Here to Help, Springfield

Travel Lane installs 40 hearing loops

SPRINGFIELD – Don’t be one of those people who get left out of the loop. 

Thanks to a relatively new technology, Travel Lane County will soon receive a national award for installing 40 hearing loops throughout the county, with many more still to come. 

Andy Vobora, Vice President of Stakeholder Relations for Travel Lane County, said the Hearing Loss Association of America 2024 Get in the Hearing Loop Award will be presented at the HLAA Conference in Phoenix in June. 

Vobora, who counts himself among the 1 in 7 Americans who has some degree of hearing loss, says the hearing loops are something to behold. 

“It’s just astounding,” Vobora said Thursday. “I went to a play at the Cottage Theatre, and there was a wide range of cast members in terms of their age. It’s all amplified, and depending on how the actors were facing, sometimes you miss dialogue, but with (these loops), it’s like somebody is inside your ear, so you hear all the dialogue.

“My wife was leaning over to me – and she has no hearing loss – and she was asking me, ‘What did they say?’ But I could hear fine. It’s really amazing.” 

The looping idea started back in 2017 when Ginevra and Jim Ralph, founders of the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene, began collaborating with Sue Prichard, the Shedd’s chairperson for its Loop Eugene committee. 

“Ginevra had been a special-ed teacher and had been longtime friends with Sue,” Vobora said. “And Sue suffered from profound hearing loss. So they formed a committee to begin technologies to help with the hearing impaired.”

Customers with cochlear implants or t-coil hearing aids now can hear crystal-clear conversations and every distinctive note during a concert while wearing a hearing loop device, which are now available at 25 hotels, 4 performing arts venues, 4 visitors centers and 5 museums/attractions. 

“Businesses need to understand when they invest in accessibility that there’s a huge market of people out there with disabilities who love to travel and are going to go to the places that are the most accessible, so the more we can make our destination accessible, the more of a leg up we have,” Vobora said. 

“There’s lots of platforms online now where people with disabilities are going to look for specific needs to be met, whether it’s a mobility need or having a mobility-accessible hotel room, which we could use more of.” 

Vobora said he and his staff are constantly looking at new venues and other properties that they could potentially loop. After asking for a $20,000 grant from Travel Oregon, they had looked at looping Venue 252, but the cost would have been around $100,000. 

“Finally, we decided hotel front desks would be a good place to start, and we would subsidize 80% of the cost,” Vobora said. “It only takes about 30 minutes to install, and it comes with its own set of headphones. Then we asked for a $50,000 grant and we got that.”

When all was said and done in March 2024, the Wildish Theater was the final loop project completed with the Travel Oregon accessibility grant.

“Our staff looked at doing more performing arts centers and museums. We were running up  against the Dec. 31 deadline of our grant expiring, and we still had almost $20,000. We knew the Wildish was up there in cost, and we decided to go all-in at the Wildish and see if they could offer more of the total cost and see if they could come on board and they did it. That one feels really good. The Wildish is such a great asset here in Springfield and the region, and I think people are going to be really pleased once they experience the technology.” 

Loop Oregon is a separate initiative that aims to loop the entire state. 


Lane grant supports Bi-Mart’s new battery recycling program 

Lane County-based Bi-Mart stores have launched a new 12-month pilot program that will provide households with a convenient and accessible way to safely recycle their batteries.

The initiative – which will effectively retrain the public on properly identifying and responsibly managing a new generation of batteries – is supported by a $6,000 grant provided by the county. 

Project funding will help Bi-Mart train its employees on battery identification, handling, and processing; purchase containers for battery collection, storage, and safe shipping; and market program information and educational materials for its customers. The pilot program accepts many single-use batteries, including widely used button and coin cell batteries, and most rechargeable batteries.  Alkaline batteries go in the trash.

LCOG raises $3,000 for Senior Meals Program

COTTAGE GROVE — The Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) held its annual Member Appreciation Dinner last month at the Cottage Grove Armory. More than 130 elected and appointed officials, business and community members, and public employees from across Lane County attended the dinner, which also included a silent auction that raised nearly $3,000 for the LCOG Senior Meals Program — the equivalent of 300 meals. Each year, LCOG celebrates regional accomplishments for the prior year and recognizes Elected Officials, Public Employees, Citizens, Intergovernmental Teams, Economic Enhancement work, and those who have dedicated their lives to public service.

Outstanding Elected Official: Senator Floyd Prozanski 

Outstanding Citizens Award: St. Vincent de Paul Egan Warming Centers volunteers. 

Outstanding Public Employee: Michael Wargo, executive director of Willamalane Park and Recreation District

Outstanding Public Career:  Kristie Hammitt, Eugene assistant city manager

Outstanding Intergovernmental Team: Rivers to Ridges Partnership. 

Veneta City Councilor Robbie McCoy was also honored for  stopping a fire a man set at the Veneta-Fern Ridge Chamber of Commerce in fall 2023.

Rent assistance available for Ukrainians

Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. between Feb. 24, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2023, and entered the country under the U4U program, might be eligible for Housing Program Rent Assistance. Through Sept. 30, Catholic Community Services, through its Refugee & Immigrant Services Program, has rent assistance available for Ukrainians meeting the aforementioned guidelines. 

According to CCS, it is the largest provider of no-cost food, rent, and utility assistance in the county, providing immediate help and necessities to anyone in need, preventing homelessness, and helping families take positive steps to move out of poverty. 

CCS’s Refugee & Immigrant Services Program (RISP) is the only resettlement affiliate office in Lane County. It provides a comprehensive hub of social services, connections, and immigrant legal services with the mission to help refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants navigate and integrate into life in their new country.  More info: [email protected].  

Cottage Grove transit app now available In Spanish

COTTAGE GROVE — The LTD Cottage Grove Connector, a shuttle service that provides origin to destination transportation within Cottage Grove, now has its mobile app available in Spanish. If a rider has their phone language set to Spanish, the app will default to Spanish. Because it is an on-demand service, you book your trip via the app, or by calling 541-942-0456. The LTD Cottage Grove Connector is provided by Lane Transit District and operated by South Lane Wheels.  The LTD Cottage Grove Connector is an option for people who need a ride to medical appointments, the grocery store, or visiting friends and family.

Service on the LTD Cottage Grove Connector is offered between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The service does not operate on Saturday or Sunday, but regular LTD Route 98 service operates on weekends.



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