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Bender talks Lion's Club glasses

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Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2018 10:56 am

During its recent meeting on Wednesday, July 25, the Enterprise Lion's Club learned just how the fruit of its philanthropic efforts is used around the world.

Dr. John Bender, a 20-year veteran optometrist, visited San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, in January with other optometrists, volunteers and others to provide eye exams and glasses to locals. He said the mission was set up by St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Savannah, Ga.

This clinic is held once a year in San Pedro de Macorís and is the only clinic held in this municipality of the Dominican Republic.

Bender said there were 934 patients that visited the five-day clinic in San Pedro de Macorís. He said 304 pairs of prescription glasses were provided to patients, 529 pairs of reading glasses were provided and 95 patients were referred for eye surgery.

"It was fun," he said. "It was hard. It was a hard week right there."

Patients would come to the clinic hours before it began, Bender said. When the clinic officially opened, volunteers and interpreters screened patients to learn what issues they were having.

He told club members about the "international way of checking vision" that is used during the exams.

"We call it the tumbling 'E' or the illiterate 'E'," he said. "You'll probably see charts like that sometimes. It's an 'E' pointing in different directions. Well, you tell the patients, even if they can't read or don't understand the language, they can make their fingers copy the way the 'E' is going, and it's calibrated to tell us what their acuity is."

He also shared photos of the rooms of the clinic, including the waiting rooms, exam rooms and optical room, where glasses were kept.

Bender said the Lion’s Club donated the glasses given to patients at the clinic.

"What we used was donated Lion's Club glasses," he said. "You all know that that's part of the Lion's Club persona is collecting old glasses.

"What happens is, those glasses go to a central processing unit. First of all, you make sure they're in wearable shape. Then, you analyze the prescription, and then you straighten everything. Then, you put them in a bag that's marked with that prescription.

"Then those go into a holding area. They're all categorized and stored until groups appeal to get some of those glasses to take on a mission trip."

He said many of the glasses could not be used during the eye clinic he worked in because the prescriptions were not what were needed.

"If we gave out 500 pairs of glasses, we probably dug through 5,000 pairs to find those," he said. "Of those 500, 5 percent matched the patient. The rest of them were just really close."

Bender said he would suggest "to Lion's Club as a whole" that the club invest in glass cutting tools to cut prescription lenses to fit glasses frames.

"Instead of recycling prescriptions, let's recycle the frames and learn to make a prescription for that frame," he said. "It can be done cheaply and easily. It would take fundraising to do it, but we'd have to haul a whole lot less (equipment) down there and be a lot more accurate with the prescriptions."

He said a used edger, used to cut the lenses for the frames, does cost several thousand dollars, but the portable unit could be kept at the location of the clinic and could be used to cut lenses in a few minutes.

He said the goal would be a "long-term" one for the club if it follows his suggestion.

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