For 16 years, a Kentucky church member has been giving away prescription glasses to the poor. His program, Kendall Optometry Ministry, has become so successful, it has helped thousands of people across 79 countries.
But the state now says the program is illegal and it wants Holland Kendall, the president of Kendall Optometry Ministry, to meet optical standards or close.
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Now, his eyeglass charity is at risk.
Kendall said he has been helping homeless people for the past 30 years and got the idea during a mission trip to Honduras. Since 2003, he has given away thousands of used eyeglasses as part of an extension of Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville.
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But the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners and the Kentucky Board of Ophthalmic Dispensers claim the practice is illegal because the glasses “are not new, first quality and made to meet the individual’s personal prescriptions.”
“Optometry Board basically told us we must discontinue this used glasses clinic, even though the used glasses look like new, you can’t tell the difference. They don’t like that the prescription [is not exact]…but the thing is in all cases it vastly improves the vision,” Kendall told Fox News. “I just don’t think they’re concerned about the homeless people as I am.”
Every person who visits the free clinics has their eyes measured and, through a computer program developed by Kendall, gets a list of gently used glasses that match the prescription, which is found through a filing system. According to its website, the ministry “provides equipment, supplies, computer software, training classes, and training literature.”
He said youth missionaries help him clean and cull the glasses.
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The Board of Optometric Examiners for the state told Fox News members met with Kendall on Saturday to “share with him the Board’s statutory duties regarding optometric practice and dispensation.”
An official said the board “applauds Mr. Kendall’s desire to aid those in need” but said the charity’s practices could actually hurt someone with optical needs who should be seen by a licensed optometrist.
But Kendall insists if he changes his work model, he will not be able to help the hundreds of people he sees who have trouble with their vision. He said he tried working with a licensed optometrist about a decade ago. But the optometrist was forced to leave, he said, because the state threatened to take away the eye doctor’s medical license.
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Holland believes most of the time they are “able to vastly improve their vision,” but all that could soon come to an end unless something changes.