by Derek Clouthier
Visiting the Bearspaw Lions Club on April 6, CLER sorted through approximately 35,000 sets of eyeglasses, finding around 5,000 usable pairs, which will eventually find a new home somewhere in the world where residents do not have access to such benefits.
“We sent everything from grocery-store eyeglasses to bifocals,” said Darryl Rawleigh, operations director for CLER.
Collecting used sets of eyeglasses from throughout Canada, CLER cleans and restores the pairs it can, and then provides them to various charity groups, such as Medical Mercy Canada, that do trips to third-world countries. Accompanied by a qualified optometrist, eyeglasses with the proper prescription are given to those in need.
“It’s a great program,” said Rawleigh, who said they have one million pairs of eyeglasses in storage waiting to be refurbished.
At present, Rawleigh said he is working on providing approximately 3,500 to an organization travelling to Haiti, and another 27,000 to go to Africa. Recently, 5,600 sets of eyewear were sent to a group in White Rock, B.C.
In addition to the jail and Bearspaw Lions Club, CLER uses the Lions Village in Calgary to store and sort through the eyeglasses.
Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre partners with United Van Lines, which picks up donations from various optometrist offices and churches and delivers the eyeglasses to Williams Moving and Storage in Calgary, where CLER can then collect them.
Rawleigh said 40 members of the Carstairs and Wild Rose Lions Clubs volunteered to clean and sort eyeglasses in Bearspaw over the weekend.
Eyeglasses are sorted into seven categories: sunglasses, prescription sunglasses, kids, single vision, bifocal and reader glasses.
The Bearspaw Lions Club allows CLER to use the hall free of charge, both for storage and refurbishing.
Every Saturday (excluding the summer months), at one of the three locations, CLER works on getting the eyeglasses ready for use.
Up until September 2012, Spy Hill jail was the only location for the cleaning and sorting process.
Each year, between 150,000 and 200,000 pairs of glasses are shipped to those in need.
“We’re the only Lions centre in Canada that does this,” said Rawleigh of the refurbishing process.
At present, 11 centres in the United States have a similar program. There are also programs in Australia and Italy, run by Lions International.