Charlotte Melson is looking for a few good drivers.
“There is a huge need for older adult transportation,” Melson, executive director of ITNGreaterKansasCity, said last week at an Independence Ministerial Alliance luncheon.
ITN, or the Independent Transportation Network, was started in Portland, Maine, in 1996, and has spread to 27 other cities. ITNGreaterKansasCity started last year in Lee’s Summit, and Melson, with an office at the Ennovation Center in Independence, is looking to expand in Independence next.
To get started, she needs 15 volunteer drivers.
“It’s something I really need your help with,” she told clergy and others at the meeting last week. “I want Independence to be successful.”
The program serves those 65 and older and the visually impaired who are 18 and older. A client opens an account with $50 and calls 24 hours in advance to set up a ride. A volunteer driver picks up the person in his own vehicle.
“It’s arm-in-arm, door-to-door service,” Melson said.
The rider is charged for the ride – the average one-way trip in Lee’s Summit is $6 – and is billed monthly. Volunteers don’t handle payments.
Volunteers can choose when and where they are available to drive. There’s a background check, and volunteers take training and provide insurance paperwork.
Volunteers also build up credits. The idea is that, for example, those credits could be used by an elderly relative in a distant city.
Melson said seniors whose children have made the difficult decision to take away the car keys face a range of issues. Getting to the doctor is one, but Melson said in that situation many seniors become reluctant to bring up the need to even go to the doctor.
“A lot of older adults get very isolated,” she said.
Eventually the program could be expanded to other area cities as well. Right now the focus is on Independence.
“It’s something that I think can make a difference for older adults in Independence,” Melson said.
Those interested in volunteering can apply as www.itngreaterkansascity.org/volunteer.
Those interested also can get more information or ask questions at www.itngreaterkansascity.org, 816-519-7503 or info@intgreaterkansascity.