Since 2015, Matt Matthews has been an active member of the Foundation’s board on a committee that reviews grant applications. While many of these grant submissions are for research, there are a significant number that seek funding for community organizations and programs that have a social welfare aspect.
The Foundation provides support to these programs through its Healthy Future Fund that promotes community health improvement and the elimination of health disparities in both urban and rural areas. Matt is both an advocate of and contributor to the fund.
“I was delighted to learn about the Foundation’s initiatives to go in and impact public health in the inner city and near-county portions of St. Louis,” he says. “I’m so glad the challenge is being taken head-on and articulated as this is what we want to do. This is what we need to change. It’s very courageous and needed.
I couldn’t be more proud to work with an organization that’s taking this on.”
Matt first learned about the need in the community through his work with Crown Vision Center, where he says he was very concerned because early detection of blurred vision in these children, particularly those just learning to read, is critical in their ability to succeed in school. Without this screening, they might not be able to escape a life of poverty.
“The negative consequences are that children who can’t see clearly act out in class and are put in the back of the classroom so they don’t disturb others,” he says. “But that’s exactly where they shouldn’t be because they are farther away from any images on the board they need to see.”
Exposure to the problem led Matt, his daughter Jennifer “JJ” Scarbrough, and others to establish a nonprofit called Kids Vision for Life St. Louis (KVFL), which provides free vision screenings, eye exams and prescription eyewear to underserved elementary school students through a mobile clinic van, school systems, central locations and special events.
“It was very familiar,” he says about his work with the Foundation. “It involved the same challenges of finding basics, of finding food, clothing and shelter, of trying to stop the ripple effect of poverty.”