Optometry Cares-The AOA Foundation Is on a Mission in the U.S.

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Last year, over 60 million people were at serious risk of vision loss due to eye disease. However, only half of them had visited an eye doctor in the last 12-month period. This startling statistic from the American Optometric Association (AOA) points to the ever growing need to marshall services and funds to serve those in need. Optometry Cares-The AOA Foundation does just that through a variety of programs and services for “the disadvantaged, underserved, uninsured and the most vulnerable among us.”

Armed with their strategic ties to the AOA, a strong volunteer corps and generous donations, Optometry Cares manages two community health programs, VISION USA and InfantSEE; administers Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief; provides scholarship grants for educational assistance; and maintains the Archives and Museum for the optometric profession.

Established in 2006, Optometry Cares is incorporated as a Not For Profit and is exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service. Contributions to Optometry Cares are considered charitable contributions under IRC section 170 and are tax deductible as provided by law.

In addition to its strong ties to the AOA, one thing that sets Optometry Cares apart is its focus on serving the disadvantaged, primarily within the U.S. “We are 100 percent a domestic charity, with all of our dollars dispersed throughout the U.S.,” according to Allan Barker, OD, secretary-treasurer for the organization.

Barker, president of eyecarecenter in Rocky Mount, N.C. can remember when he started practicing in the ‘70s and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to contribute to eyewear related charities. “The big difference today is social media because you can get the message out about the spirit of philanthropy. All you have to do is get on a computer and you can see the results of what’s happening, whether it’s Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy.”

Optometry Cares was front and center during Sandy, providing financial relief to affected ECPs along the East Coast whose practices and clientele were compromised. Practices received help through Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, one of Optometry Cares’ newest initiatives. “It’s a set amount of money that helps practices stay afloat temporarily. A large percentage of ODs pay the fund back and some even go on to become members of the AOA,” Barker said.

Optometry Cares and The Vision Care Institute, a Johnson & Johnson company, teamed up to create InfantSEE, a no-cost public health program developed to provide professional eyecare for infants nationwide. Under this program, AOA optometrists provide a no-cost comprehensive eye and vision assessment for infants within the first year of life regardless of a family’s income or access to insurance coverage. Parents are encouraged to include a trip to the optometrist for well-baby check-ups, including assessments at six to 12 months of age to determine healthy development of vision and early detection of eye conditions.

Volunteers In Service In Our Nation (VISION USA) is a program that provides basic eye health and vision services free of charge to low-income, uninsured individuals and their families. VISION USA is provided by participating AOA member optometrists who donate their services. “This program provides eyecare to people who are caught between the cracks because they don’t quite qualify for government assistance,” said Barker.

For more information about these programs and other services call (800) 365 -2219 ext. 4200, (314) 983-4200; e-mail: foundation@aoa.org or go to the website at www.optometryscharity.org

mkane@jobson.com

 
Some of the programs that fall under the umbrella of Optometry Cares are the Archives & Museum of Optometry, InfantSEE, Optomtry’s Fund for Disaster Relief and VISION USA.