Rappahannock County Collection Sites:
Union First Market Bank, 7 Bank Road, Washington VA
Rappahannock Farmers Cooperative, 12645 Lee Highway, Washington VA
BB&T Bank, 644 Zachary Taylor Highway, Flint Hill VA
For more than 80 years, individual Lions clubs and districts in the United States, Canada, and several other countries have collected used eyeglasses for distribution to the needy in developing nations. Since 1996, more than 37 million eyeglasses have been collected, and the number of donations each year continues to grow because of Lions club members.
The World Health Organization estimates that the eyesight of one-fourth of the world’s population can be improved through the use of corrective lenses. That translates to 1.1 billion people who easily could have improved vision. Recycling a pair of eyeglasses costs as little as eight cents; but the total expense of glasses is astronomical to those in developing countries. In many countries, an eye exam costs as much as one month’s wages. Even if one can afford these exorbitant costs, seeing a doctor is very difficult, for there is often only one doctor for hundreds of thousands of people. Poor eyesight that is left untreated can cause blindness or force adults into unemployment. In many developing areas, there is little other choice.
The Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc., located in Roanoke, Virginia, is one of six recycling centers located in the United States. Other centers are located in France, South Africa and Spain. Lions Clubs operate all of these centers. The Virginia center began operation in July 1993.
Used eyeglasses that are collected by the Rappahannock Lions are first sent to the Fauquier County Lions for collection, then on to the Lions’ Roanoke Center for processing. Used eyeglasses in any condition are utilized for recycling. The glasses are weighed for a count and then the metal framed glasses are separated from the plastic framed glasses. Only plastic frames are used for distribution to foreign countries. Metal frames are very important to us also, because they are sold for the precious metal. The income from the sale of the metal framed eyeglass is used for operational expenses at the Roanoke center.
The number of recycled eyeglasses that are shipped to other organizations from the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. center in Roanoke is about 120,000 pairs per year.
Plastic framed glasses are hand washed, sterilized and hand dried. Glasses that are damaged are discarded at this point in the process. Cleaning the eyeglasses is the most time consuming task of the recycling process. Glasses that have been kept for a long period of time have an accumulation of dirt and grease that is difficult to remove.
The next step is to determine the prescription of the glasses. This is done with a digital read-out lensometer. Both lenses are read and recorded on the outside of a plastic shipping bag. There are 6 lensometers at the center and volunteers are trained to use these instruments.
The glasses are then sorted by type: men’s, women’s, children’s, single, bifocal or trifocal lens and the prescription. The next step in the process is to pack the glasses according to the lens prescription. Fifty pairs of glasses are packed in a small box. Eight small boxes are than packed in a larger box. In the larger box a total of 400 pairs of glasses are ready to be identified for shipping. This large box is used for storage and distribution.
Do you need help getting an eye exam or purchasing eyeglasses? The Lions may be able to help. Contact the Rappahannock County Social Services Department. If they refer you to us, we’ll make sure you have an exam and a proper pair of glasses.
Requests for these processed eyeglasses come to the Lions Eyeglasses Recycling, Inc., from various medical and missionary organizations directly or through the Indiana Lions Eyeglass Recycling Facility. The Indiana center keeps the Lions’ inventory list of processed eyeglasses. Groups such as Southern Baptist Ministries, World Relief Volunteer Optometric Services, Feed the Children, Spirit & Truth Ministries, and Bless the Children Foundation are some of the groups that are provided glasses by the Lions. These groups make the arrangements with the country involved for shipping, most often being assisted by a local Lions Club in the receiving country. The Lions Clubs in the receiving country make the necessary arrangements for housing, local travel, eye examination, and the distribution of the eyeglasses. The destination of our shipments of eyeglasses have been to Venezuela, South Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, St. Lucia, Romania, Philippines, Moldova, Kenya, Mexico, Haiti, Nepal, Sudan, Guyana, Cuba, India, and other countries. Glasses are provided free of charge to the group requesting glasses.