What Would You Do If You Could?

Five years ago, Mary Mellon, a longtime donor and volunteer in our pharmacy, walked into my office and asked me “what would you do if you could?” Mary is a retired Arlington Public School teacher who saved over her lifetime and was able to make a transformative gift to help us to bring life-changing— at times, lifesaving—dental care to our patients. Her generosity has made a difference in the lives of many in Arlington, and beyond. She also supports international charities that provide cataract surgeries to people in need around the world.

Vision care is another passion of Mary’s, so when she reached out again this year wanting to talk about how else she could help, the answer was clear. For individuals living in poverty, it is nearly impossible to access affordable vision and hearing assessments, prescription eyeglasses, and hearing aids. Regular screening and timely treatment for diseases and conditions that can lead to loss of vision and hearing are often out of reach for these patients. Arlington Free Clinic cares for over 1,400 patients each year. Approximately 30% of our patients are new to our Clinic each year, and most have never had vision or hearing services—not to mention access to hearing aids and eyeglasses! With an average age of 35-55, many of our patients experience age-related vision and hearing loss. In addition, many have diseases and health conditions that can lead to blindness or hearing loss, and between 150-200 have diabetes which places them at great risk of retinopathy and potential loss of vision.

I am so grateful to Mary for her support of the Clinic and our patients through not one but two impactful and inspiring gifts. Her most recent gift will allow us to greatly enhance our vision program and bring audiology services and hearing aids to AFC patients for the first time in our history.

Nancy White, President