Nonprofit helps Georgians see

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Each year, about 7,000 Georgians of all ages find they can see more clearly with the help of the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation. For 75 years, the Chamblee-based nonprofit has provided vision services such as screenings, exams, glasses and surgery to those who cannot otherwise afford eye care.

Along with marking a major anniversary, the organization this year welcomed a new executive director, Beth Ehrhardt, who has a personal connection to the foundation’s work.

“I have a strong family history of macular degeneration: My mom and cousins had it, and I have the beginning of it,” she said. “I want to make sure Georgians – especially those who can’t afford it or who are under-insured – get the gift of sight.”

The foundation launched in 1948 with $1,000 donated by members of the philanthropic Lions Clubs in Atlanta, Moultrie and Albany. The clubs still play an important role in the organization, whose board members are all Lions.

“We work with a lot of volunteer groups and Lions Clubs in particular to do screenings and provide vision services and glasses,” said Ehrhardt. “If we don’t have volunteer doctors or technicians to do the screenings and exams, we provide vouchers from Lions International so people can see an optometrist or ophthalmologist.”

The services are comprehensive, from basic eye exams to surgeries, if needed. The foundation coordinates with surgical clinics and doctors to treat a variety of ailments, with cataracts and macular degeneration among the most prevalent.

Last year, the foundation launched a tele-optometry program that connects doctors and specialists to patients online.

“It’s exceeded all expectations,” said Ehrhardt. “Fifty-two counties in the state have no vision care, but now, we have the ability for Georgia-based ophthalmologists and optometrists to see people all over the state and provide vision services to patients who don’t have access to an eye doctor.”

The program is managed with high-tech equipment that can perform eye tests online. “It’s amazing that doctors have even been able to identify if a patient needs corrective surgery that some in-person visits miss,” said Ehrhardt.

The foundation’s work was bolstered last year by the first Strides 4 Sight event that raised $46,000. On April 22, the second 1.2-mile walk will be held in Chamblee with the goal of topping $50,000. Participants can also sign up to walk remotely. Details about the event are on the Lighthouse site,

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