‘Reliable, dignified’ senior transportation network on the launching pad

GEORGETOWN – A private-sector, non-profit transportation solution for Sussex County’s aging seniors who cannot or no longer want to drive is on the launching pad.

Memberships and volunteer drivers are the month of August focus as iTNSouthernDelaware gears up for a September 2015 launch of its ride program for seniors 55 and over.

“We have happily become an affiliate of iTN (Independent Transportation Network) America,” said Nancy Feichtl, founder of iTNSouthernDelaware, in an update to Sussex County Council Tuesday. “We became an affiliate with the only nationwide senior transportation cooperative.”

Statewide, Delaware’s senior (60 and over) population is 30-percent, nearly double the nationwide average of 16 percent, and the percentage of senior citizens in many eastern Sussex communities is much higher, according to a feasibility study conducted by iTNAmerica, Ms. Feichtl said.

19 FEICHTL itnsouthern delaware

Nancy Feichtl outlines launching plans for iTNSouthernDelaware that will provide affordable, dependable transportation for members 55 years of age and over.

“There are many of us around here with no transportation. My son lives in San Francisco; my daughter lives in Annapolis. They are not going to take me to get my hair done,” said Ms. Feichtl.

Annual individual membership in iTNSouthernDelaware is $35; $60 for family.

Through an account, member riders pay $1.25 per mile. No cash ever changes hands between a rider and driver. Tips are not allowed.

Through a 24/7 dispatching system, volunteer drivers provide rides virtually anywhere for any purpose: beauty salon, dentist, recreation, a show, doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping or even a trip to the veterinarian for shots for the member’s dog.

“We will have dispatchers that will work during the week so you have to book your trip ahead of time. We are not an emergency service,” said Ms. Feichtl.

“As a caretaker for my mother and father … I am thrilled with this and I commend you for truly being a blessing,” said County Councilman rob Arlett, R-Frankford. “I have to tell you, our aging population is a challenge.”

iTNAmerica provides affiliates software/cloud, website/email set-up and management; Global Position System, marketing and staff support, business plan and budget models, and consulting/staff development.

Transportation service will commence in two stages.

The initial Phase 1 focus is Sussex County’s coastal areas, encompassing Milton, Lewes, Rehoboth Selbyville, Bethany, Ocean View, Millville and Millsboro.

Phase 2, slated to be launched next spring with membership/driver recruitment, covers Georgetown, Dagsboro, Frankford and the rest of central and western Sussex.

“We couldn’t launch in the entire County at one time. We are launching on the beach side starting in August,” said Ms. Feichtl.

The cooperative provides volunteer drivers credits to their personal accounts to be banked when they need a ride; volunteers are also excused from the $35 Legacy annual membership fee.

Ms. Feichtl said iTNSouthernDelaware offers reliable, dignified transportation for members 55 and older with an “arm in arm/door through door” approach that is about “one third the cost” of taxi service or Uber.

In addition, membership is open to any visually impaired adult 21 or older.

iTNAmerica, in existence for 20 years, and its affiliates have been recognized and honored at state and federal levels.

Affiliation with iTNAmerica required a minimum $150,000, which includes a $35,000 fee for the first year; $30,000 for the second year and decreasing amounts in following years.

“But we raised $220,000,” said Ms. Feichtl.

Funding included, among others, a $10,000 kick-start from Beebe Healthcare, $45,000 from generous organizations such as Rotary, $35,000 from Schell Brothers, and substantial matching donations from the Longwood Foundation and the Delaware Department of Transportation.

A $50,000 Longwood pledge included this caveat: match it in six weeks – and old money cannot be used.

“Then, hold onto your seats, the Department of Transportation that is $780 million in debt” stepped up,” Ms. Feichtl told County Council. “We got $50,000 from the Department of Transportation.”

Sussex County Council provided $7,000 in two separate grants.

“The sum wasn’t big but you endorsed me,” Ms. Feichtl said. “That kicked in the state money, which kicked in the Longwood Foundation.”

Ms. Feichtl recognized CHEER for its support, including a business incubator in the Milton CHEER center that provides iTNSouthernDelaware’s dispatching,

“The CHEER Center has been wonderful,” Ms. Feichtl said.

In a giveback, iTNSouthernDelaware will provide volunteer transportation for CHEER’s Alzheimer’s day-care, in the event there is no pick-up for a client after regular day-care hours.

iTNSouthernDelaware also accepts donated cars. The Blue Book value is transferred to a member’s account for rides.

At present, membership applications are being distributed in all coastal-area libraries and Millsboro, the Sussex municipality with the biggest zip code population.

“What we want of everyone is to get the word out,” said Ms. Feichtl.
For more information on iNTSouthernDelaware, memberships and the volunteer driving program, visit www.ITNSouthernDelaware.org.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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