Lions Club member on P.E.I. helps collect close to 40,000 eyeglasses

Ancelene MacKinnon
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St. Eleanor’s Lion’s Club member Charlie Corkum poses with one of the many boxes that contain close to 8,000 pairs of eyeglasses that will be shipped to those in need in third world countries.

Charlie Corkum helps St. Eleanor’s Lion’s Club collect glasses for shipment to third world countries

Inside Charlie Corkum’s suitcase, among his clothing and other items needed for a vacation in Cuba, were about 200 pairs of eyeglasses.

“Most of the resorts in Cuba have a nursing station,” he said. “I took the glasses to give to the doctor. His eyes got that wide,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “He said, ‘We have a clinic right down the road.’ He was excited and got the nurse; they really appreciated it.”

Corkum has been a member of the St. Eleanor’s Lion’s Club for more than 30 years.

Since 1991, he has helped collect upwards of 40,000 eyeglasses to be shipped to third world countries.

“I knew it was something the Lions did. I was in the club for a number of years and nobody was collecting them. I decided to start myself, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” said the 90 year old.

The majority are used eyeglasses that are given to Corkum by local optometrists, but people also donate old and new pairs to the club.

“The optometrists are all for me doing that. If I don’t get around to pick them up, they’ll pack them and keep them for me,” he said.

More than 1,000 pairs are collected annually. Corkum added, it would be a “terrible waste” if the glasses weren’t given to new owners in need.

“Glasses are fairly expensive. If they just went in the garbage it would be a shame because someone could use them.”

It’s a good feeling to do any act of kindness that benefits other people, he said.

“Everyone pitches in, and Lions are good that way. The project is important to the club because it helps other people, and that’s what we’re here for.”

Lions Club treasurer Stew Arkwell said close to 8,000 pairs of eyeglasses currently sit in boxes at the club.

The process has changed as the glasses are now sorted on the Island.

“We would ship them to Edmonton to be sorted there, and then they went off to various Third World countries. This will save us a lot of money on shipping.”

Inmates at the Sleepy Hollow jail will sort all of the glasses, which is expected to begin at the end of the month, he added.

Arkwell is impressed with Corkum’s hard work and dedication.

“You tell me how many other 90-year-olds are going around and doing it. He has put an awful lot of work into it over the years and an awful lot of work into the Lions Club.”

Lions Clubs around the world donate eyeglasses.

“Lions International sends optometrists down to fit the people for the eyeglasses. There are people who haven’t been able to see well their whole lives, and now they can because of the eyeglasses that get shipped to them,” said Arkwell.

The club also works with local people who are blind or visually impaired, he added.

“We’re a service club and that’s what service clubs are about. It’s rewarding to know you’re going out and helping other people.”

Organizations: Lions Clubs, Third World

Geographic location: Cuba, Edmonton

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