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Monday, Dec. 11
The Indiana Daily Student

MLK Day inspires free eye care


Although students had time off from classes due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it didn’t stop many from giving back to the community.

For some students, this meant assisting with free eye exams and eyeglasses giveaways.

The IU School of Optometry provided free-of-charge eye exams and eyeglasses Monday to members of the Bloomington community who do not have access to vision care.

The school came together with the Salvation Army, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity students, the City of Bloomington and the Bloomington Lions Club.

“Today is a day of service,” Monica Clemons, president of the Bloomington Lions Club, said. “It is our duty to give back to such an amazing cause.”

This day of service at the IU School of Optometry started when a group of IU students approached the school, which had been sending students to Mexico once a year to facilitate free exams and eyeglasses, about wanting to contribute in a local setting as well. This is the fifth year this day of service has taken place.

Every year, there are close to 60 free eye exams and at least 50 free eyeglasses given to those in need. This year, there were seven volunteer doctors and 50 student volunteers. The doctors were all professors in the IU School of Optometry and the student volunteers were all members of the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity students.

Free services took place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and no prior registration was required.

“This has been a tradition and a great opportunity to serve others too,” Hannah Downey, vice president of the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity students and the IU representative of the event, said.

Downey has volunteered for the cause for three years and said she feels a strong passion about contributing.

The event was sponsored by the MLK foundation from the city of Bloomington. Patients were prioritized by need of care. Those who did not have any insurance were of precedent and those on Medicare became the next priority.

All organizations that assisted in this event played a certain role throughout the day. The Salvation Army handled necessary paperwork for each patient, the Lions Club was in charge of the patients themselves and their overall well-being and the volunteers and doctors were all facilitated by the school’s volunteering network.

The dollar value of each exam was between $400-$500, but the patients never had to deal with the finances. IU donated the space provided for the day and the Lions Club, along with the City of Bloomington, covered the expenses of the glasses.

The Bloomington Lions Club raises money for charitable organizations and provides vision tests to children at school. The organization has been in the community for 86 years and is known as the oldest service group in the nation.

The Lions Club helps facilitate free eye exams and screenings within all elementary schools in the county. This past year, 2,600 students received eye assistance from the ?organization.

Student volunteers were split up throughout the day depending on their year within the optometric program. First- and second-year students helped with maintenance and administrative work, third-year students assisted with eye exams and fourth-year students served as assistants to the doctors themselves.

“Vision is something we often take for granted, and it’s a blessing to give this to others,” Downey said.

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