Folks with big hearts help the Lions Eye Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, provide eye care to those who can’t afford it.
Not only do six eye doctors volunteer their time, but donations also flow in from throughout the area and the country, according to Janet Alspaugh, a licensed optician who works part time at the Clinic.
Without those donations, Alspaugh said, it wouldn’t be possible for the Clinic to provide routine eye exams for roughly 400 patients a month. Those 400 patients include the homeless, women referred from shelters, AIDS patients and individuals without insurance.
“We are not-for-profit so we help a lot of people who are either homeless or without insurance. We have a couple of agencies we work with also, the Ryan White program. That mainly supports AIDS patients. We pretty much just see everyone in need,” she said.
The Clinic is very well known in the community.
“Other doctors’ offices know that when someone can’t afford an eye exam or glasses, they can send them to us. They travel from all around North Carolina to come here.”
Local eye doctors help out by making all types of donations. In addition to the doctors who donate their time, others provide equipment, frames and solutions.
“We get a lot of donated equipment from doctors,” Alspaugh said. “We have a doctor that is just dissolving his practice to retire, and we’re going to go out and pick up his stuff. We’re all excited about that.”
The Rollens Company is one the Clinic’s list of donors, donating protective eyewear so that patients can safely and comfortably leave the building after their eyes have been dilated.
“Once we dilate them, they need to have some protection from the sun,” Alspaugh said. “We dilate everyone. And they usually don’t have any sunglasses.”
The patients realize quickly when they head out into the bright sun without the Rollens Platinum Gray lenses.
“Believe me, they know when they forget to grab their glasses. They say, “I can’t see’,” she said, adding the Clinic is very appreciative of the donation.
“We don’t have anything else,” she said. “If we didn’t have Rollens lenses, we would be in a world of hurt. Let me tell you. We have no other means to help shield their eyes.”
Don Willson, founder of The Rollens Company, said he is pleased to help out the Clinic with the regular donation of Platinum Gray lenses. After all, the Parker, Colorado, company’s mission is to keep eyes healthy and protected, he said.
Alspaugh also noted that some of the clients keep the Rollens lenses for future use.
“I’ve seen them where they’ve actually kept those Rollens as their sunglasses, especially people who are real sensitive to the light. They just keep them, especially the homeless. We do a lot of homeless. They just roll them right on up in their bag.”
In addition to donations, Alspaugh said the Lions Eye Clinic gets funding from a variety of sources, including the local Lions Club and a blind workshop located in the same building that does contract work for the government, making Army chin straps, Humvee seats and workout clothes and backpacks. Funding also comes from the state and federal governments to cover exams provided to inmates, as well as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the HIV/AIDS Bureau.
Alspaugh said the Lions Eye Clinic has come a long way in its 20 years, but that it wouldn’t be where it is today without donations.
“There’s no way we could do it,” she said. “We get donations of eye drops from the local doctors, cases, glasses. Pretty much anything and everything, we would take a donation – lens cleaner, frames, equipment, nuts and bolts. It’s amazing.”