TR Robertson — The Pride of Vista Lions Club joined in recently, with other Lions Clubs from throughout Southern California and a few non-Lions Club volunteers, at the Vista Boys and Girls Club on West California Avenue as they assisted the California Lions Friends in Sight program in providing free vision screening and consultation with optometrists and ophthalmologists for individuals seeking eye exams and eyeglasses. California Lions Friends in Sight is a 501 © 3 non-profit organization and an endorsed project of Multiple District 4.
Photos by TR Robertson
The California Lions Friends in Sight is a result of a program begun in 2011 called Friends Across the Border, where services were provided in Southern California and in Northern Mexico assisting individuals in need of eye exams and glasses. This all-volunteer organization, with no paid staff, offers free vision screening, recycled eyeglasses, and a chance to meet with professionals in the field of vision care. This service also assists in early diagnoses of eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Individuals are given references to take to their professional care providers or they are assisted in finding those that can assist with further diagnoses.
The Mission Statement for the Friends in Sight program is “Restoring Vision – Presenting Blindness – Give the Gift of Sight”. Their motto is “Together, We Make Tomorrow Look Better”. This organization has served over 90,000 individuals since 2011 throughout Southern California and Northern Mexico. They have been held back for the past year or so due to COVID restrictions but are up and running once again with screenings scheduled for the rest of 2021.
Part of the volunteer staff at the Boys and Girls Club on Saturday was Pati Van Dusen and her husband Dr. Brian Van Dusen, part of the original group of Lions members integral in organizing the Friends in Sight Program in 2011. They are currently members of the Cali Mesa Breakfast Lions Club in Cali Mesa. Also in attendance was Pat Dundeas, a Cali Mesa Lions member, who has been assisting with Friends in Sight for 8-9 years. Pat assisted in the training of the volunteers for the screening who ran the Tonometer and Auto Refractor medical devices that did the initial analysis of everyone’s eye examination. The Auto Refractors were for those 40 years and older to test for glaucoma. Pat said all the medical devices had been donated by other Lions clubs and from various medical device companies like Essilor Vision, Coburn Technologies and Briot USA. He also pointed out that the organization, in normal years, would conduct 30-40 screenings throughout Southern California and Northern Mexico. The COVID restrictions in Mexico will cause a delay on their return to Mexico any time soon.
Photos by Angel Aguilar
As individuals lined up for entrance into the Boys and Girls Club for their eye screening, the volunteers received final instruction on the procedures and restrictions that would be necessary to follow to ensure safety and care was take with everyone inside. This event is the first eye screening the various Lions Clubs in Vista and North County have been involved in for the City of Vista. Those involved were hoping for 200-250 individuals to be screened and receive a free pair of eyeglasses.
The first stop, after individuals had checked in, was for the first screening process with the Tonometer. Sheldon Borson, a local pharmacist was one of the volunteers assisting the screening and said he was honored to help. After this part of the screening, the individuals would either go to the Auto Refractors, if over 40 years old, or move to either the station marked RX or Lensometer. The Lensometer station checked patients who already had glasses and the RX station checked the paperwork the patients had been issued at the first stations. Next up was the station where the patients met with optometrists to go over their prescriptions and any other issues. A few Optometry students from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona were assisting at this station. From here it was on to the computers where the information was finally entered, and the prescription recommended was matched with the correct glasses the patient would be given. At the Dispensing Station, individuals were given three choices for a pair of glasses, according to the prescription they had been assigned. Amazingly, over 18,000 pairs of glasses are held in the numbered storage shelves, ready for distribution. At the final station, volunteers and opticians awaited to check the fitting of the glasses and everyone would receive lens cloths and cases. A quick, speedy, concise set of procedures with little waiting time for those involved in the process.
Stopping by to assist with the first step in the screening process was Armen Kurdian, running for the Vista City Council District 4 seat, which will be vacated by John Franklin who is running for Vista Mayor. Armen was impressed with the eye screening process he saw and said more people should become fully engaged with helping in the community, regardless of what district they are from, and volunteering helps you connect with people in a positive way.
It was pointed out, by those in charge, if health conditions are noted during the examination and screening, the licensed volunteer optometrists and/or ophthalmologists will give the individual professional advice on seeking further professional care. No eyeglass, contact lens, and medical prescriptions are written from the screening process and no DMV, disability and school questionnaire reports are addressed through the screening process.
Donations from private individuals and Lions Multiple District 4 and over 50 individual Lions Clubs throughout Southern California finance and provide necessary materials and machinery to make this worthwhile program function. The California Lions Friends in Sight will next appear in La Habra on September 18, and they will return to San Diego County on November 13th in Ramona at the Mountain View Community Church.
The future of this program depends on help from several sources. The California Lions Friends in Sight web site sums up their future expectations as follows – “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.” For information on what you can do to help, go to www.clfis.info for specific details on donating, volunteering, and information about the organization.
The San Diego North County Lions Club • San Marcos Lions Club
Harbinson Canyon Lions Club • Pride of Vista Lions Club • Encinitas Lions Club
Thanks to our sponsors: Boys & Girls Club of Vista; Jersey Mikes and Big Jims 395 Grill; Star Bucks on Hacienda.