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Alamo Area Council of Governments announces winners of 2003 Regional Awards

San Antonio, June 20, 2003 – On Wednesday, June 18, 2003, at 2:00 p.m., the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) presented their 2003 regional awards at the semiannual meeting of the AACOG Area Council and Board of Directors.

Two community projects were chosen to receive AACOG’s 2003 Community Project of the Year awards:

The San Antonio Low Vision Club’s Radio Reading Service provides a much-needed service to people who have print-impairments, primarily those who are elderly, by reading the newspaper on a subchannel radio station. This award was accepted by the San Antonio Low Vision Club's President and Founder, Bonnie Truax. The service distributes specially tuned receivers to people who can no longer read a print version of the newspaper. The Radio Reading Service began broadcasting two hours daily of local programming, reading the San Antonio Express-News, and 22 hours of nationally syndicated programming on February 19, 2002. The RRS now rebroadcasts the two local hours in the evening and runs 20 hours of syndicated programming. The Radio Reading Service has relied on the efforts of over 100 volunteers who read the news, manage the studio, maintain the equipment, secure publicity, donate the subchannel, donate the studio and office space, deliver the radio, and all other jobs needed to make this project a success. Nominating this project for the award was Crystal Ward Darby.

Also winning this year’s award was the WOAI Radio Disaster Relief Project. Tim Kiesling, Marketing Manager with WOAI, accepted the award. In July 2002, as the first reports of flash flooding began to filter in, News Radio 1200 WOAI immediately mobilized its disaster team, sending reports into the field to convey the conditions throughout the listening area. Following this extensive coverage, WOAI executive a 12-hour relief project in immediate response to the needs of its listeners. For twelve hours, staff from WOAI and her sister Clear Channel radio and television stations broadcast the radio-thon, raising money and working with key clients to arrange matching donations, goods drop-off locations, and distribution information. The project raised more than $215,000 for flood relief efforts, victims of the disaster, and their families through the San Antonio chapter of the American Red Cross. WOAI and Clear Channel Radio helped raise more than two million dollars for local charities in 2002.

The 2003 Regional Citizen of the Year award winner is Ramon Chapa, Jr. Mr. Chapa serves as Vice President for the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the South San Antonio Lions Club. He is a member of numerous community resource groups, interagencies, resource councils, and advisory committees.

SMI-Texas was chosen as the recipient for the 2003 Corporate Citizen of the Year Award. Phil Seidenberger, General Manager, Executive Vice President for SMI-Texas accepted the award. SMI-Texas is a committed partner in the Seguin Community’s development and growth, donating generously of time and resources to make the Seguin community a better place to live and work.

AACOG has presented these awards annually since 1974. For more information on these awards, please contact AACOG Community Relations at (210) 362-5204.


San Antonio seniors tune in reading radio

Lions Club 2-A2 officers watch as vice district governor Cal Lawson prepares a broadcast at the RRS.  The service held its grand opening March 6.


From THE NEWS newsletter
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
March 15, 2002
Volume XXXV, No. 11

The childhood days of gathering around the radio are back for hundreds of San Antonio senior citizens and others with "print impairment."  The new Reading Radio Service (RRS) will broadcast the latest news, weather and local event information to San Antonians who can't read because of vision loss, the inability to hold a newspaper or difficulty processing text.

The RRS held its grand opening March 6.  The program is a collaboration between the department of ophthalmology, the Lions of South Texas and the San Antonio Low Vision Club.

"There are so many people who want to be more involved in our community and have no access to current events because they aren't able to read the paper," said Bob Hobson, South Texas project coordinator in the department of ophthalmology.  "This is the best means to provide that information.  It gives independence back to print impaired people by providing them with in-depth information about their city and their world.  The more you inform people, the more they feel a part of society and often they become more a part of society."

The Texas Public Radio Station KSTX will carry the broadcast on a sub-channel.  But to hear the program, residents need a specially tuned radio.  The radios can be acquired by submitting an application to the RRS office, but they are only available to print impaired people.

"We have the potential to broadcast to more than 30,000 people in the reception area," Hobson said.  "At this time, there are more than 150 receivers in place to test the system."

Applications for the radios are available at the San Antonio Lighthouse, the Texas Commission for the Blind, the eye clinic at the V.A. and Prevent Blindness.  Candidates also can call the RRS office at (210) 829-4223.  [click here for application].

The Lions Club of district 2-A2 is providing the funding for the broadcast equipment.  JAG Capital Management is providing office space at Frost Bank for broadcasting.


Low Vision Club helps hundreds
by Maury Maverick
San Antonio Express-News

The San Antonio Low Vision Club, with more than 500 members, is now establishing a radio reading service for the visually impaired, mostly in Bexar County. Initially there will be a daily reading of the Express-News.

For that opportunity you will need a special radio. A contribution of $25 is requested and preferably more if you can afford it.

The radio will also be available to those of good vision but, because of a stroke or whatever, cannot hold a newspaper.

For an application, [click here].

Bonnie Truax is president of the San Antonio Low Vision Club. She strikes me as a cheerful, unselfish, honest and able person of good deeds. About the idea of getting one of those radios, read now her answers to my questions.

Q. Are you a person of low vision?
A. Yes.

Q. What would a radio reading service mean to you, Bonnie?
A. Those of us with low vision really miss reading the daily newspaper. Very often I feel I don't know what is happening in San Antonio.

Q. What will be the first readings?
A. We will begin by reading the Express-News for two hours every morning, seven days a week. Eventually we hope to have a program that is available 24 hours a day every day of the week.

Q. What will that include?
A. Hopefully, that will include national newspapers and magazines, sports, travel, entertainment. Also information on eye diseases, current research and treatment, and help with adjusting to vision loss. We will be asking radio owners what they want and need.

Q. What more can you tell us about the kind of radio that is needed?
A. You will need what we call a "dedicated" radio. You will not be able to hear the program from our studio on any other radio receiver.

Q. If people have any questions they want to ask you, how can they do that?
A. They can call and ask me questions through my San Antonio telephone number.

Q. Is this offer for people all over San Antonio?
A. Yes, of course. That means North, South, East and West Sides.

Q. Do you have to belong to the San Antonio Low Vision Club to get one of the special radios?
A. No, but if you do not, you will need to provide us with verification of your incapacity. We hope you will join us. We are a nonprofit, tax-deductible organization. We are going to need volunteers to serve as readers at the station, at no pay, to make this a success.

Q. Does it cost anything to join the San Antonio Low Vision Club?
A. No, but we hope you will attend monthly meetings and participate in the activities. At those meetings we do pass around the hat and hope donations will be made. But this is a voluntary thing. There are no dues.

Q. What are some Texas cities that now have the special radio?
A. Dallas, Houston, Austin.

Q. How can you finance such a station?
A. KSTX, to its credit, will donate a sub-channel. (What a good-citizen deed!)

Q. Who are some of the sponsors of the San Antonio Low Vision Club?
A. U.T. Health Science Center Ophthalmology Dept., San Antonio Lighthouse, Veterans Administration Hospital Eye Clinic and others.

Postscript: The San Antonio Low Vision Club helped me establish contact with the Veterans Administration. Uncle Sam has some mighty nice folks at the V.A. Bonnie's club can open all kinds of doors for you of low vision. Bonnie is my hero. If you have a low-vision problem, call her and make her your hero. She's the cat's meow.


Low Vision Club founder offers independence for visually impaired
by Dianne S. Fortune
Prime Time Newspapers
Volunteers needed for radio news broadcast
When Bonnie Truax began to lose her sight about five years ago, she found herself becoming depressed - about several things. "I had always been very independent," Truax said, but not being able to drive or do so many other things turned into a bout with melancholy.

That led her to help form the San Antonio Low Vision Club, which has reached out to hundreds of sight-impaired residents. Now, Truax and her colleagues want to go one step further by starting a specialized radio newscast for the visually challenged.

There's only one catch - to make the ambitious program successful, they need volunteers to read the news over the airwaves.

To volunteer to read, operate broadcast equipment or answer the phone - [click here]. For information about the San Antonio Low Vision Club, [visit].

Truax's journey began when she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a disease with different symptoms that eventually leads to a total loss of vision.

Truax was used to being busy and it didn't take long before she was working on solutions to her vision limitations. She had been director of education at the Institute of Texan Cultures for eight years and understood the value of research when faced with a challenge.

"When I have a problem, I find a way to solve it," she said.

But Truax soon found there was more to be depressed about. Her ophthalmologist had given her a diagnosis, but little else. "He told me to see him again in a year," she said. In the meantime, there was nowhere she could turn for help.

"It angered me that there was no support group," Truax added. She couldn't believe a city the size of San Antonio had no such relief organization.

Before she could sink once more into depression, she went to work. Truax contacted the major players in the business of aiding the blind -- the University of Texas Health Science Center, the Veterans Administration, the Lighthouse for the Blind and others.

And she began to hear from people who, like herself, were looking for a way through the darkness.

"When you lose your sight," Truax said, "you tend to withdraw."

Truax gathered a group in her home for meetings. They discussed their common problems, helped each other find solutions and discovered ways to have a good time together. The San Antonio Low Vision Club quickly outgrew the Truax living room.

The club now numbers 513. It includes a bowling league, crafts groups and a computer group. And the membership will continue to grow as aging and diabetes (the leading cause of blindness in San Antonio) dim the sight of more.

She outlined the process of coming to terms with loss of vision: Acceptance, adapting and independence. Still, there are some things one just cannot do.

"You can't read the newspaper anymore. Talking books are great, but you lose touch with what's going on right now," she said.

Also, news programs on television are difficult to follow. Much of the story is told in pictures, with a commentator adding isolated remarks that don't always follow a narrative. A sportscast is usually easier to follow.

"I listen to the Spurs games on the radio," Truax said, laughing. "The play-by-play actually lets you follow the action."

Now, Truax and other club members want to pattern a specialized radio newscast along similar lines by having volunteers read entire newspaper stories over a low-watt, sub-channel radio broadcast.

Listeners will need specially tuned receivers to hear the low-watt FM frequency, much like the ones that pipe music through stores and shopping malls

Although this kind of program is a first for San Antonio, it is not unique. It has been used in Dallas and Houston for more than 30 years, and Austin has had one for eight years. The San Antonio program is set to debut in February.

The Alamo City's two FM public radio stations - KSTX and KPAC - have agreed to help, Truax said.

Joe Gwathmey, the general manager at the two stations, "has generously donated their sub-channel to us," Truax said. "We will see our dreams come true."

The Lions Club of District 2-A2 is providing the funding for the broadcast equipment, which will be located at the North Frost Center on Northeast Loop 410 at Nacogdoches Road. The signal will be transmitted from the Public Radio tower near Helotes and cover a 50-mile radius.

"We will start off with two hours a day, reading the news," Truax said. "It will be repeated later in the day." She hopes to eventually increase the newscast to 24 hours a day, and selections will not only include news stories but comics, obituaries and other features.

"We would like to get columnists to read their own words on the air," Truax said. She also hopes to make publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated part of the broadcast lineup.

But to make the program work, volunteers must lend their services as readers to bring the front page to those who cannot read it for themselves.

"And we need them soon," Truax said. "They need to be trained to operate the equipment and learn how to read to people."

"Hearing about this really touches a nerve," she continued. "Everyone understands the need for it. And I am so grateful to all our community members, who are making this dream possible. I am so glad this is finally coming about."

Truax hopes this broadcast will bring back the link to a world so many lose when their sight fades. She believes it will make the transition to independence easier for others.

Help is always nearby. Earl Truax, retired from the San Antonio Light and the Miami Herald, helps his wife when she needs it. That's not very often, he said.

"Bonnie is very independent," he said.

Not only is she maintaining her independence, but Bonnie Truax is very delighted at having "the chance to make a difference." And all the feedback is telling her that she "helped when someone really needed help."

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