By Kelsey Givens
In a time when many still struggle with little or no health insurance, one local doctor is giving back to neighbors by giving free eye exams and glasses to those in need.
Dr. George Leaks, a Pahrump optometrist, and his staff have been providing eye exams and custom glasses, at no cost, to Nye County School District teachers’ aides and those referred to them as in need of their services by local charitable organizations.
“These are tough times, and I recognize that,” Leaks said. “I’ve been here a long time and I appreciate the chance to be able to give back to my community.”
Beginning on Dec. 1, 2012, letters were sent from Leaks and his staff to every teacher’s aide offering them the opportunity to come in and take care of their basic vision needs for free.
Many of these aides, due to budget cuts, have been working some time without health benefits, meaning many of these part-time employees have gone without meeting their basic eye care needs.
After seeing a former patient, who was a local teacher’s aide, go through this predicament, Leaks said he realized these individuals give so much to the community through their line of work, and decided to give something back to them.
“Your work with each child and the community has made you a treasured individual. In appreciation of your ‘giving nature,’ and the holiday season upon us; Doctor Leaks is providing you with the ‘Gift of Sight,’” letters sent out to the aides read.
The school district employees were then asked to call Leaks’ office and make an appointment to come in and receive the much needed services so many had gone without, at no cost to them.
Natalie Sanchez, a teacher’s aide at Hafen Elementary School, said she was in tears when she heard the news that Leaks was offering her a free eye exam and pair of glasses.
“This is like a gift that’s come down from heaven,” she said. “It was like God’s answer to my prayers.”
Inspired by the way he was able to help the teacher’s aides, who as part of the local school district work to educate and provide for community children, Leaks began working on more ways to give back to other people in need in the community as well.
In addition to a “12 Days of Christmas” drawing, where Leaks was able to give away 12 pairs of eye exams and glasses to those who entered the contest, the doctor also began to work with local organizations, like the Nye Communities Coalition, to identify people in need of vision services, who may not otherwise be able to afford them.
One of the major groups Leaks’ office was hoping to target through this offer was the under-employed — individuals who have a job or are working, but are still without health insurance or cannot afford to take care of things like their basic eye care.
A list of criteria was then drafted, which aimed to single out those individuals, and distributed from the doctor’s office to the NyECC and other groups with strict criteria for people being considered for the offer to meet.
In order to qualify for a free exam and pair of glasses, individuals had to be currently working, but underemployed, or have no insurance and have not had an eye exam or new pair of glasses in two to three years.
With those qualifications in mind, local groups came up with an extensive list of people they knew were in positions exactly meeting those criteria, which they then presented to the doctor and his management group.
From that list, Leaks’ office began calling certain individuals to offer them the chance to come in and get their vision needs met.
And it was at that time the group said they discovered something amazing.
Approximately one-third of the people they called told Leaks’ team that they had already taken care of their eye care needs.
But instead of just taking the offers for themselves or politely declining, those individuals began giving them the names of other people they knew who could really use those services.
“It was just a true Christmas thing to do,” Leaks said.
As the doctor and his team move forward in the coming year, it appears he will continue to work to provide much needed services to the community and find other ways to give back to the town of Pahrump.
“I just really appreciate the opportunity I have to give back to the community in these difficult times,” he said.