April 30, 2018
Westbrook, ME – At an event at Independent Transportation Network of America’s (ITNAmerica) headquarters today celebrating the organization’s one millionth ride for seniors, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King presented Katherine Freund, the founder and president of ITNAmerica, with the text of a congressional resolution they authored commemorating this significant milestone. Their resolution was unanimously passed by the Senate last week.
Senator Collins also presented the One in a Million Volunteer Award to Didi Stockly, a former volunteer driver, board member, and current rider, and Senator King presented the One in a Million Volunteer Award to Jim Stoddard, a former board member and current volunteer driver. Approximately 75 attendees, including seniors who rely on the organization, volunteers, community partners, and ITNAmerica board and council members attended the event.
“Since its inception in Portland in 1995, ITNAmerica has expanded across the nation to provide an effective, community-based solution to the mobility needs of our seniors and the visually impaired. The false choice between homebound isolation or posing a threat to one’s self and others is being answered with ingenuity and hard work,” said Senators Collins. “The beauty of ITNAmerica is that those things that are precious to us all – family, friends, and community – do not change as the years pass. ITNAmerica keeps them all within reach.”
“There are four important ‘P’s you need in order to do vital community work: a plan, partners, perseverance and passion,” said Senator King. “ITNAmerica has each of these assets, and is using them to do work that provides mobility to older Maine people and strengthens our communities. This Maine-based organization has already changed so many lives, and it’s just getting started – I’m looking forward to the next million rides!”
”When I started working on senior transportation as an automobile service rather than a bus or paratransit, it was a crazy idea. When ITN set up a program to help older people trade their cars for rides, it was a crazy idea. And when I said we should give volunteers credit for the rides they offer to others and save the credits for their own future needs, it was another pretty crazy idea,” said Katherine Freund, Founder and President of ITNAmerica. “But Susan Collins believed in us. She supported our efforts. That she believed in us helped us to believe in ourselves.
“It was a thrill to have Senator King with us at the Million Rides Celebration. He is always so calm. When we launched ITN as a national network and we got really busy, I mean really busy, I used to try to think of people with much more difficult jobs than mine who seemed always to be calm and collected, so I could learn from them and grow into the work. Angus King is the person I would picture, but he never knew that,” continued Ms. Freund.
As the Chair of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Aging Committee, Senator Collins has long worked to raise awareness about the transportation challenges seniors face, particularly in rural areas. Since 1999, Senator Collins has helped to secure $800,000 in transit planning and research grants in the Transportation Appropriations bill to support the development of ITNAmerica in Maine and across the country. In 2013, she chaired a hearing to discuss how transportation is necessary for older Americans to maintain their independence and invited Katherine Freund, to testify. Senator Collins attended ITNAmerica’s 100,000th ride celebration in 2002.
ITNAmerica, which was founded in Portland more than two decades ago, has grown into a nationwide network that gives hundreds of rides every day to seniors in a dozen states coast-to-coast. Comprised of 13 affiliates, the network taps into community-level social capital, with affiliates pairing older and visually impaired riders with drivers and volunteers operating private vehicles. ITNAmerica rides are available for any purpose, from medical appointments to recreational trips, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.