Two Eyecare Plus practices in New South Wales, and a handful of their suppliers, have responded to help victims of recent bushfires that have destroyed over 600 homes in their area.
Practice owners Dale Rolfe and Peter McKay have offered free glasses to people who have lost their homes. Their offer has been supported by TigerVision, Rim Optics and Hoya.
Ours is a small contribution compared to what others are doing, but we hope it will help these people, who have lost everything, get their lives back to normal
Mr Rolfe, whose Eyecare Plus practice at Stockland Forster was within 100m of a fire raging through the town centre, said he hope the glasses would be of practical help.
“I felt a bit useless initially, not being a firefighter. I thought the best way that I could help was to replace, as soon as possible, the glasses that the victims lost in the fire.”
Peter McKay, who has practices in Taree and Gloucester, areas that have been severely burnt out, said it felt good to be able to help out members of the community.
“Ours is a small contribution compared to what others are doing, but we hope it will help these people, who have lost everything, get their lives back to normal.”
Mr Rolfe and Mr McKay put a notice on Facebook, which quickly reached 26,000 people with 3,000+ engagements and 266 shares. A local paper picked up the story, further spreading the word.
To date, Mr McKay’s practice has provided glasses to three property owners in the local area, one of them a man who had only recently purchased his home and moved in.
“Most of the people we’ve seen weren’t pre-existing members of our practice – they came to us because they read or heard about what we’re offering and they’ve been enormously appreciative,” said Mr McKay.
He said his practice had also had a number of people coming in with irritated eyes due to smoke, and one patient with metal lodged in his eye.
Far Reaching Impact
Mr Rolfe said as well as devastating people’s properties, the fires have impacted the local economy.
“We’re a big holiday town, so the fires have really affected our local economy. Tourists have stayed away because of the fires, smoke and road-blocks and the local people have stayed at home because of the thick smoke – there were days when you couldn’t see more than 20 metres in front of you.
“This has knocked the town around – no-one is out shopping or spending money -there is no money running through businesses to keep them going.”
He said the support from Eyecare Plus’ strategic partners had been enormously helpful.
“We were prepared to offer the service on our own, however Tony Ghosen from Tigervision and Rim Optics quickly donated frames, and Craig Chick from Hoya donated lenses. That’s a great help for us because of course our business has been knocked around over the past few weeks with days of cancelled appointments – so a big thanks to them.”
Even people whose homes were saved have a long road of recovery ahead of them.
“My brother lives on a small rural property near Nabiac which was just over the hill from the devastating Hillville fires where so many homes were lost. He and his family evacuated quickly to leave their home. Their entire property was burnt but the house was saved thanks to the actions of firefighters.
“They’ve returned home now to clean up – but there’s dust, ash and smoke everywhere. Smoke damage to furnishings is not covered by insurance, so people like him who have been effected will simply have to replace everything at their own expense.”
Mr McKay said the community response to the fires has surprised him.
“I’ve been amazed at how positive people in the community have been at dealing with the whole thing… but I think we probably didn’t realise how much stress we were under until the fires had moved through. Since then I have had a couple of younger patients, in particular, who have realised they were a bit stressed out and have decided to rearrange their eye tests for another time.
“Now at last the smoke is clearing and for the first time in weeks, we are enjoying seeing some blue skies.”