Transportation service created for independent seniors
Lois Favier moved back to the Lehigh Valley several years ago to be on hand and closer to help her elderly parents. Favier, like many other adult children of seniors, was concerned with her parents driving on their own to appointments, errands and leisure activities. After sharing this concern with others, she learned, aside from herself providing transportation or the use of public transit, there were not a lot of options for her parents to utilize, while still feeling a sense of independence, safety and affordability. Favier started looking into creating a nonprofit affiliate of ITNAmerica (Independent Transportation Network) for the Lehigh Valley and began putting the wheels in motion for making this dream a reality.
Favier approached the national organization in Maine on how to go about establishing an affiliate. She conducted a demographic study of the local area and determined this would be successful in the Lehigh Valley.
In late 2011, she began the federal and state paperwork to get the approval process started, and she received the approval January 2013 for her nonprofit organization, ITNLehighValley. Once approval was received, Favier began fundraising for an office space and networking to get the word out about the service. ITNLehighValley officially launched its transportation service October 2013.
ITNLehighValley is a national nonprofit transportation service for senior citizens and visually impaired adults in the Lehigh Valley. Located on Elizabeth Avenue in Bethlehem, ITNLehighValley will transport members in driver-owned vehicles to appointments, errands or even a get-together with friends within a local mileage radius.
To utilize ITNLehigh Valley services, you would first register and create a personal transportation account for ride payment. There is an annual membership fee, and there is no money exchange during the ride at all. Friends and family can create a membership with an account for a loved one and can even purchase gift certificates or add to a member’s account at any time.
Rides need to be reserved by 3 p.m. the day before the appointment. Guide dogs are welcome as well as nonservice animals if they can be transported in a carrier or cage.
ITN is different from public transportation in that it offers an arm-to-arm and door-to-door safe transportation service to its members. Riders sit in the front seat next to the driver for a more personal transportation experience. The drivers are friendly and engaging and aim to make each ride a personal one for their members.
Jacquelyn Malik, a local senior, uses ITNLehighValley and enjoys being able to make her own appointments with this service.
“All of the drivers are so nice and friendly, and it’s so nice to be able to still feel independent. Whenever I need ITN, I just say, ‘I’m gonna call my peeps,’ and I set up an appointment for them to pick me up,” Malik said.
Malik added she has met many different drivers, and they’ve all been helpful and considerate and have made appointments an enjoyable experience for her.
Favier, executive director of ITNLehighValley, hosted the 10,000 Ride Celebration in January and invited all its members and drivers to get together for a Sunday morning brunch. Malik attended the event and said she felt like she was at the prom. It was an opportunity for members and drivers to get together and celebrate this service.
“When you get older,” Favier said, “you realize that after being independent your whole life, you suddenly need someone else’s help to get places and do the things you once did on your own. It’s often difficult to make that acceptance. ITNLehighValley helps to make this transition smoother by offering a chance for each member to experience the independence of still doing things on their own.”
ITNLehighValley currently has about 20 drivers — both volunteer and nonvolunteer — and is always looking for more. Drivers must submit to a background check, be 24 years of age, own an inspected and insured vehicle, and have a clean driving history. ITN is also grateful for donations of used vehicles to offer more means of transportation for their members.
If you’re interested in arranging a ride for yourself or someone else with ITNLehighValley, or if you’d like to volunteer with this organization, call 610-419-1645 or visit itnlehighvalley.org.