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ITN Gateway facing volunteer driver shortage

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St. Charles County residents needing to resume their long-postponed doctor and dentist visits, eye exams, hair appointments and other outings include many people who are unable to drive. Since 2010, when it was first launched as ITN St. Charles, a nonprofit organization now called ITN Gateway has helped to fill that need for non-drivers over age 60 as well as adults of any age with disabilities or visual impairments. The program offers safe, reliable, dignified and affordable transportation in the local area.

However, currently, the organization is facing a shortage of volunteer drivers.

“A lot of our volunteers haven’t yet come back to drive with us, but we have many senior clients who need to get to medical and other appointments they’ve been putting off,” explained ITN Gateway Board Chairman Libbey Tucker. “Right now, we have about eight volunteer drivers available to cover all of St. Charles County.

“If there are people in our area who might have some time available, their services would be very much wanted, needed and appreciated.”

Susan Kallash-Bailey, the organization’s executive director, said she and other staff members have been stepping in to fill the gap when necessary, serving as drivers themselves. She explained how important the ITN Gateway service is to area seniors.

“I talked to a lady this morning who needed to get to an appointment prior to having cataract surgery, and she said, ‘I just don’t know what I would do without you,’” Kallash-Bailey said.

“There are so many people like that. They couldn’t go if we weren’t there to take them.”

Kallash-Bailey emphasized that volunteer drivers for ITN Gateway have complete flexibility to accept or decline requests for rides depending on their schedules, and drivers are only expected to cover one “leg” of each round trip.

ITN Gateway’s service covers all of St. Charles County, extending from St. Charles City to Wentzville. A list of the specific ZIP codes it covers is provided on itngateway.org.

New drivers can apply anytime using that website or by calling (636) 329-0888. ITN Gateway volunteers are subject to background checks and are required to submit a driver’s license and insurance information.

New riders who would like to use the service must first set up an account, which also can be done online or by mail. There is a $50 annual fee for the service. Riders also set up a personal account against which individual rides are debited using PayPal. No cash ever changes hands between riders and drivers, and no tips are accepted.

Kallash-Bailey added that while ITN Gateway continues to take pride in being “like taking a ride with a friend” for its clients, some additional safety precautions must now be followed due to COVID-19, to protect riders and drivers alike.

“Although we used to have riders sit in the front seat with the driver, now they are in the back seat, with both wearing masks and sanitizing their hands before getting in the car,” she said. Drivers are also asked to sanitize car interiors between rides.

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