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ITN Lanier to convert ride program into errand service, executive director says

When ITN Lanier suspended its rides for seniors and people with visual impairment March 16, that left 170 members looking for a way to get to the hair salon, the doctor’s office, the grocery store and more.

Executive Director Dana Chapman said the board of directors decided to re-evaluate continuing services on May 4, which will likely start with drives to get grocery and pharmacy supplies.

“We will not probably actually pick them up, but they will call us to book the ride as if it were a drive for themselves. We will do it with volunteers who are willing to go pick up grocery and pharmacy items for them,” Chapman said.

There will still be a charge, but Chapman said it will “be at the lowest rate we can manage.” That rate was unspecified.

“We’re just going to sort of reinvent the ride program and turn it into an errand program,” Chapman said.

Chapman said they will likely start with the 30501 and 30504 ZIP codes and then expand across the county.

The last handful of rides were given March 14 and March 15 for groceries, though the average Sunday would see 18 to 20 rides.

Chapman previously told The Times around the end of February she made a decision that ITN Lanier “would need to stop transporting to and from urgent care and the emergency room.”

“It showed me that we needed to begin to protect our drivers, who are 90% volunteers to our service. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what I was doing in February, but … I would say our decision was made on March 11 that we needed to convene an executive meeting,” Chapman said.

There have been five new membership applications come in through the mail. Chapman said she has also heard from volunteer drivers who are eager to help when services resume. 

“We know that just as soon as it’s safe to get out that people really have seen the need for this service and in a strange way the demand seems to be growing even though we can’t move yet,” Chapman said.