Optical Industry Continues Outreach Efforts Following Sandy

NEW YORK—In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, members of the optical industry are demonstrating continued outreach efforts to assist those in need of eyewear repairs and replacements, as well as assistance with general living conditions. Both individuals and organizations throughout the greater New York City/Tri-State area are taking steps to provide relief by way of donations, collections and other outreach (see prior VMail coverage here).

Jared Buchansky, eyewear representative for Matsuda based in El Segundo, Calif. has had ongoing relief efforts since seeing the impact of the storm on the Staten Island community.

“I was born and raised in Staten Island,” said Buchansky, who now resides in New Jersey. “To see my old neighborhood completely demolished was enough for me to step in and help as much as I can.” Buchansky has organized collections and drop offs in affected areas, gathering goods and delivering them throughout Staten Island neighborhoods.

“We’ve been collecting donations from everywhere, from people in eyewear, friends on Facebook, and all over,” he told VMail. “We did a run out there last week with a 17-foot U-Haul filled to the top with baby supplies, cleaning products, you name it, and went from neighborhood to neighborhood giving them out.”

As an optical industry member, Buchansky also recognized the need for eyewear. He plans to set up a weekend event at a local retailer where hurricane victims can get refitted for frames, or can otherwise be given pre-made pairs to wear until they are able to make appointments for new glasses.

“Not only did they lose everything in their homes, a lot of people lost their glasses, too,” he said. “Local optical store owners and eyewear companies from around the country are donating reading glasses, frames and eyewear with basic prescriptions.”

Buchansky referred to a number of industry members throughout the area and country who have made notable contributions to his efforts. Among them were Nancy DiCosmo, former president of Au Courant Opticians in Princeton, N.J.; Teresa Gelsi, owner of Terri Optics in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; Janice Gibbs, owner of L'Optique in Ashville, N.C.; and Barbi Tuckerman of Tuckerman Unique Eyewear in Columbus, Ohio. “And there’s more coming in,” he continued. “We’ve had some good feedback from the optical community; a lot of these people are getting involved in a big way.”

Staten Eye Land, an opticianry in Staten Island, N.Y. has begun to reach out to their community as well. The store recently announced Operation Sandy Eyes, an initiative to provide hurricane victims with replacement eyeglasses. The store will also be collecting toiletry items to distribute to victims along with the administered optical frames and lens materials.

Stephanie Fruchtman, who owns the store with husband Alan, said that her efforts with VMail have received a modest response thus far, but believes this is to be expected.

“These people are in shock,” she said. “They have no food, no electricity, no shelter…The last thing they’re thinking about is their eyes.” She expects to see more patients in upcoming weeks “after they rebuild their lives, and realize they cannot see properly or need to repair their glasses,” Fruchtman said. “I suspect it’s going to take a week or two.”

She does believe there is hope, however—the store has assisted five people so far, and efforts to further spread the word are under way. “We just put out a letter to the local newspaper, notified local shelters and the borough president has it on his website,” she listed. “We’re trying to reach out the best we can.”

Vision care charity OneSight, a nonprofit foundation operated by Luxottica, has been working with the Red Cross and other nonprofit agencies to direct those affected by the storm to go to their local LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical or Sears Optical locations to receive free eyewear and other forms of help.

“We are currently planning expanded OneSight relief efforts, including our vans and other clinic models,” said Jason Singh, OD, OneSight vice president and executive director. “OneSight’s volunteer doctors, opticians and other team members are eager to help and we will apply our expertise in conducting these kind of on-the-ground vision clinics to support those in need. Our hearts go out to all of the victims, including our many partners who live in the impacted areas.”

More information about OneSight can be found at onesight.org. To contact Stephanie or Alan Fruchtman, call (718) 448-7676 or visit Staten Eye Land at 1803 Victory Boulevard in Staten Island, N.Y. Jared Buchansky can be reached at jared@buchansky.com.