'If you can't see, you can't learn'

Betty Morgan co-chairs Lioness Club vision screening program

Betty Morgan co-chairs Lioness Club vision screening program

February 08, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Betty Morgan

Age - 73.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Morgan? - For more than 13 years, Betty Morgan has co-chaired the vision screenings the Hagerstown Lioness Club has done for Washington County Public Schools. Morgan said when the Washington County Health Department announced in 1993 that it was no longer able to provide the screenings in the schools, the Hagerstown Lioness Club decided to take it over, since its community service focus is vision.

She said the four co-chairs call the 34 elementary and middle schools in August to schedule vision screenings for all kindergarten, first-, third-, fifth- and eighth-graders. Then each co-chair is in charge of the screenings for two weeks, responsible for taking the equipment and doing the record keeping.

Morgan said when Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan first came to the county, there was some confusion when Betty Morgan would call about vision screenings, with secretaries thinking she was the superintendent calling. She said she has since learned to state why she is calling before saying her name.


While it is not possible for Lioness Club members to screen all school-age children, Morgan said they picked the ages when vision problems are most common.

Morgan said the screenings are held four days a week in September and October - a total of 32 screening days - so vision problems can be corrected early in the school year. She said it takes eight volunteers each day to complete the screenings.

"It's amazing. If you can't see, you can't learn," Morgan said. "It's something that needs to be done. We're just glad we can do it."

While the Hagerstown Lioness Club has more than 80 members, Morgan said many work during the day or are retired and have health problems, which limits the number of screening volunteers. She said other area Lions Club members and friends help.

In 2006, more than 1,500 students were screened and 821 were referred to the Washington County Health Department for another screening. If students fail the vision screening a second time, parents receive a letter recommending they take their child to an optometrist for an eye exam.

Morgan, whose maiden name is Unseld, is a Hagerstown native. She graduated from Hagerstown High School in 1951.

She went to nursing school through Washington County Hospital, working on and off at the hospital, before working for 32 years as a community health nurse. As a community health nurse, before the schools were staffed with nurses, Morgan said she was responsible for vision screening in the schools.

"That's where I saw many success stories. They improved scholastically once they got glasses," Morgan said.

As a Lioness Club member, Morgan also handles referrals for children who need financial assistance to go to the eye doctor. She said the club sets aside money in its budget for this and the group averages one to two referrals a month during the school year.

The Lioness Club has a ham sandwich sale in March, a fashion show in the spring and throws birthday parties once a month for residents at Ravenwood Nursing Home.

Morgan has been a Hagerstown Lioness Club member for 21 years. She also serves as president of the Women's Club, is a parish nurse at Otterbein United Methodist and volunteers at The Maryland Theatre, and the ARCC and cafe at Hagerstown Community College.

"After I retired, I wasn't just going to sit in a rocking chair. I keep busy all the time," said Morgan, who retired in 1998.

Morgan has three children, three stepchildren, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Hobbies - Morgan said she plays "a lot of bridge," with different bridge groups, including one that has played cards together for 40 years. She stays in shape with twice-weekly aerobics classes, although she doesn't have time for them during September and October, vision screening months. In the summer, Morgan swims in her outdoor pool for exercise.

She also loves ballroom dancing, going to dances "wherever" and attending as many Sunday dances at Pen Mar Park as possible.

What does Morgan like best about Washington County? - "I think it's God's country. We have everything. If you need more cultural things, one hour and you're in Baltimore or Washington," Morgan said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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