A program that has become synonymous with the Christmas season in the southeast, has been cancelled for 2021.

Operation Red Nose Steinbach/ La Broquerie will not be offering its safe ride campaign this year. This follows a similar announcement made earlier in the week by the national Operation Red Nose office.

Francois Grenier is the Coordinator for Operation Red Nose Steinbach/ La Broquerie. He says in the current context of the pandemic, they would not be able to efficiently provide the logistics to offer the program.

"Getting the volunteers and all the cleaning protocols and people coming into other people's vehicles," he explains. "We just thought we'd just take the safe route this year and keep our clients safe, keep our volunteers safe and just get ready for next year."

Grenier notes this is a decision that was made with careful consideration.

Operation Red Nose has been serving the Steinbach and La Broquerie areas since 2013. The parent advisory council of Ecole Saint-Joachim has been the local host organization since day one. Through this commitment, the organization promotes the adoption of responsible behaviours to help prevent impaired driving. Every year, the volunteer-based safe ride service generates proceeds that help support local youth and amateur sports initiatives. One hundred per cent of the funds raised during the annual campaign are turned over to the local host organization.

"Every year we were increasing in donations, rides and volunteers," notes Grenier. "It's a fun time for everyone, the clients enjoy the service, the volunteers have a fun time helping out, so the buildup was steadily growing."

Grenier says he is confident the service will return in 2022 and says he expects they will pick up where they left off with their momentum prior to the pandemic.

"Our community's resilient, we've got amazing volunteers, we've got amazing clients," he adds. "Steinbach and La Broquerie are amazing, they help each other out and we know that the parties are going to be back and people will be celebrating, slowly getting out of this situation we are in."

And as for the fundraising opportunity that has been lost, Grenier says the community has always been great at supporting Ecole Saint-Joachim. He adds even without this service, the businesses and community will help if they need financial assistance.

Grenier says in the absence of Operation Red Nose, party-goers should always plan for a safe way to get home by calling a friend or a cab, or by designating a sober driver.