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Free cataract surgery for six patients
While most people were making New Year’s resolutions, Johnny Daniels was planning what he would experience when his vision was restored through the Vision Is Priceless’ Gift of Sight Program.
Daniels has been a painter for 30 years and loved his profession. However, he began losing his vision in 2009 due to cataracts, and by 2012, his sight was so poor he could no longer work.
That changed Dec. 31, when Daniels and five other residents were helped by the Gift of Sight Program through Vision Is Priceless.
Gift of Sight was established almost 20 years ago by Jacksonville ophthalmologist Dr. Jeffrey Levenson to provide free cataract surgery to patients in need.
More than 200 patients who were legally blind in at least one eye due to cataracts and had no insurance have received free surgeries.
Levenson donated his services to perform the procedures, while operating room services and materials were provided by Riverside Park Surgery Center.
Vision is Priceless is a nonprofit that provides vision screenings for 35,000 children and adults each year.
For more information, call (904) 308-2020 or visit visionispriceless.org.
Blood donations needed
The Blood Alliance is holding its “Resolutions for Life” blood drive through Friday at centers throughout Northeast Florida.
Festivities during the blood drives will include daily prize drawings for Apple TV viewing systems and a grand prize drawing for a 42-inch high-definition television. Everyone who registers to donate is eligible to win.
To make an appointment to donate visit igiveblood.com, use the free iPhone or Droid app at: “iDon8” or call The Blood Alliance at (888) 998-2243.
Food drive kicks off Friday
Floridians will have the opportunity to join Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson and help those affected by hunger in the state.
On Friday, Robinson, along with Walmart and Feeding Northeast Florida, will launch the second annual Defeat Hunger Bowl to collect food and raise awareness of the issue.
Non-perishable food items will be accepted this month at donation boxes inside 105 Walmart stores in North and Central Florida, with all donations benefitting local Feeding America food banks. Donors also may buy pre-packaged $5 food donation bags at all participating locations.
“No one should have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from,” Robinson said.
He will help promote the campaign by making an appearance at 2 p.m. Friday at the Walmart at 13490 Beach Blvd. Fans in attendance will have the chance to meet Robinson and receive a special-edition signed photo card.
“Most people are more focused on supporting the fight against hunger during the holidays, but the need is there for many in our community throughout the year,” said network President and CEO Bruce Ganger.
Additional corporate partners involved in presenting the Defeat Hunger Bowl include Kraft, Mondelez and Campbell’s.
For more information about the Defeat Hunger Bowl and a list of participating Walmart locations, visit facebook.com/defeathungerbowl.
ElderSource hires director and coordinator
ElderSource, the area agency on aging for Northeast Florida, named two new staff members.
Judith Leibowitz was hired as the LGBT elders initiative coordinator, a position where she will expand ElderSource’s existing LGBT elder sensitivity training program and coordinate outreach activities with LGBT elders in the community.
Leibowitz is a diversity and inclusions consultant and executive coach. She previously worked as a consultant on Project Breakthrough for OneJax.
Her position is funded by a grant from the LGBT Community Fund for Northeast Florida, under the auspices of the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.
Heather Corey, has joined ElderSource as the director of development for Friends of ElderSource, and will be responsible for the agency’s fundraising efforts. Corey was formerly a freelance fundraising consultant and director of development and marketing with Jewish Family & Community Services.
She is president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Florida Caucus and the vice president of education for the First Coast AFP Chapter.
Stellar supports criminology education
The Stellar Foundation, the charitable arm of Stellar design, engineering and construction firm, donated $5,000 for uniforms and textbooks for students in Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Criminal Justice Center Cadet program.
Students in the two-year cadet program simultaneously earn their associate’s degree in criminal technology and complete the college’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy. Graduates are prepared to take the Florida Law Enforcement Officer Certification Examination to be employed as a police officer.
The program recruits participants from high schools in high-crime and low-income areas where police officers may be viewed as an enemy. It aims to intervene in the lives of at-risk youths before they potentially make bad decisions that would eliminate the possibility of a law enforcement career.
“It’s important that all of our students have the opportunity to advance their education,” said Rick Lewis, FSCJ’s director of law enforcement training. “Many of the students in the program come from impoverished neighborhoods, so not having to worry about the cost of uniforms and books provides a more stable starting point.”
Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford donated $50,000 to start the program and removed the four-year degree requirement to be hired at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for program graduates only.
More of North Florida preserved by trust
Jim McCloskey and Lynn Owens McCloskey have granted North Florida Land Trust a conservation easement in Nassau County. The land they own is located on 890 acres in Evergreen, an unincorporated part of the county.
The property has access to an easily navigable section of the Little St. Mary’s River that was used to move lumber and agricultural product down the river to Fernandina. It has earned recognition as a Century Pioneer Farm by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Jim McCarthy, executive director of the trust, said the acquisition means being able to preserve natural communities, including sandhill pine forests and critical marsh habitat on the Little St. Mary’s River, as well as a working farm that’s been in production for 228 years.
It also means providing a potential habitat to a number of animal species, including the eastern indigo snake, wood stork, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, gopher tortoise, mink and Bachman’s sparrow.
The land will still be owned and maintained by the McCloskeys and their descendants, but will be restricted from being developed or used in a manner that will harm its natural or rural character.
North Florida Land Trust is a nonprofit that serves Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. It was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including land at Big Talbot Island, Pumpkin Hill State Park and Moccasin Slough.
The organization is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works with private landowners and public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners and foundations. For more information, visit northfloridalandtrust.org.