After receiving a $10,000 grant from Highmark Blue Shield, Penn State Health is working with the Lebanon Free Clinic to provide glasses for students in the Lebanon School District.

The grant has enabled the purchase of glasses for over 100 students in need. The program began this month with a visit by Penn State Health personnel to the Lebanon Free Clinic (a program of the Lebanon Rescue Mission), where the Penn State team conducted eye exams and got kids fitted for glasses.

From left to right: Lebanon School District nursing coordinator Toni Henning; Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center registered nurse Elizabeth Bates; Lebanon Free Clinic director Margaret Brandt; Penn State Health director of community health Judy Dillon; and Highmark community affairs Taylor Bleiler. (Penn State Health News)

Lebanon and Steelton-Highspire were chosen as the school district beneficiaries for the grant because Penn State Health’s 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment indicated that both “had a high percentage of children in need of additional resources and services,” according to a Penn State Health News press release.

Hershey Medical Center ophthalmology technician checks the eyes of Jonathan Gonzalez at the Lebanon Free Clinic. (Jason Plotkin/Penn State Health News)

“When we are able to impact so many children with this kind of gift, it is really wonderful,” said Highmark Health vice president of community affairs Kathy McKenzie in the release. “Think about the return on the investment of having a role in helping a child learn better; that is something they will use for years and years.

“This continues to be an impactful partnership with Penn State Health and this is another really good example.”

This comes after Penn State Health’s partnership with the Lebanon CTC in 2018 to complete required height, weight, vision, hearing, and scoliosis testing for students K-12 in both districts. Of 5,500 students tested, over 18% needed vision follow-ups.

Nine-year-old Lebanon School District student Jonathan Gonzalez gets examined at the Lebanon Free Clinic earlier this month. (Jason Plotkin/Penn State Health News)

“It has been estimated that 80 percent of children’s learning is obtained through vision,” said Penn State Health community health director Judy Dillon in the release. “When children can see well, they can be more successful in school. By providing glasses for kids in need, Highmark is giving these students greater opportunity to succeed in school and in life.”

Follow-up care referrals and health assessments will be provided at three clinics in Lebanon and Steelton.

Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.


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