By KRYSTI SHALLENBERGER
Last spring when Darleen Hyatt went to an optometrist appointment, Dr. Sara Gordon told her about a need for eyeglasses for her upcoming medical mission trip to South Africa. Hyatt wanted to help, but she told God that she didn’t have the time.
Three days later, Hyatt found out she lost her job—and her excuse.
“I always wanted to be a missionary, and this was perfect for me.” Hyatt said.
Hyatt started collecting extra eyewear from fellow members at Brook Hills Church for Gordon’s trip. When she called frame distributers to discuss donations, Hyatt found there were no active organizations in the community that collected and donated glasses for free that served everyone. Some denominations collected eyewear, but they only supplied donations to people in need in their own denominations or mission trips. This realization led Hyatt to begin collecting glasses for any and all in need.
Hyatt next enrolled at Jefferson State Community College for her ophthalmic technician certification. This training enabled her work at an optometrist’s office and sort donated glasses by prescription type herself. At the same time, she talked to distributers about donations and began collecting reading glasses to send overseas and around the Birmingham area.
Significant participation in her church spurred Hyatt to start the process to become a non-profit organization. In April, I Can See, I Can Read became an official organization named for people’s reactions to their new glasses.
Thus far, Brook Hills Church has collected more than 800 prescription glasses alone. Hyatt coordinates with the staff at the church, which sponsors more than 20 mission trips a year, to figure out the number of glasses to send with them.
Hyatt also works with Tracy Hipps, director of the Christian Service Mission in Birmingham, who distributes them to various places in need, such as homeless shelters. Together, they have collected 6,000 glasses to give away.
The April tornadoes brought an even greater need in the Birmingham area for glasses, specifically reading glasses.
“The greatest demand are actually reading glasses,” Hyatt said. “Most people don’t realize that they can get them at Walmart or the Dollar Tree. People just adjust to holding the newspaper farther away or buying magnifying glasses.”
I Can See, I Can Read has collection boxes at the Starbuck’s at Highways 119 and 280 and Therapy South near Jim ‘N Nick’s on Highway 280. Hyatt reminds people that reading glasses can cost as little as a dollar at Walmart or dollar stores and encourages people in the area to consider giving glasses.
“Donate 10 dollars, and change 10 lives,” Hyatt said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.icanseeicanread.org or call 702-4899.
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