NEW YORK—The optical community is responding to the needs of residents in Puerto Rico and Florida who were impacted in recent weeks by Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, respectively. Both national and local vision organizations and optical companies are offering help to eyecare professionals, patients and other residents who are affected by the disasters. Here’s a rundown of the relief efforts to date that VMAIL has learned about. The American Optometric Association’s Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief (OFDR)stands ready to help doctors restore critical patient care.
A program of Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation, OFDR provides up to $4,000 in financial support to doctors of optometry affected by disasters with an eye toward helping cover necessary expenses and expediting doctors’ ability to restore care. Originally established in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the fund has distributed more than $1 million in aid to date. Optometry students who have experienced property damage due to a disaster also are eligible for assistance.
Optical retailer U.S.Vision has announced a temporary program to help Florida residents in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s destruction in that state’s southwest region. Through October 21, seven JCPenney Optical stores in the region will offer streamlined options for replacement of current eyewear, as well as deep discounts for new customers in need of eyewear assistance.
“Although only a small token, we want to offer assistance to those with eyecare-related needs,” said Eric J. Bertrand, chairman, U.S.Vision. “With dozens of stores across the state—and seven in the areas most significantly impacted by the storm—we can provide quick access to an important health care service.”
The relief initiative includes options for both current patients and new customers with a need to replace their glasses. All orders will be eligible for free shipping to eliminate the return trip for order pickup.
Current customers who opted into the U.S.Vision Eyewear Protection Plan (EPP) at time of initial purchase can order replacement eyeglasses for half off their normal copays; customers who initially waived the EPP option can retroactively purchase the plan for a nominal fee and immediately take advantage of these discounted copay options as well.
For new customers, participating locations will provide 70 percent off retail prices on nearly all frames and lenses to deliver an immediate, low-cost solution to those most in need. Children ages 17 and under will also be eligible for a free pair.
|An aerial shot of flooded North Port, by Matt Dill.
To qualify for these temporary relief offers, customers must provide a valid Rx and proof of address by either license, state ID, or online copy of official mail such as a utility bill or credit card statement. Offers are available in the following JCPenney Optical locations for a limited time:
For more information about hours of operation in each of these locations, visit www.jcpenneyoptical.com/store-locator/. Those unable to travel to a store listed above but require assistance on a past or new order, can contact the U.S. Vision Optical Helpline at (866) 435-7111 for more information on available options. In addition to these in-store relief efforts, the company has also pledged support via charitable donations to the American Red Cross, Save the Children, and the Naples Humane Society.
- Port Charlotte Town Center (Port Charlotte, Fla.)
- Coastland Shopping Center (Naples, Fla.)
- Sarasota Square Mall (Sarasota, Fla.)
- Tyrone Square (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
- Countryside Mall (Clearwater, Fla.)
- Florida Mall (Orlando, Fla.)
- Altamonte Mall (Altamonte Springs, Fla.)
A spokesperson for EssilorLuxottica told VMAIL that all employees impacted by the storm in Florida and South Carolina are accounted for and safe, although a number of employees have lost power, their cars and in several instances their homes.
“As a caring and close-knit community, many have expressed interest in supporting our colleagues during a challenging time,” the company said in an internal communication issued last Friday. “In response, EssilorLuxottica has created a Go-Fund-Me page and funds raised here will be distributed via the company’s Guardian Angel Fund at Members Trust Federal Credit Union. Those who prefer to send a check can mail it directly to:
Members Trust Federal Credit Union
Additionally, EssilorLuxottica’s Costa brand is supporting those impacted by donating 100 percent of proceeds from OneCoast apparel toward relief efforts. Click here to see the collection.
Attention: Natural Disaster Guardian Angel Fund
4000 Luxottica Place
Mason, Ohio 45040
US Eye, the management company of multiple local ophthalmology groups, including Center For Sight and Southwest Florida Eye Care, announced the establishment of the US Eye Better Together Employee Relief Fund, a program providing charitable financial support to employees who have experienced significant loss during Hurricane Ian.
To support its employees during this time, US Eye launched the initiative with a commitment to match the first $50,000 in donations. Furthermore, US Eye’s founder and CEO, David Shoemaker, MD, generously offered to personally match an additional $25,000.
Within 24 hours of the donation campaign announcement, US Eye employees pledged over $50,000 in individual contributions for fellow employees impacted by Hurricane Ian. The initial pledge milestone will be fully matched by US Eye and the company is hoping to significantly surpass that number in the coming days and weeks.
Speaking of the effort, Kinga Huse, president of US Eye, said, “Unfortunately, the need is immense, and we would like to help as many of our team members as possible. Many of our vendors, colleagues and community members have reached out to us looking for ways to help. We decided to extend the opportunity to donate to the fund to the public for those who feel inclined to support. We hope this can provide much needed relief to our team members during this time.”
|Flooded streets were visible everywhere in the North Port, Fla. area.
US Eye operates 60 eyecare practices across the southeastern U.S. The company employs more than 300 individuals who live in the regions most devastated by the disaster and operates 25 eyecare clinics across Southwest Florida, 17 of which were in the direct path of Hurricane Ian.
The employee relief fund is administered by E4E Relief, a 501(c)(3) organization. E4E Relief will accept employee grant applications, review submitted requests to make award determinations and process grant payments to the employees in need. Employees will receive a cash payout to cover any expense incurred as a result of the hurricane.
Anyone wishing to support a US Eye team member can fill out the pledge form here. One hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation will go directly toward helping US Eye families recover and rebuild their lives, the company said. Donations are accepted via ACH, check or donor advised fund. Credit card processing will be available in the coming days.
VSP Vision reported that it has connected with VSP Vision, Visionworks, and iCare Health Solutions employees in the areas affected by Hurricanes Fiona and Ian and said everyone is safe and accounted for. A company spokesperson said VSP Vision is continuing to assess the impacts Ian has had on access to optometric services across Florida and South Carolina, and is prepared to deploy the VSP Vision Eyes of Hope mobile clinics, if needed.
Currently, VSP Vision is offering the following relief and recovery resources:
VSP Vision launched a matching program for our employees who wish to donate to disaster relief efforts. VSP will match all employee donations up to a total of $25,000 to support the work of the American Red Cross for the recovery from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian.
- For doctors: Disaster relief resources are available to VSP network doctors and can be accessed by calling (800) 615-1883.
- For VSP members: VSP Vision Care members in impacted areas may call (800) 877-7195 to have their benefits reinstated if needed for replacement glasses or contacts.
- For non-VSP members: Non-VSP members may call (800) 733-2767 or contact a local Red Cross chapter to request a VSP Vision Eyes of Hope gift certificate which grants access to a free eye-exam and, if needed, prescription eyeglasses.
In North Port, Florida, VMAIL reached Annie Hicks, who manages SeePort Optometry, where her husband Dr. Jesse Hicks is the optometrist. After several days of harsh winds and heavy rain, with his family on the east coast of Florida, Dr. Hicks returned to find that the practice was one of the only businesses in the town to survive the onslaught of Hurricane Ian, North of Fort Myers, close to Port Charlotte, Bradenton and other areas that took a direct hit.
|With some minor outside damage, SeePort Optometry was still one of the only businesses standing and operational after Ian.
SeePort Optometry suffered relatively minor damage and after several days of no power, the practice was up and running. Said Annie Hicks, "We have a fully functional practice, though many of our employees suffered tremendous loss. We're not taking being open for granted. But there is so much devastation around here, we're doing our best to help anyone and everyone we can.
"We are trying to serve patients and local displaced persons in need of eyecare and emergency services. My husband even drove his truck over to pick up a patient and bring her in and drive her home after the visit because transportation is limited here."
Hicks noted, "Even today, our cell service is spotty and our WiFi is in and out but we have been using social media, to keep track of what's been going on around the town, from local newspapers, from folks and friends in town, and Florida state police and rescue organizations. We're also using social to let people know we are here if they need help."
|SeePort's Tariq Muslim is the practice's employee of the year for lifting up the damp carpet to prevent mold and allowing the business to reopen.
Thanks to a process started during COVID, SeePort can edge some single vision lenses into frames on-site. They're being serviced via FedEx and UPS deliveries on other eyeglasses Rx's from their outside lab, Cherry Optical, Hicks said, adding, "There has been a broad humanitarian response but it's quite overwhelming now. We are very fortunate, but people need a great deal of help in this whole area—it's a challenge for people to absorb just what's happened."