New Eyes for the Needy

November 8, 2008 9:29:47 AM PST
A local program that works to help people see the world more clearly is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Through its volunteers and people like you, almost a half-million people have received the glasses they so desperately need.

Susan Dyckman, the executive director of New Eyes for the Needy, and Clelia Biamonti, the president of the Board of Trustees, answered some questions about the organization.

Q. What is New Eyes for the Needy?

A. 501c3 non profit located in Short Hills, NJ that purchases new prescription glasses for poor children and adults in the U.S. and recycles donated glasses for distribution to indigent people overseas

Q. How did New Eyes get started?

A. Founded in 1932 by Julia Lawrence Terry, then a resident of Short Hills, who was volunteering for the Red Cross in lower Manhattan. She began collecting glasses for applicants for assistance that couldn't see the forms. Realized a better solution was to provide them with their own prescription glasses. Secured a smelter's license and began collecting glasses so that gold frames could be melted down and the money used to buy new glasses.

Q. Who gets glasses in the U.S.?

A. People living at federal poverty level or below, are uninsured or have insurance plans that do not pay for glasses. Help people in all 50 states.

Must have had an eye exam within the past 12 months.
Only criterion is financial need.
Children living in poverty
Working poor adults
Disabled and out-of-work adults
The homeless, those working through drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs

Q. What is important for poor children and adults to get help getting glasses?

A. Uncorrected sight can prohibit a child from getting an education; it can make it impossible for a working age adult to get a job, keep it and support his family; it can prevent a senior from living safely and independently in her own home.

Q. How big is the problem of uncorrected vision?

For children
80% of learning occurs through sight during the first 12 years of life Estimated that 1 in 4 school-age children have undiagnosed vision problems significant enough to affect their performance in school and life For at-risk populations, such as children living in poverty, this percentage is likely to be much higher If a child has glasses that get broken and they cannot be replaced, given insurance restrictions, a full year of learning may be lost until they quality for a new pair 70% of juvenile offenders have undiagnosed vision problems

For adults
Prospect of losing one vision's and, subsequently, one's independence is a major concern among today's adult Americans American Foundation for the Blind survey of 1,000 adults showed that 75% identified loss of independence as their number one concern if they lost their eyesight, followed by the inability to read, identify medications and drive

For seniors
AARP states that the ability to be independent and 'in charge' helps to define one's quality of life Poor vision limits a senior's ability to manage daily living activities like meal preparation, reading prescription labels, managing stairs

Q. How do people find out about New Eyes?

A. Website, social service agencies, school nurses

Q. Can people apply for assistance on the website?

A. People in need of assistance can download an application that must be returned to New Eyes with a copy of their recent eye prescription. They can mail or fax it in.

Q. Does New Eyes give people money to buy glasses?

A. New Eyes uses a voucher program to get people the glasses they need. Once an applicant is approved for assistance, he will receive a voucher that can be taken to any optician to have the glasses made, provided he will accept New Eyes' reimbursement rates. We partner with more than 4,000 optical dispensers across the country, including Wal-Mart Vision Centers. Once the glasses are made, the optician returns a portion of the voucher to New Eyes and is reimbursed within two weeks.

Q. How much do glasses cost?

A. The average price of a pair of glasses in the U.S. is $250. Thanks to our partnerships, New Eyes' cost is approximately $60/pair.

Q. Doesn't insurance cover the cost of glasses?

A. Not everyone has a vision plan as part of their health insurance. Some vision plans will only allow for a single pair of glasses every year or every two years. This can be a problem when a child breaks his glasses.

Q. Where does New Eyes get funding to buy glasses?

A. We rely primarily on individual donations, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships and special events. We also have a jewelry and giftware re-sale showroom at our facility in Short Hills. Fabulous Finds is open Thursday afternoons and certain Saturdays during the school year and is completely volunteer run. The showroom contains estate and costume jewelry, watches, silver, crystal, china and giftware - all available at bargain prices because the merchandise is all donated to New Eyes for re-sale.

Q. What percentage of an individual donation goes toward the purchase of glasses?

A. 100%

Q. How many people has New Eyes helped in the U.S.?

A. 366,000 over the past 76 years

Q. Where has New Eyes helped the most people?


Q. Tell me about the eyeglass recycling program

A. New Eyes receives thousands of pairs of glasses every week. These are recycled for distribution to poor people in developing nations around the world through small medical missions and large charities such as Physicians for Peace and Feed The Children. Our recycling effort is completely volunteer-driven and is managed by a member of our Board of Trustees.

Q. Where do the glasses come from?

A. All across the country. From individuals, opticians, civic organizations such as the Lions Club and Knights of Columbus, eyeglass manufacturers, corporations, religious groups, funeral homes, etc.

Q. How do the glasses get overseas?

A. Volunteers process requests from small medical missions headed by U.S.-based eye doctors and medical teams. We will supply them with 200-400 pairs of glasses that they transport themselves. New Eyes also supplies glasses to large charities that ship their materials in large containers around the world. For example, in the spring, Physicians for Peace picked up hundreds of cartons containing 33,000 pairs of glasses and eyeglass cases.

Q. Where do the glasses go?

A. New Eyes glasses have traveled to 56 countries, including Argentina, Cambodia, Ghana, Iraq, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda and Ukraine.

Q. How big is the New Eyes staff?

A. Not very. New Eyes has two 30-hour/week positions: the executive director and U.S. program voucher coordinator, a position that is job-shared. In addition, we have an opening for a part-time community relations coordinator.

Q. Does New Eyes use volunteers?

A. New Eyes is fortunate to have about 150 volunteers of all ages and stages of life. They range in age from 14 year old high school freshman to 87 year old seniors that give generously of their time. We rely on volunteers to sort and re-package glasses; to sort, clean and price jewelry and giftware donations; to staff the showroom sales; to provide administrative support; and to assist with special events.

Q. How many facilities do you have?

A. One

Q. Does New Eyes collect anything besides glasses?

A. We take jewelry and giftware donations. We also collect hearing aids that New Eyes recycles to earn money for the voucher program.

Q. How can people help New Eyes help others?

Make a cash donation. A gift of just $60 will buy the glasses that can turn someone's life around. Donors can give right on New Eyes website,

Recycle. Donate used eyeglasses, hearing aids, jewelry and giftware.
Sponsor an eyeglass collection drive.
Shop at Fabulous Finds.

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