GREENFIELD — As a technician adjusted Susan Ayers’ new glasses, a smile spread across her face.
She slid on the black metal frames and glanced at the people gathered around Greenfield’s soup kitchen, drawing thumbs up and exclamations from the crowd.
Ayers is one of eight clients of the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen who received free eye exams and glasses from Ossip Optometry with the help of Mt. Vernon High School senior Matthew Boyle.
Boyle, a regular soup kitchen volunteer, arranged for a school bus to take clients to the Indianapolis site of Ossip’s seventh-annual Day of Caring event recently — and for Ossip staff members to come out to the soup kitchen this week to make sure the frames fit just right.
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Boyle, 18, heard about the free event because his mother works in the same building as one of the Ossip locations. He learned Ossip provides free vision exams and glasses to about 200 people per year but typically only serves Marion County residents.
“I knew we needed to get our community involved,” he said.
He met with Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. Superintendent Shane Robbins to ask for a school bus to take soup kitchen clients to the event, and Robbins was more than happy to approve the request, he said.
Patty Hall, a representative of the soup kitchen, said it was a thrill to see soup kitchen regulars beaming behind their brand-new glasses.
While the facility is able to provide hot meals several times a day, serving more than 150,000 since opening in 2009, soup kitchen staff members know clients go without many other necessities like trips to the eye doctor.
“Almost everybody comes in with a lot of needs,” she said. “Even with vision insurance, glasses are expensive, there’s no way around that. This is quite a blessing.”
Ayers was seeking part-time work at the soup kitchen when executive director Jill Ebbert told her about the chance to get a vision exam and glasses, she said. The glasses she was wearing were nearly 8 years old, she said.
She felt blessed as Ossip employees helped her pick out frames that could withstand the curious fingers of her grandchildren, she said.
Other soup kitchen clients said they were grateful to Boyle for organizing the opportunity. Kaye Bush, a Greenfield resident, said she wouldn’t have been able to get glasses otherwise, and the kindness of everyone involved was an added joy.
Ray Miller has been homeless on and off for 11 years. He hadn’t been to the eye doctor for at least five years, and the lenses of his glasses had collected quite a few scratches over time, he said.
It was a relief to receive a new pair and be able to see perfectly, he said. And it was encouraging to see a younger person taking such an active role in organizing the community event, he said.
Boyle is a familiar face around the soup kitchen, the recipients said.
The Boyle family of Greenfield often volunteers its time at the kitchen, and Boyle mops floors and takes out the trash, among other tasks, about three times a week. Soup kitchen leaders offered him a spot on the organization’s board of directors, but between school and sports, he couldn’t fulfill all the requirements right now. Instead, soup kitchen leaders bestowed the title of student ambassador to the high school senior.
He takes the title seriously: he is working with fellow members of Mt. Vernon’s baseball team and National Honor Society to recruit volunteers for the soup kitchen and planning a countywide competition among the four public high schools’ National Honor Societies to encourage volunteerism, especially at the soup kitchen, he said.
“I want to challenge the other students in NHS to see the soup kitchen, the people it serves and how important they are,” he said.
The kitchen, which serves some 120 meals a day, needs more student volunteers, Boyle said.
Matthew’s mom, Susan Boyle, watched alongside soup kitchen staff as the clients were fitted with their new frames. It was a treat to see the fruit of her son’s efforts, she said.
“He’s accomplished a lot, worked hard for it,” she said. “We’re proud of him.”