WEST LIBERTY, Iowa– In 2016, Vision To Learn, a non-profit organization providing free eye-exams and glasses for children in need, first started operating in Iowa. After successfully piloting their program in Dubuque, they looked for other school districts and community organizations to partner with.
In 2018, Regional Director Corrine Kroger received a message from Dina and Trey Sucher encouraging Vision To Learn to expand their operations to West Liberty. “When we look at West Liberty, what’s really neat is it grew very organically,” Kroger said. The Suchers facilitated conversations between school administrators, school nurses, Vision To Learn staff and community organizations to fundraise for the program and bring it to West Liberty. During the 2017-2018 school year, Vision To Learn paid its first visit to West Liberty, providing more than 225 eye exams and 187 pairs of glasses for students who needed them.
When Vision To Learn works with a school district, they bring their mobile clinic and give eye exams to students identified by school nurses as needing a more thorough vision screening. Any students who need glasses will receive a prescription that day and choose a pair of frames they like. In two weeks, Vision To Learn returns to give them their finished glasses.
Typically, Vision To Learn visits partner school districts every other year. They planned to offer screenings in West Liberty at the end of the 2019-2020 school year and had already received the funds to do so from numerous local donors and organizations. Like so many events planned for that spring though, they ended up postponing it because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Vision To Learn remained committed to making sure they identified students in West Liberty with vision issues and got them the glasses they needed. “Now more than ever, they need our help,” stressed Kroger. “With the COVID crisis and the shift to online learning, the gaps in school and health disparities has grown.”
After adjusting their protocols, Vision To Learn received permission to work with students in West Liberty in November and December. By adding additional exam and delivery days, Vision To Learn has made it possible to enforce social distancing requirements in their mobile clinic. Through the use of personal protective equipment such as masks, they have also insured their clinic provides a safe and healthy environment for students to receive their exams in.
In mid-December, West Liberty Community School District’s nurses had identified about 425 students who needed eye exams. By Dec. 13, Vision To Learn had given over 200 eye exams and given glasses prescriptions and fitted frames for 175 students. Once Vision To Learn finishes their work in West Liberty, they hope to have provide about 350 pairs of glasses.
This year, Kroger took pride in giving, “the gift of 20/20 in 2020,” to many children in West Liberty and looks forward to having the opportunity to do so again in the future. If you would like to donate to Vision To Learn to support their future efforts in West Liberty, she encourages you to visit the website or to mail a check to 900 Jackson St Ste LL5-2C, Dubuque, IA 51761.