When I was just starting up Eye GO, one of my many random thoughts was “I need to let people know I can collect their used glasses for donation.” Quickly followed by “Where do the glasses actually go?”
All of the previous optical stores I worked in also collected used eyeglasses, but all I knew was that someone occasionally came to pick them up. A quick Google search came up with a provider’s name I recognized: Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Club. (www.clerc.ca) I quickly decided to link them to my website, (which meant of course that I had to call them for permission!)
When I called I wound up speaking for over 45 minutes to Esther, the very dear woman whose late husband Bernie Gribben founded the organization. I was so moved by his story that I wanted to be a part of helping to raise awareness of this cause. I instantly decided Eye GO will donate $1 per pair of eyeglasses sold.
Bernie Gribben began CLERC over 14 years ago, but long before before that Esther explained to me how he would tell her he had a dream, a clear vision. He would constantly tell people to look at all these glasses just being thrown away! And think of all of these poor people who need them, who can’t afford them! He would talk and talk about it, and literally everyone told him it couldn’t be done! How was HE going to fix this problem?? How would it work???
Bernie started small. He had brochures printed and set up a table at his local Lions Club meetings. Before long the Lion’s Club was on board
and he slowly started to get the word out. Soon the word did get out! Before his death, Bernie hand-delivered the 3 millionth pair of glasses! And they are nearing the 4,000,000 mark for how many refurbished prescription eyeglasses they have sent to people in developing countries who are in need!!! These grateful people will literally walk for days to get them, to finally see clearly!!
Before Bernie left us 2 years ago, the doctor told him he had 3 days to live tops. He had cancer and it had accelerated. But he had an appointment: to start the dig in approx 10 days on a groundbreaking new seniors complex that actually allowed CLERC to hold workshops! This was a very big and important step, and he was determined. He told his doctor he was going to be there. He even said “You’ll see”. And there he was! He left the hospital more than a week later, and they wheeled him right up to that site. He, along with Wing-Kun Tam (President of the Lions Club International), dug that first shovelful together. And when they took him back to the hospital, Bernie told his wife “I’m tired,” and he went to sleep. The next day, he was gone.
I am just so inspired by this story. It’s hard to say how things would be if Bernie were still here. Esther says he was a very hands-on man, and took on a lot for himself. But since he died, everyone has stepped up to the plate! She told me that previously, the LIONS members were more general acquaintances, but they have since grown into such a wonderful and friendly community! Close relationships are developed as sometimes 30-60 volunteers will gather, every second Saturday to clean, sanitize and organize the glasses, separating what can be used from what can’t.
CLERC is completely hands-on, and it just makes me so happy to be able to support them. I hope by doing so we will also help to raise some awareness!