Dear Fabulous Readers,
Recently I was communicating with 20/20’s Deborah Kotob and Linda Conlin about an optical continuing education event we held at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla. Linda responded with “Thinking outside the mask,” which is a perfect theme for this month’s column.

As the President of the West Coast Chapter of the Professional Opticians of Florida (POF) and a state board member, one of my responsibilities is to organize continuing education opportunities for the licensed opticians in our area. Under normal circumstances, this is quite doable. There are plenty of speakers and plenty of space. But during COVID-19, not so much.
One of our board members and vice president of the West Coast POF Chapter, Carole Bratteig, came up with a fantastic concept: a drive-in CE event, bringing nostalgia and quality education together while keeping socially distant. What a great idea! But how?

It Takes a Village
Ms. Specs cannot help but circle back to this theme: It takes a village. With all the moving parts and pieces to pull off such an event, we would have to ask for help. And the village arose.
First, our college has an outstanding Student Government Association (SGA), and our opticianry students are active via our student optical club. Occasionally, the SGA has “movie night” where they project a movie on the side of one of our buildings and serve popcorn. We connected with the head of the SGA, and they provided the equipment, sound system, stage and people to help line up the cars for parking. The SGA also coordinated with campus security to “hold” the parking area in front of the building exclusively for our use.
Next, our opticianry students and POF board members volunteered their time to help check-in cars while handing the attendees a bag of popcorn (prepackaged, COVID safe) and some packaged candy through the car window. Our students created and held signs to help direct the opticians to the correct building. Then the state headquarters of POF handled the registrations online and sent us the list of attendees. We simply checked people off the list, aiding in a smooth setup. Additionally, one of our opticianry alumni, Amanda Valencia with National Vision, arranged for NVI to sponsor a delicious hot meal, also served through the car windows.
It was a great success!  We had raffles, prizes and giveaways, and interaction via honking car horns. It was an upbeat, hip experience. Our college has a broadcasting program, and some of their students and faculty filmed part of the event, and interviewed organizers and attendees. The broadcast students will earn academic credit for making a promotional video that we can use in the future. They also contacted the local news station, and our event was showcased on the news that evening!
Was it perfect? Almost. (Ms. Specs would have deemed it perfect if we were able to deliver the popcorn, candy and hot dinners to the car windows on roller-skates!)
So, Dear Readers, if you have not already, please consider getting involved with your state optical association. This could be a fun option for your future CE events. Community centers and colleges share the mission of providing access for events to the residents and could provide the venue. It is a win-win.  In our case, organizing this project was out of necessity to offer CE classes during COVID-19. The silver lining: Attendees enjoyed it so much, we plan to continue this every year. It does take a village, and I am truly thankful for ours.
Have you “thought outside the mask” to overcome an obstacle or challenge? We would love to hear about it and possibly publish your idea in a future column.
Until then, continue being the optical rock stars that you are!

See Well and Be Well,
Ms. Specs in the City
Laurie Pierce, ABOM

Do you have a question for Ms. Specs? Please send your question to [email protected], and we may feature it in a future column.