By Pat Forrest

With the Christmas season fast approaching, many of us are starting to plan house parties and outings with friends and colleagues. More and more, we are reminded that it is not just who we invite or what we serve them to eat and drink that is important, but also that we take seriously the responsibility of making sure our guests get home safely.  

Operation Red Nose (ORN) in Thunder Bay reaches out to share the message “Make Operation Red Nose your last call before you hit the road.” But it’s not just talk. On a first come, first served basis, ORN, now in its 8th year, sends out a team of three volunteers in response to calls for assistance from those who have had one drink too many. Using their own vehicles, the team will drive those who dial 683-NOSE to the destination of their choice, free of charge (though donations are welcome).

“The main objective of ORN is to make readily available a free driver service to those who don’t feel fit to drive. Our main goal is to prevent accidents and death over the holiday season,” says Diana Sustawenko, executive director of St. John Ambulance. The backbone of the program is its volunteers, and opportunities are available for dispatch, phone operators, and road volunteers, or as part of the ORN committee. Or you can don a reindeer costume and spread the word about not drinking and driving as ORN’s mascot, Rudy.

This year the program will be offered between 9 pm and 3 am November 25 and 26 and December 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22, 23, 29, and 30. In 2015, 230 volunteers provided 633 rides home and drove over 10,837 kms. Sustawenko estimates that they will serve at least 700 clients this season.

operation_red_noseSustawenko adds that the need is increasing for volunteers. “The demand for service grows each year and the more volunteers we have, the more safe rides home we can provide,” she says. If you have already volunteered with ORN, you need only fill out the attestation form and the service availability calendar on the web site ( If you haven’t, you’ll need to fill out the volunteer application form and come into the St. John Ambulance office at 518 Fort William Road before November 25 with two pieces of government-issued I.D. and fill out a criminal record check.