Dr. Sally Freeman sees her philanthropic partnership with the Lions Club as an ideal fit.
Around the world, the Lions Club supports sight programs and services, including vision screenings, eyeglass recycling and outreach to people at risk of losing their sight. Freeman, who along with her husband Dr. Kerry Freeman owns Effingham Eye Care, provides free eye care to patients referred by the Rincon Lions Club and Rincon Noon Lions Club.
"I think what they do is really important," she said. "They want to help people in Effingham County see better who don’t have the resources, and I have the ability to help them with that."
Because of Freeman’s commitment to the community, the Rincon Lions chose her as this year’s grand marshal for their annual Christmas parade. The parade will be Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m.
"She was a wonderful choice, very deserving," said parade chairman Danny Fries. "She’s just a good person. She is very concerned for people who are less fortunate."
Freeman said she was "shocked, honored and humbled" by her selection. "If you look at the list of people who have been the grand marshals of the previous parades, it’s a list of really impressive people, in my opinion," she said.
Freeman opened Effingham Eye Care in September 2003 and joined the Rincon Noon Lions Club shortly thereafter, which began her caregiving partnership with the organization. Freeman volunteers her services to patients in need and the Lions Club covers the cost of the materials for their glasses.
She was an active Lions Club member, including serving a year as president. Although Freeman recently stepped down from the club to focus on her family and career commitments, her association with the Lions to help others continues.
"It helps Effingham people," she said. "All of the money we raise and all the people we help are Effingham County residents."
Freeman cited a couple of recent examples of the Lions Club helpingpeople with severe vision problems. One was an elderly woman who has diabetic retinopathy, meaning she is going blind from complications from diabetes.
Freeman couldn’t do anything to treat the woman, but she contacted a retina specialist at Georgia Eye Institute. Georgia Eye agreed to take her as a patient if the Lions Club would pay for her first evaluation.
"This woman is going to get thousands of dollars of care from these doctors at Georgia Eye, and she would literally go blind if she does not get the care she needs," Freeman said. "I really feel like we are saving her vision. I know we are."
Another was an elementary-school boy who was struggling in school because of his poor vision. Freeman said the boy had never had a pair of glasses or an eye exam because his parents don’t have the means.
After the boy’s school referred him to the Lions Club, Freeman examined him and found he had 20/200 vision. He received glasses, which Freeman said have made a "huge difference in his school performance."
"It’s not a vast amount of money that we’re providing," Freeman said, "but, for a child not to be able to see the board at school and there’s really no resource for him, it’s something easy that that we can provide that makes, I feel, a huge difference."
Freeman said the number of Lions-referred patients she helps varies from month to month, and she is "not even sure how many patients" she has seen through the years. She added that the relationship goes both ways, with the Lions Club sometimes taking a referral from her.
"Sometimes I have a really hard case that they didn’t even refer me, and I can call them," she said. "I have never once called them to ask for help on a patient and been turned down. They always say, ‘Absolutely, whatever you need.’"
After nine years of volunteering at the parade as a Lions Club member, Freeman will now lead the procession as grand marshal. However, she shrugs off the notion that she has done anything more than "what you owe your community."
"If we want to live in this community and we want it to be a good community, we have to take care of the people who live here who don’t have the resources," she said.