How Heritage Is Giving Back to the Community

Published 12/26/2022
by Heritage Vision Plans


Our community helped get us where we are. We’ve made it a priority to return the favor.

Heritage has deep roots in the city of Detroit. From the beginning, we recognized a need in this community for high-quality vision care, and we made it our mission to fill that gap. Our work has always been rooted in authentic relationships surmounting real-world hurdles, and that’s the way we want it to stay. 

Over the years, we’ve felt the support from the Detroit community as we’ve grown, and that support inspired us to give back. We’ve seen, over and over again throughout our decades in business, the difference that quality vision care can make in an individual’s life—and over time, those differences add up. We identified this as an opportunity to invest in the people and businesses that will build the future of our community. 

We have made it our mission to increase awareness of the importance of eye health, and create opportunities for access to care where they don’t exist now. While our work began with our school voucher program, it is now expanding through our 501(c)(3) charitable organization, Heritage Vision of Hope. Long-standing relationships with the city of Detroit and other local leaders, and deep connections with businesses that share our values, provide a strong foundation that we can build on to achieve it.

Local roots mean we can make a big impact.

Heritage’s history of giving back to the community is as long as our history in Detroit. When George P. Barnes, Jr. founded Heritage Optical in 1975, caring for his neighbors and for the African-American community were among the primary goals of the business. Heritage became a regular figure in the community’s philanthropic efforts. We collected coats for children, led food drives, supported local charities’ events, and worked closely with Detroit’s City Council and city commissioners to improve conditions in our own neighborhoods and beyond.

It’s important to us to continue that legacy of community involvement today. We’re more than just a company that happens to be located in Detroit—our neighbors are, in a very real sense, our family. When they succeed, we succeed. And we’re invested in supporting that success however we can.

Eye health affects more than you might think.

In our decades of serving members nationwide, we’ve seen the benefits that come with access to quality vision care. When Heritage has the opportunity to provide eye exams and corrective lenses in underserved communities, the results show up in ways that might surprise. 

Heritage’s voucher program, available in Detroit’s public schools, is a perfect example. Teachers and staff had identified a need: many students experiencing vision problems weren’t receiving treatment for them, often for reasons of cost. Consequently, students who couldn’t see the board or their schoolwork were chronically absent, disengaged, or were labeled “disruptive.” Through the program, teachers could recommend a student for a voucher that would entitle them to a free eye exam and pair of glasses.

For kids who suddenly had access to the care they needed, the difference was immediate. It’s a powerful moment when a child puts on their first pair of glasses and realizes that they can see. Even this small change can remove major academic hurdles that might previously have been attributed to poor attention or lack of interest. When students are able to see more clearly in class, their grades go up, and they are less likely to miss school or struggle to focus in class. Seeing clearly benefits children’s quality of life in so many ways that they’re difficult to count, but one thing is certain: access to vision care opens new avenues of possibility.

Expanding our mission through Heritage Vision of Hope.

Our dedication to our community and the clear importance of access to quality vision care has led Heritage to create our own charitable organization: Heritage Vision of Hope. Our mission is to close the gap in eye exams and undiagnosed eye disease in the Detroit area and beyond. To do that, we are raising funds for a fully outfitted mobile optometry unit, which will allow us to travel to where we’re needed most in order to provide care. 

These kinds of mobile resources open up a wealth of creative options for increasing access to care. With a mobile optometry unit, we can develop new client relationships and strengthen existing ones by offering flexible, convenient access to high-quality diagnostics—whether that’s providing onsite exams at company events, visiting workers in remote locations, or any of a number of other possibilities we know our community will help us envision. More than anything else, our goal is to deliver on one of Heritage’s most important values: that everyone deserves access to excellent vision care.

Quality vision care makes a world of difference.

At Heritage, we’ve seen what high-quality vision care can do. Access to eye exams and corrective lenses has a huge impact on quality of life. It helps improve student outcomes. It helps reduce worker absenteeism, and improves wellbeing and productivity. Vision care is even important in preventing injury from falls and other accidents. That’s why we believe so strongly in bringing that care to everyone we can. 

Heritage Vision of Hope is a natural extension of the values that founded us in 1975, and we’re grateful to our clients, providers, and members who continue to make it possible. We are constantly seeking ways to deepen and strengthen our relationships with the city of Detroit and with our communities, both local and nationwide. If you are interested in partnering with a company that’s more than just a benefits administrator, contact Heritage today, and help us do important work.