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Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Getting Together to Help Get Around

September 8, 2011

by Jim Brown, Sarasota Herald-Tribune,

ITNSarasota (the Independent Transportation Network) is a mostly volunteer nonprofit organization that provides rides to seniors and any adults with vision impairment.

Volunteer drivers take people no longer able to drive to the grocery store, doctor’s office, movie, play, concert, beauty or barber shop or just to meet friends for lunch 24/7 every day of the year. The drivers not only give their services but provide their own cars.

Riders are charged an annual fee, plus so much per mile, based on length of the trip, but provision is made for low-income riders.

The fee only covers about 30 percent of the cost, with the balance made up by contributions. ITN started in January 2010, with six rides. Last month it provided almost 400.

See where am I heading?

Put the two together. Set up your fund — perhaps asking a family member or some outfit like the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to handle it.

From the fund pay reasonable ITN fees — fees that more truly reflect actual costs but still would be nowhere near what you would have to pay on the open market.

And — the hidden gold mine — tap the reservoir of younger retirees, of whom there are thousands here, who are looking for areas to serve.

Speaking of volunteers, ITN is staging a “Walk for Rides” fundraiser next March 3 at Phillippi Estate Park and could sure use walkers and other volunteers to help stage the event.

Plus, the more volunteer drivers they get, the more rides they can offer.

Call Donna Dunio, executive director, at 364-7530 if you are interested.

There is, incidentally, one major side benefit area residents of all ages would gain from success of these programs. A lot of people who really should not be driving would find a safe answer to preserving the mobility they do not want to give up.