BOISE, Idaho — Old pairs of prescription glasses can now serve a new purpose through a local campaign helping those in need see for free.
Envision Sight, a Boise nonprofit organization, is the only eye bank in Idaho. It is also one of only 70 eye banks in the United States.
Envision offers free vision and hearing clinics and corneal transplants for people who can't afford eye care services inside its Cole Road facility.
"The reality is, our community's average (cost) is anywhere in the $200 to $300 range for a pair of glasses," Envision executive director Jay Lugo said. "We're not even talking about your eye exam yet. We're not talking about contact lenses. So, it can be a significant amount of money."
Through its Eye Care campaign, Envision Sight began collecting and restoring old glasses and hearing aids that they deliver to communities worldwide. In 2021, Envision donated over 110,000 pairs of glasses to those in need – including 43-year-old Treasure Valley resident Travis Willis.
Willis has diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes caused by damage to the blood vessels in a person's retina. After popping blood vessels in both eyes earlier this year, Willis said his vision dropped to 20/80 "or worse." According to the National Library of Medicine, people with 20/80 vision have a "Moderate Visual Impairment" and cannot legally drive a car.
Shortly after, Willis underwent surgery to help his vision but is still below the 20/20 standard and needs glasses to see clearly.
"Being as I had just gone through a layoff, and this did affect my career, it's like where do you go for help?" he said. "These guys were able to help me, and they did a great job.
"It was a good opportunity to say, 'Hey, there are still good programs. There are still good people out there," Willis said. "There are places that are willing to help."
Vision is something many take for granted, Envision Sight's Executive Director Jay Lugo said. But he said that for the people who walk into Envision's free vision clinics, the gift of glasses could change their lives.
"We often hear here at our offices at Envision that 'Now I can go get a job. Now I can fill out an application because I can see it and read it now," Lugo said. "Without a pair of glasses, they can't do that."
Envision accepts donated glasses at participating locations and through drop-off boxes throughout the year. This month, Larry Miller Honda in Boise has partnered with Envision Sight to collect glasses.
- Reading glasses
- Prescription glasses
- Hearing aids