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. Four local optometrists, Dr. Dale Graf, Dr. Byron Thomas, Dr. Christopher Babin and Dr. Jennifer Crown perform low vision evaluations at VIC’s low vision clinic. VIC is staffed by a Clinic Director and the 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 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.
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.
Lisa Raap, Clinic Director, joined VIC in March of 2017 with 11 years in the eye care field. She started her career in eye care at Selah Vision Clinic as a technician in 2005. She studied hard and worked her way through all three certification levels to become a Certified Para-Optometric Technician. Coming with a retail background from working at the Yakima Fred Meyer also adds to her expertise in customer service. She is very excited to join the VIC team and further her eye care career in helping patients with their low vision needs. A lifelong Selah resident, Lisa has been married to her husband, Doug, for 23 years with one adult son. She enjoys horseback riding, 4-wheeling, camping, fishing and spending time with friends and family.
Marsha Lance, Outreach Coordinator, 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 33 year resident of Terrace Heights and has two adult sons. She comes to VIC after 20 years in the dental field as a business assistant and dental assistant.
Joining VIC in 2014, Dr. Jennifer Crown, OD, is a 2006 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. She completed a residency at Jonathan M. Wainwright VA Medical Center, staying on as teaching staff until relocating to Ellensburg. When Jennifer married in 2015 she moved to Sammamish, however she continues to travel to VIC to volunteer. She loves to hang out with her husband John and thrives on dog walks, reading, and gardening.
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 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, 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.
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, O.D. F.A.A.O. has practiced as an Optometric Physician for 53 years. He is a graduate of Pacific University College of Optometry. His practice career started in the USAF as a primary care eye physician for three years. He founded Family Eye Clinic and completed 41 years of private practice. He is now 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 a founding member of the VIC Board of Directors as well as continuing to practice by providing services as a volunteer doctor for VIC. Dr. Thomas is married to Billie, has 2 children, 4 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. He is excited to see VIC support all those who need care for vision loss or low vision.
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.
Lisa George is new to Yakima, having moved here from Kansas City, Missouri in 2013. She holds an undergraduate degree in Marketing from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA in Finance from Rockhurst University. With past experience in corporate finance and software consulting and volunteer experience with non-profit blindness organizations, she brings a new perspective to VIC. Her husband, Reg, is an assistive technology specialist for the Department of Services for the Blind. Both are active in the Washington Council of the Blind, as well as its local chapter, the Yakima Valley Council of the Blind.
Melissa De La Rosa’s background in customer service and marketing is a natural merge for her current position of Marketing Coordinator at Family Vision Care in Yakima. Her doctors, Copeland and Ricks, philosophy for patient care has really made an impact on her. The passion for people that she experienced at their optometry practice was the main reason she decided to pursue a position with VIC. Coming from eight years of customer service and retail marketing experience in Seattle, she found her interactions with the community of the Yakima Valley refreshing. The ability to connect with patients on a more personal level has been really eye-opening (pun intended!) for her and a rewarding experience so far. The larger Spanish-speaking community here also allows her to use and continue to develop her bilingual skills.