Ten thousand rides given, countless miles driven, and an immeasurable impact made in the lives of Memphis’ senior citizens and visually impaired – all made possible thanks to the efforts and volunteers working with ITNMemphis! ITNMemphis is an affiliate of ITNAmerica whose mission is to promote lifelong mobility for seniors by supporting sustainable, community-based transportation, and leading a national transportation network grounded in research, policy analysis and education. ITN stands for The Independent Transportation Network® and boasts the first and only national nonprofit transportation system for America’s aging population.
The story behind ITNAmerica’s inception is personal to Founder, Katherine Freund. When her son was three years old, he was injured by an 84-year-old driver. Instead of channeling her emotions at the driver, Freund turned it into an opportunity to power the good. Knowing these incidents were due to the lack of a transportation system capable of meeting the needs of an aging population, Freund set out to make a change. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration in transportation for the elderly. It was from this work that the ITN model was born. What is unique about ITN’s transportation model is that is provides arm-through-arm, door-through-door service. Not only does ITN allow its members to maintain their independence and dignity, it also makes it possible for seniors to continue to be a part of the economic and social health of their communities and to stay connected to family and friends while helping their adult children find relief from what could be seen as a daunting and complex challenge.
Currently, ITNMemphis serves 100 members who pay $45.00 a year for unlimited rides to doctor appointments, church, grocery store visits, etc. In addition to the $45.00 membership fee, there is a $3.00 pick-up charge and a flat rate of $1.50 per mile—money is never exchanged in the vehicle, and riders pre-pay via their personal transportation account. If the cost is a barrier, there are ways in which riders can receive the same services at a discounted rate. Carpooling is one way for riders to receive a discount, and it is a great option for seniors who are going to the same location.
ITNMemphis also offers a Car Trade program where seniors can trade in their car and receive the same value in rides. Some companies have even decided to help by offsetting ITNAmerica’s transportation cost. For example, as the National Pharmaceutical Eye-Care Services Sponsor for ITNAmerica, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., has allocated a nationwide grant so that all ITNAmerica members can take free rides to medical eye care appointments. ITNAmerica’s volunteers also receive a free membership for them to either gift to a family member or donate to the Road Scholarship which gives low-income seniors access to rides regardless of their inability to pay. More future conscious volunteers can also bank the miles they drive and save them for themselves as they grow older.
Speaking of volunteers, with an ever-growing waiting list and some members needing rides multiple times a week, ITNMemphis is always in need of more drivers. To learn more about volunteering, membership, or ITNMemphis’ services visit their website at ITNMemphis.org, Facebook at ITNAmerica, or give them a call at 901-833-7666.
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