Collaboration, Community, and Service at the Core of Project SEE

Published September 22, 2017 by Anna Ulyanenkova, VIP Program Coordinator

Each summer, Vision Is Priceless partners with Johnson and Johnson Vision to organize a day-long vision clinic called Project SEE. This year, the clinic was held on Wednesday, August 9. As one of our largest clinics, it serves close to eighty uninsured and underserved people by providing them with free, comprehensive eye exams and low-cost glasses.

“We are fortunate to have the continued support of Johnson & Johnson Vision, whose eye care professionals graciously donate their time and talents to Vision Is Priceless clients” says Jami Bueker, VIP Executive Director. “Receiving a quality eye exam through Project SEE provides individuals with the opportunity to improve their lives. Something as simple as a pair of glasses can improve a person’s ability to live independently, drive a car, read a job application, or return to school or work. For some, receiving an eye exam at J&J changes their entire quality of life.”

This was the case for Bonnie Alexandrini, a VIP client screened at Operation New Hope (ONH). “When I was 12 I had prescription glasses and I lost them, and I never got more,” said Alexandrini. “I don’t have health insurance or anything like that so I probably wouldn’t have. I would’ve just kept doing what I was doing.”

Bonnie Alexandrini tries on different frame styles to find her perfect fit.

Bonnie Alexandrini tries on different frame styles to find her perfect fit.

ONH’s Ready4Work Program assists the formerly incarcerated with re-entry into the community and workforce. Alexandrini’s eye exam appointment was set on an especially important day. She remarked, “I just want to thank you guys for your time and for doing this, because honestly if you hadn’t I wouldn’t be here…I’m scheduled for an interview today! I’m just trying to better my life.” Just as Alexandrini’s new glasses will help her with work and in life, they will also allow her to once again enjoy her most favorite past-time – reading novels by Mary Higgins Clark.

While Alexandrini’s exam at Project SEE greatly improved her quality of life, Ella Scott’s exam helped her monitor her pre-diabetes. Scott learned about Vision Is Priceless at New Covenant Ministries’ mobile food pantry. After suffering in a fire last year, she had little to spare. Since she failed her distance screening and qualified for our Vision Care program, she was scheduled for an eye exam closest to where she lived. It had been five years since Scott’s last visit with an optometrist. She was especially thankful for her eye exam appointment because it checked for symptoms of diabetic eye diseases, which run in her family.

Yaneli Petrocelli, VIP Program Specialist, poses with Ella Scott after her eye exam appointment.

Yaneli Petrocelli, VIP Program Specialist, poses with Ella Scott after her eye exam appointment.

In addition to helping clients overcome financial challenges to receiving quality vision care, VIP also ensures that clients with transportation barriers have access to our services. According to Marley Curtis, VIP Program Specialist, “clients face many challenges to get here, from taking off work to finding transportation, and everything in between. We’re always trying to help make sure our clients have all the resources they need to attend their appointments.”

Along with other program staff, Curtis started scheduling appointments for Project SEE in June. To help clients prepare for their appointments, she also made multiple reminder calls, sent confirmation texts, and mailed bus passes to those who could not afford them. This reduced the amount of cancelled appointments and helped ensure that clients received our valuable services.

While most clients who participated in Project SEE live in Jacksonville, there were several that traveled from Duval’s outlying counties. Larry Walker drove for almost an hour from Yulee to get to his eye exam appointment on time. He was screened at Barnabas, a comprehensive service center in Nassau County. “They actually recommended me to come here,” said Walker. “With my vision be[ing] the way it is, I couldn’t help but not come.” His last eye exam was over eight years ago. When asked where he would have gone had it not been for VIP, he replied: “I don’t know. In fact, that was the reason I waited so long, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else.” He would like to thank Vision is Priceless and J&J staff for helping him re-gain his independence. “I am very, very much satisfied. [My new glasses] will help me in every way – driving, reading, writing…I like to read if I can see good, that’s the thing. I hadn’t been reading a lot lately.”

Ms. Robin tests Larry Walker's visual acuity in the pre-test room.

Ms. Robin tests Larry Walker’s visual acuity in the pre-test room.

Alexandrini, Scott, and Walker are just three of the seventy-seven clients that received eye exams at Project SEE. Thanks to the incredible partnership between VIP and J&J, we are one step closer to improving the vision health of our community. Through collaboration and service, we can make a real difference in the lives of underserved individuals in Northeast Florida.