Community Service

The Vision Resource Center 1600 Purdue Drive Fayetteville, NC  28304  (910) 483-2719

‘SEEING A WAY TO HELP’ – ARRAY MAGAZINE ARTICLE
Written by Elizabeth Lawrence
Photos by Aly Hansen_mg_0258

Fayetteville’s Vision Resource Center can’t help everyone, but thanks to a donation from Cape Fear Eye Associates it can help a few more: this past July, Cape Fear Eye donated a new bus to the center.

The Vision Resource Center (VRC) is located in the Dorothy Gilmore Therapeutic Recreational Center and provides invaluable services to blind and visually-impaired persons in Cumberland County. The VRC offers its clients transportation to doctor’s appointments, health and wellness programs like cooking and exercise classes, arts and crafts, social outings, service referral as well as Braille and life skills classes.
Terri Thomas, executive director for the VRC, says Independent living skills classes for the blind and visually impaired are crucial. She explains that the blind need assistance learning new skills to aid them with their visual impairment, everyday abilities that the sighted take for granted. Getting dressed, mopping the floor and crossing the street take on a whole new aspect when one cannot see well enough to complete the chore safely or easily. Learning to do these tasks in a way that is safe and easier for them gives the center’s participants freedom that they might not enjoy otherwise. Often when a person loses sight they may want to pull back from the world, but learning these skills allows that person to thrive in their new circumstances. “They love independent living skills classes,” Terri says of the center’s clientele.

Programs are offered in the morning and evening, and the center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Vision Resource Center’s services are available to anyone regardless of income. That fact seems to matter little given that 60% of the blind in Cumberland County live below the poverty line according to Terri. The center does require a small fee for transportation if clients can afford it.

The bus, donated over the summer, has greatly increased the Vision Resource Center’s reach and allowed them to serve greater numbers in Cumberland County with plans to add surrounding counties. “That’s why this bus is going to be wonderful because we’ll be able to go into the community and do outreach to those who don’t want to come to the center,” Terri declares.

She says the center has already added three children and twelve adults to its number which is a significant increase for a span of two months. “We are now able to have full participation in our programs. Everyday we’ve had programs, we’ve had to run both buses.”

Expansion might not have been possible without the support of Cape Fear Eye Associates and its owners Dr. Sheel Patel and Dr. J Wayne Riggins. The doctors and staff have volunteered time and fundraising efforts to the center since 2011, according to Dr. Sheel Patel, one of the owners of Cape Fear Eye. Donating the bus was a perfectly logical and necessary gesture. “CFEA’s decision to provide a bus for VRC and its clients was a result of listening to what the organization said it needed. CFEA decided to purchase and help maintain the bus for VRC as this would sustain a key segment of VRC’s services to visually-impaired children and adults,” Dr. Patel wrote in an email.

Dr. Riggins adds that they “wanted to do one thing that we felt would be a game changer,” and a bus that gives the center the ability to reach more people is just that.

A certain process was required to select the 15-seat bus. Any old church van would not fit the center’s needs. The new vehicle needed to be handicapped-accessible with steps low enough that the VRC’s more independent clients could access them easily. A minibus fit those criteria nicely.

The staffs of the Vision Resource Center and Cape Fear Eye Associates are not the only ones who are happy to have the bus. “The participants are proud and elated to have these two buses,” Terri says. One patron even donated the funds to have the center’s logo added to the bus.

Doctors Patel and Riggins are pleased to support the Vision Resource Center’s work, especially given that it aligns with the work that Cape Fear Eye does. “We’re doctors because we like to do good things. When we get to contribute to this kind of service we feel honored,” Dr. Riggins says. “VRC does a phenomenal job everyday by improving the lives of visually-impaired individuals, and this noble pursuit hits home for all of us at CFEA,” adds Dr. Patel –  ArrayNC.com