Community Foundation of Jackson County awards $15,000 to Vision To Learn initiative

In its spring grant cycle, the Community Foundation of Jackson County awarded $15,000 to Vision To Learn, an initiative that provides free eye exams and glasses to children. With this substantial gift, the Community Foundation once again demonstrates its commitment to investing in Jackson County’s youth.

Community Foundation emeritus board member Steve Kahler and his wife, Elaine, created a fund to support Vision To Learn during the 2016-17 school year. The program began that year by serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The new grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, will allow Vision To Learn to expand its services to students through high school, in partnership with the Maquoketa Community School District, during the 2019-20 school year. These students will receive a vision screening from either their school nurse or a Vision To Learn optician.

Corrine Kroger, Vision To Learn’s Iowa regional director, predicts initial screenings will reveal that roughly 213 students will need an eye exam and approximately 170 of those will need glasses. Since Vision To Learn launched in Jackson County, 267 students across four school districts have received eye exams, and 157 of them have received glasses.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County has been following Vision To Learn’s progress and has witnessed its impact on a large number of children in the county, especially in school districts where the free and reduced-price lunch rate is high. “If there are students who don’t qualify for Vision To Learn due to their school district’s free and reduced-price lunch rate, the Kahler’s fund helps support them, too — so everybody has the opportunity to have glasses. It’s about taking care of all the kids,” explained Katie Decker, grants management coordinator for the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.  

Alongside its support for Vision To Learn, The Community Foundation of Jackson County has prioritized funding for the Jackson County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and manages a robust scholarship program for seniors graduating from schools in the county. “These programs support the future of the county and help make it a great place for families to live,” said Mary Jo Gothard, executive director for the Community Foundation of Jackson County. “The hope is that if we support students in their education, eventually they’ll return home and support the places where they grew up.”

Since its Iowa launch in 2016, which was supported by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Vision To Learn has provided nearly 5,400 eye exams and prescribed eyeglasses to approximately 4,300 Iowa students. “Nearly 20,000 students in Iowa lack the glasses they need,” said Kroger. “Vision To Learn bridges the gap in access to vision care so that can be successful in school and in life."

"Vision To Learn has had a huge impact on our students and families in Maquoketa. Many of our students do not have affordable glasses readily available, and Vision To Learn is able to provide those much-needed resources,” said Chris Hoover, superintendent of the Maquoketa Community School District. “I am extremely excited that the work of Vision To Learn is being supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County. Thank you, Jackson County Community Foundation, and thank you to Vision To Learn!"

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Founded in 2002, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout Northeast Iowa by serving donors, making grants to local nonprofit organizations, and providing community leadership through convening and collaboration. Guided by the values of integrity, equity and inclusion, collaboration, excellence and innovation, we seek to ensure a vibrant and inclusive Greater Dubuque region with resources and opportunity for all.