Nonprofits Partner to Provide Eye Care for Children

Families lacking adequate health coverage were hit especially hard during the pandemic. Cultural and linguistic differences—like the ones faced by immigrants and refugees—only exacerbated that hardship. To address this issue, in an innovative partnership, Eye Thrive’s Mobile Vision Clinic visited Casa de Salud to provide eyecare for children this summer. 

Casa de Salud has become known as a trusted provider for thousands of families since its establishment in 2010. Delivering high quality medical and mental health services for underinsured and uninsured individuals, Casa de Salud focuses on working with new immigrants and refugees who face barriers to accessing other sources of care. Additionally, Casa de Salud offers the unique opportunity to communicate in the patient’s preferred language, which is usually Spanish.  

For many of Casa’s families, eyecare is one of many needs, and is often placed on the back burner. “This was a wonderful opportunity to open our services to children and provide expertise in language and interpretation,” said Emily DuBois, Development and Marketing Manager at Casa de Salud. 

“Using Casa’s existing relationships with their clients allowed us to reach a population we otherwise may not have been able to reach. Casa’s clients trust them, so they know they can trust us,” said Kate McKearn, Executive Director, Eye Thrive. “A Casa employee walks each patient through the consent form. Then they are translated for our doctor to be able to communicate results directly.” 

Eye Thrive improves futures through sight via a variety of community programs involving their Mobile Vision Clinic. Since 2013, Eye Thrive has conducted more than 23,000 eye exams and dispensed more than 27,000 pairs of glasses to children in the St. Louis area. 

Adeline and Yarecsi

Morgan Hudson, Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Eye Thrive, describes how sisters Adeline and Yarecsi received eye exams and new glasses from Eye Thrive.  

“It had been two years since Adilene had seen her old pair of glasses, which were left at school when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Yarecsi had never had glasses before and it turned out that both children needed them. They picked out their new frames, waited until their glasses were ready, and wore them proudly to their mom. They were both so excited,” said Hudson. 

“At Casa, we’ve been looking for additional resources to provide eye care to patients. A high-touch community of providers is key to impactful work that can reach the people who need it most,” said Diego Abente, President and CEO, Casa de Salud. “Getting to know other organizations allows us to collaborate effectively.”  

The two organizations are both Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund (SOS) grantees, a component fund of the St. Louis Community Foundation, and their collaboration was a direct result of this shared connection. 

“It’s important to Spirit of St. Louis to see the impact of the grant funding process. This is a fantastic example of what we hope to do more of in the future—create collaborations between SOS grantees,” said Pat Crowe, SOS Education Vice Chair. “It’s incredible to see two very different organizations come together with the common goal of providing a service to kids in need.”  

DuBois said, “Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund connects so many wonderful, vetted, local organizations. Casa is made up of many providers, counselors, therapists, so we’re accustomed to working collaboratively and always happy when it can happen.”  

According to both nonprofits, SOS is uniquely positioned to act as a convener, and their application and reporting process feels more like a conversation. This helps SOS understand where there may be connections between their grantees. Learn more about SOS.

Eye Thrive and Casa de Salud intend to continue their partnership and provide access to specialty care to more families. “Our hope is that a family who might not have had the means to get eye care services now feels empowered to receive those services and others like them, such as dental exams, again,” said McKearn. 

“Our community is very close and philanthropic,” said Abente. “When we work together as good human beings who help each other out, we can create an expanded impact on the people who need services most.”