Odochi Akwani

Founder of Feonix Mobility Rising Valerie Lefler poses for a portrait in The Foundry on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kris Rasmussen, a senior marketing major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has always wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives by working with a nonprofit.

For the past two weeks, she’s been making that difference from a state away by working to help Feonix Mobility Rising provide transportation for those isolated by rural areas in Missouri.

Valerie Lefler formed the nonprofit in March 2018 to help people remain independent in spite of old age, disabilities or remoteness. The assistance comes in the form of an app, which allows customers to easily book rides and buy bus tickets by merging Lyft, taxi and bus ride apps into one place.

The resource helps older people keep their independence and navigate safely around town. It is currently available in Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Missouri.

Lefler grew up on a Nebraska dairy farm and noticed the need for accessible transportation when her grandparents relied on her family for rides. It wasn’t until she began working with transportation as she earned her master’s in public administration and management at the University of Nebraska at Omaha that Lefler realized it was a universal problem that needed to be fixed.

“Transportation is critical to not only go downtown and eat, but also to get to your medical appointments, to get to your job, to get affordable housing and groceries,” she said. “There are people that live 90 miles away from a grocery store. So imagine taking an hour and a half to go get groceries.”

Family members can link their credit cards to the app account, so they can still support their loved one without rearranging their day around a ride.

The company’s services are not currently available in the state of Nebraska as their proposal is being processed. The proposal targets Western Nebraska, and Lefler said if the program is approved, it would “help increase access to intercity bus and air transportation.”

While the company works on implementing the app in Nebraska, Lefler said Feonix is developing a feature in Missouri where residents in rural communities can volunteer to be drivers.

“There are communities where there is no transportation option if you don't own a vehicle or if you have a disability,” Lefler said. “Your transportation may be three days away, and that can create barriers.”

Rasmussen has been recruiting rural drivers for Missouri. She’s excited to help Lefler expand Feonix’s services in new areas and provide for those that need their services.

“I'm just most proud of sacrificing so much of my time and effort for what I believe will be a huge and successful movement within the transportation industry,” Rasmussen said.

Being able to provide help for those in need is Lefler’s motivation, and she said she is glad her services can help customers live their lives more naturally.

“It's really rewarding to ensure that people can access their life and see their grandson’s wedding,” she said. “Or being able to go to the farmers market, and that you do have the ability to enjoy your life fully.”