Community Partner Spotlight: Arlington Lions Club

LionsGroup(L-R) Arlington Lions Club members Tommy Dover, Roy Largen and Charlie Largen

The core tenet of a community nonprofit is service to those in need, and when nonprofit organizations partner for a common cause, there is no better example of goodwill.

In the Arlington Eye Clinic, operated and funded by the Arlington Lions Club, Vision Is Priceless has found a tremendous partner dedicated to delivering quality vision care to underserved communities. Opened in August 2015, the clinic has steadily increased its services to uninsured people with the help of vision care professionals who volunteer their time.

RoyClinic Director Tommy Dover, a Lion for the past 22 years, got the idea to open the clinic after seeing one in another city and started the effort to build it in 2002. In aligning his passion with the Lions Club International’s major missions of helping people with vision problems for the past 100 years, the clinic soon became his personal project and has served a great community need.

“We raise and distribute a lot of money to [numerous organizations], but with [the clinic] we get to see who we’re helping,” Dover said. “There is no greater feeling than when I get to hand someone a new pair of glasses.”

When Dover got the idea for the clinic, he got the support of Lions Club Past President Peter Sarmie and former Treasurer Charlie Largen, who calls Dover his mentor. Largen also has two brothers and his brother-in-law who volunteer with the club.

“It is a great feeling when you help people who clearly need it,” Largen said. “It is wonderful when we can help younger people because 80 percent of learning is visual, and [if they can’t see properly] they have a tendency to lag behind. When that happens, they become indifferent to learning, so it is important to head that off before it happens.”

Since recently forging a partnership with VIP, the clinic has been able to help even more clients in need.Charlie

“There’s only one word to describe [our partnership with Vision Is Priceless] – fantastic,” Charlie said. “It is very beneficial for both of us because we each have what the other needs.”

Dover took it one step further with his enthusiasm.

“[It has been] fantastic, fantastic, fantastic,” he said. “VIP has helped us in so many different ways.”

Executive Director Corner: Much to Look Forward to In 2017

By Jami Gaff Bueker, VIP Executive Director

We want to take a moment to thank all of our supporters, volunteers, and partner organizations for a great 2016! Vision Is Priceless is a smaller non-profit but it is amazing how, working together, we help over 39,000 children and adults in Northeast Florida improve their vision health.Bueker, Jami

In 2017, we are looking forward to increasing access to our sight saving programs through monthly clinics, where volunteer doctors provide comprehensive eye exams to 10-15 clients in a day at one of our partner locations, including the Arlington Lions Club, The Way Clinic, and Volunteers in Medicine.

In May, we will be providing even more exams on the St.Vincent’s/Vision Is Priceless mobile unit. It is a 45-foot bus that will have all of the equipment necessary to provide comprehensive eye exams. The mobile unit will give us the ability to travel to remote areas of Northeast Florida and bring the clinic to those who do not have transportation or have other barriers preventing them from receiving an eye exam. This is an amazing partnership with St. Vincent’s and we are excited to be expanding our outreach to underserved populations.

Thank you for a great 2016 and thank you for your continued support in 2017, as we increase our sight saving services to children and adults in our community.


VIP’s Levenson Gives Nine Northeast Florida Residents ‘Gift of Sight’


JACKSONVILLE, Fla.For the past 25 years, Jacksonville ophthalmologist Dr. Jeff Levenson has been making the holiday season brighter for uninsured patients who need cataract surgery.

On Wednesday, he performed the surgeries again for nine people severely in need of the procedure. The surgeries will be spread over three days this year and help a total of 16.

Board chair of local nonprofit Vision Is Priceless and owner of ophthalmic practice Levenson Eye Associates, Levenson has performed the free surgeries through his Gift of Sight program, which is in part funded by donations from the community and Dr. Robert Schnipper and the Riverside Park Surgicenter.

“This is my favorite thing of the year,” Levenson said. “I get to restore sight to people who otherwise couldn’t get it done. I’ve been doing this now for 25 years, and it’s a community-wide project. Many doctors and nurses donate their time. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to get together and remember what we’re really all about.”

Patients are referred to Levenson by Vision Is Priceless and the Florida Division of Blind Services. Through the years, it has helped more than 360 people.

“The patients (Dr. Levenson) is helping were identified through a screening with (Vision Is Priceless),” said Jami Gaff Bueker, Vision Is Priceless Executive Director. “After determining they did not have insurance for the next steps, we were able to refer them for an eye exam and then help them get specialty care. That’s where Dr. Levenson steps in and helps. It’s an amazing day to be able to give people the gift of sight, which is something we might take for granted.”

For Hilliard, Fla., resident Raymond Stokes, the surgery couldn’t come at a better time. He was referred to Vision Is Priceless by his optometrist in Callahan and was thrilled when he found out he would be one of Levenson’s Gift of Sight patients this year.

“It’s been a rough journey for me,” he said. “In the last couple of years, my eyesight got real bad. I couldn’t see to go to work in the morning.”

Stokes spent 40 years as a mill worker – 25 in steel and 15 in paper – which he says may have caused his condition with being exposed to various chemicals and sustaining multiple eye injuries. Currently on disability and out of work for nearly two years, the surgery will allow Stokes to have clearer vision so he can perform every day activities better.

“This is best Christmas gift I could get,” he said. “This surgery will be life-changing for me.”

A native of Jamaica, Elaine Myers, 64, just wants to be more active and help around the house more. With her surgery, she will now be able to do the little things so many take for granted, which is something that makes Myers’ daughter Odette Ennis extremely happy.

“I’m excited about it,” Ennis said. “(She’ll be able to) be more independent, go out on her own and we’ll be able to do fun things together. (I am so thankful for) Vision Is Priceless.”

David – Client Success Story


Andriesse, David_5David

David was overjoyed after recently receiving his new pair of glasses and was grateful for the dedication of our Case Manager, Vanilla Pittman. He learned of VIP from the Jacksonville Re-entry Center.

Now that he has clear vision, he will be able to go back to work and enroll at Florida State College of Jacksonville. He hopes to become a substance abuse counselor.


Because of your support, David has his sight set on a new, successful life.
Keep making a positive impact by donating to Vision Is Priceless today.

World Sight Day A Truly Global Experience for Four African Ophthalmologists

This gallery contains 8 photos.

For four West African ophthalmologists, World Sight Day this year was a truly global experience. Drs. Nestor Avia (Lomé, Togo), Kossi Dito Lawoe Edee (Abidjan, Ivory Coast), Abba Hydara (The Gambia) and Ismael Maomou (Guinea) traveled to Jacksonville and Chicago last week for a two-week trip to learn more about American ophthalmology practices so they […]

ICYMI: VIP’s Value of Vision Campaign

In case you missed it, Vision Is Priceless has put forth a strong effort over the past few months to grow its brand through multiple marketing channels in an effort to raise awareness about eye health so it can help more and more people in Northeast Florida.

The campaign, titled “Value of Vision,” was conceptualized with local advertising agency Burdette Ketchum and launched in July. One of the campaign components was a 30-second television commercial that included children from Jacksonville Country Day School. The video shares that one in four children suffers from an undiagnosed vision problem and VIP screens more than 36,000 children in Northeast Florida annually.

View the video above and share to help spread the word!