The name has changed and scope has broadened, but the ideal remains the same; namely to help people who have maybe had a bit too much to drink home safely.
And the community is once again rallying behind the effort, including the car dealership in Bolton; Paul Coffey Kia, Paul Coffey Toyota, Bolton Hyundai, Bolton Honda, Bolton Nissan, Fines Ford, Bolton GM and Caledon Chrysler.
Home James is the new name of the program aimed at helping people arrive home safely. It’s entering into its fourth year, being run by program president Stan Janes and vice-president of operations Diane Tolstoy.
Home James is more than a program for the holiday season. In fact, they are planning to be on hand at the annual gala for Caledon Community Services (CCS) this Saturday (Nov. 17) and they are planning some Sunday activities this year, including Nov. 25, which will see the 100th edition of the Grey Cup. There are also plans to have a presence at other events in the community throughout the year, including Caledon Day, Wines of the World, etc.
The program is slated to run every Friday and Saturday, from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29, as well as additional Sunday service Dec. 30 and Monday, since New Year’s Eve is a Monday.
Janes said the scheduling largely depends on how the holidays fall on the calendar every year. The service used to be available Thursday’s but there wasn’t much demand.
“If the demand goes up, we’ll definitely add it for next year,” he said.
Although the name has changed, the program basically operates as before. It offers drivers, who have been drinking, a free ride home in their own vehicle. Janes said volunteers operate in teams of three, with a chauffer to drive the client’s vehicle, a driver of the shuttle vehicle and an navigator, “and you call him ‘James.’”
The car dealerships have been supportive of the effort since the start, and Janes said they have constantly helped to promote it. “They each supply a shuttle vehicle,” he commented, adding the dealerships hand over the keys at the start of the program, and they are returned at the end.
He added the service area is anywhere in Caledon or Nobleton, and the rides have to either start or end in that area.
“It’s still a free service,” Janes declared, and that’s a point he constantly stresses. Some people might be apprehensive at the expense of taking a cab, so they try to drive themselves. Home James eliminates that. “This is a free, safe alternative.”
Despite it being free, clients frequently offer donations in appreciation. Janes said they are gladly accepted. “Donations go to youth programs in the community, as they have before,” he commented.
He added in the past, groups benefitting from the donations have included the Restorative Justice, the Navy League, OPP Youth Leadership, CCS Youth Leadership, Optimists’ Children with Special Needs programs, Friday Night Teen Cafe, and Columbian Squires and Squirettes.
Over the three years, the program has provided 894 rides, getting 1,931 people home safe. Volunteers have put in a total of 7,070 hours. The amount donated by grateful patrons came to a little more than $19,000.
“It’s been growing every year,” Janes declared.
And the most important stat is the number of fatalities; zero. Janes and Tolstoy clearly believe deeply in the program.
“I think it’s great because it joins the community together,” he said. “It has united all the service clubs in Caledon, which in itself is a feat.”
He added it hasn’t promoted drinking, and pointed out a lot of young people are using it, helping to make the community safer.
“For once, it’s a program with the community serving the community,” he remarked. “There’s one objective, and that’s keeping the community safer.”
Written by Bill Rea