Nonprofit and partners launch Freedom Drivers program for veterans

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A coalition of veteran service organizations is partnering together on a transportation initiative to help the West Michigan veteran community.

Lincoln, Nebraska-based Feonix – Mobility Rising said last week that it partnered with the West Michigan Veterans Coalition, Disability Advocates of Kent County and Kent County Veterans Services to launch the Freedom Driver program to fill the transportation gaps that threaten veterans’ security.

The pilot program launched Veterans Day and is now available to veterans and their immediate family/caregivers who reside in Kent County. Rides can be booked to Muskegon, Ionia and Ottawa counties, as well.

“When a veteran returns from military service, a lengthy list of assignments awaits: find employment, build a home, get medical care and reconnect with family. Strong supportive services aimed at health care, education, employment and quality of life are essential for a thriving veteran community,” Feonix said.

The organization said there are about 18 U.S. million veterans, and about 25% of them have a service-related disability and 7% live in poverty. Kent County has about 33,000 veterans.

Paul Ryan is a retired captain, U.S. Navy Reserve, and vice chair of the West Michigan Veterans Coalition, a local presence that strives to “reinforce the pillars of a secure life for military-connected people living in Kent County and the surrounding area.” He said the new transportation program strives to be inclusive.

“Anyone military connected is eligible,” he said. “We wanted to do as much as we could to break down barriers and restrictions, and that is what drove us to determine the eligibility for this pilot.”

Trained Feonix Freedom Drivers will power the pilot by transporting passengers to medical appointments, grocery stores or food pantries, employment, social activities and more.

Feonix will leverage its technology and programming to manage the volunteer driver process, including recruitment, conducting background checks, training, dispatch and driver mileage reimbursement. The organization said its Freedom Driver model is “transformative” when local partners support the process.

“We are all interconnected — a continuously expanding net” that will form the Freedom Driver community within the pilot area, Ryan said.

Those interested in helping can sign up as a Feonix Freedom Driver at idriveforfreedom.org.

Feonix – Mobility Rising

Founded in 2018, Feonix is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing mobility options for vulnerable and underserved individuals. Using innovative technology, education, training and volunteer driver programs, Feonix aims to break down barriers in accessing health care, employment, education and social services.

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