Kennebunk is preparing to launch a rides program for seniors and people with disabilities and is looking for volunteer drivers. They are hoping for a “soft launch” next month. Courtesy photo/ITNAmerica

KENNEBUNK – When you’re elderly or disabled and driving yourself isn’t an option, getting to the pharmacy, grocery store, barber, hairdresser or medical appointment can sometimes be a challenge .

There may be a new exhibit at the local museum or a particularly interesting event – but without a ride these outings may not be possible.

A new program called Kennector aims to change that, thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Independent Transportation Network program called ITNCountry, a transportation platform designed for rural and small communities. ITNCountry is launched in 10 communities across the country – and Kennebunk is one of them.

The rides will be provided by volunteers, who undergo background checks, interviews and are insured, said Karen Winton, Kennebunk’s assistant director of community development. Once on board, volunteers undergo an orientation on the procedures to follow and what to expect.

Winton, a program organizer, invited residents, city officials and others from around Kennebunkport and Arundel to join, as volunteer drivers, consumers of the service or a member of a steering committee. to explore funding and other opportunities to support the program. for the long term.

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“We are in active recruitment mode for volunteer drivers,” seeking participation from churches and community groups, Winton said.

“Using fully trained and approved volunteer drivers, Kennector initially plans to deliver rides for any purpose from York to Sanford to Biddeford, to those who register to become a member of the scheme and pay a nominal fee for each ride “Winton said in a memo to municipal officials in Kennebunkport and Arundel.

The program will contract with a vendor to provide wheelchair accessible rides to those in need.

Winton said organizers would like to do a “soft launch” for the program next month.

“Grant funds will cover program expenses through 2022, such as a paid trip coordinator, mileage reimbursement for drivers, software and start-up programming costs. We are exploring partnerships with other organizations and community groups that will help sustain this program beyond the grant period, many of which serve residents of the Tri-Cities, as well as funding opportunities to help cover program operating costs. once the grant period expires,” she wrote to neighboring communities.

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Arundel City Manager Keith Trefethen said he informed the town’s select council of the scheme in March.

He said Kennebunk officials realize people in all three communities can benefit from the service. He said Winton might be asked to make a presentation to council to see what active involvement might be needed from the municipality.

Overall, the Kennector is intended to provide an affordable transportation option for seniors and adults with visual impairments or other disabilities.

“The goal is to improve the quality of life for older people and people with disabilities,” Winton said.

ITN has its roots in Maine, started by Portland resident Katherine Freund in the mid-1990s. She founded ITNAmerica in 2005.

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For more information about Kennector, visit kennebunkmaine.us/kennector or call 604-1342.

Two years ago, York County Community Action Corporation launched Kennebunk Intown Transportation, which offers bus services on Tuesdays.

Center du Bas-Village runs the FISH program, in which volunteers provide rides to medical appointments for those who have no other way to get there.