ITN Lanier, a nonprofit transportation service for seniors and the visually impaired, had its last day of operations June 30.
The organization has faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was in operation for four years, and during that time it served more than 500 people and provided about 11,000 rides, Executive Director Dana Chapman said Tuesday.
The decision to end the service was a difficult one for the organization’s Board of Directors, most of whom were also drivers, Chapman said.
“This worked. It made a great impact on the lives of all of our people,” Chapman said. “Both the riders and the drivers are grieving. They’re missing each other. They’re missing being able to move about and enjoy the environment, enjoy a car ride with another person and tell stories.”
Chapman said both the organization’s elderly riders and its drivers, most of whom are over the age of 65, had already been isolating during the pandemic and were likely to continue staying at home more.
Fundraising has been another challenge. The organization had to raise about $90,000 a year in grants and donations to operate. Chapman said although the service was helpful in meeting transportation needs, transportation services can be seen as a luxury during trying times when groups are fundraising for other needs.
“That was an uphill battle in a good economy, but with a lot of funding being redirected toward COVID recovery, which is great -- People need food, they need shelter, they need help with utilities and rent … In the world of raising money, it’s a very difficult environment to continue to raise that much money,” she said.
Chapman said that while restarting the service after the pandemic could be an option, but “it’s not something we can see right now.”
Chapman said ITN Lanier was unique because its drivers helped the riders arm-in-arm, door-to-door on their trips. The only alternative they have been able to recommend is home care services that provide transportation for clients, she said.
Riders have been notified about ITN Lanier closing. Chapman said out of the 150 current riders, as of Tuesday afternoon, the organization had been able to speak directly with all but 11, who had been sent a letter, given an email address to contact and received a voicemail if their phone was connected.
“They are all gracious and supportive and understanding and very thankful,” Chapman said of the riders.