Hometown Hero: Volunteer Optometrist

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.

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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