Area clubs funnel used glasses to Afghans with bad eyesight

Children in remote Afghanistan villages will see more clearly, thanks to a local Lions Club and a Mark Morris High School graduate serving there.

The Longview/Kelso Early Bird Lions Club mailed off 760 donated eyeglasses recently to Afghanistan, where an Air Force optometrist will distribute them to civilians, mostly children.

The Lions collect used glasses and hearing aids year-round, usually shipping them to the regional recycling and storage center in Lacey for cleaning and distribution. Doctors going on missions to developing countries can request glasses.

This project is different for two reasons. First, because Kerby Kee, past president of the Lions Club, is shipping the glasses directly to an Air Force optometrist. Second, because he learned of the need from Longview native Eric Worth, a sergeant in the Marines.

Worth, a 2004 Mark Morris grad, wrote his parents Lynn and Mike Worth earlier this year, asking that their church organize a school supply drive for children in southeastern Afghanistan. Worth is stationed there in a combat logistics regiment.

Four local Methodist churches ran the school supply drive, and Kee’s wife saw a notice in The Daily News saying eyeglasses also were needed.

Kee got in touch with Worth’s mom and then began e-mailing Worth in Afghanistan. Worth then put Kee in touch with the optometrist, Capt. Scott Martin of the Air Force.

“Some of the villages there have never even seen glasses,” Kee said. “It’s quite remote from what I understand.”

Martin will provide eye exams as well as the glasses to be sure the prescriptions match the children’s needs. Several reading glasses and sunglasses also were sent for adults, Kee said.

After discussing needs with Martin, the local Lions traveled to Olympia to pick up the glasses from the regional center. The donations also had to be repackaged in flat-rate shipping boxes before being sent to Afghanistan. The shipping costs, about $120, are being covered by the Lions.

“To me it’s a good program,” Kee said. “It really helps bring the goodness of Americans to the people over there.”