Lee’s Summit leaders promote plans for ride program for elderly residents

rpulley@lsjournal.comJuly 26, 2013 

Jeanette Dillon, a Lee’s Summit resident, gave her share to the community.

During World War II she helped build bombers – a “Rosie the Riveter”– and before that had a cafe on Main Street as a young woman, alone supporting a younger brother. She was a nurse’s aid, nurse and a beautician.

Now retired and unable to drive, she’s excited about regaining some independence, said ITNGreaterKansasCity co-directors Kim Johnson and Suzy Makalous.

Makalous said Dillon told them:

“All I really want is to be able to buy my own groceries, because I have to have someone buy them for me and they never come back with what I want,”

Dillon’s now waiting for ITNGreaterKansasCity to find the 17 volunteers it needs to start service. Rides also would be available for visually impaired adults.

Makalous and Johnson explained the not-for-profit program, with support of other Mayor Randy Rhoads and others at a “friendraiser” rally Wednesday at the Gamber Center. It brought together about 80 community leaders from Lee’s Summit and neighboring cities.

Rhoads, Gene Gamber (who helped establish the city’s senior center) Phil Hansen of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, and others talked about the need for alternative transportation for elderly people.

ITNGreaterKansasCity will provide rides, whether it’s to the doctor or a grandchild’s birthday party, 24 hours daily, seven days a week.

There will be a paid dispatcher and paid drivers for nighttime hours when volunteers may not be available.

A typical volunteer is a recently retired person, Makalous said. A computerized dispatch system will match drivers with riders. Volunteers drive their own cars, will have a background check, are trained, and can be reimbursed for gasoline if they wish.

The fee is set at $125 a month for a person to get unlimited rides, and “Road Scholarships” will be available for people who need help affording the service.

Riders need to be able to at least get into the cars themselves, even if it’s from a wheel chair or walker.

The group intends to launch the service by mid August or early September.

It offers unlimited rides for $125 a month, 24 hours daily, seven days a week.

For more information on rides or volunteering call 913-481-1124 or go to www.itngreaterkansascity.

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Rhoads said statistics predict that by 2030 there will be 72 million Americans over the age of 65, about two times the current number. About 1 in 3 will have some kind of disability.

“The fact remains, in an aging population or physical abilities diminish over time, even as we live longer,” Rhoads said.

Stephen Gentry, a member of the LS 360 Charting Tomorrow group working on transportation, told the group a family problem brought the need home to him.

His grandmother was recently in an accident, which hospitalized her for a while, and it was evident she should not be driving any longer, even though she was reluctant to give up her keys.

Gentry and other family members give her rides, but he lives in Lee’s Summit and she is in Independence. Sometimes it’s a challenge to make schedules mesh, he said.

“It will round out transportation available in Lee’s Summit and the area,” Gamber said.

Johnson said ITNGreaterKansasCity is modeling this area’s program after the affiliate already running in Boston, because it is a metropolitan area also spread out like Kansas City.

Kansas City’s network will be the 23rd affiliate of ITNAmerica, where similar programs are successful in other cities.

The kickoff of the program is in Lee’s Summit, but the group plans to expand it to Kansas City and other suburbs.

It is working with Kansas City leaders to revise some of that city’s ordinances to allow the network to operate there.

They said they are working with area churches to help build the volunteer base and urged the group to tell others about the program, whether they were potential riders or volunteers.

Volunteering for as little as two hours a month would help, Johnson and Makalous said.

“We’re asking you to go the grocery you might want to go to anyway,” she said.

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