Monday, March 24, 2003

Daily Grind

Eyeglasses change lives overseas

When Reggie Butler, a lead trainer at Roselawn-based Global Lead Management, decided to go to Thailand late last year, it was not to check out the white sand beaches or glorious sunsets.

Butler came to give away eyeglasses in an effort led by Luxottica Retail called "Give the Gift of Sight." The North American headquarters of the company - parent company of LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut and Watch Station - is in Mason, where about 1,000 are employed.

The Gift of Sight was founded in 1988 and has helped more than two million people in 25 developing countries see.

For millions of people worldwide, each day is a blur simply because they can't see, and they can't afford to spend two months' salary on a pair of glasses.

Butler is succinct when summing up the trip:

"The mission has forever changed my life."

If he picked just one person, one event, one memory from the trip, Butler said, it would be the tearful mother who waited in line for hours.

A translator told him that she had always been too poor for glasses and she always thought it would be that way, that she would never be able to clearly see the faces of her children.

The moment she put on her glasses and gazed up at Butler, she realized she would finally be able to gaze upon the faces of her two-year-old and four-year-old and see each detail of their small faces: the curve of their noses, their soft eyebrows, their eyelashes, their smiles.

"It was just heart-wrenching," Butler said.

Dave Reaves, regional vice president of operations in the Midwest Group, also went to Thailand for the two-week tour, where 33,000 people, who had been pre-tested, were retested, given an eye exam and, finally, fitted for glasses.

"It is really something to see 4,000 people wait in line all day for a pair of eyewear," Reaves said. One Luxottica associate brought her deceased grandmother's glasses halfway around the world in the hope that she could find somebody who needed them. After seven days, she finally found a woman who could use the prescription.

Another moving experience came at the end of one particularly long day. As the last person in line moved through the stations - No. 5,113 - volunteers began to applaud. It soon grew to a standing ovation.

And in the end, dozens of people gathered around the man to let their applause wash over him and each other there in that Third World gymnasium.

"We were all so thrilled," Reaves said. "And what got me, really, wasn't that he could see but that all these people cared so much that he could see."

Most of us can't go to Thailand for this kind of effort but there is a way to help: donate glasses at any LensCrafters location. Rest assured, those glasses will change somebody's world.

Tech seminar

Cisco Systems and PC On Call will have a seminar on how technology can reduce costs and boost revenues for average companies at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Metropolitan Club, 50 E. Rivercenter Blvd.

Joe Diodati, an information technology specialist and Cisco director of small and medium-sized businesses, will present the program for company owners and senior management. For information, call (888) 696-0696.


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