Fifteen-year Naperville resident Tiffany Stephens grew up in one of the tougher neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago. As a youngster, she remembers kids getting into trouble and much worse, simply because they had no place to go after school.
“We needed a safe place to go ...” Stephens said. “I remember when I was a kid, I saw my best friend get shot right in front of me.”
Stephens found her safe haven at what she called a “small storefront” that was opened up by an up-and-coming politician by the name of Jesse White, Illinois’ current Secretary of State.
“Jesse White definitely played a role in who I am today,” she said. “He is my inspiration. When I decided to take on this venture, I called him up and he was nothing but encouraging.”
Three years later, Stephens’ venture, Kids Teen Rider, is rolling right along.
A nonprofit organization, Kids Teen Rider provides rides to children primarily to and from school, church or work. The service will provide transportation to virtually anywhere children, and in some cases their parents as well, need to go.
Stephens got the idea for the program after two of her own children were in car accidents because she was unable to give them a ride.
“The economy is tough and people are working all day,” Stephens said. “After my children were involved in separate accidents I found out there was a need for this type of service. A lot of people can’t take off work or afford to drive their kids around so I shut down a daycare I was operating and began Kids Teen Rider.
The service is available to anyone, regardless of income. The cost is $10 per ride but in cases of financial hardship, the cost can be reduced to $5. The service is available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and by reservation on weekends.
To participate in Kids Teen Rider all you need to do is register, a simple process that involves a bit of paperwork. Once registered, you can use the service as seldom or frequently as necessary. Parents can sign up for daily rides, such as to and from school, (minimum three rides per week) or just use the service in cases of emergency.
“It provides parents with the piece of mind that if their car breaks down or they just can’t get away from work, all they need to do is call us and they can rest assured that their children will be picked up and arrive safely at home,” Stephens said.
Currently, Kids Teen Rider has sixty registered participants but Stephens said she hope to increase that number in the years to come. In time, she would like to expand the service to other communities as well such as Aurora and Bolingbrook.
“Growth has been steady, but as a registered 501 C3 not-for-profit agency, we rely on private donations as well as grant from the City of Naperville to cover our costs,” Stephens said. “We are hoping to secure additional funding from other sources in the future to help us expand. Right now, all our money goes for insurance, vehicle maintenance and gas. Neither I nor Demitra (her husband who drives for the agency) have taken a salary in the last two years.”
In addition to Kids Teen Rider, Stephens also operates the Teen Connect Program, which provides transportation for pregnant teens and teenage mothers to attend parenting classes along with their parents.
“I do this all for the kids,” Stephens said. “My heart is open to them.”
Stephens said she still keeps in touch with Jesse White and that he still serves as an inspiration to her today.
“I know that Jesse struggled to get where he is,” Stephens said. “When things get tough, I think of Jesse and I know that if I just keep going, everything will be fine.”
For more information about Kids Teen Rider, please call 630-405-4572 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.