Gymnastics Foundation makes it more than worthwhile.”
The following volunteer positions are available with ORN:
• Escort drivers who will escort the navigator and driver in his or her own vehicle;
• Drivers who will drive the client’s vehicle; and
• Navigators who ride with the driver in the client’s vehicle.
Help is also needed at the ORN headquarters in the following positions: call takers, dispatch, transfers, hospitality, and meet-and-greet.
Anyone interested in volunteer can sign up online at langleygymnastics.ca, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.