In July, 2011, California Lions 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, over the next 5 years, California Lions Friends in Sight doubled the number of annual vision screenings, reaching a high of 33 in 2015 and growing the number of people served each year from around 4,500 to well over 12,000. During this period, in addition to providing free recycled eyeglasses, optometrist and ophthalmologist volunteers diagnosed eye disease like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration in over 5,000 cases and advised these people to seek medical or surgical care. Since 2011, we have served over 75,000 men, women and children.
California Lions Friends in Sight kept up the growth thanks to the contributions of private individuals and annual monetary donations from Lions Multiple District 4 and over 50 individual Lions Clubs throughout Southern California. Notably, the Calimesa Breakfast Lions and Seal Beach Loins have donated $34,000 and $18,000 respectively. In 2010, the then Hemet-Ramona Valley Lions Club made a donation that covered the purchase of a van and trailer, and two Canon automated eye testing instruments. More recently, 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. Individual donors also contribute to the ongoing work of the organization.
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 is able to replenish recycled eyeglasses inventory and to fabricate prescriptions for special cases.
The success of the organization’s humanitarian effort resulted in an increased awareness and demand from more communities that sparked the organization to strive for even more expansion, including outreach to the visually impaired in underdeveloped countries. To achieve continued growth and serve more people, California Lions Friends in Sight has developed a Team Building Strategic Plan aimed at growing the number of volunteers and acquiring the capital equipment needed to gradually double the current screening operation. The Plan includes marketing elements made possible with pro bono services provided by Carling Communications, a San Diego based medical advertising agency.