[IMAGE]Com-Stewart-others-2.jpg[/IMAGE]Earlier this month, Freedom of Mobility Foundation Inc. (FMFI), the charitable branch of Fairfield, Calif.-based transportation contracting firm and paratransit service provider MV Transportation Inc., selected Chicago's Access Living (AL) and Miami's Center for Independent Living of South Florida as recipients of $7,500 Travel Training Initiative Grants.
Both organizations will use the travel training grants to expand current programs that provide one-on-one training to people with disabilities, so that they have the skills required to travel safely on fixed-route buses or rail systems in their area. Access Living said that its grant will specifically go toward assisting Chicago youths with disabilities.
"The Center for Independent Living of South Florida Inc. is excited to be able to provide mobility training on using the fixed route bus system for 50 individuals with disabilities due to the generous funding from the Freedom of Mobility Foundation," said Shelley Gottsagen, development and community relations, Center for Independent Living of South Florida. "This travel training will open up new experiences and promote community inclusion."
FMFI is a 501(c) 3 organization that aims to increase access to transportation for persons with disabilities and senior citizens so that they can get around easier and, thus, live happier, fuller lives. The organization gives funding priority to transportation projects, specifically those programs that seek to promote independent living for people with disabilities.
"Because our own foundation is based on providing paratransit services, we thought it was a good idea for our foundation to partner with Centers for Independent Living around the nation," said Nikki Frenney, senior vice president of public affairs for MV Transportation, who explained that the most recent recipients were requested to submit proposals.
FMFI has a goal of giving out about $150,000 per year, said Frenney, and the grants are coming at a good time, since many of the groups that provide training and services for persons the disabled and senior citizens are desperate for funds.
"They are in a Catch 22. Paratransit is one of the most expensive modes of transportation to provide individuals, yet the travel training funding that is used to get people off paratransit and on to fixed-route is what's being cut," she explained.
FMFI got its beginning in 2007, when MV's Founder and Director Feysan Lodde saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, recognizing that a number of people on the TV fit into the company's every day customer base, and wanted to help. The company sent a contingency of about 75 people and 52 vehicles within 48 hours, and stayed for about six months, said Frenney.
"We had no contracts in Louisiana and still don't, but we recognized there was a need for people with disabilities, so, we got down there and got a lot of people with disabilities out of the Superdome area, out of the shelters around town, and got them to hospitals or reunited them with their family members," she said. "We didn't get paid for any of our services; that wasn't the point. The point was to be able to provide a social service to people who needed it most."
Upon returning, company officials discussed the need to respond to these sorts of events at a moment's notice and, as a result, FMFI was born.
Recently, FMFI made donations to Soles4Souls,Inc. to provide shoes for children in Tanzania and Handicap International to provide mobility devices for newly disabled people in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
MV is also urging its employees to become more involved and help identify organizations in their specific areas that are in need of funding and/or grants to help support people with disabilities, said Frenney.
"We are working with our employees across the country to also support the foundation, so it's just not the foundation giving out money to organizations but, also, employees supporting their communities and becoming more active and philanthropic," she said.