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Clinic’s vision care gets donation

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic on Friday accepted a large donation from the Virginia Eye Foundation for the second year in a row.

The foundation donated $25,000 to support access to vision care for clinic patients, an increase from last year’s donation of $20,000.

Karen Spencer, chief executive officer of Virginia Eye Consultants and Virginia Eye Foundation, said the business and foundation wanted to give back after a warm and successful reception of the business’s new Suffolk office several years ago.

“We wanted to figure out a way we could give back to the community,” she said. “We have really enjoyed being in this market.”

Spencer said Virginia Eye Consultants wasn’t familiar with the free clinic until it started its Suffolk office and began getting some patients from there.

Spencer contacted the free clinic and wanted to make a donation from the foundation, she said.

“This was kind of like manna from Heaven,” clinic Executive Director Chet Hart said on Friday. Though the clinic frequently researches and applies for grants from many foundations, it had not yet learned of the Virginia Eye Foundation prior to Spencer making the initial contact.

“It really started through Karen,” Hart said. “It was a total shock to us, a wonderful shock.”

The clinic provided 150 eye exams in 2017 and has done 34 so far in 2018. It has also given 37 prescriptions for glasses and also gives out readers in partnership with local Lions Clubs.

For those who need the clinic’s services, vision care is life-changing.

Sandy Warren, 56, of Carrollton, has been a Western Tidewater Free Clinic patient since October 2016. She got glasses through the clinic.

“It was such a blessing when I put on the glasses, because I could see the world,” she told clinic staff.

Bob Fry, chairman of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic board of directors, said they wouldn’t be able to do what they do if it were not for the support of foundations like Virginia Eye Foundation.

“Our patients don’t have the means to pay for their own health care,” Fry said. “The foundation really helps us be able to meet their full needs. It’s because of people like Virginia Eye that we can do what we do.”

In recognition of the continued and increasing support, the vision room was renamed for the foundation on Friday.

Equipment in the room was provided by the Birdsong Trust.