Free service took over from Operation Red Nose

Article content

In the first two hours Home James has already logged enough calls to tie up half of the teams available.

By 11:30 p.m. the long tables are littered with half-played card games and half drunk cups of fizzy lemonade drink.

This isn't even a peak weekend for the free service that ferries people and their cars home throughout Chatham-Kent after an evening out.

“Right now we have 10 teams for New Year’s, it's half of what we need,” said Carolyn Power. “We need 20-25 teams for New Years, if not it's going to be a busy, busy day.”

Powers helped organize the volunteer teams and has been in a driving team for 14 years under the previous program, Operation Red Nose.

“We started right from scratch,” she said. “People still think Red Nose is running, even though it's been in the paper. It's slowly getting out, and luckily we've been able to get the same phone number.”

Although several teams have returned this year, Power attributes an aging pool of volunteers for the drop in numbers.

“I've spoken to some, they can't do it anymore,” Power said. “It would be nice to get some younger people in, there's a few younger ones in and if they have fun this year, hopefully next year they'll be there.”

Dave Knight, 24, is volunteering eight days between Nov. 30 and Jan. 1 when the program wraps up.

“I think when people see our faces they're 'Oh it's good that you're younger and doing it',” said Knight. “We actually get that all the time. They're just pretty surprised.”

Knight recruited Adam Boylan, also 24, to be part of his team this year.

“You get to meet a lot of people in the community and it's a pretty good time. The last ride was priceless,” said Boylan. “It's never awkward and it's always interesting.”

Both men feel it's important to have younger people involved in a service that many of them take advantage of themselves over the holiday weekend.

“It's important to go (volunteer) closer to Christmas and New Year’s because it gets pretty busy, and we need volunteers,” said Boylan. “Especially for New Year’s.”

Dispatcher Mary Jo Greenslade worries what might happen if the team numbers stay as they are at the moment.

“On our busy nights, once we get going, all the teams are out and people wait and people get impatient waiting, but we're doing the best we can,” said Greenslade. “You don't want them getting frustrated and say 'Oh we'll drive home.' There's nothing worse than getting to a call and them being gone.”

Home James is dependent on sponsorship, especially from community partners Victory Ford, South Kent Wind and the Masonic Lodge who donated the space for them to run the program.

“It is a free service, if you make a donation that's great, but if you are dead broke at the end of the night, please call,” she said. “They don't have to be drunk, we aren't going to report anybody, you're doing the right thing, you aren't driving.”

The donations given to the drivers are split between six Chatham-Kent youth programs and do not go back into the program itself.

Greenslade said the generosity of a number of local businesses, restaurants and the Block Parents also make the program run smoothly.

“It takes a community to pull this off,” said Greenslade. “And we're getting it (the support).”

For more information on volunteering for Home James go to www.homejames-ck.ca, and if you and your vehicle need a ride home this holiday season please call 519-351-3353.

diana.martin@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/DailyNewsDM

Advertisement

Advertisement

Article content

News Near Chatham

This Week in Flyers