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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 3 years ago

Local Class of 2020 aims to collect, donate 2,020 eyeglasses

The senior classes at Windermere, Ocoee and West Orange high schools have banded together to collect 2,020 pairs of eyeglasses for Project Right to Sight.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Eyeglasses are not cheap, and there are many who can’t afford to purchase them.

However, the senior classes at three local high schools has a vision to help eyeglass wearers in West Orange County and beyond be able to see for free.

Windermere High Assistant Principal Sheri Robb has been wearing glasses since middle school and noticed she had a stockpile of old glasses she no longer used and wanted to donate. That’s when her husband told her about the Ocoee Lions Club and a project it helps spearhead called Project Right to Sight. 

Through this project, the Lions Club is able to provide reconditioned, recycled eyeglasses at no cost to homeless and uninsured people living in Central Florida and beyond.

“The Ocoee Lions Club is part of the District 35-O — which has members from several of the clubs in Central Florida — and what they do is they deal with glasses for Project Right to Sight,” said Melissa Tanner, president of the Ocoee Lions Club. “People donate them, we organize and sort them. They get cleaned, tested for the prescription and get boxed based on that prescription. Project Right to Sight is also a warehouse so they store these glasses we’ve collected and they have an area where they have glasses if there’s someone who comes through there that needs eyeglasses.”

Erma Brathwaite-LaMotta, a technology teacher at Windermere High, told Robb that as a component of her classes, the students needed to identify a community-service project to give back through each year. With Project Right to Sight in her mind, Robb knew it was the perfect choice. 

“I told (Brathwaite-LaMotta) about my idea — and I like to come up with quirky names for things — and it hit me that this is the Class of 2020 we’re getting ready to graduate in the spring,” Robb said. “That’s where 2020 for 20/20 came from. She’s an amazingly dynamic lady who really puts her heart and soul into everything so she was totally on board.”

Robb reached out to all 20 Orange County public high schools and technical colleges to challenge them to join the campaign. Thus far, there are five other high schools and now an elementary school on board — West Orange, Ocoee, Apopka, East River and Timber Creek high schools, as well as Washington Shores Elementary. 

The goal of 2020 for 20/20 is to collect 2,020 pairs of glasses by the end of the 2019-20 school year to donate to the Lions Club for Project Right to Sight.

“We’re always glad for people that want to help us collect eyeglasses,” Tanner said. “We take eyeglasses, readers, prescription sunglasses and regular sunglasses. It’s always nice when someone wants to do that. … It raises awareness that (people) realize there’s organizations like us out there and I think that’s important to me, and it gives glasses to help those in need. We’re always excited to get help.”

Recently, Project Right to Sight sent 500 pairs of eyeglasses and 3,000 pairs of sunglasses to those impacted by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Any glasses donations collected are a welcome sight, as they will help replenish the warehouse stock.

Robb said the students have dived right into the project and love being part of something that will help the community. They maintain the three boxes set up at Windermere High — one in Robb’s office, one in the front office and another in the media center. Then, they take it a step further and help prepare the glasses for donation.

“Once they collect glasses out of the boxes, our kids are painstakingly cleaning them and checking them out and separating them by prescription and type,” Robb said. “Then they’re lovingly putting them in storage, where they’re saving them until it comes time to make the donation. They keep talking to friends and organizations about it. They’re running the whole thing. It’s not a rivalry — this is OCPS getting together to do this. This is people working together, and it’s pretty cool. This is about us working together for a common good.”

Robb added that she believes it’s just as important for the schools to give back to the community as it is for the community to support the schools. The students have served as docents for events at local elementary and middle schools and the band plays at community events, so this is another way for them to support those who have supported them.

Sponsors and liaisons at the other schools involved also have jumped on board and created boxes, posted on social media and sent out flyers and notices in newsletters. Robb does not yet have a total count for how many pairs of glasses have been collected thus far across the board, but she estimates Windermere High has collected several dozen. The idea is to donate all the glasses collected at the end of the school year.

“It’s something to get excited about, something to get behind, something to see the kids get into,” Robb said. “It feels good. Rather than have glasses sit on a dusty table somewhere, they’re brought in and donated. We will take the number 2,020 any way we can get it. I think it’d be unbelievable if we could get 2,020 glasses per school, but the idea is just to get the word out there. This is just another way that we can have our students giving back to the communities in which they live.”

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Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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