The UW Medicine Eye Institute, in partnership with the University-Ballard Lions Club and the Northwest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center (NWLERC), have launched a first-of-its kind program to provide eyeglasses to patients who qualify for financial assistance, called the Lions Gift of Sight Program. This new program utilizes donated eyeglasses, as well as newly purchased eyeglasses, to help patients in the Seattle area and beyond that are unable to fill their glasses prescriptions. 

Lions Clubs across the Northwest have long collected and recycled eyeglasses to be distributed free of charge to people in remote areas of developing countries. In the last few years, however, Washington State laws have changed, allowing these recycled eyeglasses to be distributed locally by a licensed optician. After a visit to the UW Medicine Eye Institute, Lions LERC Director Bert Caoili and Past President of University-Ballard Lions Club, Fred Minifie, identified that there is a critical need for these prescription eyeglasses in Seattle and surrounding area. At the start of this new program, nearly 250 pairs of eyeglasses were donated from NWLERC to be distributed to qualifying patients at the UW Eye on James Clinic, located at Harborview Medical Center.

“The Lions Clubs of our region have done a fantastic job in collecting glasses and providing these to needy individuals around the world; but under the previous laws, we weren’t able to use these donations to help our own neighbors,” says Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. “Now, with the help of the Lions, we can provide glasses to our patients who need them most at no cost to them. We are so proud that this program helps to fulfill an important part of the UW Medicine Eye Institute’s mission of providing compassionate care to all patients.”

To help with the launch of this program, the Ballard Lions Club Foundation / Wilson Trust made an additional grant to support the purchase of new, basic eyeglasses for eligible patients whose prescriptions are not found in the recycled glasses collections.

If you are interested in donating your used eyeglasses to the NWLERC program there is a collection box located at the UW Medicine Eye Institute at 908 Jefferson Street, 7th Floor, Seattle. You can also refer to the Northwest Lions Eyeglasses Recycling Center website for additional details: http://lionsnwlerc.org/

For more information about the Lions Gift of Sight Program or to determine eligibility to receive eyeglasses, please contact Eyes on James at 206.520.5000. 

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