Assessment of Sandy's Storm Damage Continues As Optical Relief Efforts Expand


CEO Mike Bettiga (r), presenting a
$25,000 check from the Shopko Found-
ation to Steve Hansen, regional COO of the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief.
NEW YORK—Even after a snowy Nor'easter swept through the Tri-State area this past Wednesday, word was starting to spread out about more of those eyecare professionals, optical companies and customers in the Northeast who were enduring the after effects of Hurricane Sandy from the prior week.

Optical industry people and companies continue their outreach through personal and corporate effort as well as organized relief agencies. (see all of VMail's prior stories and resource info about Hurricane Sandy here. Vision Source and its Vision Source Foundation told VMail that it had reached out to many members affected by Sandy. A spokesperson said that Drs. Lauren and Rob Snyder’s Ship Bottom, N.J. practice on Long Beach Island, Snyder Eye Group, was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and their home was declared uninhabitable. Since Monday, officials are escorting people onto the island to take pictures and assess the damage. The island is still quarantined, without gas and officials are estimating that citizens of Long Beach Island. N.J. will have no permanent place to live for four to six months. The Snyders have been staying at another Vision Source member’s home and hotels while they look for a temporary residence.

“I thought we were prepared,” said Dr. Rob Snyder. “I sandbagged the doors, taped them shut, raised all computers and equipment but when the surge hit everything was under water,” he added. “Luckily, I was able to move all salvageable items to our second office but now am running one office with twice the staff and less than half the patients.”

Vision Source provides financial assistance to members facing hardships through their own Vision Source Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) established in 2007. Over the past five years, the Foundation has helped more than 40 members and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid for similar situations.

“The Vision Source Foundation board of directors is currently assessing all the ways we can help the Snyders and any other member affected by Hurricane Sandy,” said Vision Source Foundation president, Dr. Rob Houdek. “It is because of circumstances like these that the Foundation was created and it is the giving nature of our members that keeps driving our efforts,” he added.

In addition, Vision Source reported the following situations in several states as of VMail's presstime:

Massachusetts— 35 offices were without power for between 6 to 10 hours; two of these offices lost their outdoor signage/awnings and remained closed Oct. 30 and 31.
Rhode Island — 5 offices were without power until Oct. 31 and remained closed most of the week, but as of Monday, all were back open.
Connecticut — 5 offices were without power for approximately 2 hours. No reported property damage.
Pennsylvania— 12 offices remained closed for the three days of the storm.
New York— 8 offices were impacted; two had power back within 12 hours, but most remained without power and closed throughout the week. Brooklyn office still did not have full power nor running water in the member’s home earlier this week but trying to open today or tomorrow. Offices in Brewster, N.Y. had power as of Nov. 1 but was not seeing patients.
Delaware — 3 members were evacuated but were back in their offices and open as of Nov. 1.
New Jersey— 12 offices were without power until this week. All offices remained closed until earlier this week; some are still not open.

Relief efforts are expanding in many ways. On Staten Island, N.Y, Eric Cohen and Jeffrey Kirsch, owners of Specs For Less posted social media outreach for those in the NYC borough in need of assistance. "We are in business for 19 years because of the support of Staten Island residents. Today, we are ready to help." The offices are offering free eye exams and replacement eyeglasses to those who have suffered catastrophic losses.

A VSP Global spokesperson said, "We are still getting numbers in but as of yesterday we had notification that at least 6 practices in New York and New Jersey were inoperable and an additional 20 were still without power."

She added, "Through the support and collaboration across the VSP Global companies, we are continuing to identify opportunities to help our employees, accounts and members. Specifically new updates include:

  • VSP Optics Group has committed to working with impacted customers offering support and substantial discounts on lab services.
  • VSP Global has also committed to a matching financial donation with the American Red Cross and VSP Global employees in addition to the 2,100 VSP gift certificates distributed to the Red Cross to date to provide to non-VSP members who are in need of eyecare and eyewear services. More gift certificates will continue to be provided as ARC requests come in.
  • Two of the VSP mobile clinics are in planning to be deployed to provide support.

At Essilor, a spokesperson reported that several of its labs in the New York and New Jersey area have been impacted by Sandy. Tri-Supreme in Farmingdale, N.Y. experienced power outages but resumed full production Tuesday. At 21st Century Optics in Long Island City, N.Y., phone lines are still down but calls are being diverted to another Essilor location. Reliable Optics in Brooklyn, N.Y. had no power as of yesterday, but is taking orders and outsourcing work. The computer network and phones have been restored at Nassau Vision Group in Northvale, N.J., and the distribution center is operating normally. Service is also back to normal at Nova Laboratories in Orangeburg, N.Y. following a power outage.

In addition, Steve Seibert, president of Three Rivers Optical reported that the Pittsburgh lab was fortunate to escape any negative effects of Hurricane Sandy.
"Out of concern and respect for our customers and friends who were not so fortunate, we are donating $5,000 to the Red Cross Disaster Fund. Three Rivers Optical will be offering a discount of 10 percent on each and every Rx order starting Nov. 9 through Dec. 31, 2012. "We hope all of our customers will take advantage of this discount and help their brethren in their time of need," said Seibert.

CEO Mike Bettiga presented a $25,000 check from the Shopko Foundation to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief, noting "Folks are hurting bad, and we aim to help." Said Steve Hansen, Regional COO of the Red Cross "Through this donation, we will meet the fear and uncertainty of a crisis with immediate relief, and offer hope for the future to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy."