Lions Club provides gift of sight

Making sure the world can see has been a mission for Lions Club members locally and globally for decades.

That mission is on display right now at the Johnson County Courthouse and West Annex.

The Franklin Lions Club’s eyeglasses tree, decorated in gold and purple ornaments and donated glasses, is a local tradition.

Eyeglasses are accepted year-round at local eye doctor’s offices, but the trees help bring awareness to the glasses gathering campaign at the holidays in preparation for delivery to people in need in February, said Macie Martin, an organizer of the eyeglasses mission.

About 250 to 400 glasses are gathered each year in the county due to the awareness the trees bring to the project. Last year, the local club didn’t put up a tree due to the pandemic, so this year could potentially produce a bigger turnout, Martin said.

Lions Club International delivers glasses to people in need all over the world, according to the organization’s website.

The mission strives to connect some of the 1.1 billion people around the world who have near-vision impairment simply because they don’t have a pair of glasses with glasses that can give them a new view of life, the organization says.

Those glasses connect people to glasses who can’t afford them, Martin said.

About 89% of that need is in developing countries, where people who need glasses don’t have the means to get them, according to the organization’s website.

Each year, about 20 Lions from Indiana collaborate with Lions in Mexico to connect the donated glasses to people who need them. The club offers free eye exams and connects the patient’s prescription to a pair of donated glasses, Martin said.

The donated glasses help people see well for the first time in their lives, and make a real difference for those who receive them. For example, Indiana Lions once connected an 80-year-old to their first-ever pair of glasses, and have given children who are struggling to read because of their poor vision a chance at a better life, she said.

“There are a lot of people who cannot get glasses,” Martin said. “For some of the countries we take these to, if somebody wants to find an eye doctor, it could be two days or three days of travel.”