Many in Optical Community Unharmed by Oklahoma Tornados, Disaster Relief Begins

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MOORE, Okla.— With communications still impacted in much of this hard-hit town outside Oklahoma City here, some eyecare professionals were directly impacted by tornadoes that tore through Oklahoma earlier this week, however, many of those in the optical community in the vicinity appear to have escaped unharmed.

“We deeply appreciate your immediate concerns, inquiries, and prayers for Oklahomans, who have been turned upside down from the tornadoes on Sunday (Edmond to Shawnee) and Monday (Oklahoma City/Moore),” a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) told VMail. “The OAOP has made contact with almost all optometrists and staffs, and they are safe! Some have lost everything, but we thank God for watching over them. A huge area in OKC is now blocked off, so volunteering on site is difficult. We are working to establish two perimeter spots that would be accessible and have power for eyecare supplies. Rebuilding is going to be a long process, and we will get many opportunities to focus on particulars. Stay tuned and look for Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians on Facebook.” 

Understandably relieved, others in the area unaffected by the disaster have already begun offering assistance to those in need. Massengale Eye Care, located in Moore not far from the disaster area, survived unscathed. “We’re off 27th Street, and the storm pretty much destroyed everything on 4th Street, so it’s a couple of blocks away, pretty close to home!” front desk receptionist, Ann Meyer, told VMail. “We’re doing pretty good right now; it didn’t hit us, so we got lucky with that. We’re seeing as many patients as we can who were affected.”

VMail was also able to contact others in the vicinity that suffered no damage, including three optical labs in Oklahoma City—Accutech Laboratories, Classen Wholesale Optical and B & D Optical Wholesale.

Vision Source offices in the area were not affected, according to a company spokesperson located in the Kingwood, Texas, headquarters of this network of optical retailers. Similarly, a Visionworks spokesperson, also headquartered in Texas, notified VMail that none of their stores in the disaster area were affected. While a spokesperson for Luxottica Retail said “there is no information to report at this time,” an executive with one of their brands, Pearle Vision, told VMail, “Thankfully, everyone is safe.”

VSP Global told VMail that at press time it was difficult to determine which, if any, of their members in the affected area have suffered any losses. “As many others right now, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are, or have loved ones that are, directly impacted by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma,” a VSP Global spokesperson told VMail. “VSP Global companies are in the midst of implementing our disaster outreach communication to the 100 VSP practice locations in the affected areas. As soon as we are able to determine what support is needed, we will ensure they have everything they need to run their practice and continue to be able to provide critical care to their patients.”

The VSP spokesperson added, “We also have extended our support to Northeastern State University School of Optometry, the OAOP and the American Red Cross to help ensure the residents have access to care as soon as possible. As it is still early, we don't anticipate immediate responses but will continue to follow up over the next few days and weeks as necessary. Our mobile clinics are readily available to deploy as needed. If practices are in need of support, they can reach VSP by phone at (800) 852-7600 x7373 or by email at VSPOutreach@vsp.com.”

Other organizations are also offering assistance to those in need. Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation will send out an email to its general membership to call for donations to its Disaster Relief Fund to be made available to anyone who wants to apply for a disaster relief grant. Affected optometrists may contact their state association or Optometry Cares at (800) 365-2219 directly to initiate financial assistance. Interested parties can contribute online or by mailing a check, designating Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, to Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., First Floor, St. Louis, Mo. 63141.

OneSight is working with the Red Cross and other nonprofit agencies to refer victims to their local LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical or Sears Optical locations for access to free eye exams and eyewear through OneSight’s in-store voucher program. Additional relief efforts, including potential deployment of OneSight Vision Vans, are being assessed in partnership with the Red Cross. These plans will be confirmed after local authorities and the Red Cross address priority services including medical attention, food, water and shelter for those impacted.