Friday, November 03, 2006

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ENGLEWOOD -- More than 5,000 underprivileged people over the last two decades have received the gift of better sight through the Venice/Englewood Lions Vision Screening and Treatment Program's Alfred G. and Ingeborg Keerl Trust.

The trust is maintained by the Venice and Englewood Lions clubs to help financially challenged families with eye care.

"I think that's wonderful," said Larry Beers, coordinator of the Englewood Lions Club eye care program. "There are a lot of people who can't afford eye care. The (criteria) levels are set a little higher, because there are people who work who can't afford glasses."

November 2006 marks the 19th anniversary of the Venice/Englewood Lions Vision Screening and Treatment Program. The program serves the residents of Venice, Nokomis and Englewood who might otherwise not be able to afford proper eye care.

"There's no cost to the patient. It's a real good program," Beers said. "We really want to get the word out. We want to help everybody that needs help. That's what the Lions is all about, eye care."

According to the Lions Vision Web site, the program started in 1987. At that time, the Keerls bequeathed a large amount of money in the care of the Lions.

In 1994, the Venice/Englewood Lions Clubs Vision Center was established at the Bon Secours-Venice Health Park.

The number of patients who use the monthly services frequently exceeds 40.

Beers said the interest alone from the Keerl's trust helps to pay for complete eye care for anyone who qualifies from the El Jobean bridge north up to Blackburn Point Road in Nokomis.

It just takes a call to 941-492-3931 for a preliminary phone interview. Then an appointment is made and any necessary eye care is covered, no matter what age.

"If they're in a low-income bracket, the Keerl will (even) pay for eye surgery, if necessary," Beers said. "We do it all for all ages."

Beers said the program is based on a sliding scale.

Local doctors do a screening, and if further testing is needed, clients go to an optometrist.

"They're no-frills glasses, no special tinting," Beers said. "It's done once a month, first Thursday of the month, eye appointments only."

Beers said a grant has been set aside for the Lions and will be used to establish a similar new program for hearing-impaired persons. More information will be provided.

People who qualify and need help with vision problems can contact the Venice Lions at 941-492-3931 or visit the Venice/Englewood Vision Center at the Venice Regional Medical Center Health Park situated at the junction of Jacaranda Boulevard and Center Road in Venice. Office volunteers are available to take applications and schedule an appointment at the next clinic, if requirements are met.

You can e-mail Rachel Alexander at


Staff Writer