Modus Provides Transportation for Teens
Modus has provided thousands of rides to teens who need to get to medical or counseling appointments, and they are always in need of volunteers.
For too many young Tulsans, safe and reliable transportation is a challenge, making it difficult for them to access critical health and social service appointments. Fortunately, one local nonprofit is providing a simple, but innovative, solution. By matching volunteer drivers with clients, Modus is empowering teens and young adults one ride at a time.
The concept for Modus came from a collaborative effort to solve a community problem. In 2016, the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shed light on the fact that many young women in the city couldn’t access reproductive health services because they lacked transportation. The organization turned to the MINE, a Tulsa entrepreneurial incubator, to help them address the problem. Modus was the result.
Since 2017, Modus has used a team of trained volunteers and its own staff to provide rides to and from appointments with Modus’ partner agencies for clients ages 13-24. Currently, there are 12 partner agencies, which include Youth Services of Tulsa, Family & Children’s Services, and the Tulsa Health Department, and that list continues to grow. Rides are available free to clients Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Clients must be picked up within a geographical range that includes the City of Tulsa and parts of Tulsa and Osage Counties. Clients work directly through the partner agencies to book their rides, which ensures that there is a legitimate need for the service.
According to Leslie Neal, Modus executive director, the organization provided its 3000th ride in October.
“But 1000 of those rides were between April and October 2019,” she points out. “We’ve increased substantially, so we’re not just doing the same amount of rides per month. From the third quarter of last year to the third quarter of this year, we saw a 220 percent increase in rides. We’re between 250 and 300 rides a month right now, and our goal is to get that to 500 rides a month by the end of our fiscal year in July.”
Modus has trained 30 volunteer drivers, with 15 of those regularly providing transport. To volunteer for Modus, a driver must have a clean driving record, undergo a background test, and complete driver training. Although many of the volunteers are retirees or empty-nesters, Neal says all types of people volunteer.
“The fact is, this is a very small commitment,” she notes. “One ride can take just 15 to 20 minutes, and there is no minimum commitment, so you could give one ride a week.”
There is always a need for more drivers.
“This is the only way we can grow. For us to be self-sustaining in the future, we need to be primarily volunteer based,” Neal says. “There are enough people that need rides right now that we could be giving 15,000 rides a year, at least.”
Modus is funded 80 percent by private foundations and 20 percent by earned income in the form of membership fees from partner agencies, according to Neal. As Modus grows, she’d like to see less reliance on foundation support and more on an expanded membership base. Partner agencies are happy with the program, which provides a reliable way for their own clients to keep their appointments, making it easier to provide consistent services. The riders like the program, too.
“We collect feedback after every ride on a scale of one to five as to how you would rate your driver,” Neal explains. “It’s astonishing how highly they rate every one. We have an average rate of 4.95 out of five stars for our drivers.”
Modus discovered they’re often providing more than just transportation.
“When we set out to build Modus, we were going to be happy if we just did something that got kids were they needed to go. If we got them from A to B, then our goal was accomplished. But it is turned into so much more than just a ride. What we found is that so much more happens when they commute,” Neal says. “A lot of our kiddos might not have anyone else ask him specifically how their day was, so we really train our volunteers just to be good listeners, too. The kids that are riding really open up, and it provides opportunity to empower the kids and just make them feel heard. Knowing that a volunteer is taking the time out of their day to go pick them up because it’s important to that volunteer for that kid to be successful makes that kid want to be successful.”
For more information on Modus, including information on Modused, a program that teaches high school students in Tulsa Public Schools the basics of using public transportation, visit www.modustulsa.org.
Julie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.