ONESIGHT VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT
Q&A with Will Shears, Director of Optical & School-Based Vision Centers, ACE
Meet Will Shears. Longtime OneSight volunteer and current Director of Optical & School-Based Vision Centers for Advanced Center for Eyecare (ACE). ACE is a valued partner of OneSight, dedicated to bringing vision care to individuals in underserved communities. Will just finished a week of volunteering at OneSight vision clinics in California including the Lost Hills clinic where 58 students from Wonderful College Prep Academy received free eye exams and glasses. Coming from a person who has given countless hours to the cause, Will wants his optical industry colleagues to know that giving a little bit of your time to provide the gift of sight to those in need is extremely rewarding. Thank you for your dedication, Will!
Why is this cause so meaningful? Here’s what Will had to say:
What’s your OneSight story?
I started working for LensCrafters in 1995. Through my time there I was proud to be involved with the work we did for the Lions Club and our annual Gift of Sight Day. In fact for several years, we used to try to go twice a month to some of the retirement homes. We would do minor repairs, adjustments, and cleanings. Just any chance we could to give back to our community. Then through my connections with some of the employees in the LA area, I would be informed of the OneSight clinics they would have down south. I would make the two-hour drive to help out for the day. Somehow from my time volunteering, one of my regional managers invited me to a two-day clinic in Reno. After that I was hooked. They started to have bigger clinics in the LA area. So I would take at least two to three days off that week to go volunteer. Then I was invited to sign up for a two-week clinic that they had in Northridge. I was fortunate to be selected to be there the whole two weeks. I believe it was at this clinic that our doctor at the time, Dr. Vin Dang was selected as one of the doctors for the clinic. He also became heavily involved with OneSight. Through his involvement and effort over a few years, he was able to set up a day or two where we had the Vision Van come to Bakersfield. It steamrolled from there. Every year it got bigger. Instead of signing up to be a member of the clinic, I would just take PTO and be there for the duration of the clinic. I would be told it would be easier to just be one of the team members. And I would reply, but this way we get one more body for the team. I’ve never questioned giving of my time to help give the gift of sight.
What motivated you to volunteer at the Lost Hills Vision Clinic?
It was another chance to give the gift of sight and to give back to our community. And since Covid happened, this was the first time in two years that we have been able to make that difference. So I was easily motivated to give my time to help.
What does it mean to you that ACE focuses on efforts that make vision care more accessible to underserved individuals locally?
It was through the efforts of Dawn Yager, OneSight Program Manager and Justin Cave, ACE CEO, that the Kern County clinics became as big and as successful as they were. I found out that ACE had partnered with OneSight and the Bakersfield School District to open several wellness centers and that they would see kids several days each month instead of once a year. I knew that ACE was more than your average optical office. ACE was established to make sure that the underserved of our community had access to exceptional care for their vision. So when they asked me if I would ever consider leaving my job of over 21 years, I jumped at the opportunity to help run their optical department as well as the school-based vision centers that we had partnered with.
What makes volunteering with OneSight a meaningful use of your time?
I grew up not realizing that I had a hard time seeing. Most of my family had great vision. It wasn’t until I was in 7th grade that I found out my vision was 20/200. It wasn’t because my family didn’t do my annual health checks, my vision was just never really checked. Since everyone else had 20/20 vision, it was just never considered. So when parents don’t have access or can’t afford to see the doctor, I think OneSight is a much needed opportunity that should be supported. If someone from outside of the community is willing to give of their time to help those in need in your community, it makes volunteering my time that much easier.
Were there any recent patient stories you’ve encountered that have impacted you?
I always have a great time working with new people and meeting some great kids. I didn’t have one specific encounter, but we had a handful of kids with broken glasses. And it’s always a great feeling when we get to produce eyewear on the same day or the next day. With a 92% patient need rate at this clinic, it was one of my best experiences knowing that we had all the jobs done before the clinic wrapped up that Friday.
What would you like your colleagues to know about volunteering with OneSight?
It’s one of the easiest ways to make a difference in someone’s life. The work can be hard, but the reward and the impact you can make on a child or even an adult is more than worth the effort. A little bit of your time for the gift of sight.