The First Tennessee Human Resource Agency cut the ribbon on its newly renovated facility on Rolling Hills Drive Friday and introduced the latest in its network of 16 human service programs — a new shuttle service that begins work on Monday.
In welcoming remarks to a large crowd of guests from across the eight-county region served by FTHRA, Executive Director Jason Cody said the agency purchased the 50,000-square-foot industrial building and its five-acre site out of bankruptcy late last year at “a fire sale price” of $200,000.
FTHRA moved into the building in early January and, acting as its own contractor, has since completed about $1 million in renovations. With the building’s purchase, Cody said, for the first time in its 38-year history the agency has been able to save the cost of rent and has ample room to expand its programs.
On Monday, the agency’s NET Trans rural transportation program will launch the first of those expansions, a new on-demand, handicap accessible shuttle service for Elizabethton and Erwin residents. In addition to destinations inside the two cities, the new Connex shuttle service will provide daily transportation from Erwin and Elizabethton to Johnson City where riders may transfer to NET Trans’ Red Route shuttle to Kingsport.
The buses will be available from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rides may be scheduled within 30 minutes of the desired pick-up time by calling 461-8288. The cost is $2 per ride for adults and free for college students. Monthly passes are $25.
In addition to a new driver training center for the NET Trans program, the Rolling Hills Drive facility also includes a new commercial kitchen for FTHRA’s regional nutrition program. The program delivers about 1,000 hot meals daily to youth program sites, to home-bound seniors served by the Meals on Wheels program, and to congregate feeding sites located at senior centers and senior housing complexes across the eight-county area.
The new building also houses FTHRA’s misdemeanor probation program that works in partnership with local courts and its alternative correction program. The program works with the state Department of Corrections to provide electronic monitoring and other probationary services to people convicted of drug offenses and other non-violent felonies who would otherwise be in prison.
FTHRA’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, which provides training and facilitates temporary employment for older workers who are attempting to re-enter the job market, also operates from the new facility. The Personal Support Services program, which provides housekeeping, nutrition and personal care assistance to seniors at risk of nursing home placement, will operate from the facility as well.
All total, Cody said about 100 employees and more than 600 volunteers are involved in the delivery of FTHRA services. He said a majority of its programs are designed to help older people remain in their homes for as long as possible and are increasingly in demand.
“We want to do more because there is a tremendous need out there and it is only going to grow as the baby boomers get older,” Cody said.
For more information about any FTHRA program, call 461-8200 or visit www.fthra.org.