Local optometrists provide free eye exams, glasses

aspecht@newsobserver.comAugust 19, 2013 

— You don’t need the latest lenses to see a great deal on glasses.

That’s why late Thursday night, dozens of people lined up outside the optometrist office on McKnight Drive, where doctors Tim Poirier and Jon Lutz provided free eye exams and free glasses to 120 people on Friday.

By the time the office opened at 7 a.m., the line snaked down the hallway of the brick building and into the parking lot. Late arrivals had to park at the Wal-Mart because the lot was so full.

Glen Oakley of Knightdale was early enough to get a prime spot. He became the 18th person in line when he arrived Thursday night around 10 p.m. Someone at church stepped on Oakley’s bifocals two years ago. But Oakley, who said he’s on disability, hasn’t gotten new ones; he can’t afford the $290 pair he needs.

“When that guy stepped on them, there was that crunch. And I knew there was no saving them,” Oakley said, referring to the moment after he accidentally dropped his bifocals. “And I live on a little more than $700 a month. So I had to just go without; I don’t drive at night.”

Poirier and Lutz have offered their services for free one day each year since 2011. Lutz, who runs Wendell Eye Care, said most of their giveaway patients are like Oakley.

“They’re not quite old enough to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and either can’t work or don’t have a job with good enough insurance,” Lutz said.

Butch Horton of Wendell has needed visual aid since 1999, when he injured his left eye while using a weed-whacker.

“I wasn’t wearing goggles and a rock kicked up and got in my eye,” said Horton, a retired plumber. “I scratched at it, but that pushed it in further.”

Lutz prescribed Horton his first pair of glasses Friday morning.

Carolyn Walker was in a similar situation. She got her first pair of glasses at the Knightdale Eye Care giveaway two years ago and returned with a lawn chair at 4:30 a.m. Friday for a stronger pair.

“I can’t afford to buy glasses, so this is really a godsend,” Walker said. “There are very few doctors who do things like this.”

Poirier, who runs Knightdale Eye Care, said he and Lutz decided to start the giveaway in 2011 partly because the recession.

“We started having people call and say they broke their glasses but couldn’t afford new ones,” Poirier said. “We knew we wanted to give back to the community that’s supported our business for years.”

The doctors aided more than 250 over the first two years. Each giveaway day, Poirier and Lutz donated more than $5,000 in products and services.

“Today,” Lutz said, “a thank you is payment enough.”


Specht: 919-829-4826

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