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.
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?