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Martha Giles

December 23, 2011

Martha Giles
April 14, 1929 – December 9, 2011
Martha Giles

Have you seen this picture of the laughing lady? The lady’s name was Martha Lucretia Holt Whidden Giles, and she was the most remarkable volunteer driver ITN has ever known. Martha passed away last week. Her record of service will stand for years. Between October 16, 1996 when she delivered her first volunteer ride, and September 15, 2008, when she delivered her last ride, Martha volunteered to drive 11,082 times, driving a total of 95,255 miles. Think of it this way. The circumference of the world is 24,859 miles, so Martha volunteered to drive enough to go around the world almost 4 times. For her great contribution as a volunteer for ITN, Martha received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2008.

Martha loved to socialize, to meet the people, to talk with them, and above all, to keep moving. She served as Secretary of the Independent Transportation Network Board of Directors for many years, and she attended every fundraising event (when she wasn’t busy driving members who wanted to attend). When we needed a volunteer to pose for pictures, Martha stepped forward. This picture of Martha, throwing her head back and laughing beside the pond in Deering Oaks Park, Portland, appeared on the cover of a special report for the Transportation Research Board.

Her background was just extraordinary. A graduate of Bennington College, she worked for the CIA for several years, and her vow of secrecy was so strong, that no one ever found out what she did there. She became a part of the Moonwatch Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Satellite Tracking Program, and she lived in India for a while.

Once we cooked up an idea to encourage others to volunteer. We pitched it to Martha and to the Portland City Council and we called it the Giles Miles Program. The City Council issued a proclamation creating Giles Miles Day, and ITNPortland and Martha offered a 500 mile signing bonus to any citizen of Portland who would volunteer to drive and contribute the credits earned to the Road Scholarship Fund. The bonus was offered by Martha, out of her treasury of transportation credits, and that bonus, too went into the Scholarship Fund for low income riders.

The last time I saw Martha, she was still an ITN member, but she was a rider, rather than a driver. The ITNPortland dispatcher, Mary, knew that when Martha scheduled a ride, I wanted to be the one to drive her if I possibly could. We spent an hour in her kitchen slowly looking through her family picture album. Moving to the dining room, we stood by the china closet, while Martha described the history of every piece of china she had inherited.

It’s a very sweet memory of an impressive, strong, sympathetic, generous lady, and a life so well lived. I know she will rest in peace. Martha’s family has asked for donations in her memory to go to ITNPortland or to the Maine Chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you again, Martha.

ITNAmerica’s National Car Donation Program

September 23, 2011

We did it! After all these years of working with communities to help set up ITN affiliates — we are now in 15 states — we finally have a national car donation program. Now, anyone anywhere in the United States who wants to help support the nation’s first and only transportation network for seniors and people with visual impairments can donate a car to help the cause.

Please don’t confuse car donation with ITN’s CarTrade™ program, in which older people trade their no longer used cars to help pay for their own rides. Aging Today, newsletter of the American Society on Aging, has a story on CarTrade and how it can help older people and their families with the transition from driving. CarTrade is arranged directly with each ITN Affiliate Community.

Car donation is a charitable gift, and if you have a vehicle you are no longer using, car donation is a great way to help ITNAmerica build a dignified solution for mobility for our aging population. As the end of the tax year approaches and you are thinking of ways to give, we hope you will remember our efforts to build a strong, community based, volunteer supported, grassroots solution to a very quiet need that touches every family in America.

Donate your car now.

1,000 Rides — A Community Celebration in Coastal Connecticut

September 19, 2011

Meeting people in communities all over the United States is one of the happiest parts of my job as Executive Director at ITNAmerica. This week I had the good fortune to speak at the 1,000 Rides Celebration for ITNCoastalCT. The event was held at a beautiful church, and the room was filled with people who had either worked hard for years to launch their own ITN affiliate, or who had come to support the people who did the work.  There were flowers, cakes, and smiling faces wherever I turned.  I drove down from Maine, and arrived directly to the event, where I was the keynote speaker.

Paul Spiekermann
Photo by Bonnie Adler, Minuteman Newspaper.

That’s a laugh. The real keynote speaker was Paul Spiekermann, the ITN rider member who took the 1,000th ride.  Dr. Spiekermann is a specialist in tropical diseases and has lived all over the world.  As I listened to him speak, it was as though he had read my mind when I was designing the ITN model.  I grabbed my program and pen an starting scribbling quotes.

Describing what it is like to stop driving, Dr. Spiekermann said:

  • “you really are housebound” and
  • “you may become isolated.”

Describing his experience with ITN, he said:

  • “it is a dignified way of doing it,”
  • “it’s affordable”
  • “it’s also the possibility of social contact — conversations are possible!” and
  • “most important, it gives us independence.”

Like so many ITN rider members, Dr. Spiekermann uses ITN for every possible kind of ride, not just visits to the doctor.  He runs errands, goes shopping, and goes to Rotary meetings.  His charm, intelligence and vivacity instantly replace all stereotypes of older people — and their transportation needs — with an upbeat promise of the future.  What can I possible add to that?

National Transportation Safety Board Hearings

November 17, 2010

Barbara Hersman, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, just held two days of hearings on the safety of older drivers in Washington, DC. The NTSB is guiding the public’s attention to the safety needs of older people and their families.

A few years ago, when Ms. Hersman was first looking into this issue, we had an appointment to meet in Washington to talk about the connection between driving and the alternatives older people face when they make the decision to move to the passenger seat. The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal agency that looks into all manner of transportation safety, and sure enough, there literally was a train wreck the day of our meeting. Ms. Hersman was called away and we never did reschedule.

Maybe, if that meeting had taken place, transportation alternatives might have made it onto the agenda for the two days of hearings, which not only explored the safety issues related to the aging driver but possible strategies to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities.

Some of the experts, notably Sandi Rosenbloom, explained that a lack of alternatives forces people to stay behind the wheel longer than it is safe for them to do so. Sandi is a brilliant transportation analyst whose work many years ago influenced the thinking that went into the development of the Independent Transportation Network®.

We will need more than references to the need for alternatives to focus the nation’s attention on mobility, as well as safety, for the aging population. The hearings in Washington are a good starting place. They bring the safety issue into the light of day, and place it high on the national agenda. Now we need something similar for the other half of the equation—mobility.

ITNAmerica Joins Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive in New York’s Grand Central Station

November 4, 2010

I am on my way to Grand Central Station, New York City. After months of not being able to write my blog – blogger’s block maybe – I am writing in the back seat of a yellow cab, on my way to Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive in Grand Central Station. After 20 years of talking with adult children who are worried about their parents’ driving but don’t know how to begin the conversation, I am grateful and awestruck that Liberty Mutual is holding a major event in New York City today to help people begin this conversation on a national scale. I know that when we help families with this sensitive issue we are saving lives, but to see it, to be here, is one of those BIG days in life you never forget.

If you or someone you love is worried about senior driving, or you just want to learn more, please visit Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive and take the pledge to have a conversation. For every conversation, Liberty Mutual will donate $10 to ITNAmerica, directly supporting rides for seniors across the country.

To learn more about senior transportation and how to start an ITN affiliate in your community, contact us and we will do our best to help you, through our new webinar series, or a one-to-one conversation.

Katherine Walks for Rides

June 18, 2010

Katherine is walking for ITNAmerica, to bring dignified transportation for seniors to every community in America!

Read about Katherine’s 2010 Walk for Rides.

Katherine’s Walk: Day 26, June 18

June 18, 2010

I am leaving in a little while for the 24 Hour Walk for Rides. Send me messages if you are walking, too. My wonderful staff is going to give me a Twitter lesson later so I can send messages as I go. I’ll meet you in the air up there, wherever these communications float…

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Katherine’s Walk: Day 25, June 15

June 18, 2010

Dougie

This was my last training walk and I am glad Dougie could join me. He’s been sidelined with an injury, but he will be back to walk with me again on Friday, June 18, for my 24 Hour Walk for Rides. We did an easy walk part way around Baxter Boulevard, but the Celtics were playing at 8PM, so that was it for Dougie’s interest in walking. Looks like my grand total mileage for training is just shy of 50 miles. See you all in person or in spirit at Baxter Boulevard, in Portland, Maine, for the day we all stand up for dignified transportation for the older people in our lives who have given us all so much, and who now need us to stand up for them, for the mobility they need to lead full and active lives, whether or not they drive a car.

(.2 miles, 49.5 miles total)

Katherine’s Walk: Day 24, June 9

June 17, 2010

After walking with Senator Susan Collins on Capitol Hill, I took the night train back to Hartford, Connecticut, where I left my car, and drove back to my mother’s place to spend the night.  The next day, I drove to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I walked along the Charles River with Andrew Wolk, of Root Cause.

(0.5 miles, 47.5 miles total)

Katherine’s Walk: Day 23, June 8

June 17, 2010

I caught a late train to Washington and arrived at the Hart Senate Office Building at 10:30am for my walk with Senator Susan Collins.  Senator Collins has supported dignified senior transportation for more than a decade, first through the years of sustainable ITN model development in Greater Portland, then through the planning of the national organization, ITNAmerica, and now for the national rollout as we work to support communities across the nation.  In this year’s budget, Senator Collins has introduced a $5 million appropriation for amendments to Title IV, Section 416, of the Older Americans Act.  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut has sponsored a similar appropriation request in the House of Representatives.

In her appropriation request Senator Collins said:
Most older Americans depend upon the private automobile for transportation.  But for older drivers with diminished capacity, driving can become difficult, or dangerous. Older people who continue to drive face the highest fatal crash risk of any group except teenagers. Those who stop driving outlive the decision by as much as ten years, and become dependent on family and friends. So great is the need for transportation options for older Americans that delegates to the December 2005 White House Conference on Aging selected it as the Conference’s third highest policy priority, ranking it ahead of reforms to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Despite this pressing need, more than half the nation’s older citizens live in communities with no public transportation, and where transit does exist, the magnitude of this need outstrips the public resources available to meet it.

Amendments to Section 416 of the 2006 reauthorization of the Older Americans Act are specifically designed to bring the principles and practices of social enterprise to senior transportation through:

  1. “volunteer driver programs;
  2. economically sustainable transportation programs; and
  3. programs that allow older individuals to transfer their automobiles to a provider of transportation services in exchange for the services”

The 416 amendments define “economically sustainable transportation” as “demand responsive transportation for older individuals—

  1. that may be provided through volunteers; and
  2. that the provider will provide without receiving Federal or other public financial assistance, after a period of not more than 5 years of providing the services under this section.”

This approach to sustainability sidesteps the creation of additional transportation services that will add to the future tax burden or compete with existing transportation providers that rely upon public funding for on-going operating expense.  Instead, funding for economically sustainable senior transportation projects uses federal funding to leverage voluntary local community support and creates, instead, social entrepreneurs who turn to consumers, their families and their business communities to build sustainable solutions that will bring private resources to bear.  Private expenditures for transportation actually outnumber public expenditures 5 to 1, so by guiding development toward private resources, Section 416 uses a small amount of public dollars to leverage a far larger pool of private resources.

To address the long term mobility needs of America’s aging population, we really do need a public/private partnership.  Neither alone will be sufficient, and neither alone will be as strong as they are together.

To support Senator Collins and Congresswoman DeLauro’s appropriation request for Section 416, contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives.

To support ITNAmerica and our work on behalf of dignified transportation for older Americans across the nation, pledge here.

(0.5 miles, 47 miles total)