By Greg Bobinec on December 15, 2020.
The Lethbridge and Area chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is continuing to work through the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions to get its annual message out, and raise funds for services.
With many community charity events being cancelled due to provincial restrictions, MADD’s annual Operation Red Ribbon was no exception and had to find alternatives to spread their message and connect with the community.
“Right now we’re in one of our biggest campaigns that we usually do called Operation Red Ribbon and we run it from Nov. 1 until Jan. 4, and during that time we put our coin boxes in stores,” said local president Anita Huchala. “However, due to different restrictions due to COVID-19 we haven’t put any of our boxes in stores because a lot of the stores are asking people not to spend cash, as well as the worry for our volunteers to collect the funds. Then we are handling the money, so it puts us at risk so we chose not to put them in stores this year.
“We are just asking people who are wanting to have a red ribbon or window decal to contact our chapter. We can mail one out, or we can do porch drops. We are putting on a few more miles but we are trying to do everything that we can do during this campaign time.”
Having a continuous presence during many local events, MADD Lethbridge has had to adjust to new mediums of getting its message out, utilizing digital platforms. One of the main campaigns they participate in, the Lethbridge Police Service annual Christmas Check Stop, also had to be avoided for the safety of volunteers, police and the community.
“We have been to so many events where we have information booths to share the message, so without events it has been a bit of a struggle with nothing happening. We weren’t able to get our message out fully that we are out in the community and willing to help serve them,” says Huchala. “Also after several meetings with local police, we decided that we would not be at their check stops this year for safety reasons. We chose that it would not be safe for us to be handing out our check-stop bags. That is different for us because that is one of the easiest ways for us to be out there to let the general public know that we are thanking these people for not driving impaired.”
MADD provides many services, including support through grief and court hearings for families who have suffered a loss from impaired driving accidents. These services have also felt the impact of the pandemic as personal support is now done from a distance.
“Our victim support, we can’t attend court unless there are special circumstances made, but we are having to hear updates once the Crown gives us updates, and we have to contact the families and explain everything to them,” says Huchala. “It is different. It is also part of their grieving process and not being able to sit down with them, not able to hug, and I personally feel like it’s a cold version of what it was. It is difficult because now they are only able to get a phone call from me and I am not able to give them the personal care I used to.”
Through the struggle of raising money during a pandemic, the MADD Lethbridge and Area team found alternative ways to spread its message and raise money, including their new coffee fundraiser through Cuppers Coffee.
“Because it has been a struggle for fundraising, we were trying to come up with something new and I happened to come across Cuppers Coffee and they have been fantastic to work with,” says Huchala. “They have two specialty blends for us, a medium and dark blend, and what we do is we gather up the orders, or people can go online and order directly from them, but for every pound of coffee we sell, 25 per cent of that is donated back to the MADD Chapter.”
With the COVID restrictions and encouragement to stay home over the holidays, there is hope for lower numbers of impaired drivers, but Huchala says that won’t stop MADD Lethbridge from getting the message out.
“Let’s be part of the solution. If we are all staying home, we are not out socializing, that means as far as I’m concerned that impaired driving is dropping in our city because people are staying home and doing the right thing,” says Huchala. “But if you do choose to go out, just plan ahead, really plan for a sober driver, take a cab or Uber, or if you can’t, just stay where you are.”
To donate and find out more information about MADD, visit maddchapters.ca/Lethbridge.
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