A New Jersey Knights of Columbus council is helping to bring the gift of sight to the visually impaired through the collection of donated eyeglasses.
Commodore John Barry Council 2544 in Dunellen once collected used eyeglasses regularly, but it was “an old program and had met a slow death years ago,” said Brother Alan J. Kulig, chairman for the program. The drive was re-established a few years ago.
The August 2019 drive set a council record, netting 684 pairs of used eyeglasses for donation to New Eyes for the Needy, a nonprofit organization based in Short Hills, N.J. “Previous to this donation, we donated over 1,500 pairs of glasses to this organization in the prior five years,” bringing the total to some 2,200 for the renewed program, said Grand Knight Jim Whelan.
The process is simple. Donations of used eyeglasses are accepted year-round at two drop-off locations, one at the council’s home association and the other at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Piscataway, N.J., one of the two churches the council serves.
From these locations, the cache of used lenses is transported periodically to the nonprofit that processes them.
“This is a one-man operation, and that is me,” Kulig said. “I pick up the glasses throughout the year and check them, as there are always ones that are just too damaged to be used. Then I count and bag them.”
Then, once or twice annually, Kulig delivers the eyeglasses to New Eyes for the Needy, where staff and volunteers sort the eyeglasses for distribution. The eyeglasses are then shipped in bulk to medical missions and international charitable organizations to give the gift of sight to the poor in developing nations.
The nonprofit also accepts donations of cash, jewelry, watches and other goods to fund its U.S. program, which buys new prescription eyeglasses for disadvantaged children, adults and senior citizens through a voucher program in collaboration with social service agencies and health advocates.
New Eyes for the Needy recently wrote to Whelan, expressing thanks for the council’s contributions.
“To date, New Eyes has helped 8,000,000 people in over 60 countries to see clearly,” wrote the organization’s executive director. “We are grateful for your partnership in our work to bring clear sight to those most in need in our own country and overseas.”
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