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The Big Story: Charity Cases




The Big Story: Charity Cases

It’s the season
of giving thanks

and giving back.

ut for many ECPs, charitable
works are a way of life year-round.
And “doing well by doing good” is
smart for so many reasons:

You make a difference. This is the
most obvious reason people volunteer
their time or money: They know they’re
having an impact, whether it’s in their
own community or around the world.

People expect it — and young adults
are demanding it. As Christie Garton wrote
on, millennials “demand
a ‘participation economy’ that allows them
to contribute, co-create and shape the giving
behaviors of brands they love.”

It helps you attract and keep quality
people. Employees appreciate it when their
bosses take action to build a better world. You
can volunteer as a team at a local event, choose
a charity to support with donations or give staff
paid time off to pitch in for the cause of their choice.


A recent survey done for Transitions Optical
showed that more than 80 percent of all adults
believe eyecare professionals should be involved
in their communities. So from the INVISION files,
here are some case studies of how ECPs, vision care
companies and allied organizations are working for
a better world.





One of the largest global vision care charities,
Optometry Giving Sight is the force behind World
Sight Day Challenge held each fall, as well as a major
funder of year-round efforts to train local people
worldwide to deliver eyecare.

THE NEED: Worldwide, more
than 600 million people are blind
or have poor vision because they
lack access to eye exams and glasses.
There simply aren’t enough
ECPs to go around. In India, for
example, the Brien Holden Vision
Institute estimates that 115,000 optometrists
are needed to serve the
population of 1.25 billion people,
but there are just 9,000.

THE ACTION: Optometry Giving
Sight raises funds to train local
people worldwide to deliver eyecare
services at community vision
centers. It works with a multitude
of international partners and major
vision care companies — and each
year, ECPs across America get
involved in the World Sight Day
Challenge in lots of fun ways. For
example, Vision Clinic in Springfield,
MO, has organized a 5K race
to benefit the cause each year since
2012. This year, about 150 runners
took part and raised $4,000. (The
clinic kicked in another grand to
make it an even $5K for the 5K.)
Vision Clinic is a member of Vision
Source, which is raising a million
dollars to help build an optometry
school in Haiti, a country where
there are currently just three eye
doctors to serve 10 million people.

The I Care & Share program
offers ECPs a way to get involved
year-round. Because a little money
goes a long way when it comes to

getting eyewear in developing
countries, about $5 or even less can
provide a pair of glasses. Dr. Lee
Dodge of VisualEyes Optometry
in Sherman Oaks, CA, recently
adopted the cause. “Patients love
the fact that we donate a pair of
glasses every time they purchase
a pair of glasses from us,” he says.


THE RESULTS: Optometry
Giving Sight CEO Clive Martin estimates
that all told, “close to 1,000
optometric practices, companies
and schools” took part in the World
Sight Day Challenge this fall and
about 50 are now supporting I
Care & Share. Optometry Giving
Sight has established more than
70 sustainable eyecare projects in
38 nations since 2007. More than 4
million people have received basic
eyecare services; over 2,600 people
have been trained; and 100 vision
centers are up and running.

The Big Story: Charity Cases



In mid-December,
people from all across
San Francisco, CA, will
line up to visit Project
Homeless Connect for
its biggest annual event.
Whether in the legendary
Bill Graham Auditorium
or under temporary
tents elsewhere in the
city, PHC offers guests a
chance to get one-stop
help with an array of
basic human services,
including vision care.

THE NEED: PHC was launched
in 2004 by then-San Francisco
Mayor Gavin Newsom. Optician
Karen Flynn heard about it and volunteered,
but “I didn’t leave with
warm fuzzy feelings about helping
people,” she recalls, remembering
long lines and many people turned
away. “I was mad.” She met highmyope
people who’d gone a year or
more without glasses, and others
who were “wearing the closest Rx
available from the bin of eyeglasses
at Goodwill.” In many cases, the
need was even more urgent, since
many people had serious underlying
health conditions that a screening
could reveal. “This was a major
public health crisis that could be
solved with a relatively low amount
of money,” Flynn says.

THE ACTION: Flynn started
working the phones to get donations
from vision care companies.
“The first people to step up were
SALT, Oliver Peoples, DBL Lab and
VSP,” she says. As word spread,
frame sales reps started planning
their trips to volunteer at PHC
events; ECPs traveled from afar to
help; whole offices closed for a day
to lend a hand; and the donations
kept flowing.

Flynn eventually turned over
the volunteer coordination duties
to fellow vision industry veteran
Robert Bell (who writes about
his PHC experiences on page 56)
so she could focus on opening
her new shop, The Optician in
Berkeley, CA. Returning to action
this fall, she was delighted to see
how things have grown. “Man,
to see four auto-refractors and
eight lanes at the last event was so
great,” she says. “Another beautiful
thing is seeing the collaboration.
Practices that could be rivals are
all working toward a common goal
and having fun.”

THE RESULTS: In addition to
the big events, PHC holds “Every
Day Connect” clinics at its office
and elsewhere. Over the next 12
months, Bell says, PHC expects to
make up to 2,500 pairs of glasses,
perform about that many eye exams
and dispense more than 5,000
pairs of OTC readers.

“The goal, which has always
been Karen Flynn’s dream, is to
be able to provide vision care to
anyone in need and to everyone
who asks for it,” Bell says. That
goal is in sight for 2016, he adds.
“As a byproduct, we’re trying to
provide a national model of what
a vision charity can be.”

The Big Story: Charity Cases



Being a big, vertically integrated vision care
company has its advantages, including the ability
to mobilize eyecare for people who lack it due to
income, distance or disaster. For 60 years, VSP
Global has leveraged its companies — including
VSP Optics and Marchon Eyewear — plus its
vast network of ECPs to bring vision services into
underserved communities across the United
States and around the world.

THE NEED: Communities can
lose adequate eyecare resources
for a variety of reasons. Ten years
ago, after Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita struck the Gulf Coast with
a one-two punch, VSP Global
pitched in to provide eyecare and
replace glasses for residents and
first responders affected by the
storms and to re-equip doctors
whose practices had been damaged
or destroyed. VSP Mobile Eyes
evolved from that experience —
and for the 2015 World Sight Day
Challenge, the mobile eye clinic
was back in New Orleans’ Lower
Ninth Ward to provide no-cost
eye exams and glasses to nearly
200 people in need.

THE ACTION: Also this fall,
VSP Global marked its 60th anniversary
with several special events
including the largest multi-city
mobile clinic in the company’s
history, with 1,637 people receiving
care in California, New York and
Ohio over a five-day period. And
in what’s become an annual outreach
event now in its sixth year,
NBA star Tyreke Evans returned
to his hometown of Chester, PA,
to sponsor a no-cost eyecare clinic
for children and adults, plus a free
basketball camp for 132 kids in
elementary through high school.
After learning some sweet moves
from the New Orleans Pelicans
star, students took home backpacks
filled with school supplies,
apparel and athletic gear donated
by VSP.

THE RESULTS: Through Eyes
of Hope programs, including VSP
Mobile Eyes and partnering organizations
that include Optometry
Giving Sight, VSP Global businesses
have donated more than
$173 million in free eyecare and
eyewear. “By the end of 2015, VSP
will be very close to hitting the 1
million mark for helping those in
need,” notes VSP Global spokeswoman
Maryam Brown.

The Big Story: Charity Cases



INFO: and

Wes Stoody was shocked when he learned that one
dollar’s worth of Vitamin A could help save the life
— and maybe the sight — of a child in the developing
world. He had no optical background, but he
decided to launch an eyewear line and partner with
independent ECPs to do something about the issue.

THE NEED: While in college,
Stoody learned about the work
of Dr. Al Sommer, who discovered
how just two low-cost doses of Vitamin
A supplements each year can
save a child’s sight. Recalling this
in an interview with iamselfless.
com (see it at,
Stoody says, “I couldn’t believe
that most Americans had no idea
that Vitamin A deficiency even
exists; that about a million kids a
year die or go blind from Vitamin
A deficiency; and that Vitamin
A supplementation is the most
cost-effective solution to any of the
world’s health problems.”

THE ACTION: Stoody hired a
freelance eyewear designer and
started emailing with the president
of Helen Keller International, a
100-year-old organization that
combats blindness worldwide.
By the end of his senior year, he’d
begun the manufacturing process
for Aframes, naming models for
countries where HKI does its work.
The frames were soon discovered
by independent eyecare pros. “Patients love the story behind the
eyewear line and the shapes are
trendy with classic colors,” says
Dr. Courtney Dryer of 4 Eyes Optometry
in Charlotte, NC.

THE RESULTS: So far, Article
One has helped bring a year’s worth
of Vitamin A to 7,000 children in
such countries as Bangladesh,
Cameroon and Senegal, with $2
from each pair sold benefitting the
cause. Article One’s website also
encourages direct donations to
Helen Keller International.

As for the company’s new
name, it comes from Article One
of the United Nation’s Universal
Declaration of Human Rights:
“All human beings are born free
and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason
and conscience and should act
towards one another in a spirit of

Stoody says he and business
partner Cole Sanseverino have improved
design and manufacturing
over the past few years to make an
ever-better product that’s now carried
by about 65 optical shops — so
the time was right for a new brand
before the company gets much
bigger. “First and foremost, we
want to be a great eyewear brand,”
Stoody says.


SUBJECT: Hicks Brunson
Eyewear, Tulsa, OK

The Brunson family has outfitted
people in Tulsa, OK,
with glasses for nearly a century.
And for nearly that long,
the family has had deep community
service ties. Daniel
Brunson, the great-grandson
of business founder Hicks
Brunson, currently makes
eyeglasses each month for
at-risk teens through Youth
Services of Tulsa. “I remember
one girl who couldn’t see
past a foot in front of her,
and she hadn’t had glasses in
years,” Brunson told his local
newspaper. “Giving glasses
to someone in that situation,
it changes their world and
enables them to get around
better and to hold a job.”
Brunson also likes to partner
with brands that are a force
for good. For example, he admires
Sama Eyewear’s Sheila
Vance’s efforts to help drugaddicted
youth as a tribute to
her son, who died of a heroin


SUBJECT: Look + See Eye Care,
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Sarah Jerome of Look + See Eye Care in
Minneapolis, MN, has traveled with Volunteer
Optometric Services to Humanity (vosh.
org) to Mexico (2009), Latvia (2011) and Fiji
(twice, 2013 and 2015). On this year’s sojourn,
she says, “We traveled from tiny island
to tiny island and set up a medical clinic in
a school or a home, and we had to load bins
with equipment, medication and glasses into
a boat so we could set up a clinic for a day.”
Among the people Jerome met and served
(above): a woman who needed cataract surgery
and her daughter, who got glasses so she
could read and sew.

Back home, Jerome and her team volunteer
for many causes in the Twin Cities.
They do free vision screenings for area
schoolchildren; take part in charity fun runs;
and even raised money to train Toby, a guide
dog for the blind. For Jerome, such activities
are a chance for her to give something
back. “When I was growing up, my siblings
and I were raised by a single mother and
there were times when we relied on the help
of strangers to get by,” she recalls. “I have
always been grateful for that.” Jerome says
she feels fortunate to have had good education
and abundant opportunities that have
put her in a position where she can do good
for others, “whether it’s here in my community
or somewhere far away. I know not
everyone can leave their office to volunteer
in another country, so I do it because I can.
It’s incredibly rewarding both personally and


What’s your favorite cause? Whether it’s faith-based
activism, environmental sustainability,
helping animals or children’s charities, you can
find an industry partner that’s doing good work
in that area.

  1. 141 EYEWEAR
    As its name says, 141 matches
    each purchase “one for one” with
    a gift of Rx eyewear to someone in
    need. (See photo at right.) Owner
    Shu-Chu Yamaguchi says that’ll be
    about 7,500 pairs in 2015. Rosemary
    Anderson High School in the company’s
    Portland, OR, backyard is
    one beneficiary. Each year, Myoptic
    Optometry gives free eye exams to
    the students of this alternative high
    school, and kids get to pick out a
    pair of 141 glasses. Ossip Optometry
    and Ophthalmology in Indiana also
    offers 141 frames at its annual Day of
    Giving to people without access to
    affordable eyecare and eyewear.


    This Long Island, NY, company
    is involved in local projects
    galore including Big Brothers Big
    Sisters, for which it held a recordbreaking
    clothing drive; a Stuff-the-
    Bus school supplies drive with the
    local United Way; food drives for
    the Long Island Cares Harry Chapin
    food bank; and projects to benefit
    the World Sight Day Challenge. The
    company offers eight paid volunteer
    hours each year, and its CVO Cares
    committee researches new ways to
    give back to meaningful causes.

    Founded by husband-and-wife
    team Jim and Amy Schneider,
    Eyes of Faith supports global missions
    projects through its Wear &
    Share program and offers Hope
    showcases for ECPs to browse and
    select frames at their convenience.

    Every holiday season, L’AMY
    offers a one-for-one program
    for its brands. Opticians sign up to
    keep track of pairs sold, and L’AMY
    donates frames to charities such
    as Lions Club International, New
    Eyes for the Needy, Volunteer Optometric
    Services to Humanity and
    Eyewear for Kids. Since starting this
    program six years ago, L’AMY has
    donated more than 10,000 frames.

    On World Sight Day 2015, social
    media feeds filled with photos
    of celebrities (including Georgia
    May Jagger, above, and Randy Jackson)
    sporting “hand glasses” with
    the hash tag #HelpTheWorldSee.
    The campaign was from OneSight,
    Luxottica’s nonprofit arm, to call
    attention to new findings that 1.1 billion
    people worldwide lack access to
    glasses. (See more details at invmag.

  6. MODO
    Through its Eco brand, Modo
    Eyewear is restoring deforested
    lands and helping farmers learn
    sustainable practices. Eco’s “One
    Frame One Tree” project with Trees
    for the Future has now planted more
    than a million trees. Eco frames are
    made from either recycled or biobased
    materials, and packaging is
    made from recycled soda bottles.

    The optical industry generates
    a lot of materials that can be
    reused. Working with Innereactive
    Media, Marchon commissioned
    seven artists to create art from eyewear,
    lenses, frame parts, cases and
    printed materials that would otherwise
    wind up in landfills. The company
    hopes to expand Re-Visions of
    Art and collaborate with customers,
    charities and schools to work with
    established artists in communities
    worldwide to make more art.

    A portion of proceeds from all
    Paws N Claws Eyewear sold
    benefits the American Society for
    the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
    The company recently made
    its largest donation yet: $11,000.

  9. TOMS
    First with shoes, later with eyewear,
    TOMS was a “buy one, give
    one” pioneer. Dr. Angie Patteson of
    Sunset Eye Care in Johnson City,
    TN, likes the story behind the line’s
    temples, which include portions to
    represent the patient; TOMS; and
    the person assisted with the purchase.
    “How cool is that?!” she asks.

    “Art education shapes and
    saves lives,” says Velvet Eyewear
    founder Cindy Hussey, so the
    company and its foundation work
    with organizations to recycle materials
    and raise funds so schools can
    continue to have strong arts programs
    even in times of tight budgets.




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