Lack of volunteers is behind a drop in Brandon’s Operation Red Nose numbers this year, says an organizer.
The dip in support has prompted organizers to encourage Brandonites to get behind the program, whether it’s by volunteering, or using the service and making a donation.
"Brandonites, get out there and support this program next year," said Anita Zubricki, Safety Services Manitoba’s director of marketing.
Safety Services Manitoba oversees the Operation Red Nose program, which ran in 11 Manitoba communities this year.
The program, which runs during the holiday party season, offers the inebriated a ride home in their own vehicle.
Donations are appreciated but not required. Donated funds are forwarded to local youth sports organizations.
In Brandon, for the last five years the service has been run by The Westman and Area Traditional Christmas Dinner and donations go to that cause and local youth sports programs.
This year, the Brandon operation recruited a team of 153 volunteers, provided 282 rides and collected $3,945 in donations.
Last season, it had 194 volunteers who provided 373 rides and gathered $4,370 in donations.
New Year’s Eve is the biggest night for Operation Red Nose.
This year, the program rang in the new year with 54 rides compared to 96 the previous year. The program made 125 trips the previous year.
Gladden Smith, a board member for the dinner and Operation Red Nose, says the reason for the falling numbers is a lack of volunteers — with more volunteers, more rides could have been provided.
That, in turn, would have heightened the potential to raise money.
"The rides and the donations are down because we didn’t have enough volunteers," Smith said.
For instance, there were only five three-member teams working New Year’s Eve.
To work that evening properly, Smith said, there should have been about 15 teams.
Red Nose’s phone lines were busy, he said, but the lack of teams meant longer wait times. At times, callers had left by the time teams arrived.
Smith said Brandon organizers are exploring options to encourage more volunteering next year.
That includes approaching service groups to participate, and the parents or relatives of the youth that benefit from donations.
Donna Wilkie. Safety Services Manitoba’s co-ordinator of community safety, points to other possible factors.
It was especially cold, which may have kept would-be partygoers home, or perhaps there were more house parties where guests could stay overnight instead of heading home.
Wilkie said she hopes it’s not because people are choosing to drink and drive.
It also may have something to do with how each organizing group promotes the program in their community, and the group running the program in a particular town.
In some communities, the host organization is a sports team with ready volunteers in the form of members.
In Portage la Prairie, which has roughly one-quarter the population of Brandon, a total of 476 rides were provided by 231 volunteers.
That city nearly tripled the number of donations collected in the Wheat City, with $9,061.
The local organizer there is the Portage Terriers hockey team, which has its own supporters, and the donations raised go to the team.
"Sometimes in the smaller communities they’re even more on board with it than some of the larger communities, because everybody in town knows about it," Zubricki said.
It’s also possible the increasingly successful CFB Shilo program has cut into the Brandon figures.
This marks the second year that a program has been run in Shilo, and its numbers were up this year.
That operation’s 163 volunteers gave 200 rides and collected donations that totalled $1,502.
In its first year, those numbers were 116 rides, 102 volunteers and $834.
On average, Brandon’s Operation Red Nose collected $13.99 per ride.
That was the third-lowest donation rate among the communities that run the program.
Smith noted that donations to charity in general have dropped.