Clinic makes people look good
At this clinic, 45 volunteers assist about 130 people each month. Among those serving are 21 eyecare professionals.
By CHRIS SCHUTZ
It takes dozens of people to bring Skyline Urban Ministry’s Eye Clinic into focus, said Gail Holcomb, manager of the clinic at 500 SE 15th in Oklahoma City.
Through volunteers’ efforts, some 100 people get low-cost or free eyeglasses each month, and about 130 people per month get eye exams.
"Every year it gets bigger and bigger," Holcomb said.
She estimated that 45 volunteers help run the United Methodist-related program, including 21 eye professionals (optometrists, ophthalmologists, and an optician).
Eight doctors see patients in Skyline’s clinic, which is outfitted with equipment purchased with grant money. Others perform exams at their own offices in the Oklahoma City area.
The doctors typically provide eight clinics a month at Skyline, Holcomb said.
It is gratifying to see patients’ reactions after they get their new glasses, Holcomb said. When they put on those glasses, "they just stand and look around."
Safety is a major consideration for some of them. New glasses will help them see road signs and curbs. "If you can’t see, it could be dangerous," Holcomb said.
Some patients have remarked that their new glasses will help them read well enough to prepare for the General Educational Development (GED) test.
In addition to eyecare professionals, other volunteers such as Lloyd Leveridge, a member of OKC-Church of the Servant, help schedule appointments. On one recent day, Leveridge was using a computer at the agency, making appointments for people who had called Skyline for eyeglass help.
Skyline’s medical computer system was provided by the Health Alliance for the Uninsured, Holcomb said.
After an eye exam at Skyline, a patient who needs glasses will meet with an optician to pick out frames in a display room not unlike one at a conventional eye clinic. Nearby, a closet holds donated eyeglass cases, both new and used. Some are hand-sewn.
Wednesday is ordering day for the new prescriptions. Pickup is on another Wednesday.
Patients receive glasses with new frames and lenses; the clinic cannot reuse eyeglasses. "We cannot give someone someone else’s prescription," Holcomb said.
Old frames will not be sturdy enough, she said. People who want to donate used glasses can give them to the Downtown Lions Club, which sends them overseas.
Patients are charged $30 for single-vision glasses and $55 for bifocals. Students from kindergarten to 12th grade can get free vision exams and glasses, Holcomb said. Adults who cannot afford to pay can get assistance from Skyline.
Skyline also looks for ways to reduce the cost of glasses and exams for college students, Holcomb said.
"All types of people use our services," she said.
Patients qualify for free exams every two years.
Patients with diagnoses such as glaucoma or cataracts get referred to the Dean McGee Eye Institute.
Holcomb said there is always a need for more volunteers, including eye doctors. Another way to help patients of the clinic is to provide bus passes, since there is a constant need for transportation assistance, Holcomb said.
Gail Holcomb models fun eyeglass frames at Skyline Urban Ministry.
Volunteer Lloyd Leveridge helps a caller schedule an eye exam at Skyline Urban Ministry.