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Lions Club accepts old eyeglasses

By Staff | Dec 23, 2010

When cleaning out households, if an extra pair of old glasses, or more, are found in the process, please consider donating them to the Rugby Lions Club.

It doesn’t matter what prescription they are, glasses can be re-used, especially in third world countries. For some people those glasses will mean keeping a job to support their families, being able to see their children for the first time, and doing tasks they have not been able to do because they couldn’t see.

Most people have a pair or two of old glasses that they haven’t thrown away. They can be recycled. The Rugby Lions Club has boxes in various locations around town such as: Bremer Bank, Merchants Bank, Ramsey Bank, North Star Credit Union, The Tribune, the library, and a box floats among area churches.

Betty Triplett is the chairperson for this project for the Rugby Lions Club. The last shipment she sent had 300 pairs of glasses in it. They go to third world countries where the residents suffer from a disease that affects vision.

The disease called river blindness which is passed by black flies has been cured in most of the world. However, Africa and some South American countries still see the disease. If it is caught early enough and treated, blindness will be prevented. However, in third world countries, people do not have access to treatment and it would cost a year’s salary to pay for glasses.

The North Dakota Eye Glass program founded by the state’s Lions Clubs send the glasses to these countries so people have a chance to see.

Craig Wollenburg, a Rugby Lions member, finds this project near and dear to his heart. He talks about an African student at Minot who was thrilled to become a Lions Club member and bring this project to his country. Wollenburg relates that the African said, “In our country Lions are heroes.” This was an eye opener to Wollenburg to listen to someone who knew the problems firsthand and wanted to help. Another story is about a woman who had her eyesight restored and was grateful to see her daughter’s face for the first time.

The glasses shared with other countries must be wearable with no broken parts. Frames and lenses are used together. For this reason, this project cannot use lenses.In the past, Triplett sent the glasses collected in the Rugby area to the district governor of Lions who then sent them to Minot.

At one of the churches in Minot, the glasses were placed in a dishwasher and sanitized. The glasses were then put in a machine that is designed to read the prescription and print out the information. The glasses were wrapped in plastic, marked with the prescription, packed in boxes and sent overseas. They sometimes are taken overseas by North Dakota’s optometrists who volunteer their services to exam the residents, select the correct prescription, and fit the sight-impaired with their glasses.

Chuck Repnow and others from Rugby have helped with the process in Minot. “They’ve got a real system on how it is done,” said Repnow.

He went on to explain that fancier pairs of glasses have the metal removed and it is sold separately to raise funds for the project.

At convention, Repnow says the members watched a video showing the people receiving the glasses and their reactions when they could see for the first time.

Repnow said helping with this project ” is a very good experience.”

“In this country where there is incredible wealth, surely we can share items that we no longer use with those less fortunate,” he added.

Repnow worked with Terry Narum while in Minot.

Terry Narum, Minot, is the former chairman, of the state project. When he reached his goal of collecting 650,000 pairs of glasses for the project, he stepped down from the position. He continues to help clean the glasses.

Ross Espeseth, member, Bismarck Lions Club, now chairs the North Dakota Eye Glass program. Two Lions clubs Northern Star and Prairie Lions in the Bismarck area clean the glasses and dry them. Then they are packaged as described above and sent.

A group from Fargo is going to Haiti next summer and most likely glasses will go with them.

The tradition was enhanced by a speech by Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf from a childhood illness. Keller spoke at a Lions Convention in Ohio in 1925 asking the members to be “Knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

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