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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 3:21 pm | Fair 62º


Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory’s Kid’s Day Draws Record Crowd

Nearly 400 people brave the rain for free eye exams and glasses

Pouring rain didn’t deter hundreds of families from packing Milpas Street for the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory’s Kid’s Day on Sunday.

“Imagine in pouring rain that almost 400 people came out; we’ve had big crowds, but nothing like this,” said Rick Feldman, owner of the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory. “That’s good news and bad news. The bad news is there is a lot of need out there.”

Kid’s Day, hosted by the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory and supported by an array of nonprofits, showcased the year-round “Right to Sight” program, which donated more than 1,000 eye exams and pairs of glasses to children last year. There were about 150 glasses given away Sunday, Feldman estimated, adding, “It was pretty record-breaking.”

But Feldman said he was the only one soaked to the bone by the end of the day, making sure everything ran smoothly, and vendors and volunteers provided extra tents for shelter from the rain.

“The best part about it is, if they break their glasses or lose them, we tell them no problem, you come back and get another pair,” he said. “We feel very strongly about it. They are our future and deserve the means to achieve their full potential.”

Feldman expressed concern about the high turnout and Santa Barbara’s recent four-tenths increase in unemployment (9.2 percent to 9.6 percent).

“This is tough, especially in a time of year we should’ve had some improvement based on seasonal help,” he said. “These are tough times, which creates greater need, especially for things like eye care. There are a lot of kids struggling with bad vision.”

He said the only thing that didn’t go according to plan was the band that for obvious reasons couldn’t bear the weather. Otherwise, there were jugglers, face painters, play stations, balloon artists and volunteers to keep the kids entertained.

“They are little sponges,” Feldman said. “The children were particularly well brought up, behaved and appreciative. That’s what makes this so enjoyable for us.”

He said seeing the kids try on glasses for the first time is what he enjoys the most every year.

“Seeing kids put on glasses almost always brings a smile to their faces. You can see right away it’s an improvement in their life,” Feldman said. “So when they are asked what difference glasses make, the answer is always the same: ‘Well, now I can see.’”

Feldman said he was glad the Milpas Community Association, which recently regrouped to address rising crime and other problems in the area, participated this year, which he hopes will be a catalyst in reorganizing the city’s priorities.

“We signed up about 75 families, which will make a major difference,” he said. “Now that the composition of the City Council has changed, there is better balance than ever before, and they are in a position to draw up better priorities, meaning fewer desk jobs and more emphasis on public safety and more police on the streets.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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