In July 2010, California Lions Friends in Sight (Friends in Sight) and a small band of volunteers from the former Friends Across the Border set out to form a new organization whose aim was to provide vision screening services to needy individuals in both Southern California and Northern Mexico.
With renewed purpose, Friends in Sight steadily grew the number of annual vision screenings, reaching a high of 33 in 2019 and growing the number of people served each year to well over 12,000. During this period, in addition to providing free recycled eyeglasses, optometrist and ophthalmologist volunteers diagnosed eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration in over 6,000 cases. These people were advised to seek medical or surgical care. Since 2010, we have served well over 100,000 people in need.
Friends in Sight kept up the growth thanks to the contributions of private individuals, event sponsors, and annual donations from over 50 Lions Clubs throughout Southern California. Notably, over the years the Calimesa Breakfast Lions and Seal Beach Lions raised more than $100,000. In 2010, the then Hemet-Ramona Valley Lions Club donated funds to cover the purchase of a van and trailer, and two Canon automated eye testing instruments. The San Jacinto Club donated $3,000 for the purchase of a new trailer and the West Covina Lions donated $11,500 toward the purchase of an additional Canon auto-refractor. In 2023, we launched a fundraiser to replace our aging 12-passenger vans. We reached the goal for the first van with a generous donation from the Beightler Squires Charitable Trust, Seal Beach Lions Club, Camarillo-Somis Lions Club, the California Lions Foundation, and numerous others.
We were also blessed with donations from two former vision service organizations, the Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation of Southern California and the Lions District 4-L4 Sight & Hearing Foundation.
The organization’s capability was further strengthened with the establishment of an optical laboratory in Beaumont. Operated by volunteers using lenses and equipment donated by the Essilor Vision Foundation, Essilor Instruments USA, Coburn Technologies, and Briot USA, the lab can replenish recycled eyeglasses inventory and fabricate prescriptions for special cases. We have been further blessed with pro-bono marketing support from Carling Communications, which included a new website, logo, and brochure design. Embedded on the website is a 4-minute video generously produced by Passage Productions.
The success of the organization’s humanitarian effort has resulted in an increased awareness and demand from more communities, sparking the organization to strive for even more expansion. To achieve continued growth and serve more people, Friends in Sight has developed a District Team Building Plan aimed at growing the number of volunteers and acquiring the capital equipment needed to gradually double the current screening operation. This plan is driven by a District Coordinator in each of the six Districts we now serve.
Finally, none of this would be possible without the hundreds of Lions throughout Southern California volunteering their time to collect and process donated eyeglasses. We owe a debt of gratitude to them and the many more who participate in the events helping to Restore Vision – Prevent Blindness for those in need.