Flooded practices stay afloat thanks to AOA disaster relief fund

Flooded practices stay afloat thanks to AOA disaster relief fund

In August, a record rainfall in Louisiana flooded the practice of Chris Wroten, O.D., and several other practices in the southeast part of the state. Today, after all these months, Bond-Wroten Eye Clinic's Denham Springs, Louisiana location, a few minutes outside of Baton Rouge, reopened this morning.

Even the smallest of donations to Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief can collectively transform disasters into opportunities...

A grant from Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief, a program of Optometry Cares-The AOA Foundation®, kept afloat hopes of reopening the practice for patients and employees, Dr. Wroten says.  

"It's extremely exciting to finally be reopening our Denham Springs clinic," Dr. Wroten says. "Through a multitude of family, friends and colleagues, God has so richly blessed us through the process. Despite the difficulties and challenges we've faced, the smell of fresh paint, the gleam of shiny new equipment, and a now remodeled office have certainly reinvigorated our entire staff."  

He adds, "We can't wait to reconnect with patients and to again provide care to our community as the entire area continues to rebuild," he says. "The grant we received from Optometry Cares' Fund for Disaster Relief was so instrumental in kick-starting the entire recovery process and getting us through those first weeks, which were by far the most challenging."

Helping hand

Supporting victims of disasters, such as Dr. Wroten, is exactly what the disaster relief fund is about. The fund, sustained through donations, has:

  • Awarded more than $571,600 and about 305 grants since its launch in 2005 post Hurricane Katrina
  • Paid out more than $74,000 to 19 doctors in 2016 alone for relief from disasters
  • Assisted doctors whose practices were threatened by wildfires, flooding, lava flows and tornadoes

"Doctors of optometry can help by supporting the AOA and its charity foundation, Optometry Cares," says Allan Barker, O.D., president of the Board of Directors of Optometry Cares.

"Giving can be through designated funds for the Disaster Relief Fund or through undesignated giving," Dr. Barker says. "Doctors do not have to wait for a disaster to give. Regular giving to Optometry Cares is the best way to help. A strong AOA charity foundation geared toward domestic programs helps all of optometry."  

The fund has helped eye doctors such as Valerie Sharpe, O.D., who practices in Telluride, Colorado. On June 27, her practice suffered catastrophic flooding and caused her to relocate her office to a temporary location to allow patients access to their records and offer retail eye care services.

The fund was a big help, says Dr. Sharpe, owner of Alpine Eye Care & Eyewear, noting that she appreciated the easy and speedy application process.  "I had a high-pressure fire mitigation water/glycol line that burst two floors above me and flooded into my office," Dr. Sharpe recalls. "My office sustained waterfall damage for hours and was declared a total catastrophic loss. We weren't able to recover any clinical or computer equipment. The entire 10,000-square-foot building was destroyed and is currently still being remodeled."  

She adds, "I had been corresponding with my state affiliate about concerns after my flood, and one of the Colorado Optometric Association staff encouraged me to apply. It was a very brief application, and I received a call about two weeks after submission telling me the full grant award had been approved. It was very unexpected, but helpful because I had not received any insurance payment. This money contributed directly to maintaining my staff payroll, which was much appreciated.

Continues Dr. Sharpe, "I will definitely add Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief to my charitable contributions. I can honestly say this helped a fellow colleague maintain a small business. Even with adequate insurance, there is always an economic burden, and knowing another practice like mine will benefit directly by your contribution is reassuring."  

Humbling generosity  

Dr. Barker can appreciate their circumstances.  

His practice was affected by the devastation from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 that impacted North Carolina. "Hurricane Floyd left one of our offices severely damaged and another office totally destroyed," Dr. Barker says. "Twenty-five percent of the city I lived in was under water. Disasters are traumatic. Getting back to normal is a challenge. Fortunately, we clawed our way back, but it certainly made me realize the importance of helping folks when they need a hand.  

"Optometry Cares grants can't replace adequate insurance coverage, but they can assist as a cash flow bridge allowing one's practice to service patients and pay staff until things hopefully can settle back to normal," he adds.  

Dr. Wroten says, "Even the smallest of donations to Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief can collectively transform disasters into opportunities, and then ultimately opportunities into success stories. I encourage everyone who is able to consider making a donation this holiday season. Giving can have the same huge impact on a future colleague. We're extremely humbled to have been on the receiving end of such generosity, and can't wait to soon be in a position to pay it forward again."

Click here to make a donation.  

December 13, 2016

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