MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation recently provided the West Virginia University Eye Institute with a $115,000 grant to assist the Appalachian Vision Outreach Program (AVOP).  

This is Benedum Foundation’s fourth year of providing support to the AVOP, which was established in 2011. With this funding and additional support from private donors, the Eye Institute will continue partnering with the WVU Lions Sight Conservation Foundation, local Lions Clubs throughout the state, and members of the West Virginia Association of Free Clinics to bring vision services to West Virginians.

Vision screening, general clinics, sub-specialty clinical services, and education on the importance of vision health will be made available for those who don’t have access to regular eye care and are not able to travel to the Eye Institute because of lack of transportation or other barriers.

“Thanks to continued support from the Benedum Foundation, the WVU Eye Institute’s AVOP has been able to reach out across the state and provide a broad array of vision services to a sector of our citizens who more than likely would have simply gone without eye care because of socio-economic hurdles,” Rebecca Coakley, AVOP program director, said.

The AVOP team uses state-of-the-art portable eye examination equipment to quickly set up eye clinics at a variety of sites across the state, mainly at free clinics or similar entities. Through this program, uninsured and underinsured patients have been able to receive care ranging from glasses to surgery. With the Benedum Foundation’s support, the program has evolved since its inception to reach more venues, more patients, and offer an expanded range of services.

“The Benedum Foundation is a key player in the success of the AVOP to provide services to many underserved West Virginians giving them opportunities for independence and employability,” Ronald Gross, M.D., director of the WVU Eye Institute and chair of the WVU Department of Ophthalmology, said. “Thanks to the foundation’s investment, we are able to partner with other organizations and help fulfill our mission to the state to restore vision and prevent blindness.”

The mission of the Benedum Foundation is to encourage human development in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania through strategically placed charitable resources. It encourages collaboration among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in order to leverage the resources that each can bring to common concerns.

“Through a collaborative effort with local delivery sites, such as free clinics across the state, the WVU Eye Institute has provided hundreds of people in need with quality eye care and has identified eye diseases that were going untreated. The lack of good vision is both a quality of life and a safety issue, in that it can lead to depression or an increase in the risk of falls, particularly for older adults,” Kim Barber Tieman, Benedum Foundation program officer, said. “The Benedum Foundation is proud to be a partner in this effort to help people maintain or improve the functioning of the critical primary sense of sight.”

West Virginia has some of the highest numbers of medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, lack of good diet, cardiovascular health, and lack of exercise, which contribute to and increase the prevalence of the three leading causes of blindness, including age related macular degeneration, diabetes of retinopathy, and glaucoma. For those with visual impairments, or “low vision,” resources are available to help make the best use of their remaining vision to enable independent lifestyles.

The contribution was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.

For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
st: 07-03-14