The Madison Lions Club

Eyeglasses to Ecuador & The Domican Republic
A Continuing Story 

by Dick Borner
As a Christmas present it may have arrived a little late. But on March 4th, 2004 at the Catholic mission and clinic of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Zamora, Ecuador, the arrival of nine boxes of eyeglasses from the Madison Lions Club, must have been a welcome present.
            For the Lions of Madison, it started in September, 2003, when Richard Borner, an active Lion and former president of the local club, visited his doctor, Serle Epstein, in Madison. Dr. Epstein, Madison physician, and his wife, Jana Siman, have been volunteering at the mission in Ecuador since their first visit and first seeing patients in December 2001 in Guadalupe, a village in the Ecuadorian Highlands near the headwaters of the Amazon River. Mr. Borner saw a few notices on the doctor’s bulletin board with information about the far away clinic, and asked the doctor if there was anything the Madison Lions could do to help. Dr. Epstein noted the current need was for eyeglasses.
            Since Lions Clubs the world over have long been active in the vision field, helping and funding eye research as well as providing eyeglasses for needy, this project seemed just the thing. Mr. Borner learned that used eyeglasses collected in Madison and elsewhere are recycled for use again, first to the LensCrafters shop in Old Saybrook and then at a recycling center in New Jersey. He contacted the Lions eyeglass center and was offered not just the 1,000 or so eyeglasses he asked for, but a total of 1,655 eyeglasses.
            On Christmas Eve Mr. Borner visited the New Jersey center and picked up nine boxes of eyeglasses. On Friday, January 9, he posted the 9 boxes to Zamora, Ecuador, for the use by the some 30,000 indigents who reside within the jungle area served by the Guadalupe clinic. All the Lions waited patiently for weeks to hear word of the arrival of the eyeglasses. Finally, on March 4, the following message came in from Padre Jorge:

Dear Dick and Alice, and all Lions Club members!

 I have great news for all of you:

 Today, we received 9 boxes of eyeglasses from you! They were nicely packed and got here in excellent conditions.

 I am just amazed how blessed we are here in Guadalupe. The last three weeks we had German eye doctors here who made many eye operations and prescribed many glasses so that we ran out of the most common ones. Now, the first week of May, a Dr. Scott Soloway from Connecticut will come, also to do eye surgeries. So it will be a great help to have your glasses.

 I am really excited about your donation. Thank you very much.

 P. Jorge (Padre Jorge Nigsch)

            While most vision projects by the Lions Clubs are organized on a national or world-wide basis, the Madison Lions Club was able to organize what is hoped is just the first of many activities on behalf of the far away clinic, mainly because of Mr. Borner’s notice of his doctor’s bulletin board, and because of Dr. Epstein’s personal involvement with the clinic. As word went out about the Lions’ initiative to ship the eyeglasses,  several local church organizations including Temple Beth Tikvah and the First Congregational Church provided financial assistance to help defray the $600.00 cost of shipping the 9 boxes. It is hoped that this will be just the first of a continuous supply of eyeglasses for the men, women, and children who visit the clinic at the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mr. Borner noted that the Lions Clubs throughout the world are committed to helping with vision needs. Heeding Helen Keller’s 1925 challenge to be Knights of the Blind, Lions have placed special emphasis on sight conservation and blindness. Recycling used eyeglasses is a major goal of Lions and for the Madison Lions Club, this has been a particularly important project. Lion David Longobucco, past president of the club, has for many years collected eyeglasses placed in collection boxes throughout the town, historically located at banks, and soon at other convenient drop-off points. Donors who for years have dropped off their discarded spectacles, now, because the eyeglasses actually got to the Mission Guadalupe, have real proof that one small gesture of generosity goes a long way.
Move forward to 2008 and the Madison Lions now have shipped in excess of 15,000 eyeglasses to the Mission Clinic in Ecuador and more than 6,000 eyeglasses to a clinic the Dominican Republic. In September, 2006, Madison resident, Dr. Meg Weiss-Rivera, returned from a volunteer mission to Ecuador having seen the wonderful response to the eyeglasses at the Guadalupe clinic, approached the Madison Lions with a request that eyeglasses be donated to a needy local clinic in Santo Domingo, capitol of the Dominican Republic. Over the course of the last 15 months, over 6,744 eyeglasses have been shipped to the clinic taken either by curriers or by various shipping vendors.
In order to continue to fulfill the need for eyeglasses in these needy clinics, the Madison Lions have set up eyeglasses collection boxes not only throughout the town of Madison at various banks, but the club has established eyeglass collection centers in a number of statewide locations including Pfizer Research and Development buildings as well as the Connecticut Departments of Public Health, Children and Families, and Mental Health and Addiction Services. Donations of all kinds of eyeglasses, including readers, bifocals, and sunglasses are gratefully accepted.
In June of 2007, the Madison Lions received this wonderful note of thanks from Amanda Anderson, staff nurse at the Mission Clinic at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Zamora, Ecuador:

July 9, 2007

Dr. Mr. Borner,
I am a nurse volunteering as the clinic coordinator here at the clinic in Guadalupe.  I have been here for the past five years.
I wanted to let you know that the wonderful donation of glasses that you sent has arrived in good condition.  There are 20 boxes in total that we received.  We had run out of the two most common glasses needed for reading and a day does not go by that several people call or come by asking if the glasses have arrived.  We can now invite them to come and get their new glasses. 
This service of reading glasses is such a help for the people here.  Many could not afford buying glasses anywhere else and they would just go without being able to read or see well. I, the clinic staff and the people receiving the glasses all give you our thanks.  It is so nice to have something to be able to truly help people with.  Thanks for these recent 20 boxes and for all you have done for the clinic.
Paz, Amanda
Amanda Anderson RN
Coordinadora en la Clínica Misional "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe"
Parroquia Guadalupe, Vicariato Apostólico de Zamora
This was wonderful news to all the members of the Madison Lions Club. In 1925, Helen Keller challenged the International Lions Clubs to be Knights of the Blind and the visually impaired. Nothing gives us greater joy than hearing that the 5,000 eyeglasses we sent in May arrived at the Mission Clinic safe and sound. The news of how deeply the eyeglasses are valued, how well they are distributed, and how much they are needed, strengthens our resolve to continue in this endeavor.  


Collection and Shipment of Used Eyeglasses
Eyeglass collection Box <br>(Dave Longobucco and Dick Borner)The Madison Lions Club (MLC) continues to support the collection of used eyeglasses from the local community and the shipment of recycled eyeglasses to needy clinics in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. So far, the MLC has sent more than 29,000 eyeglasses to these two countries.   
To help fulfill the need for recycled eyeglasses, the MLC has set up collection boxes in various locations in Madison. Prescription and non-prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses are gratefully accepted. Since June 2003, the MLC has collected and turned over for recycling a total of 14,655 eyeglasses. The photograph shows Lion Dick Borner dropping eyeglasses into an eyeglass recycling box held by Lion Dave Longobucco.
For more info on the recycling and shipment of eyeglasses, contact Madison Lions Dave Longobucco (203-245-9413) or Dick Borner (860-663-3456). For info about the Madison Lions Club contact club president Barry Miller (203-421-3326).
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