Independent Transportation Network
The Independent Transportation Network (iTN) was created by one of America’s leading social entrepreneurs, Katherine Freund. Freund had a vision to find a way to provide a dignified transportation alternative for older people who can no longer drive. She created iTN and has since set up affiliates from coast to coast.
Sarasota County, as the oldest large county (more than 250,000 pop.), was a targeted location for an iTN affiliate. Suzanne Gregory of SCOPE (Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence) and Pam Baron, director of senior services at Jewish Family & Children’s Service suggested the iTN affiliate. On January 1, 2009, Sarasota iTN began operations. There were huge obstacles: funding, insurance coverage, marketing, recruiting volunteer drivers and a host of other issues. But the original board and the first executive director, Tanis Knopp, worked their way through all issues, including getting a significant $350,000 seed grant from the Sarasota Community Foundation that permitted the venture to get off the ground. Knopp requested planning and marketing assistance from the SBDC at State College of Florida throughout 2009. The SBDC assisted with fund-raising planning, marketing planning, board structure advice and volunteer driver recruitment planning. This assistance continued through Knopp’s tenure and has continued with the new executive director, Donna Dunio, an experienced non-profit executive. The SBDC assistance has become even more comprehensive as iTN has picked up steam in the Sarasota market. The service now provides more than 200 rides per month for seniors participating in the program. In addition, iTN has hired a full-time scheduler (Ben Petro) and part-time paid drivers along with numerous community volunteers working on the project.
We Wouldn't Be Here Today
“It’s really hard to know where to start. When you begin an important new community venture like iTN, you really need all the help you can get. We needed the help of community organizations – Sarasota Community Foundation, Jewish Family & Children’s Service and SCOPE (Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence) – but we also needed advice from business and professional people. I had NO idea that something like SBDC was available. And for FREE for goodness sakes. Art Mahoney has helped us with a broad range of issues. Mainly marketing. But his broad business background has made him an invaluable asset to our organization. He’s like an extra member of staff, a member I need but can’t afford. I’d tell ANYBODY about SBDC and the work they do. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that assistance. It’s a Godsend.”