Lions Clubs have been involved with vision since Helen Keller came to the 1925 Lions Clubs International convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, and asked, “I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”

Among the many ways Lions have risen to that challenge, including White Cane Day and fighting river blindness, Lions collect old eyeglasses. From collection boxes at eye doctor offices, retail stores and other locations across the US, glasses are collected and taken to centers where they are reconditioned and then distributed free of charge to those that need them in the U.S. and around the world.

This past March, in a coordinated effort across California, a new event was born: Lions Eye Across California. Our Santa Monica Lions Club partnered with the Venice Marina LAX Lions Club to provide free eye exams and collect used eyeglasses. In just five hours we gave eye exams to 79 people, distributed 124 reconditioned and graded eyeglasses and collected 1,169 used eyeglasses. The event was such a success across the state, over 200 Lions Clubs from every county in California collected over 51,000 pairs of eyeglasses, that plans are now in the works to expand the event and become Lions Eyes Across the U.S.

We rely upon eyeglasses or contact lenses every day to be able to see for driving, reading, shopping, crafts, etc. However, eyeglasses didn’t exist over 700 years ago. If you couldn’t see to read or do your craft as you got older and near sightedness became a common problem, you either muddled through or had to quit work.

In some parts of the world today, such as Africa, access to eyeglasses is extremely limited and very expensive. It is estimated that 50 percent of residents in African intuitions for the blind would be able to read large print with proper eye glasses. But the average pair of eyeglasses can cost more than three months normal salary for the average African.

And this is where Lions step in. If you want to help by donating your used glasses (sunglasses are accepted as well), please place them in a Santa Monica Lions Club container at your eye doctor’s office, or at the One Stop Print Shop at 2717 Wilshire Blvd. If your eye doctor doesn’t have a collection box, but would like to have one, we can deliver it. Contact sderemer@discoveryeye.org.

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