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Local organization survives on connections to the community

It’s a blustery Friday in September and the weekly lunchtime soup kitchen at St. George’s United Church in downtown Courtenay is just getting started.  The church is busy—people coming, people going, and people hanging out, alone or in clusters, on the steps and the grassy lawn.

These are the community’s down and out.  The challenges they face are complex, as are the challenges they present to our society, which often can’t figure out what to do with such people.  A warm meal, served up by friendly volunteers in a warm place, helps.

The scene is just like any soup kitchen in any small BC city.  But at noon something quite unique happens—a sleek motor home, impeccably painted in earth tones with two stylish wavy stripes, pulls up outside the church and opens its doors.  A couple of minutes later one of the women standing on the lawn walks over to the van, pokes her head in, and asks, “Can you help me?”

The answer is definitely yes.

This is the Care-a-Van, a mobile medical clinic that travels around Courtenay, literally taking healthcare to the streets.  It is the only one of its kind west of Calgary.

Each week it has regular shifts at St. George’s, the Maple Pool Campground, the Washington Inn, and the shacks on Headquarters Road.

In its customized, precisely-ordered interior, the Care-a-Van contains all the equipment a regular doctor’s office would have.  It’s staffed by a volunteer driver and two volunteer medical professionals, usually one doctor and one nurse.

These staff provide not just medical care (including dental and eye care) but also warm clothes, referrals to helping agencies, links to housing, and a sympathetic ear.  As Care-a-Van volunteers, they understand the complex realities of their clients’ lives.  While changing a dressing or administering medication, they may be dispensing information or advice that gets that client set up with housing, a disability pension, education, or employment, setting them on a path to a more stable, independent life.

The Care-a-Van costs only about $25,000 a year to run, and it saves the healthcare system hundreds of thousands of dollars by providing frontline care to the vulnerable, thus keeping them out of the emergency ward, which is where they otherwise tend to end up.

The Care-a-Van is the most visible manifestation of Dawn to Dawn, a Comox Valley non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating homelessness in the Comox Valley.  Less visible, but equally important to this goal, is Dawn to Dawn’s residential program.  This provides homes for 17 people, all formerly homeless, along with independence planning support and programs to increase life skills, health and employability.

Doctor Simon Colgan and the mobile Care-A-Van tend to patients who often fall through the cracks in the healthcare system.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Dawn to Dawn owes its success to quite a number of dedicated people.  One of the foremost of these is board member Tom Grant.  This former business owner and current Comox Councilor was one of the driving forces behind the organization’s start-up.

“In 2006, I served as the president of Comox Rotary Club,” Grant recalls.  “Every year we’d raise tens of thousands of dollars and we’d give it away based on requests that came in.  I wanted to be more proactive for my year.  So we struck a committee to find out what the most pressing need was.  Those committee members went out and did their research and came back and said it was drug addiction and homelessness.

“So, in our naivety, we set aside $15,000 and said let’s do something about homelessness.  Along the way, I got given the name of [Comox Valley nurse] Helen Boyd and was told that she knew a lot about homelessness,” says Grant.  Once Boyd and Grant connected, things really got moving.

“We got together for a cup of coffee on a hot Friday in April,” Grant says with a smile.  By the end of that first meeting, they’d decided on their first step—to hold a public meeting about homelessness.

“We really didn’t know what to expect.  We had no preconceived notion about whether we’d have five or 20 people.  In fact, 70 people came—it was incredible.  The result was a decision to start a non-profit organization dedicated to solving homelessness.”

The name Dawn to Dawn came from a homeless person who joined the board, and it expresses the intention of providing protection 24 hours a day.

Now with a name, a general mandate, and a team of leaders, Dawn to Dawn had to figure out just what to do.  There followed about a year of what Grant modestly calls “stumbling along,” but which in all likelihood was a time of intense learning, as D2D’s board looked for an answer to the vexing question, “How do you stop homelessness?”

Today, Grant has a quick and short response to that question: “The answer is Kindergarten-simple—you house people.”

D2D has done just that.  “We found out that the Ministry of Housing and Social Development would give people $375 a month for housing.  We thought, ‘why don’t we rent some two-bedroom apartments and sublet each bedroom to a homeless person?’”

They soon found sympathetic landlords, who value having D2D as a reliable, long-term tenant they can rely on.  Within months, D2D had seven two-bedroom apartments.  D2D paid the rent and utilities, furnished the apartments (all through donations), found the tenants, helped them move in, and helped them find medical care, employment counseling, life skills training and other types of support.

The apartments have housed 50 people since the first one opened in July 2008.  One part-time coordinator, currently funded by the Vancouver Foundation, works with volunteers and keeps the program functioning effectively.

Ideally, this housing marks a turning point for people, providing a springboard which helps them leave homelessness definitively behind.

“We like to graduate people out of the program,” says Grant.  “For instance, this one guy—once we got him into stable housing, he started writing resumes.  It’s pretty hard to look for a job when you don’t have an address or phone, hard to manage an interview when you don’t have a place to shower, change, or store your stuff.  So after about two weeks this guy got a job.  That was 2008 and he still has that job.  Once he was ready, he told us he wanted to get his own apartment.  Our last bit of help was to give him some furniture and help him move.”

For many clients, the situation is made more challenging by mental health and addiction issues.  In these cases, the stability provided by the housing, coupled with the support D2D offers, helps them get these issues under control, whether that means getting back on their meds, recovering their physical health, attending counseling, or learning about detox programs.

In many cases, homelessness is as much a health issue as it is a housing issue, says Grant.  It was that realization that led to the launch of D2D’s Care-A-Van.

“Helen had the idea of converting an old van.  We wondered how much this would cost.  The first guy we talked to was Barry Willis at Sunwest RV.  If you’ve ever met Helen—well….” he says with a chuckle, remembering her effect on Willis.  “She’s very passionate, and she explained her vision to Barry.  Well, she and Barry hit it off and he said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’”

As it turned out, he could do a lot, explains Grant.

“Three months later, he phoned us up and said he had a motorhome that meets our requirements.  Not only that, his crew volunteered their time on weekends and evenings, and remodeled it according to our specifications—well, according to Helen’s,” says Grant, smiling.

The Care-a-Van hit the streets in spring 2009 and very soon had a steady flow of clients.

The Van’s clients tend to be the people who fall through the cracks in our healthcare system, notes Grant.  “Many of these are what are called medical orphans—they don’t have a family doctor.  Many doctor’s practices are full and the last thing they want to take on is a big problem,” he says.  “And most homeless people are unlikely to go to a clinic or doctor’s office because it’s just not part of their world.  They often feel shame, especially if they are drug addicts, and don’t want to expose themselves to judgment or interference from authorities.

“Many of our clients are people who have no connection to the system at all, and don’t want to.  A lot of them have mental health problems and are scared of everything and everyone.

“As a result, for most of these people the first contact with the medical system is typically the emergency room, and that’s the most costly way to deal with them,” adds Grant.  “They end up in acute care beds, which cost about $2,200 a night.  We are saving the healthcare system hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

Furthermore, the Van provides a complexity of care that most doctors in clinics couldn’t begin to match.  Not only does the staff provide information and referrals, they develop relationships with their clients and potential clients.  Sometimes these relationships are the most valuable part of what happens in the Van.

Grant illustrates this point with the story of a homeless man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

“He wouldn’t talk to anyone.  He wouldn’t come near us.  Helen started leaving him boiled eggs.  She started to gain his trust.  Eventually she convinced him to come into the Care-a-Van and she took his blood pressure, which was way too high.  And his diet was terrible.  She got a mental health and addiction worker to come out of his office and meet the guy.  Then she took the guy into their office and introduced him around.  He started to feel comfortable.

“Once that happened, they got him back on his meds and helped him get a disability pension, and now he’s housed.  Recently, he asked Helen for a crock-pot and he’s making his own meals.  His nutrition is better; his blood pressure is down.”

It’s these kinds of stories that keep Grant, and other D2D volunteers, motivated to be part of a project that sometimes rubs their noses in human misery.

The biggest challenge facing Dawn to Dawn is finding a stable source of funding.  Grant points out that other similar organizations, such as Our Place in Victoria, receive government funding.  He is frustrated to see the City of Courtenay moving forward with plans to build an emergency homeless shelter, because based on his experience this is not the best use of public funds.

“Emergency shelters don’t solve the problem.  All over North America, they are being closed down in favor of providing more long-term housing.  The idea of building an emergency homeless shelter with a million dollars a year in operating costs—that’s lunacy.  If you gave a million dollars to Dawn to Dawn, there’d be no more homelessness in the Comox Valley.”

He shakes his head ruefully and then changes the subject.  Dawn to Dawn achieves plenty even with its limited budget, and that is what he most wants to talk about.

“Let me tell you about our latest scheme: we put out a press release about a month ago saying we are looking for used RVs.  We’ll give people a tax receipt for their donation.  Rotary has offered to clean them up for us, and then we can give them out.  We’ve got five so far,” he says.

Another new project is a homeless soccer league, which started up in July, and plans are underway for a winter bowling league.  These provide an opportunity to get moving, socialize, build self esteem, and focus on something beyond survival.  It’s also an outreach opportunity for D2D: someone might come to soccer and learn about the Care-a-Van, then they might be placed in housing, and from there, they just might find their way to independence— thus helping Dawn to Dawn fulfill its goal of eradicating homelessness in the Comox Valley.

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It’s a typical Friday afternoon at Prontissima Pasta in ‘Tintown’—otherwise known as Rosewall Crescent in Courtenay.  Customers are browsing the products in the storefront coolers and shelves, lining up to get ingredients for the evening dinner.  Proprietor Sarah Walsh is preparing for the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market on Saturday, but being a master at multi-tasking, manages to satisfy everyone with a full shopping basket and a whetted appetite.

“The whole idea of Prontissima Pasta was born of busy nights, not feeling like cooking, but not wanting take-out food and not wanting to go to a  restaurant,” says Walsh in between customers.   “The idea is that it’s a quick gourmet meal that you put together at home but takes only 15 minutes total.  Then you have a meal where you know all the ingredients are good and it hasn’t taken any time to put together.  Pronto means ready, so Prontissima means ‘really ready’!”

A few minutes earlier Walsh was behind the scenes in the kitchen, labeling containers of Artichoke & Roasted Garlic Pesto.  “This is our number-one-selling pesto,” she says, sticking the circular labels on multi-sized containers.  “It’s our own creation, from a recipe just from my head.  It turned out to be a great hit—we have to make it every weekend.”

Their products have a wide-ranging distribution.  “We sell the pasta to Edible Island, the pesto to Butcher’s Block, Edible Island, Seeds Market in Cumberland, Healthy Way Organic Foods in Campbell River, Sunshine Organics, which is a home delivery of organic groceries, then we sell here and at the Farmers’ Market.  We stay at the outdoor market until October 22, and then move indoors to the Native Sons Hall—we go all year round now.”

While the labeling continues, a couple of plumbers in the kitchen replacing a faucet seem to be getting distracted from their work as Walsh describes her products. Everything is natural with no preservatives.  “We started with a traditional egg pasta,” continues Walsh, “then the Citrus Black Pepper, and the Chipotle and Lime, and the Spinach.  The Spinach pasta has real spinach in it.   A lot of fresh pasta will have dehydrated spinach powder, but ours, you can see the fibers of spinach.

Recent additions to their pasta menu include Paprika and Oregano, and Curry, but perhaps their most exotic pasta creation is flavored with squid ink.  “We’re waiting for our shipment of squid ink to come in,” says Walsh, smiling.  “The pasta becomes black—it’s not a strong flavor, but the oils from the ink give the pasta a really nice texture.  You just put a little lemon and salt on it—it has a really silky flavor.”

The plumbers are definitely listening now.  “You’re making me hungry!” says a voice from under the cabinet.  Walsh has barely begun to describe the mouth-watering pasta and pesto combinations possible.  “Some pastas we do seasonally, like the Pumpkin pasta—people wait for it.  Our first batch was yesterday, so people were coming for it. We finish making that around March.  We also do beet pasta; it gets the real beet flavor.”

With all these flavors, Walsh has trouble choosing a personal favorite.  “If we’re having prawns, I really like the Citrus Black Pepper with the basil pesto,” she says.  “With salmon, I love the Carrot and Dill pasta; with red meat, I would go with one of our tomato sauces like Sun-dried Tomato.  The fun is making all the different combinations. Customers often tell us what they’ve done and give ideas.”

As if on cue, a flurry of customers entering the shop interrupts the descriptions.  Walsh is instantly out providing suggestions to the first young woman for tonight’s dinner.  “We made a batch of Pumpkin pasta yesterday—it’s very pumpkin-y!  The combo with walnut pesto and fresh chopped parsley is really good.”

As the customer browses the shelves for other ingredients—including such delicacies as Bison Sausage, Black Truffle Purée and Apple and Sage Jelly—Walsh greets the next couple, who are regulars.  They had Chipotle and Lime pasta the last time and want some recommendations on combinations.  “I would go traditional or Spinach with tomato sauce so you get the flavor of the sauces,” Walsh recommends.  “With the Curry pasta, I would do the Black Olive or Artichoke Roasted Garlic pesto.”

Along with the nuances of the dozen different pasta shapes, Walsh calls out the preparation instructions as they leave the shop: “The instructions are all on the package!”  The next young woman, with a baby, is buying shell pasta stuffed with spinach, ricotta and basil.  “It’s the same filling we put in the lasagna,” says Walsh, indicating the coolers packed with prepared servings.  “It’s pre-made, but not baked—when you bake them it tastes just like you just made them.”

Many customers get their entire meal in this one location.  “The storefront allows us to offer all the other things that go with pasta and Italian fine food.  It’s basically about completing the meal,” says Walsh.  “You can get everything from an appetizer to dessert, like Benino Gelato or Dark Side Chocolates.  If you need olive oil, it’s here.  Parmesan is here.  Or if you want some meat with the meal… I try to keep all the meats local.”

Walsh appreciates the support of the Tintown community—many parents stop in after classes at the Motif Music School or Gemini Dance Studio.  “Rosewall is a good location, a nice community,” she notes.  “It’s the right location for a production area.” 

The Freakin’ Coffee Shop on Rosewall Crescent is another supporter.  “We make a pasta bake for them—a short pasta combined with a pesto and local Natural Pastures cheese that we sell, then they serve it up hot on a Friday and people can go and try it there.  We’re not going to get into being a restaurant!”

Several restaurants already serve Prontissima Pasta products.  “Locals Restaurant has been with us since the beginning,” says Walsh.  “The Kingfisher, Atlas, Toto’s in Comox, the Royal Coachman in Campbell River, Strathcona Park Lodge, the Old House—they order every week.  Then we have a Quadra following—my mom and dad live on Quadra so my mom picks up a Quadra delivery every week.”

Walsh’s husband, Wally, also helps with the deliveries, though he has another job. “He’s really a carpenter!” she says with a laugh.

Prontissima pasta.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Walsh’s career in pasta began as a result of the couple’s adventures traveling.  After getting married in Canada in 2001, the couple sold their house in Dublin and headed to Spain to buy a sailboat. Their plan was to fulfill their dreams of traveling by sailboat and explore the different cultures and food of the Mediterranean.

Three years into their sailing adventure, they pulled into one of the most historic ports in history; Venice, Italy.  It was there that they fell in love with Italy and met friends Toni and Anna, who inspired them and planted the seed of passion for Italian food.  In addition to teaching them the Italian language—they had arrived knowing only a few words—Toni and Anna also taught them many traditional family recipes and the art of making fresh pasta, “La pasta fresca”.  From their first lesson in Toni and Anna’s kitchen, they were convinced that fresh pasta was something special and delicious.  A month later, their Venetian friends threw Walsh a birthday party and gifted her with her first fresh pasta machine.

When they returned to the Canada and the Comox Valley in 2005, they decided to put the skills Walsh had learned to good use, and started Prontissima Pasta.  She still counts on the moral support of her friends and mentors, Toni and Anna.  “We speak on the phone often—they get very excited about what we are doing.  Anna is just a really great woman, and Toni always wants to know how many kilos of flour we go through!”

Today, Walsh shares pasta-making duties with Judith Storring, “our other ‘Pasta Master’.”   Prontissima Pasta started out home-based before moving to Tintown a year ago.  “The whole time we’ve been in business there’s been a steady increase every year,” says Walsh.  “The whole local food movement has been a big hit.”

While well-known locally, the pasta will soon be known nationally.  “We actually just found out on the weekend that we were mentioned in Chatelaine Magazine with Locals Restaurant,” says Walsh.  “We didn’t know that was going to happen!  The Chatelaine food writer went across Canada—they called it a ‘Tasty Road Trip’. They highlighted quite a bit of the Comox Valley, like Fanny Bay Oysters, and our Farmers’ Market.  We were mentioned with Locals by Ronald St. Pierre who uses our pasta.  So that was exciting! It’s the October issue, out now.”

Walsh notes only Canadian Durum Semolina flour is used in their pasta.  “They can grow it in the Ukraine too, so in Italy, they would get it from there,” she says.  “It’s an unbleached flour, ground from the kernel of the wheat so it’s considered a whole grain. It’s a slow release carb so it’s considered a good carbohydrate.  Also it’s lower on the glycemic index, so can be in the diabetic diet once a week or so.”

A couple other specialty products are wheat free. “We make an ancient grain pasta with organic spelt and organic kaput,” says Walsh.  “We want to do more products, more stuffed pastas—we eventually want to get a machine that makes ravioli, because you can be creative with the fillings, and it’s a nice frozen meal too.”

The entire range of pasta shapes are made from only two machines at the back of the kitchen.  Walsh laughs.  “That’s it!  Our machines have all the different attachments—we don’t need a lot of space.  We make up the pasta flavor and then decide what shape to make it—everything from fusilli to shells to penne to linguini or fettuccine. We can do sheets for lasagna and cannelloni.”

For now, local gourmets can not only get a taste at the restaurants, but at the Rosewall storefront.  “We do ‘Sample Saturdays’ between 1:30 and 3:30, every Saturday but the long weekends,” says Walsh.  “We give out free samples—different combinations of pasta and pesto.  It’s a good way for people to try different combos.”

Remembering that tomorrow is Saturday, Walsh heads back into the kitchen. “I have to get back to work to make pumpkin pasta for tomorrow’s Farmers’ Market!”
I don’t know what your destiny will be, seek
but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

-Albert Schweitzer

ValleyLinks workers Tyler Voigt, Jasmine Badrin, Bev Campbell, John Nicholson, Tricia Scavarda, Adda Vallevand and Gail Pasch at their office.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

As with so many worthy organizations in a community that is known for its caring nature, ValleyLinks, “the home of Volunteer Comox Valley,” knows well it could not continue to exist without those who give unstintingly to what it does.

It has been that way right from the beginning back in 1997. But, as technology has changed, so has ValleyLinks—quite radically since its inception, according to executive director Bev Campbell.

While Campbell hasn’t been at ValleyLinks since its inception (she came on board as a volunteer in 2000), the rest has been history, as they say.

“I thought I’d step in for a few months,” she says. “But then I found myself getting intrigued by what was taking place here and when the position of executive director came up, I made a bid for it. And I love it. It’s so exciting here and there have been so many changes in a positive way that I maintain my enthusiasm.”

She adds that the combination of hard-working and dedicated volunteers, combined with an excellent paid staff, keep the business operating in the direction of its vision.

So, what exactly is ValleyLinks? Its projects are threefold: There is ValleyLinks itself, which is designed to build and strengthen communications through collaboration, communication and information technologies; there is Volunteer Comox Valley, which is dedicated to enhancing volunteerism through the delivery of community information resources, services and programs; and there is Community Access Program (CAP), which is the Islands Community Network, which works with communities to develop and implement information and communication technologies in support of Healthy Communities.

So, at one level the umbrella of ValleyLinks is a bit of technology that serves the community, but at a more important level it is a part of that overall network of human services in the community. Both are of equal importance. Funding comes from Industry Canada, and is renewable every year, so Campbell notes they never know for certain if they’ll be able to keep going.

“All funding is annual,” Campbell says. “It runs from April 1 to March 31 each year. However, with the last federal budget there seemed to be a recognition that access is a vital component of a community or area. People have a right to know.”

She notes that the same program funds our libraries, though funding sources for the CAP programs vary.

It is important that ValleyLinks is up-to-the-minute in terms of technology and she notes how the scenario has changed so much since the beginning. At the same time, she adds, “we still get people coming in who don’t know how to send an email, so we can’t assume this technology is second-nature to everyone. Others want to know how to access Skype and other services and they don’t have the equipment at home. This is where we can be of major assistance.”

Among ValleyLinks’ services is free access to computers and the internet as well as training elements such as blog site creation and blog hosting. Meanwhile there is equipment available to the public, such as overhead projectors, digital projectors and screens. And it is here that ValleyLinks’ youth internship program comes into play.

“Our youth interns are excellent in getting people started,” Campbell says. “This program has been a huge success.

The programs run for three months and are designed to develop skills in information and communication technologies, and then to have the interns put those skills to work in the direction of bettering the community. It also enables young people to build their resumes, to work with people and discover how their talents can make a difference.

The Volunteer Centre was created in 2004 and came about with the realization that the public was seeking a “physical centre,” Campbell says. The result of that was the creation of the computer lab. And it has been such a success that it serves up to 3,000 people a year. Current director of Volunteer Services is Adda Vallevand.

The lab consists of nine computers accessible to the public, as well as a printing service. Most of the services are free to the public. “The services are used by people from all walks of life,” Campbell says. “We have affluent users, and homeless people as well. All are welcome.”

She says that the lab has been much more actively used since ValleyLinks set up in its current location at 532 Fifth Street in Courtenay; close to downtown for those traveling on foot.

Campbell is joined by the other full or part time paid employees of ValleyLinks. They include Tyler Voigt, technology coordinator; Jasmine Badrin, provincial CAP coordinator; Gail Pasch, financial coordinator; and John Nicholson, receptionist.

“Despite all the changes over the years, the ValleyLinks website is still very active,” Campbell says. “The primary focus is on the non-profit sector in the community, and we provide access to relevant information. Our motto: ‘Your Gateway to Community Information’ still guides what we do and who we are.”

Since the current age is very much an electronic one in terms of communication, ValleyLinks does a lot of linking to websites. In similar context, for those seeking to get an organization’s message out, ValleyLinks can teach how to create a presence via a blog. It’s free and it satisfies most of the criteria that can be found with a website.

“We have a lot of resources to offer those who don’t have the money to follow more traditional processes,” Campbell says.

She cites as an example a project recently undertaken in the remote and isolated aboriginal community Kingcome Inlet on the Mainland coast following disastrous flooding in September 2010. In its wake the flood left much devastation in the tiny community. “We set up an adult learning centre,” Campbell says. “We provided laptops for the community and they’re housed in the small library and it provides access that they didn’t have in the past.”

Tricia Scavarda and Adda Vallevand gear up to make this holiday season a safe driving one with the help of Operation Red Nose.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

As the Yuletide season, with all its partying and social gatherings, gains momentum at this time of year, a pet project for ValleyLinks has been their active involvement with Operation Red Nose (ORN).

ORN is a Canada-wide designated-driver program that was first launched in Quebec back in 1984. It’s designed to make a free driver service available to those who have been drinking or do not feel fit to drive and it allows members of the public to arrive home safely in their own vehicles. The service is free, but donations are gratefully accepted—donations are turned over to youth programs.

“We receive no outside funding for this,” Campbell says. “We do it through sponsorships and people have been very generous. The Lions’ Clubs have made significant donations, as has the City of Courtenay and the Comox Fire Department, and we’re grateful to them all. Last year we got a considerable sum from an anonymous donor and that kept it going.”

This year ORN has commitments from the City of Courtenay, the Comox Valley Record, the local RCMP Detachment and Sure Copy, as well as many local volunteers.

The objective of ORN is an obvious one, and that is “to keep everybody safe in the Christmas season.”

“If somebody is in an accident it impacts so many people,” Campbell says. “Thanks to our volunteers we can avoid that as much as possible.”

In regards to the volunteers, she adds, there is a desperate need for people to come on board and lend a hand. If you can spare some time, ORN would love to hear from you.

“If you are looking for a fun opportunity to give back to the community and keep our roads safer, either as a volunteer, a local supporter, or if your organization would like to volunteer as a team, please contact us,” Campbell says.

The ORN process demands three volunteers for each car that expedites a vehicle owner to his or her home. There is a driver, a navigator, and an escort who operates the vehicle of either the driver or navigator so that they can be picked up when the delivery is made to the home of the owner.

“And for volunteering there is great food as a bonus,” Campbell says. “Dishes are provided by various Valley restaurants.”

She adds that they would like to assure that everybody who might overindulge has a safe ride home. That is the goal, but she admits that no matter how many teams ORN has, it can’t meet the whole demand, even if that might be the objective.

As a final note for prospective ORN volunteers; no alcohol whatsoever may be consumed by the volunteers on the day of their service.

This year ORN will run every Friday and Saturday night until December 31 (excluding December 23 and 24) from 9pm to 3am in Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland and Royston.

For more information on ValleyLinks and/or Operation Red Nose call 250-804-8063 or visit their website: