Community Transportation Network recognized as exemplar Indiana non-profit

For many people in northeast Indiana, transportation is a choice, whether by automobile, bicycle, mass transportation, or any number of car services that arrive at the click of an app.

But for low income, elderly, or handicapped individuals, these choices aren't always an option. That's where the Community Transportation Network, Inc. comes in to help.

Founded in 2000 by a grassroots task force of other local organizations and foundations, the private, nonprofit CTN provides dependable, efficient transportation for populations in northeast Indiana that don’t have many other options: seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families.

CTN currently serves more than 4,600 individuals of all ages and abilities, and during the long, harsh Indiana winters, the service is especially helpful. But the impact of this organization exceeds the basic benefits of a warm, safe ride for some members of the regional community, explains Executive Director Becky Weimerskirch.

Mobilizing all members of society is vital to a vibrant, healthy regional economy.

"When transportation is a barrier, you cannot communicate with your community effectively. There's an economic impact as far as workers getting to jobs, and a personal impact if you can't get to a medical appointment," Weimerskirch says.

CTN driver Brad assists Sandra Marie, a client for more than 15 years.

Some of CTN's clients have been riding for more than five years, utilizing services that help them remain happier, healthier, and independent. These services also save the community millions of dollars by providing transportation to and from other to and from service organizations around town that would otherwise have to pick up the tab.

CTN has partnerships with more than 70 area nonprofits, whose collective services span all ages and abilities, and its vehicles ensure that their clients can take advantage of these services.

"Our vehicles aren't sitting in parking lots the majority of the time," Weimerskirch says. "They're moving... someone is always out there connecting with something. That's what we try to do. Each trip is a success story."

In November, CTN experienced some success of its own. Parade magazine cited it as the exemplar non-profit Indiana organization statewide.

"We certainly welcomed that," Weimerskirch says. "To be honored by Parade as the one and only representative in the state means there's a special gem here that's unique and effective. And the fact we have a four-star rating with Charity Navigator (an independent charity watchdog organization), indicates it's well run and effective, and that we use our resources well.”

CTN currently has about 22 paid drivers of all ages, and while they transport clients to medical appointments and service agencies, that's just one aspect of the program, Weimerskirch explains.

Another aspect is providing field trips for preschoolers, elementary and college students, and seniors.

As a complement to medical trips, CTN shuttles seniors and those with disabilities to special events and on shopping trips, based on space availability.

"It's primarily for grocery shopping," Weimerskirch says. Along with the elderly and people with disabilities, CTN also transports children.

CTN envisions significant growth in 2018 due to growing numbers of individuals in need of medical care and those with disabilities seeking transportation to employment, including sheltered workshops, which employ people with physical or mental disabilities.

"AWS Foundation, in particular, is helping us to expand our capabilities to make sure people are able to access at least that level of employment, and not just those, but other programs. And we'll keep expanding each year to meet more and more of the community's needs," Weimerskirch says.

But it takes community support. Drivers and schedulers are always needed, she adds.

CTN's pre-scheduled service is available 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday for medical appointments; there are no specific hours for non-medical.

For more information or to see if you qualify for services, visit http://www.ridectn.org/ or call (260) 420-3280. Community Transportation Network is located at 5601 Industrial Rd. in Fort Wayne.

Read more articles by CJ Woodring.

CJ Woodring is an award-winning nonfiction features writer, a journalist, and published author living in Fort Wayne.
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