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Our Local Hero

One out of every four children requires some form of eye care, but half of their families can’t afford it. Enter Rick Feldman, owner of the Eyeglass Factory. Twenty-six years ago, soon after he moved to Santa Barbara from New England and opened the Eyeglass Factory’s Milpas Street location, Feldman hosted his first Kids Day, where children received a free eye exam and pair of glasses. More than 200 families showed up to food and entertainment, and the kids were handed high-quality sets that Feldman made sure were hip enough to withstand the scrutiny of the schoolyard. He’s hosted a Kids Day before Christmas every year since, except in 2017, when the Thomas Fire forced him to cancel.

But the disappointment turned into light-bulb moment. Feldman’s company, with stores also in Ventura and Camarillo, now offers kids who can’t afford them free glasses year-round. They just have to be under 18 and explain to an employee: “I am a student and need help.” Vision problems can be a major impediment to a child’s success in school. “There’s nothing more important than the health and well-being of our children,” he explained. “But how can you be expected to learn if you can’t read the chalkboard?”

Last September, Feldman extended the giveaway to the Carpinteria Unified School District. With kids and grandkids of his own, he’s cognizant of the young’s rough-and-tumble lifestyle, so he always offers to replace a lost or broken pair, also for free. It’s a source of pride for him and his employees, who are regularly thanked by appreciative parents. “We’re thrilled to be in the position to do this,” said Feldman. “We’re very fortunate to give back to the community we love.”

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