Letter From Katherine
A lot has changed in 23 years, but the ITN mission remains the same. Seniors still need rides, and ITN still give them. Our work is as steadfast, simple and important as ever.
I know, because in addition to being the founder, president and executive director of ITNAmerica, I’m also a volunteer driver. Just last week I drove two members, a couple I picked up after dark. They were going to an event at the Elks Club. He relied on a cane. She used a walker. She affectionately referred to him as “Dad.”
“How long have you been members of the Elks Club?” I asked.
“Dad,” she said, calling back to him from the passenger seat, “how long have we been members?”
“49 years,” he answered from the rear seat. “And married for 69 years.”
“Almost as long as the King and Queen of England,” I joked.
He still drives, he explained later, on the way home. His car is parked in the garage. But he didn’t want to drive in the dark, he said, or through the construction projects surrounding the Elks Club.
“That’s what we’re here for,” I said, “so you can decide when to drive and when to ride.”
As I escorted them to their door, she turned to me. “I think maybe we’ll use you again,” she said.
This is ITN. It’s dignified transportation. It’s more than a ride to the doctor, though medical rides constitute nearly half our trips. ITN is about supporting older people so they can make good choices about driving without risking loneliness or isolation. It’s been that way for 23 years.
But I will tell you one thing that has changed about ITN: This year I used the service myself for the first time. Twice. Both times were for appointments where I was told by my doctor I was not allowed to drive. So I turned to ITN. I used my transportation credits, earned through years of driving others, and saved in my Personal Transportation Account for my own transportation future.
Looking forward to our future, to ITN in 2018 and beyond, we are preparing for an exciting year: testing our rural transportation model, ITNCountry; moving forward with new software and electronic marketing; our new on-line learning system; an expanded TTP program; new research projects with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We are also grateful for the last 23 years, to all of the volunteers from California to Maine and Florida who helped us reach the cusp of 1,000,000 rides, and the promising future of the next 1,000,000.
The Independent Transportation Network supports older people as they age, riders people like Lester Gingold, an ITN member and frequent passenger of our Memphis affiliate. Currently 95, Gingold was born New Year’s Day of 1922 in Birmingham, Alabama. He served in World War Two as a combat engineer, and after his service Lester spent 34 years working as a manager for Sears. Then he spent the next 15 years as advertising director for Memphis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper the Commercial Appeal.
After that Gingold “retired,” but the status barely held — he soon took over the reins of a newspaper for seniors called Active Times, which eventually became The Best Times. He worked at The Best Times for 18 years, covering stories such as when John Glenn became the oldest man to fly in space at age 77. Gingold now serves as publisher emeritus of The Best Times, an encore career that is also his passion.
Despite enduring energy, Gingold has suffered the impact of advancing age. “The most difficult thing I ever had to do was to quit driving,” he said. “I have been blessed to ride with ITN, and the excellent volunteers who are so helpful.”
Gingold’s home affiliate ITNMemphis has been providing service for three years. In that time they’ve given literally thousands of rides to active older adults like Lester and visually impaired people. That work is at the heart of the ITN mission: promoting lifelong mobility for seniors by supporting sustainable, community-based transportation.
ITNAmerica is the umbrella organization for the nation’s only non-profit senior transportation network. Our affiliates work in 13 communities across 12 states, from Maine to Florida to California, providing rides to older and visually impaired people across the country. Our model is focused on the local community, but our reach is national, and with that reach comes strength. Want to support the transportation needs of a family member 3,000 miles away? ITNAmerica makes it happen.
2017 ITN Customer and Volunteer Satisfaction Highlights
Our Trusted Transportation Partners program helps people find organizations in their own community that offer the highest level of transportation service, the sort of service we expect from our own affiliates, in places without an ITN. It’s a way to take the guesswork out of deciding on a senior transportation organization—TTPs are independent organizations that earn the ITN seal of excellence. We support them because they support you.
2017 was the third year of the program, and we added 10 new TTPs for a total of 24 organizations in 22 states. And the growth is slated to continue in 2018: We have plans to expand by another 20 organizations by 2019, for a total of 44 TTPs.
ITNCountry is a transportation solution for small towns and rural places. It brings the ITN model anywhere, to any non-profit or government organization. With ITNCountry anyone can build a community-based transportation solution that connects vehicles, drivers and riders with businesses, healthcare providers and families. In 2017 ITNAmerica recruited 10 communities from around the country to take part in ITNCountry pilot tests. We are in the process of developing the technology to roll out individualized a la carte offerings of ITN services to these communities for the first round of national testing. We will continue to push this process forward in 2018.
2017 RIDES IN SIGHT CALLER STATISTICS
ONLINE LEARNING SYSTEM
ITNAmerica developed an online learning system in 2017 to streamline the task of educating staff and volunteers on the inner workings of the ITN model. This is aimed at both affiliates and non-affiliate communities in small and rural communities nationwide looking to enlist in the ITNCountry program. To be scalable — to meet the mobility needs of rural and small communities that lack adequate public transportation — ITNAmerica needs its methods and practices to be easily taught and disseminated. The Online Learning System makes this possible, with 10 modules that systematically explain every aspect of running a community-based transportation network, from a basic introduction to the ITN model to how to implement specific programs.
2017 ITN Expense Report
For FY 2017 ITNAmerica had a surplus. The goal in 2017 was to reduce overhead by 20%. The approach allowed us to write off old receivables. We are going into FY2018 with a clean balance sheet and reduced overhead while still maintaining efficiency and effectiveness.
OUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE
2017 was a year of new program development at ITNAmerica, the sort of constant revision and refinement necessary to remain relevant in the rapidly changing world of transportation. That work, however, has positioned us well for the future. The coming year we will be expanding our TTP program, pilot testing the ITNCountry initiative and working on new technology capable of supporting the next generation of ITN connectivity, all while continuing to offer quality, dignified arm-through-arm, door-through-door service in our affiliate communities nationwide and running the most comprehensive listing of senior transportation services.
ITNAmerica is proud to recognize Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as a corporate sponsor committed to helping raise awareness of the challenges associated with vision impairment, low vision, senior mobility issues and the shortage of locally-available transportation options for seniors. As the National Pharmaceutical Eye-care Services Sponsor for ITNAmerica and our affiliate communities, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is proud to support ITN's mission to promote safe senior mobility.