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Nonprofit service provides
The elderly immobilized by blindness or physical limitations may be
able to call upon a volunteer service sponsored by MUSC that provides
“dignified transportation” to doctors’ offices, drug and grocery
stores, or even to the airport.
ITN's Paul Franklin
(from left), and Dave Neff, MUSC Ambulatory Care administrator, chat
with Dr. Henry Rittenberg before taking a ride with Mayor Joe Riley,
who volunteered as a driver for the nonprofit service.
The Independent Transportation Network (ITN) in Charleston is supported
by Trident United Way, the Association for the Blind, and area
hospitals, and helps provide dependent individuals in the Tri-county
area safe, inexpensive and reliable transportation.
ITN-Charleston-Trident is an affiliate of the 10-year-old national
nonprofit organization, ITN, based in Portland, Maine.
Requests for ITN services have exploded to 681 in January from 137 a
“Our first ride was provided on Nov. 15, 2006,” said INT board chairman
Paul Franklin, who also is a volunteer driver. “Requests for rides have
grown consistently since then. By the end of the month, we expect to
have up to 700 riders.”
Trying to respond to the growing requests would outpace the
organization’s capacity to serve its members with the quality,
sensitivity and personalized service it has committed itself to,
“So, effective Feb. 1, we established a moratorium on adding any new
riders until we get enough volunteer drivers to accommodate them,”
While many of the volunteer drivers are active but retired, ITN is
working with MUSC and other large employers to recruit drivers.
“MUSC is a major sponsor of ITN, and we also benefit from its services
because they transport many of our patients here,” said Dave Neff, MUSC
Ambulatory Care administrator who is working to boost support for ITN.
In fact, about half of ITN’s riders seek transportation to MUSC
facilities on campus and to satellite facilities in the region, said
ITN CEO James Ledbetter.
ITN also is depending on the continued support from its membership
coalition of private-sector and nonprofit groups, including gerontology
service providers, gerontologists, and the Alzheimer’s Association, as
well as local and state governmental agencies, Franklin said.
As chairman of the Aging in Place Council (AIP), Franklin has committed
44 drivers, including himself and his wife, to ITN. AIP has a goal of
providing 500 rides a month for ITN, and already is halfway to meeting
that goal, Franklin said.
Ledbetter said ITN hopes to have at least 55 drivers recruited who
could respond to requests.
“We are flexible with our drivers,” Ledbetter said. “We realize that
everyone has other responsibilities. Generally, we would call the
volunteer between 24 to 48 hours ahead of a scheduled ride. The driver
could opt out and we could find someone else who could provide a ride.”
Drivers must be trained and go through a background screening to be
able to volunteer, Ledbetter said. Drivers also are trained in how to
work with frail, blind or otherwise incapacitated people who may need
walkers, canes or similar aids to get around.
“We would not transport anyone with a heavy, motorized wheelchair,”
Ledbetter. “We would not expose our drivers to lifting anything that
Volunteers use their own cars and assist riders from their front door,
into the car and to their destination. ITN provides insurance for
drivers and their automobiles.
ITN riders, who must be at least 65 years old, pay an annual membership
fee of $35. In addition, members maintain a monthly account of $50,
against which trips are charged.
“No money changes hands between the rider and the driver,” Ledbetter
said. “The mileage and trips are logged and tracked in a database
provided by the national ITN office.”
Those who cannot afford the monthly fee may qualify for ITN’s “Roads
Scholar” program, which is a fund provided through private donations.
Because ITN only maintains three paid part-time drivers on staff as
backup, many more volunteers are needed to meet the growing requests
To obtain more information, contact ITN at 225-2715; or visit http://www.ITNCharlestonTrident.org.
Friday, Feb. 29, 2008
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