Hometown Hero: Volunteer Optometrist

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Instead of retiring, an optometrist who has spent more than four decades helping others see more clearly continues to give back.

“I’ve practiced in Paintsville, Kentucky most of my life. I was there for 45 years,” said Dr. Kenneth Cottrell.

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Nowadays, Kenneth Cottrell spends his time volunteering, using his specialty to help others at places like Nathaniel Mission.

“The people we see here are people that really don’t have resources otherwise to have vision care. But we’re pretty much bare bones here,” said Cottrell. “We make glasses by and large, we don’t do much treatment because we’re here on an irregular basis.”

You’ll typically find Cottrell at the mission every other week meeting with a diverse group of patients.

“We just helped with a refugee ministry setup that’s got six kids and the youngest has never lived outside of a refugee camp. So, we’re going to schedule them to see if they have any eye concerns. But Swahili is not a natural language for some of us,” explained Cottrell.

While you might imagine that’d make his job tough, Cottrell calls it, “Interesting. Of course, always. Everybody’s got their stories.”

And his work, while volunteer, is life changing for many of his patients.

“The lady before this last one is nearsighted enough that she can’t get her drivers license. So, without glasses, she’s facing that limitation as far as finding work, keeping work and just doing work my goodness,” said Cottrell.

But he’s quick not to take credit for all the work, acknowledging the other optometrists and staff at Nathaniel Mission.

“The mission here, the people who did that, Pastor Dan and Amy and Megan and the rest of the crowd here, now they’re the ones who are here every day,” said Cottrell. “This is my little bandaid on the big picture, that’s all.”

While he admits it’s not the fanciest clinic in town, he says the work is fulfilling.

“People come in not seeing well and walk out seeing better, that’s a good feeling, that’s good,” said Cottrell.

Dr. Kenneth Cottrell also volunteers at a vision clinic at Mission Health Lexington and travels outside the country to help. He says they work closely with other organizations for referral sources which are important for followups for his patients.

Most of the equipment was donated but Cottrell said they’re looking for more. They’re also looking for volunteers to help tackle a waiting list of patients. You can reach out to Nathaniel Mission HERE.

If you know a Hometown Hero, submit a nomination HERE or email ABC 36’s Erica Bivens: ebivens@wtvq.com.

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Erica joins the ABC 36 family as a Co-Anchor of Good Morning Kentucky weekday mornings from 5am-7am with Cody Adams and Good Day Kentucky weekday mornings from 9am to 10am. She is also a Web and Social Media Content Producer. Erica graduated in three and a half years from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and specialization in Women, Gender and Social Justice. Although she hails from Michigan, Erica has worked as a News Reporter/Sports Anchor for the CBS-affiliate in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to that, she worked for a PBS-affiliate there covering all types of news – even providing live reports for The Weather Channel during her first hurricane. She then moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana and worked as the Weekend Anchor/Reporter at KPLC, the NBC/FOX/CW affiliate. Erica comes to Lexington from the Huntington area where she worked at WSAZ, an NBC/CW affiliate in West Virginia, as a weekday evening anchor covering the tri states of Ohio and Kentucky as well. In addition to her background on TV, Erica has worked in radio, served as the PA announcer for the Class A "Lansing Lugnuts" and hosted Carnival parades in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some of her favorite hobbies include running, reading, hiking, spending time with her husband and taking pictures of their furbabies. Erica is big on community involvement, having served as a board member for Dress for Success, volunteered as a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters, worked on the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission in Lake Charles and hosted countless events. She hopes you can connect with her on Facebook: EricaBivensTV and on Twitter: @ericabivens or Instagram: erica.bivens. You can also email her at ebivens@wtvq.com. Please send all event inquiries via email. Erica is excited to explore Lexington and the outdoors and - of course - meet all of you!