In 1925, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” The Lions accepted the challenge and have since focused their volunteerism and service on restoring sight.
The Lions Recycle for Sight program is one of the largest programs implemented in this area. With the participation of Lions Clubs throughout Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon, the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation was able to recycle a record 41,759 pairs of eyeglasses last year.
Recently, our eyeglass recycling facility was designated a Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center (LERC), which standardizes procedures for eyeglass recycling. Lions volunteers prepare the glasses for distribution, ship large quantities to humanitarian distribution teams and supply Lions permanent clinics with an inventory of glasses.
Eyeglasses are collected in specially designed boxes that are located in various locations, such as eye doctors’ offices, churches, hotels, senior citizen facilities and any place that allows the boxes. Diligent Lions members collect the glasses on a regular basis and bring or ship them to the foundation. These same boxes are also used to collect hearing aids and cell phones.
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The eyeglasses are sorted by prescription, or nonprescription, along with separating readers and nonprescription sunglasses. Depending on the condition, damaged frames may be sold for scrap and nonprescription sunglasses are distributed to migrant workers. The LERC has a lensometer to determine existing prescriptions, which makes it a lot easier to dispense them.
The eyeglasses are often distributed to local missions who take them to locations such as Honduras, Mali, Peru and the Philippines to name a few.
A few years ago, the foundation provided 5,000 pairs of glasses to Mission Aviation Fellowship of Nampa for distribution in Africa and two Idaho Lions went on a mission to Mozambique to dispense them.
The LERC is currently working on providing 5,000 pairs of glasses for the Oregon Lions Mexico Vision Clinic. This clinic is open for five days a week and examines 450 people a day. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 153 million people suffer from uncorrected refractive errors, many of which can be easily diagnosed and treated with eyeglasses. As a result, large segments of the world’s population live with vision problems that adversely impact their productivity, employability and their ability to raise themselves out of poverty.
Our eyeglass recycling program helps individuals return to work to support their families, it helps children read the board at school, and seniors to live independent lives.
Curt Kelley is with the Boise Bench Lions Club and is the board president for Idaho-Eastern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation (idaholions.org).