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Eyeglass program a sight to behold

By Dawn Schuett

life@postbulletin.com

Recycling programs exist to conserve water, energy and the environment, but none of those is the reason for a global recycling effort led by Lions Club International to collect used eyeglasses.

The Lions Recycle for Sight program is about conserving the vision of people in developing countries where access to eye care is limited. Lions clubs throughout the world, including those in southeast Minnesota, collect eyeglasses and sunglasses to be reused by adults and children in Mexico, Guatemala, Ukraine and many other countries.

Dudley Parsons of Rochester, a Lions club member for more than 40 years, has helped with every aspect of the recycling program, from gathering donations of eyeglasses to washing, sorting and analyzing them prior to shipment.

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Parsons, who is active in the Rochester 76 Lions Club, took about 600 pairs of eyeglasses when he went on his first mission trip earlier this year to the Dominican Republic.

"I’ve always known what a value it was," Parsons said of the recycling program. Putting a pair of eyeglasses on someone’s face emphasized how meaningful it really is. "Someone lights up because they can read now — that’s worth the trip."

During the week that Parsons was in the Dominican Republic, about 120 prescription eyeglasses and 30 to 40 sunglasses were distributed.

Lions have collected eyeglasses for more than 80 years. Recycle for Sight became an official program of Lions Clubs International in 1994, and about 30 million eyeglasses are now collected each year.

Randy Vine, a member of the Rochester Host Lions Club, said his club has collected more than 75,000 eyeglasses in 10 years. Donations of used eyeglasses and sunglasses can be placed in collection boxes at locations around the community.

Parsons said eyeglasses and sunglasses in any condition, including broken frames and single lenses, are accepted from donors.

Glasses donated in Minnesota are taken to the Wisconsin Lions Foundation Eyeglass Recycling Center in Rosholt, Wis. The broken glasses are sorted from those that can be worn again. The usable eyeglasses are shipped to two Wisconsin prisons where inmates analyze and note the prescription and sterilize and bag them before they are sent back to the recycling center for storage until a mission trip is planned.

The need for those used eyeglasses is immense. An estimated 153 million people worldwide have common eye conditions such as near-sightedness and far-sightedness that go uncorrected, according to the World Health Organization.

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In a country like the Dominican Republic, Parsons said, "people will walk 20 miles to get a pair of glasses when they know there’s going to be a clinic set up."

Dawn Schuett is a Farmington freelance writer.

Lions Recycle for Sight

• What to donate: Eyeglasses and sunglasses of any prescription and in any condition. Non-prescription sunglasses are also accepted.

• Where to donate: Many Lions clubs have collection boxes in their communities at libraries, churches and stores. In Rochester, a few sites include the public library, Mahn Family Funeral Home, LensCrafters, the optical departments at Target and Sam’s Club, Glynner’s Pub and Charter House.

On the Web: www.lionsclubs.org.

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