Children in Santa Cruz County are getting the gift of better sight through eye exams sponsored by UniSource.

We provide funding and equipment to the Nogales Lions Club to arrange vision screenings for students at up to 19 local schools annually. Eye health supports education, a key philanthropic focus area for UniSource, because children often fall behind when they can’t easily read or see in class.

“Some kids won’t say or don’t know that they can’t see well,” said Norma Lucero, Chair of the Community Action Team (CAT), which leads UniSource’s community service efforts in Santa Cruz County. “A lot of kids end up struggling with school and homework because of their vision. We’re hoping that our support will help children succeed in school.”

About seven years ago, UniSource donated funds to purchase a Plusoptix S-1 vision screener camera to test students’ eyes. The Lions Club previously had to borrow one of the machines from another club. Since 2016, more than 21,400 children at Santa Cruz County public and private schools have undergone vision screenings with the camera, said Judith Mendoza-Jimenez, Lions Club Chair for the Vision Project and Board of Directors member.

UniSource’s $3,000 donation to the group this year will cover warranty costs for the camera and vision machines, along with membership costs for registered nurses to join the National Association of School Nurses. That membership provides vouchers for eye exams and eyeglasses for students without medical insurance.

Former UniSource employee Oswaldo Abril, who has since retired, suggested the partnership because of his wife’s involvement with the Lions Club.

Employees saw the impact of their donation firsthand when the Lions Club set up vision screenings for UniSource employees’ children at a company Safety Day family event. “Some of the kids at Safety Day needed glasses and didn’t even know it,” said Lucero, Executive Assistant in UniSource’s Santa Cruz County office. “We caught them in time before they went back to school.”

In addition to the financial support, UniSource volunteers have helped out with exams at local schools. Earlier this school year, Lucero and Jesus Rodriguez, an Electric Customer Service Planner, volunteered at the A.J. Mitchell screening for children in kindergarten through the fifth grades. Rodriguez became a pro with the screening camera while Lucero facilitated. More volunteers are planning to visit schools this fall.

“UniSource has been a lead sponsor on the efforts of the Nogales Lions Club starting the Vision Screenings project in Santa Cruz County,” Mendoza-Jimenez said. “Thanks to UniSource, we are able to offer our time and effort to improve our community together.”

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