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Foundation funds eye care

The Virginia Eye Foundation gave its first donation to Western Tidewater Free Clinic in the form of a large check on Thursday.

The donation of $20,000 will be used to help expand eye care services at the clinic.

“Vision is such an extremely important component in the overall spectrum of health care,” said Chet Hart, executive director of the free clinic. “The relationship and funding from Virginia Eye Foundation really helps us serve those persons who have no other options and have not had eye care in years.”

The foundation was started by Dr. John Sheppard of Virginia Eye Consultants, who wanted to create a way to fund sight-saving surgeries, access to care and education.

“We didn’t have anywhere for patients to go who have no means to pay,” said Karen Spencer, chief executive officer of Virginia Eye Consultants and its related entities, including the foundation.

Previously, the foundation donated to the Lackey Free Clinic on the Peninsula to fund ongoing care. When Virginia Eye Consultants moved into the Suffolk market, they decided to do the same.

“It became obvious how much of an impact Western Tidewater Free Clinic has here in our community,” Spencer said.

Ashley Greene of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic said the clinic had 309 vision appointments in 2016, which was the first full year of having a vision care program.

“Everything we have here could grow,” Greene said, adding the goal is always to serve more people.

Overall last year, Greene said, the clinic had 1,400 patients who visited the clinic about 18,000 times.

Spencer said the foundation is excited for its first donation to the free clinic.

“We’re excited to make this donation and look forward to seeing how it can change the lives of some of the people here in Western Tidewater,” she said.