FocusFirst a finalist for national award

Brittney Knox

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FocusFirst, a nonprofit organization at the University that offers eye screenings to children, has been nominated as one of the top five finalists to receive $20,000 in a national competition that recognized non-profits across the country.

“This money will allow us to expand efforts throughout the state and screen hundreds and maybe thousands more children,” said Sara Louise Smith, program coordinator for the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility.

“This is the first national contest we have been a part of to seek funding, and we are certainly thankful of the support of the students and faculty here at UA for voting,” she said.

“We partnered with students. We had big voting campaigns and reached out to some classes,” said Lindsey Thomas, research project coordinator.

The contest began with more than 700 grant applications and from those applications the Tom’s of Maine committee selected 41 finalists to participate in online voting for six weeks.

After six weeks of voting, FocusFirst was notified that it was one of the top five to receive the award, Smith said.

Smith said the money will be used to provide living stipends to coordinators, follow-up care to children and to purchase the equipment that is necessary to complete their vision screenings.

“Eleven percent of the children screened are in need of follow-up care,” she said. “From there, we send them to SightSavers for further care.”

“FocusFirst was the only non-profit nominated in the 41 finalists from the state of Alabama,” said Amy Buchanan, research project coordinator.

Buchanan said that it was great to see FocusFirst recognized on a national level and to compete with some of the larger cities in other parts of the country.

“FocusFirst is the example of a collaborative effort of an organization of recent college graduates and students,” she said.  “It is the only initiative of its kind in the nation.”

Information from the Tom’s of Maine website said they donate 10 percent of their pre-taxed profits charitable organizations supporting the environment, human needs, arts and education.

Also, it said they encourage the employees to use 5 percent of their paid time volunteering at nonprofit organizations of their choice.

Buchanan said there were significant voting efforts all around campus to make this possible for FocusFirst to receive this money to continue to expand their works throughout the state of Alabama.