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Cash-strapped Optometry Students Give Back in a Big Way

Illinois College of Optometry students receive a Jenzabar Foundation grant to impact underserved communities around the world

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) February 13, 2009 -- Even in this uncertain economy, Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) students are opening their hearts and wallets to volunteer for domestic and global humanitarian missions through Student Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity (SVOSH). These missions to underdeveloped communities around the world provide life-changing care for thousands of people in need and allow students to participate in restoring or improving vision while also exposing them to different cultures and diverse eye conditions. The cost of participation limits the number of students who can get involved, but The Jenzabar Foundation announces today that it will award a grant to aid ICO's student chapter of SVOSH in an effort to subsidize the cost and support the humanitarian work of ICO students.

"When you think about it, here are students that are thousands and thousands of dollars in debt making a decision to volunteer and put together whatever resources they can to join a medical mission trip," said ICO-SVOSH President Michelle Crist. "We feel very fortunate to receive this grant from The Jenzabar Foundation as it will allow more students to participate in an experience that not only broadens our clinical knowledge, but will also carry over to when we are practicing optometrists."

This weekend, 25 ICO students will depart for Honduras, the last of nine mission trips for the 2008-2009 academic year. With limited resources and equipment, this group of students will join practicing optometrists and other health care professionals to perform eye/health examinations on an expected 4,000 patients over four days of clinic. The students will not be working in ideal conditions or have state-of-the-art technology available to them. In fact, Crist says that in the past, they have had to use black trash bags to cover up the windows in order to provide more appropriate lighting to conduct the exams. Prior to the mission, students gathered gently used or new glasses, checked and labeled the prescription powers, and prepared the glasses for distribution to patients in Honduras.

"One of our key principles is to extend the role of the Illinois College of Optometry through community service," said Illinois College of Optometry President Arol Augsburger, O.D. "I am proud to see our student volunteers bring much needed eye care to people in need here in the Chicagoland community, as well as around the world."

Typically, students become a member of SVOSH their first year and work toward a mission, which they can go on during their third professional year. From fundraising to personal appeals to family and friends, students do what they can to raise the necessary funds to participate in a mission trip. The cost per student can range from $1,000 to $3,500 depending on the location. Students who complete 40 service hours for ICO-SVOSH prior to their trip will receive $500 from The Jenzabar Foundation grant to offset their expenses. The grant will impact mission trips for both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years, making it possible for more students to volunteer and provide service to thousands of people in need.

"The Jenzabar Foundation recognizes and supports the good works and humanitarian efforts serving others across the global community," said Robert A. Maginn, Chairman of the Jenzabar Foundation and CEO and Chairman of the Board of Jenzabar, Inc. "Illinois College of Optometry students are certainly deserving of this grant to help them provide better vision to individuals less fortunate and we are proud to assist ICO with these services."

Editor's Note: Images available upon request

About the Illinois College of Optometry
The Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) provides excellence in optometric clinical education and is one of the world's leading urban optometric institutions. Since its founding in 1872 by Dr. Henry Olin, ICO has offered aspiring optometrists the education and experience needed to meet the challenges of a changing health care environment and become leaders who will advocate for patients and the profession alike. Located in Chicago, ICO has a long and distinguished legacy as the oldest continually operating educational facility in the world dedicated solely to the teaching of optometrists. For more information about the Illinois College of Optometry, visit

About The Jenzabar Foundation
Founded by Jenzabar, Inc., The Foundation issues grants to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations with similarly aligned missions, and helps promote the activities of grant recipients within their communities and on a global level. Foundation grants are managed by the Foundation itself or through partner organizations. For more information about The Jenzabar Foundation, visit

Jenni Gaster Sopko, Illinois College of Optometry, 312.949.7412
Carina Ganias, The Jenzabar Foundation, 617.492.9099 ext. 365

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