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Volunteers, OPB keep Friends of Florence bus rolling for cancer patients

Coastal residents who’ve been diagnosed with cancer can get treatment easier, thanks to the Friends of Florence bus service.

Five days a week, 52 weeks a year, the bus delivers patients to treatment centers in Eugene and Springfield and brings them home again, at no charge. Since the service began in 1985, more than 30,000 riders have made the 160-mile round-trip.

Friends of Florence takes that strain off of people, that they don’t have to figure out how they’re going to get to their radiation treatments on a daily basis,” says Bart Mealer, President of the organization. “They can just jump on the bus.”

The bus service means a lot to patients like Loni Schofield. “Having Friends of Florence available, to me, means I don’t have to stress about who is taking me over to the valley for the day,” she says. “I don’t know where we’d be if it wasn’t for them.”

Bart credits the support of Oregon Pacific Bank in helping to keep the bus running. Bank employees serve at all levels, from Friends of Florence board members to volunteer bus drivers. “Oregon Pacific Bank has been involved with our organization, supporting us throughout the years,” he says.

Friends of Florence started after P.T. Smith, a Florence resident, lost his wife to cancer. For weeks he had driven her to Eugene and back on a daily basis while she sought treatment.

“He and Tom Grove, our past president and CEO of Oregon Pacific Bank, and some other movers and shakers got together, and they established this charitable organization,” says Lori Gates, Vice President and Manager of our Florence branch.

Lori says that, in addition to volunteering at Friends of Florence, employees raise funds to support it. The company’s “Denim Day” on Friday encourages employees to wear jeans for a donation of $5, which is then distributed to local nonprofits like the bus service.

Bart says fundraising and volunteer efforts are key. “The employees at Oregon Pacific Bank that are involved with Friends of Florence — it just validates the need of our organization and what we’re doing is a good thing,” he says. “It’s not just that they’re a bank, but they are a part of our organization.”

For more about the Friends of Florence, see the Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center’s website at https://www.oregoncancer.com/blog/friends-florence-offers-patients-support-wheels.

Coastal residents who’ve been diagnosed with cancer can get treatment easier, thanks to the Friends of Florence bus service.

Five days a week, 52 weeks a year, the bus delivers patients to treatment centers in Eugene and Springfield and brings them home again, at no charge. Since the service began in 1985, more than 30,000 riders have made the 160-mile round-trip.

Friends of Florence takes that strain off of people, that they don’t have to figure out how they’re going to get to their radiation treatments on a daily basis,” says Bart Mealer, President of the organization. “They can just jump on the bus.”

The bus service means a lot to patients like Loni Schofield. “Having Friends of Florence available, to me, means I don’t have to stress about who is taking me over to the valley for the day,” she says. “I don’t know where we’d be if it wasn’t for them.”

Bart credits the support of Oregon Pacific Bank in helping to keep the bus running. Bank employees serve at all levels, from Friends of Florence board members to volunteer bus drivers. “Oregon Pacific Bank has been involved with our organization, supporting us throughout the years,” he says.

Friends of Florence started after P.T. Smith, a Florence resident, lost his wife to cancer. For weeks he had driven her to Eugene and back on a daily basis while she sought treatment.

“He and Tom Grove, our past president and CEO of Oregon Pacific Bank, and some other movers and shakers got together, and they established this charitable organization,” says Lori Gates, Vice President and Manager of our Florence branch.

Lori says that, in addition to volunteering at Friends of Florence, employees raise funds to support it. The company’s “Denim Day” on Friday encourages employees to wear jeans for a donation of $5, which is then distributed to local nonprofits like the bus service.

Bart says fundraising and volunteer efforts are key. “The employees at Oregon Pacific Bank that are involved with Friends of Florence — it just validates the need of our organization and what we’re doing is a good thing,” he says. “It’s not just that they’re a bank, but they are a part of our organization.”

For more about the Friends of Florence, see the Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center’s website at https://www.oregoncancer.com/blog/friends-florence-offers-patients-support-wheels.

Banker Spotlight

Lori Gates

Lori Gates

VP, Branch Manager/Business Development Officer
Florence Branch
541-997-7121


“If you have any questions, or there’s anything you don’t understand, we’re here to help you.”


When Lori Gates started at Oregon Pacific Bank, company headquarters was in a trailer in a Florence parking lot. As the bank has grown over the years to have branch offices in five communities, Lori’s career has grown along with it.

“I got a job here, and it changed my life,” Lori says.

She’s done a little of everything at the bank since she began in 1980. She started off as a teller, and she enjoyed building rapport and relationships with customers. “I didn’t want to do anything else. I loved my job,” she recalls.

Later, she made the move to Merchant Services and found she loved that job, too, for many of the same reasons. She enjoyed working with customers onsite and helping them get their businesses set up to handle financial transactions. “That was my passion,” Lori says. “I’ve gotten to know so many businesses and owners in the community.”

Now, Lori is relishing her role as a Florence branch manager and makes herself available to answer any need or question that comes up. “I love helping people,” she says. “I’ve never woken up and said, ‘I don’t want to go work.’”

One of the things she looks forward to every year is the ice cream social held in Florence around the 4th of July. Last year, because of COVID-19, it was a drive-through event. But in past years, customers came by to visit in the lobby and enjoy ice cream and conversation. Lori dresses in red, white and blue for the occasion.

“I enjoy functions like that, doing something fun for the community,” she says.

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