This is one of a series of stories about the nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.
Stan Hardinnoticed his vision had deteriorated in late 2008. It was around the time of the economic crash, and he had lost his job earlier that year.
Hardin, a diabetic for more than two decades, went to the vision office at Peak Vista Community Health Centers, a local agency providing medical care for low-income individuals and those without insurance, among other services.
The physician diagnosed Hardin, 56, with diabetic retinopathy, which is retinal damage complicated by diabetes that can lead to blindness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The impact: "If I didn't get it (surgery) within two weeks I could go blind."
Out of work and without health insurance, Hardin appeared to be on his own. "Now I've got this surgery."
Peak Vista stepped in. Hardin, a volunteer with the agency at the time, got laser surgery and to pay only the co-pay.
In May 2009, Hardin, a master plumber and mechanical estimator, found another job and his insurance covered more surgeries. Two years later he lost his job again, and has been looking for work ever since.
While there are times of economic improvement, he said, "there are an awful lot of people without work and without insurance."
Hardin has volunteered with Peak Vista's nurses and dietician who were heavily involved in the diabetic health education program, which has been phased out.
"Because I was already a kind of knowledgeable patient, in a way it was satisfying for me," he said, remembering another man with the same retinal complication. "We compared notes and talked about it and some of the difficulties that go with it."
"Those that really support the Peak Vista system know the impact of having a healthy workforce," Hardin said.
"Peak Vista is really important as far as the economy goes . they're kind of that bridge between those that have insurance and those that don't have insurance."