It began in 1994 as a dream and a vision of a couple whom, as stated by Nancy Jeppesen, "wanted to do something productive and worthwhile with the rest of our lives." Nancy and Richard Jeppesen retired in their 40's after very successful careers in real estate. But in a world entering the millennium of technology, a simple fact became painfully clear—literally thousands of school children struggle with a dark daily reality of social and academic failure because they simply could not see. Their dream and vision of enhancing life for children became a nonprofit organization, Jeppesen VisionQuest, whose critical mission is to assure that all of Florida's school children have the opportunity to focus on success.
When Nancy and Richard Jeppesen began their volunteer effort in 1994, they were unaware of the overwhelming dimension of need. Approved by the IRS in 1994 as a 501 (c) (3) organization whose charitable mission was to provide free eye exams and corrective eye glasses to economically disadvantaged children, the Jeppesens worked 16-hour days, seven days per week, unpaid. VisionQuest began in one county, expanded by community request to serve two counties, again expanded to respond to the demand in 10 counties, and finally, in 1999, received state legislative approval to serve every county of Florida. From its beginning in 1994, VisionQuest has made a powerful impact on thousands of Florida's children. As a result of the dream, vision, and commitment of the Jeppesens, thousands of economically disadvantaged children can now see the chalkboard and begin to focus on success.
VisionQuest is the only nonprofit organization of its kind in the state of Florida that offers complete vision care for all eligible public school children. The organization's unique services include a mobile Vision Van, in-house fabrication of eyeglasses, and reliance primarily on the volunteer manpower of optometry professionals. The organization has acquired a donated supply of both lenses and attractive, contemporary frames which allows VisionQuest to provide state-of-the-art corrective eyeglasses to every needy child in the state of Florida.
With the help of grants from Pearle Vision and other national companies, VisionQuest also sponsors monthly free clinics at certain schools for students who have failed two vision screenings at their schools and cannot afford new glasses. At a recent clinic in Orange County, 47 of the 62 students served needed new glasses and receive them on site. Three students were referred to ophthalmologists for free, special treatment. Of the 300 Orange County children to whom the Jeppesens provided free glasses last school year, 62 percent improved average grades; 40 percent improved attendance; and 60 percent reduced discipline problems.