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September 9, 2009 > Donate your eyeglasses

Donate your eyeglasses

By Ritu Jha
Photos By William Mancebo

Could old, unused prescription eyeglasses be reused by someone else? The answer is yes.

The Dawn Breakers Club in Fremont has collected 55,000 used eyeglasses in the past seven years, says Phil Utic, chair of the club's eyeglass collection effort.

"Our target is to collect eyeglasses and we have 25 collection spots at various parts of the city," explains Utic.

The Dawn Breakers Club is part of Lions Clubs International and eyeglasses collected serve people in need of them in third world countries, where eye care is often unaffordable and inaccessible. The eyeglasses are distributed among the needy in Mexico, Central America, South America and Africa.

Eyeglass drop boxes are located in the Fremont and Newark libraries, in hospitals at doctor's clinics and churches. Each month members of the club collect about 500 eyeglasses.

"We try to do things on a local level and it's our main priority," said Utic. He explained that the club is named "Dawn Breakers," because its members meet at 6:45 a.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month, before they go to their jobs.

"At every meeting members bring in collected eyeglasses," says Utic. There are 35 members in Dawn Breakers and members come from Fremont, Newark, Union City, Castro Valley and Pleasanton. "We have a very strong and active group," says Utic.

Most of the collection comes from the City of Fremont library, Kaiser Permanente Optical Center and hospital, Washington Hospital, Union City, Newark and mortuaries.

However, before reaching their final destination, the eyeglasses go through a cleaning process.

Volunteers bring eyeglasses to Utic and he sorts out and separates those that are good and places the usable eyeglasses in boxes. Two club members, bring it to the Oakland Blind Center, where the eyeglasses come from other centers for recycling.
"Other Lions clubs, located in Alameda and Contra Costa County, also collect eyeglasses that go to the Oakland Blind Center," said Utic. At the center, the donated eyeglasses are cleaned and prescriptions are verified before being boxed and shipped to third world countries.

"In many third world countries, people will be able to see for the first time," said Utic.

"We have volunteers and doctors, who at their own expense, go to these third world countries to treat people in need of eye care," explains Utic.

Volunteers and doctors get in touch with local Lions club chapters in the developing countries who distribute them to people in need of eyeglasses.

Eye care teams provide vision testing, refraction and eye health examination for free.

Utic, who is 80, has been involved with the Dawn Breakers club for the past seven years. "I feel very good about it; it's really great to help other people, who cannot help themselves. We get a lot of satisfaction in helping other people."

(Utic mentioned that the club has also collected about 100 used hearing aids for distribution to those in need.)

If you are interested in donating your used eyeglasses, use the white drop off boxes at the locations mentioned or contact Phil Utic at (510) 651-1740.

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