Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Grant rescues program for celebrating soldiers who need a ride

TOM ROEDER Updated: December 18, 2011 at 12:00 am

A $2,500 gift will help Colorado Springs soldiers enjoy New Year’s Eve, and imbibe, while getting home safely.

The National Homeland Defense Foundation in Colorado Springs provided grant money to Designated Driver of Colorado Springs, rescuing a program that had been suspended for lack of cash. The financial boost will allow the program to resume business on Dec. 30-31 to get inebriated Fort Carson soldiers and their cars home from parties and watering holes.

“We drive them home safely in their own vehicle,” said Nonie Rispin, executive director of Designated Driver. “Our goal is to eliminate the reasons people sometimes make poor choices.”

The program gave its first ride on New Year’s Day 2009 and had been growing steadily, giving 12,000 rides to those who overindulged, before financial setbacks this year.

Designated Driver was primarily funded by donations from bars and restaurants, but with the sagging economy, sponsors backed away this fall.

“We temporarily suspended service on Nov. 4 and we haven’t been available at all since then,” Rispin said. “We are determined to get back out there and keep everyone in our community safe.”

The grant will help the nonprofit ferry soldiers home. Unless more money comes in, the service won’t be available for civilians.

Don Addy, who heads the foundation, said while its main focus is averting terrorist attacks and fostering new technology to keep the nation safe, helping soldiers avoid DUIs is a worthy cause.

The foundation is best known for hosting the National Symposium on Homeland Security and Defense at The Broadmoor each fall.

Addy said the foundation offered the grant to Designated Driver after Fort Carson commanders urged the assistance.

“It’s good because I don’t want some young private out there running into trees or, God forbid, something else,” Addy said.

Designated Driver relies on volunteers behind the wheel, but uses donation money to cover other expenses, including running a call center to set up the rides.

Rispin is working to get other organizations to help prop up Designated Driver.

“Hopefully, by the new year in 2013 we’ll be up and running for the whole city,” Rispin said

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