Planeview eye care center a shared vision

Several Wichita organizations are working together to build an eye care facility in Planeview.

The Lions Vision Center will be next to Brookside United Methodist Church, 2760 S. Roosevelt, where Hunter Health Clinic runs a satellite office.

The center will offer eye exams, prescription eyeglasses and other services. Fees are based on income, but services will be free to the homeless and those of American Indian descent.

Officials say the center is scheduled to open Aug. 1.

The center is the work of the Lions Club, Grene Vision Group, Hunter Health Care, Chapel Hill United Methodist Church and the Planeview Transformation Coalition. The coalition was started by Chapel Hill to improve life in the Planeview neighborhood.

Charlie Schwarz, chairman of the Planeview Transformation Coalition, said he is excited about the involvement of the Lions International Foundation in the project.

"Having the international foundation involved puts this facility in a very select group; there are many things we can do in the future in coordination with Lions International," Schwarz said.

With the assistance of the foundation, Schwarz said, the center will have access to assets it would not have on its own, including grants, contacts — helpful people as well as actual contact lenses — and resources to "put eyeglasses together."

The center also is getting a boost from Grene Vision Group.

Doug Blackman, an optometrist at Grene Vision Group and a member of Chapel Hill, said the church found out about the vision center through its involvement with the Planeview Transformation Coalition.

"I thought it would be good to help out because those folks in Planeview don't have a lot of options as far as eye care," Blackman said.

Blackman said he asked Susan Wade, president of Grene Vision Group, whether the company could donate a couple of lines of equipment. Wade said yes, and the group has since donated more than $150,000 worth of eye care equipment.

"Once we had that donation from Grene Vision, then the Lions Club got really excited about the potential," Schwarz said.

Joyce Gedraitis, membership chairman of the Wichita Southeast Lions Club, said the club got its passion for vision programs in 1925 when Helen Keller spoke at a Lions International convention and "put the challenge to the Lions to be Knights of the Blind."

The club has continued to respond to Keller's challenge through charity projects ever since, including the current project in Planeview.

"In Planeview, it's crucial; a lot of them don't have cars, so it's just really difficult for them to access some of the things that are available," Gedraitis said. "Having it right in the middle of Planeview will allow them to get the help they need."

Susette Schwartz, CEO of Hunter Health Clinic, said the concept for the center began with Hunter Health.

It has run a medical clinic at Brookside Methodist Church for 12 years. Recently, the clinic partnered with the Planeview Transformation Coalition. That led to other groups joining, which started the dream of the Lions Vision Center.

"This is just a great example of public-private partnering, of pulling all the resources together at a grassroots level to just have a really good project for the people in Planeview who need it so much," Schwartz said.