As many as 4 million pairs of eye glasses are thrown away each year in North America. Jim Forgey is trying to lower that figure and help get old eyewear to new owners. As Lions Club members, Jim and his wife Judy are volunteers for the Northwest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers (NWLERC) program which has collected over 1 million pairs of eye glasses since it began in 2004.
Lions Club members across Washington state join Jim and Judy in this mission. As part of the recycling process, they gather and send eyewear either to Lacey, home of just one of seventeen global Lions recycling centers, or to local optical shops who voluntarily help with cleaning, sorting, evaluating and readying the eyewear for distribution. Reusable pairs eventually end up in Lacey to be distributed to several humanitarian organizations who organize missions in countries such as Haiti, Kenya, and Belarus as well as here at home. Even non-reusable eyewear can take on new life by being melted down and turned into new products.
One organization that NWLERC partners with has organized over eighty missions this year alone with several of them in the local area. In June, vision professionals from Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity ( VOSH) and NWLERC representatives set up shop at Cascade High School in Everett to provide vision care for homeless individuals. As part of a series of local events entitled “Project Homeless Connect” approximately 100 pairs of reading glasses, 200 pairs of sunglasses and vouchers for around 200 pairs of prescription glasses were handed out. A similar event was held in September at Qwest Field and another is scheduled for October 14th in the Tacoma Dome. In January of next year, NWLERC and VOSH are planning to expand this program to the Kitsap Peninsula.
But to begin this cycle, Jim and Judy know that reaching out to eyeglass wearers in their community is crucial. This October, one of their collection sites, Edmonds Vision Center, is stepping up their efforts to encourage patients to bring in their old glasses. “Though we keep our collection box in the front of the store and try to remind patients of this recycling option, we want to do more,” expressed Dr. Art Wong. “During the next couple of months, we plan to hand-out recycle reminder slips each time a customer purchases new glasses. It’s our goal to get the box so full that Jim needs to stop by more often.” That would be an extra trip that Jim would happily make.
About Lions Club International
Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with more than 1.35 million members in 45,000 clubs in 206 countries and geographical areas around the world. Since 1917, Lions clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired and made a strong commitment to community service and serving youth throughout the world.
About Northwest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers
NWLERC was founded to provide used eyeglasses free of charge to people in remote areas of developing countries, delivered at the hands of volunteer eye care professionals. NWLERC is staffed entirely by volunteers.
About Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity ( VOSH) and VOSH-Northwest.
The primary mission of VOSH/International is to facilitate the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care. In Dec 2001 we partnered with the World Health Organization and pledged to eliminate preventable blindness by the year 2020. The VOSH-Northwest Chapter covers the states of Washington and Idaho but boasts membership throughout the United States and the World.
About Edmonds Vision Center:
Optometrists Dr. Art Wong and Dr. Kathy Solum, along with the staff at Edmonds Vision Center, are committed to providing the most thorough eye health assessment utilizing the best technology and the highest quality of products with personalized and unforgettable customer service. Located on Main Street in Edmonds, Washington, Edmonds Vision Center has been serving the Edmonds, Lynnwood, Shoreline and surrounding community area since 2000