Optical Industry Rallies to Aid Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey

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NEW YORK—Hurricane Harvey, which hit the southeastern part of Texas over the weekend, has left thousands of residents devastated and displaced. Though the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm, the major damage has already been done—with photos of submerged cars, houses, bridges and businesses circulating on the internet. With floods expected to continue through Aug. 31, the optical industry across the country is rallying in an effort to provide relief to those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.

On Aug. 28, Kingwood, Texas/Houston-based Vision Source sent an e-blast to its doctors, “to provide guidance for members of the association from across the nation who wish to help other in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.” Dr. John McCall will be the point person for members who have suffered extensive damage to their practice and need to request financial assistance, Vision Source stated.

Its local administrators will be assisting Dr. McCall in collecting information from their respective members. “The Foundation is going to be overwhelmed by the needs of approximately 60 practices and staff numbering close to 400,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of Vision Source. “The dozens of employees who live in the area are the ones to be concerned for, plus the practices that will be unable to see patients (and generate revenue) for quite some time.”

The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
(ASCO)—a non-profit association representing the interests of optometric education—released a statement letting everyone know that while they are still closely monitoring the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the University of Houston, College of Optometry (UHCO) (one of their institutions) has not sustained any damage and that all students and staff are safe.

Through Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, a program of Optometry Cares—the AOA Foundation, the American Optometric Association is asking everyone to make a donation, the Association stated. Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief is an exclusive financial support program that provides immediate assistance to those in need in the wake of natural disasters. Anyone can click here to donate to the fund and doctors affected by the storm can find more information and apply for disaster relief grants here.

"While we do not yet know how many of our hundreds of Texas doctors of optometry may be affected by this storm, the AOA and our fellow members stand with you all and are at the ready to provide the assistance needed personally and through Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief," stated AOA president Christopher J. Quinn, OD. "AOA leadership is stepping up donations and asking all members of our optometric family to do the same so that we can ensure doctors of optometry are able to do what they do best—help their patients in need.”

For their part, The Allergan Foundation will donate $100,000 to help survivors. The donation will be made to the American Red Cross, which has mobilized its resources to respond to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and across the Gulf Coast region.

"Allergan's 18,000 colleagues extend our thoughts and prayers to the people of Texas and the Gulf Coast who have been affected by the catastrophic winds and rain associated with Hurricane Harvey,” said Brent Saunders, chairman and CEO of Allergan and chairman of The Allergan Foundation. “We are eager to help and support the work of the American Red Cross in their direct relief efforts."

Luxottica has put several plans into motion in an effort to help. Luxottica Retail has established a Guardian Angel Fund for employees who have been impacted by the event. Approximately 150 of the company’s stores have been closed due to the extreme conditions of Hurricane Harvey. The company will match individual employee contributions, up to $500. The retail business has also activated its Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

On the wholesale side, Luxottica Wholesale responded by offering customers in the area special terms to help provide some relief. Customers are welcome to reach out to their sales consultants for further details, a spokesperson told VMail.

For their part, VSP is currently reaching out to nearly 1,500 VSP network doctor office locations in 11 counties whose practices may have been affected. “A full assessment of the damage done will take some time, and if needed, VSP mobile eyecare clinics and additional VSP Global lines of business support will be evaluated for support to local eye doctors to ensure patients have access to eyecare,” a representative of the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, VSP network doctors’ offices that are damaged or closed due to Hurricane Harvey and subsequent storms can reach out for assistance by calling (800) 615-1883 or posting a message on the VSP Providers Facebook page. VSP members who need eyecare or replacement glasses due to a disaster can receive them even if they're not currently eligible; VSP network doctors can call (800) 615-1883 for an authorization. Non-VSP members can contact their local American Red Cross chapter or shelter to request a VSP Global Eyes of Hope Gift Certificate for eyecare and replacement eyewear at no cost from a local VSP network doctor.

Additionally, VSP Global is conducting an employee fundraiser campaign and matching employee donations to the American Red Cross.

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Friday, Essilor through its corporate office has been in constant contact with employees and customers in the affected areas, a spokesperson told VMail. “While all of Essilor's employees are safe at this time, several of the company's employees, customers, friends and family members have sustained considerable damage to their personal properties. Essilor will soon be structuring a more formal relief program.”

The spokesperson noted that the company has been contacting those lab customers who remain open with other options for their lab orders. She added, “We will provide further assistance to the members of the Essilor family impacted by the storm and are formulating that now. Our hearts and minds remain with all those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and we will make every effort to help our colleagues and customers recover from this devastating event.”

Houston-based optometrist, Bridgette Shen Lee, OD, of Vision Optique also took to social media to relay useful information. In addition to alerting her patients that her practice will be closed, she shared emergency numbers for those in Houston, Red Cross-approved shelter locations and Tox Doc Safety Tips which reminded people that snakes, fire ants and other venomous animals are roaming in the waters.

American Eyewear—an eyewear company based in Nashville, Tenn.—has set up a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to assist those who have been affected. The company is offering a pair of Valor by Nash sunglasses to those who donate $50 or more. American Eyewear has also created a “One up for Texas,” program so clients can assist fellow doctors who have been decimated by the event. On their orders, any practice can choose to donate a frame to an office in Texas that has been destroyed by the flooding, the company stated.

New York Eye, the eyewear and eyeglass case supplier,announced an initial donation of $5,000 to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. New York Eye will match employee contributions of up to $10,000 within the next 30 days.

Vision Monday
and VMail will continue to monitor the relief activities and status of impacted offices, retailers, labs and suppliers as details become available. Please send any related information to vmeditor@jobson.com