“See, my eyes are bloodshot,” Mendes said. “My wife had to pull me off the couch.”
Mendes was one of 62 patients who received a free eye exam as part of the School of Optometry’s eighth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Atwater Eye Care Center.
Mendes learned of the event four years ago. He’s returned every year since.
“I’ve had problems with my eye in the past, and I noticed that the older I got, my vision started changing,” Mendes said. “I didn’t want to admit it, but my wife actually pushed me into going. So I went, and sure enough, I needed glasses for the first time in my life.”
Faculty adviser Dr. Patricia Henderson said the event provides care mostly to uninsured patients.
“It met a section of the community who needed help but didn’t have the resources to pay for eye care or glasses,” Henderson said.
Mendes works nights as a security officer. With two children at home, he said he is grateful to receive new glasses, which are generally pricey for uninsured people like him.
“When I first came, I was a little apprehensive because it was a free program,” Mendes said. “I didn’t know what type of service I would be getting, but I was amazed. The whole staff is professional, and they did everything that day.”
Students and faculty conducted examinations, helped patients choose free glasses and discussed options with those seeking insurance or requiring ongoing eye care. This year, the School of Optometry worked with students from the Department of Speech and Hearing Services, who provided free hearing screenings.
Monica Clemons, social services director at the Salvation Army of Monroe County, arranged appointments. A grant through the City of Bloomington offset the cost of the event.
Katelyn Parmalee, president of the IU chapter of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, helped organize the event.
Because normal clinic staff have the day off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this makes it an ideal chance to give back, Parmalee said.
“It’s an opportunity to represent what Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for and what he accomplished,” Parmalee said.
Mendes said he takes every opportunity to tell others about the event and to correct misconceptions.
“It’s not like you are receiving secondhand glasses like the ones you see in collection bins at places,” Mendes said. “It’s not what they think. It’s a really nice program, and not too many people know about it.”
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