Over the Hill

Locals work together to give the gift of sight

After school Tuesday, 12 Paso Robles High School students gathered in a classroom. They spent two hours using lensometers to measure the prescriptions of hundreds of pairs of used eyeglasses. Next February many people in Honduras will receive those glasses free, and will see more clearly.

The students are helping the I Care International organization. It gives glasses and hearing aids to people in need in Central America, Mexico, South America and the United States. It was founded in Illinois in 1989 by two optometrists, Drs. Philip Ortiz and the late Charles D. Cools. Ortiz now lives part-time in Avila Beach, and has for several years.

Eight years ago Jay Adams and her husband Klaus Schumann of Paso Robles heard about I Care International. They volunteered, and have gone on seven of its missions. They will go on the Honduras mission in February.

The old glasses are donated through cooperating optometrists and at fundraising events. Schumann gathers them up, gets them cleaned and gets their lens prescriptions measured. The Lions Club also contributes some of the used glasses that it collects.

Schumann said Cal Poly students clean the thousands of used glasses every year at their “Make-A-Difference Day.” In October he starts taking the cleaned glasses to teacher Anne Spohnhauer’s room at Paso Robles High. She is coordinator for the AVID program. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

She has about 140 AVID students. The goal is to prepare them to be the first generation of their families to graduate from four-year universities.

AVID requires them to do community service. Their eyeglass work counts toward that goal. Schumann has three lensometers to measure the glasses’ prescriptions. The students take turns operating them. They also inspect the glasses and write the prescription for each pair on its individual plastic envelope.

On Thursday they were to start sorting the glasses by prescription numbers. Schumann and Day will also sort some. They expect to take 5,000 to 6,000 pairs to Honduras in February.

He said about 37 volunteers from California and Illinois are expected to go on that four-day mission, including six or eight optometrists. All pay their own way. Some members of the mission will dispense free hearing aids. You may donate old, even broken, hearing aids at the Paso Robles High School Administrative office.

For more information you may go to www.icareinternational.org or call Klaus Schumann at 238-4454.

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.