Not for profit may end rides for seniors, ill

GARY, Ind. Northwest Indiana Community Action Agency's Curb to Curb program has provided transportation to senior citizens, disabled persons and low income residents in Lake and Porter counties in Indiana for several years. But the service will soon end, according to the group, without more funding.

"I work from 8:30 to 12:30 and otherwise I wouldn't have no other way to get home," said Dennis Lafoon, senior rider.

The group's budget deficit for 2008 is around $750,000, so the not-for-profit company may have to shut down the program at the end of January 2009.

"The last thing we want to do is not have this service available," said Gary Olund, Northwest Indiana Community Action.

Olund runs the program's 16 buses and oversees the agency's other senior services. The transportation program is funded in part by the cities of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, as well as Lake County, and the state and federal government.

According to Olund, money troubles began years ago for the agency, which kept the service going with community block grants and unused funds from prior years. Now, however, that money has run out. And, Gary is unable to give its usual $350,000 subsidy and Hammond has not contributed to the fun for two years.

"They were not able to pay any of that money. There is also the time that the city of Hammond chose to not pay us but the $50,000 they previously paid. That was part of a larger decision that the mayor and the city had made to look to a more regional solution," said Olund.

East Chicago contributed $45,000 to the fund. The county gave another $50,000. But that is not enough to guarantee the program's future.

Seniors said they will have to rely on their adult children to help them if the program cannot be saved.

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