row of pictures of people using low vision devices

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About Us

With the dedication of interested professionals and community leaders, VIC was incorporated as a non-profit on September 1, 2006, granted 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service in June 2007, and started providing services for people with vision loss in Central Washington in October 2008. Three local optometrists, Dr. Dale Graf, Dr. Byron Thomas, and Dr. Christopher Babin perform low vision evaluations at VIC’s low vision clinic. The entire support staff of the clinic and the clinic store is comprised of volunteers.

Help Brings Hope

Adjusting to vision loss caused by eye diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and retinitis pigmentosa brings about life-changing challenges to individuals and their families. An increasing number of people worldwide and in our community are affected by vision loss. VIC was formed to meet the needs of these individuals and their families.

The Need

The most recent statistics of severe visual impairment in Washington State document 3,834 people with severe vision impairment who reside in Yakima County and 575 in Kittitas County (“Severely Visually Impaired Persons of Washington State: County Distribution by Age Ranges, 2000,” published by Washington State Department of Services for the Blind in 2000). In recent years, the number of people who have vision loss caused by diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration has risen nationwide, indicating increasing needs for vision rehabilitation services in the future.

In November/December 2007, VIC sent a survey to all 40 eye care physicians in Yakima and Kittitas Counties. 29 eye care physicians returned the survey. The survey results indicated that these doctors all together saw over 3,000 patients with eye diseases, which are likely to cause permanent vision loss, in the year 2007 alone.

Funding

Each year our organization hosts the Dinner in the Dark as a fundraiser to support our services.

Services are further supported by individual donations and payments from insurance companies for services provided.

 

Staff

Marsha Lance

Marsha Lance, Clinic Director, has been serving as the Clinic Director for the Vision for Independence Center since January, 2011. Marsha began her association with VIC when she was recruited as a Terrace Heights Lions Club member to volunteer in the clinic. She manages the clinic part time as well as promotes awareness in the community of VIC services and benefits to the low vision community. Marsha graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Home Economics. After working as a retail store manager in Seattle, she met and married her husband and moved to Yakima. Marsha is now a 28 year resident of Terrace Heights and has two boys in college. She comes to VIC after 20 years in the dental field as a business assistant and dental assistant.

Board Members

Christopher J. Babin, VIC board member

Christopher J. Babin, OD, is a practicing Optometric Physician.  Seeing a need in his community and having an interest in working to meet the needs of patients with low vision prompted Dr. Babin to collaborate with other dedicated professionals to establish this program. He received a BA in Zoology from the University of Maine.  He went on to the New England College of Optometry where he earned a Doctor of Optometry degree and completed a 1-year fellowship in Primary Eye Care.  He works at Cascade Eye Center.

Steffi Coleman, VIC board member

Steffi Coleman has been working as an Orientation & Mobility and Low Vision Specialist for the Vocational Rehabilitation Department of the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind in Yakima since 2001. She earned a bachelor degree in Special Education from the University of Hamburg, Germany and a Master of Arts degree in Orientation and Mobility Training from San Francisco State University. Steffi joined the VIC board as she enjoys assisting people who are blind or visually impaired to stay independent and active.

Dale Graf, VIC board member

Dale Graf, OD, is a native of the Yakima Valley.  He was born and raised in Selah and returned home after receiving his Doctorate of Optometry from Pacific University College of Optometry. During his tenure at Pacific, he was able to participate in a low vision internship mentored by William Ludlam, O.D., a legendary low vision specialist and educator. This experience cultivated his interest in low vision. In 1979 Dr. Graf opened Selah Vision Clinic, where he has practiced for his entire professional career. He has felt a strong passion in volunteering to help people with low vision in the Yakima area. He has been married to his wife, Nancy, for 34 years, and has three children, Amy, Dale Jr., and Brett. Dr. Graf feels it is a privilege to serve this community supported non-profit organization.

Mary S. Jepsen, VIC board member

Mary S. Jepsen, MS, OTR/L is an employee of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, providing low vision rehabilitation services through 16th Avenue Station and through Memorial Home Care Services. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a BS in Magazine Journalism and a BA in English. She holds a MS degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Kansas and a masters level certification in low vision rehabilitation from the University of Alabama/ Birmingham. Mary became interested in the Vision for Independence Center because of its focus on assisting the older person with vision difficulties that have begun to prevent that person from completing activities they find important or desirable to do.

Christa Owen, VIC board member

Christa Owen graduated from Central Washington University in 1998 with a B.S. in Accounting. She is a Certified Public Accountant.  She got involved with VIC in August 2008 after her eye doctor, Dr. Dale Graf, talked to her about it and asked her to become the treasurer of the VIC board.

Byron Thomas, VIC board member

Byron Thomas, O.D. F.A.A.O. has practiced as an Optometric Physician for 45 years. He is a graduate of Pacific University College of Optometry. His practice career started in the USAF as a primary care eye physician. He founded Family Eye Clinic and completed 41 years of private practice. He is now partially retired. Dr. Thomas is a Past President of the Optometric Physicians of Washington and was awarded the OD of the year award. He has been and continues to be active in many volunteer organizations.He enjoys working with seniors and those who have limited or low vision. He is an active member of the VIC Board as-well-as seeingpatients. Dr. Thomas is married to Billie, has 2 children and 4 grandchildren. He is excited to see VIC support all those who need care for vision loss or low vision.

Darrell Bechard

Darrell Bechard is a lifelong resident of the Yakima Valley. He was employed by Boise Cascade Corporation for 32 years. Darrell then attended Yakima Valley Community College where he earned an AAS degree in Chemical Dependency Studies. Having low vision himself, he is a very important member of the board as he can lend his perspective on vision loss to the organization. Darrell has been married to his bride, Vickie, for 21 years.

Paul Kauzlarich is a semi-retired orchardist. He farmed for 37 years and is now the manager of a small irrigation district and a small fruit storage warehouse. Paul is a life-long resident of Naches. He is active in the Naches Lions Club, Naches Dollars for Scholars and his church. He is a graduate of WSU and his involvement in school activities and Lion projects are his hobbies.

Kina Blackburn Kina Blackburn, a native of Cle Elum, works with the visually impaired in the Yakima School District. She is a graduate of Central Washington University in Information Technology & Administrative Management and completed a masters degree in Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) from Portland State University in June 2012.
Joining VIC in 2014, Dr. Jennifer Crown is a 2006 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. She did a residency at Jonathan M. Wainwright VA Medical Center, staying on as teaching staff until relocating to Ellensburg to be closer to her home state of Oregon. She is an avid reader and enjoys the outdoor, especially gardening, and hiking with her rescue dog, Kel.

Volunteers

VIC board members alone would not be able to operate the low vision clinic and its store. Therefore, the board is very thankful to all the wonderful, hard working and committed volunteers who lend us their talents and time. These volunteers perform such important tasks as doing the intake interviews with patients and scheduling appointments, checking our message phone line, greeting patients at the low vision clinic, staffing the store, ordering items for patients and the store, medical billing, marketing and fundraising.

We are still in need of more volunteers. So if you are interested in helping us, please contact us.

Newsletter Archive

April 2013
December 2012
July 2012
March 2012
July 2011
March 2011

This website was developed due to a generous grant from the Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing

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