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Grand Island Lions Club: 'Aren't you the guys that collect eyeglasses?'

by jmaloni
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 07:00 am

The Grand Island Lions Club has been serving the community for more than 50 years, and though most people are familiar with our eyeglass collections, our Special Kids Picnic, our annual spaghetti dinner, and our involvement with the Miracle League Field, most are not aware of all the behind-the-scenes activities we perform and the services available through our work and our association with sight, hearing, health, and environmentally-related professionals and organizations.

Take, for example, the trip a used pair of eyeglasses takes from your face to the face of someone, somewhere in the world, who needs them but, unfortunately, can't afford them. How can we do that for just 8 cents a pair? Another example is what to do when you or a loved one is unavoidably losing vision. Where do you go? What do you do? What are your options?

Oh, yes, we are more than the "guys" who collect eyeglasses! We are men and women, children and young adults, from all walks in life who have a vested interest in providing our communities with services that are relevant and necessary to ensure a high quality of life for all that we serve, whether it be local or somewhere in the world. We are the world's largest service organization with more than 1.45 million individuals of all races and beliefs, based in more than 51,000 clubs in 206 countries and geographical areas that have taken an oath to provide assistance for those in need. From the Ă…land Islands to Zimbabwe, whether we are screening a child's eyes for ocular malformations or providing disaster relief, Lions are there to help.

In a series of upcoming articles, the Lions will describe the numerous facets of what we do best, and that is to serve, not only our community, but also our neighbors around the world. We will tell you what is available to answer your need and how we may help to facilitate it. We warmly invite your questions regarding our services and capacities. We will answer them either personally, via email, or phone, or through a related article.

So, why do we do collect eyeglasses in the first place? The World Health Organization determined that 153 million people worldwide are in need of refractive lenses to correct near- and far-sightedness and astigmatism. Of this number, 138 million cannot afford the cost of a new pair. To most, a year's salary would not begin to cover the cost. As a result, affected individuals needlessly suffer from loss of productivity, employability, and quality of life. Even with the Lions and other eyeglass collection organizations doing their best to help, it is estimated that 4 million eyeglasses are discarded yearly in the U.S. alone. We hope that you and those you know can help us reverse this problem.

After we collect them, the eyeglasses embark on their amazing adventure when we first sort them, separating the whole eyeglasses from the broken ones and the loose lenses. We discard the eyeglass cases because they do not store well, nor do they survive the high heat and humid atmospheres of the countries they may be shipped to. Loose lenses are also discarded. The broken frames are recycled for their metals if any.

The eyeglasses are carefully boxed and brought to the Lions Eyeglass Recycling trailer at Southside Trucking located in Kenmore and operated by Lion Tony Zappia of the Orchard Park Lions Club. Lion Tony enlists the volunteer services of Yellow Trucking to provide a truck and a driver to bring all the eyeglasses collected in Western New York to the New Jersey Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center in West Trenton, one of 13 in the U.S. and six others located worldwide.

Our shipment to the New Jersey center is part of the approximately 1.2 million pairs of eyeglasses they unpack and sort each year. The eyeglasses are processed with the help of students from the Katzenbach School for the Deaf as well as prisoners from three state correctional institutions along with Lions volunteers. The center continually sponsors missions globally, to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, organizing participation from optometrists and other medical professionals. The center also coordinates equipment loans between other Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers and mission groups.

At the center, volunteers unpack and inspect all the eyeglasses, clean them, then barcode them based upon their prescription criteria and frame size. Once the need is determined at a mission site, and the eyes of the population-in-need are examined and treated, the eyeglasses are then placed on the faces of those in desperate need of them. While we may be called "angels" or "miracle workers" by those who can see clearly possibly for the first time in their lives, it is the smiles that blossom on the health care worker and the patient that has been made possible through your generosity!

If you have eyeglasses or hearing aids you no longer need, please contact Lion Tom Witkowski at 716-909-1862 or at [email protected] to schedule a pickup of your eyeglasses. If you would like to provide a space for an eyeglass collection box, we would welcome your help! We thank the Grand Island community for its continuing and outstanding support of this project.

In our next article, we will outline what is necessary to obtain a pair of eyeglasses when you are dealing with a financial hardship. Again, please contact us if you would like to learn more how we may help your particular situation.

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