Local organization provides eyeglasses to those in need

Staci Poston, Assistant Editor

A local couple has taken it upon themselves to help improve the eyesight of people in Africa, Romania and Mozambique. George and Sandra Chace run Eyes for Africa, a charitable organization that collects and distributes eyeglasses to those in need.

George came up with the idea and started the organization 11 years ago. He was inspired by his church.

The couple attends Calvary Baptist Church in Florence. Chace said that the Florence Baptist Association formed a partnership with a church in Romania 12 years ago and began making mission trips there to do a combination of evangelical and medical work.

Since the second year of the mission trips, Chace has gone and fitted people for eyeglasses. His wife has accompanied him for the past three years.

“It’s a joy to help people see,” Chace said.

The couple recently returned from a similar trip to Mozambique.

“We took seven footlockers of glasses with us,” Chace said.

Chace said that the supply of eyeglasses does not meet the demand.

“When you get in places like that, all you have to do is turn up,” Chace said. “People find out. At the start of the day there’s a line, at the end of the day there’s still a line, and when you leave there’s still a line.”

The organization gladly accepts donations, but the demand is so high that they end up buying most of the eyeglasses that they distribute.

“We buy over half of our glasses,” Chace said. “Sandra stays on EBay.”

They also stay on the lookout for sales at local stores.

When he gets a new pair of glasses, Chace reads the strength of the lenses, labels them, sorts them and packs them to take on the next trip.

“It’s unbelievable the number of people that are actually legally blind that have never had a pair of glasses because they can’t afford them,” Chace said. “We run into people that cannot see their hand because they have never been able to afford a pair of eyeglasses. That’s awful.”

Mrs. Betty Ramey, associate professor of English at FMU, helps collect eyeglasses for the organization.

“I got involved with the collection of eyeglasses last spring, but I have known George and Sandra and worked with them at Calvary Baptist Church for a long time,” Ramey said.

Ramey collects donations from many different sources, including colleagues and family members. She also buys eyeglasses from grocery stores and thrift shops.

Ramey encourages people to donate eyeglasses that they no longer use to help support the organization.

“I knew that the gift of sight was a wonderful gift to give someone who could not see well,” Ramey said. “It could help an individual be able to obtain work to support a family or become independent. Often glasses are just cluttering drawers after people change prescriptions, so it is a blessing when they can be recycled.”

All types of glasses are welcomed. Prescription glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses and even lab glasses can all be used in some way or another.

Anyone who would like to donate eyeglasses can do so through Professor Ramey. Her office is located in room 145 of Founders Hall. Her husband Dr. Ramey, who is a professor in the Mathematics Department, also accepts donations.