Friday, December 10, 2010
By Barry McDonald
There were flashing blue and red lights on approximately 10 – 12 cars in the Safeway parking lot from 1 – 3 p.m. on Friday, December 3rd. A dozen Officers with yellow stripes on the legs of their pants and others wearing florescent coats were directing vehicles off Highway 13 into the Safeway parking lot. The window goes down, the officer leans towards the open window and the driver is asked if they have been drinking.
It is the holiday season and it is a Check Stop and a reminder of ‘Don’t drink and drive.’ You are in the warmth of your car and the Officers are out there battling a wind chill and the cold. You might expect them to be a little abrupt, demanding and perhaps even somewhat annoyed that you are warm and they are out in the cold. But instead when you pass the sniff and (no) drinking question they smile, hand you a treat and direct you to the Candy Cane Check Stop lanes and encourage you to make a donation to the local charities, Victim Services and the Salvation Army Food Bank.
The dozen or more RCMP, By-Law and other officers were happy to help out with the Candy Cane Check Stop as many have a lot of experience with similar events in other locations. As one Officer who was directing vehicles to the charity lanes said, “I have been involved in this event for both years. I enjoy this one because it’s part of the Christmas spirit seeing people giving.”
M.P. Blaine Caulkins and Mayor Bill Elliott attended the event to offer their encouragement. Caulkins congratulated the volunteers for the efforts being made that day and throughout the year. As he was leaving he showed how positive he was by advising the group, “Let me know sooner next year and I will be here helping for the entire Check Stop”.
Although Christmas holiday season is meant to be a happy and joyful time, this isn’t necessarily how everyone feels at this time of the year. Christmas can be extremely stressful and depressing for many people.
Every year many people find added financial and time pressures, isolation from family and friends, loss of family and friends, separation and divorce, reflecting on another year gone or not being able to supply their family with an adequate meal are very difficult to manage.
There are also tragedies leading up to and during the holiday season and the pressures can also lead to victim abuse.
Standing by to help in Wetaskiwin is Victim Services and the Salvation Army Food Bank. Victim Services is a society comprised of the Wetaskiwin Municipal RCMP and Rural RCMP, in partnership with the Wetaskiwin and District Victim Services Society. That is why the law enforcement officers as part of their Check Stop, partnered with Victim Services and the Salvation Army Food Bank to help raise funds for those in need. Participating in the Candy Cane Check Stop were the RCMP, City police and By-law officers. When drivers passed the no drinking test, the officer gave them a treat and directed them to lanes where they were given a candy cane by volunteers of the Salvation Army and Victim Services and provided the opportunity to make a donation to these charities.
Jeannie Blakely, Executive Director of Victim Services is grateful for the donations that the drivers so generously offered at the end of the Check Stop. “Their contributions are so important with helping us assist people in need whether it be victims’ of crime or a tragedy or people that desperately need the food they get from the Salvation Army to get through the Christmas season. We call this a friendly Check Stop.”
For more information, to volunteer or to make a donation to Victim Services phone 780-312-7287 or visit them in the RCMP building.