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Citizen's View: Your old eyeglasses can help others see

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” — Helen Keller

Have you ever dropped your used glasses into one of the Lake Oswego Lions Club collection boxes around town and wondered what happened to them? Sure, you expect that someone in need gets them, and that’s true. But how do they get from the box to the new owner? Let’s follow them and see.

So that we’re picturing the same pair of glasses on this journey, let’s imagine that the glasses you dropped in are for a nearsighted woman and are oval lenses in tortoiseshell frames that you rocked two prescriptions ago.

Until recently, they gathered dust in the kitchen junk drawer. But then you needed a match from the drawer to light the grill, saw them, thought about donating them and had them in your car ever since. Eventually, you had a reason to visit City Hall, remembered you had seen a Lions Club collection box there and dropped the glasses in. They landed next to a few other pairs.

A few days or a week later, a member of the LO Lions Club collected the glasses and brought them to the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation (OLSHF) office. The OLSHF created a program with the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in which about 20 inmates clean, calibrate and sort the collected glasses for reissue. This gives the women in the program a skill to take with them when they leave the facility, as well as a way to give back to the community.

Meanwhile, an Oregon high school is getting ready to host the OLSHF Mobile Health Screening team, manned by local Lions Club members. The team, one of many, provides preventative sight and hearing screenings at schools throughout the state. The fact that volunteer Lions do the screening keeps these services free to the recipients.

Once set up, the students file in, the screening gets underway and one 15-year-old discovers that she needs glasses. She knew she was getting headaches and needed to move closer to the board to see the assignments, but she also knew her single mom doesn’t have vision insurance and can’t afford to get them for her.

One of her teachers knows about the family situation and takes a Lions Club volunteer aside. The volunteer assures the teacher the Club will take care of getting the girl the glasses she needs.

When the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation gets back your glasses from Coffee Creek, they are ready to be given to someone who needs but can’t afford them. For years, the glasses collected by Oregon Lions Clubs could only be sent out of the country to needy recipients. House Bill 2312, passed in 2011, now lets the OLSHF distribute them in Oregon and Northern California as well.

So now the 15-year-old, whose prescription was the same as yours, is rocking those oval tortoiseshell glasses and seeing the chalkboard clearly for the first time. Of course, it could just as easily have been someone in Mexico or South America or anywhere else in the world, as there are Lions Clubs in just about every country in the world. Now, doesn’t that make you feel good!

Besides City Hall (380 A Ave.), local area collection boxes can be found at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church (650 A Ave.), Lake Oswego United Methodist Church (1855 South Shore Blvd.), the Adult Community Center (505 G Ave.) and the Edward Jones office of financial adviser Eric Weberg (543 Third St., Suite A-1).

Denise Gordon is a past president of the Lake Oswego Lions Club.

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