MUST Ministries Marietta, GA
Caught up in the day-to-day demands of running a profitable business, it’s easy to forget the valuable community-outreach resource you, as optometrists and opticians, have at your disposal. But translating good intentions into action isn’t always easy. Sometimes, all you need is the right partner. Here’s how Classic Vision Care, of Kennesaw, GA, run by Dr. Mital Patel and her husband Ankit, teamed up with MUST Ministries — a faith-based organization from neighboring Marietta, that has been providing food, shelter and basic medical services to the less fortunate in its community for decades — and came up with a plan to get free glasses into the hands of those in need.
THE IDEA: MUST Ministries, who help people in poverty in Cobb and Cherokee counties, was planning a health fair for the homeless when Ankit Patel reached out looking for a way to give back to the community. Kaye Cagle, MUST’s vice president for marketing, suggested Classic Vision Care participate in the fair, but Patel “took it a step further and said he would also help with some of our [non-homeless] clients in need.”
It was a natural fit. “We agreed on MUST because we have similar values of integrity and teamwork,” says Ankit’s wife and practice co-owner, Dr Mital Patel.
THE EXECUTION: Classic Vision patients who donate “gently used” glasses to needy patients identified by MUST receive $50 toward the purchase of a new complete pair. “Our doctors [Dr. Patel, Dr. Ronald Becker, and Dr. Mark Machen] provide the exams at our locations,” says Dr. Patel, who estimates Classic Vision and a second practice run by the Patels in Marietta have received about 100 donated pairs and seen around 35 patients in the first year. “It has been a great way to put old glasses to use. Patients are very receptive to the idea and love that they’re not wasted.”
Says Cagle: “We have a wait list for people who want to have the screening and obtain eyewear.”
THE REWARDS: Patel describes the payoff as “endless from personal to business. I have always enjoyed giving back to the community. I also have a passion for optometry and thought the best way for me to give back is by doing what I know best. It’s also rewarding for my staff since they enjoy helping people see clearly.” There have been material benefits too: “People think of us when in need of eyecare. There are tax benefits since we donate our chair time, doctor time, and optician time … and donate the lenses, either single vision or bifocals.”
Cagle concurs: “The response from the clients is our reward. When they find out they can be screened and get the eyewear they need, they are grateful and excited. Seeing properly is a blessing and one many cannot afford.”
DO IT YOURSELF: COMMUNITY OUTREACH PARTNERSHIP1. Charity Case. Avoid the term “charity” when getting the word out. It’s an old-fashioned word that, for some, connotes pity and dependence. Talk in terms of partnerships, causes, campaigns and outreach.
2. There's an App for That If you sell online, there are a variety of apps available to allow customers to donate to a cause. Some, like Share the Love, let them choose between several.
3. Double-edged Sword. A study by Cone Communications shows that 87 percent of Americans would buy from a store that backed a cause they care about, but more than two-thirds would avoid one supporting something they don’t believe in. Choose wisely.
4. Acts of God. you’re in Tornado Alley, on the Atlantic coast, or in a quake zone, why not set up a disaster readiness fund? Your customers will feel they are directly benefiting.
5. Make It Real. Engage with the beneficiaries of your (and your customers’) largesse by sharing recipients’ stories on your website.
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of INVISION.