The Clarke County Lions Club is not letting a little thing like a global pandemic stop its mission of making sure everyone who needs eyeglasses can get them. Over the past few weeks, four club members — President Greg Hart and his wife, Secretary Sharon Hart, and 2nd Vice President Orville Dee and his wife Mary Dee — have quietly established a new eyeglass recycling center in Winchester.

Before the center was up and running, though, a major problem arose. The rent-free space being used by the Lions at 1336 Commerce St. is being sold, and as soon as contracts are signed, the new recycling center could be displaced. Until that happens, though, the four Lions are diligently processing the approximately 10,000 pairs of used eyeglasses and sunglasses that are piled up in dozens of boxes at the recycling center. They’re hoping some kindhearted souls might volunteer to help them speed up the sometimes tedious process. “A Boy Scout could come in here and work, a church group could come in here and work,” Greg Hart said on Wednesday.

Orville Dee said it takes two people about two hours to go through 250 pairs of glasses. At that rate, it would take the four Lions Club members a full 40 hours to go through the eyeglasses on hand, and more are arriving all the time. “We have job security,” Orville Dee said with a laugh. According to Hart, it had been his longtime desire to open a local recycling center so Lions Club members wouldn’t have to drive long distances to drop off donated eyeglasses. Until now, he said, the closest center to Winchester had been in Falls Church.

Some Lions Clubs in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia build up large stockpiles of eyeglasses and sunglasses before making the long drive to Falls Church. Those stockpiles have since been redirected to Winchester and are slowly being sorted, washed, inspected, categorized and prepared for delivery to places where people could not otherwise afford prescription eye wear.

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Author: Brian Brehm, The Winchester Star
Image: Jeff Taylor, The Winchester Star