The Eyeglass Factory on Milpas Street helped postal carriers collect an estimated 10,000 pairs of used eyeglasses from South County residents on 5/9, which Direct Relief International will distribute internationally. Santa Barbara Postmistress Mary Frank and the postal workers union conducted such a drive several years ago, but it wasn’t repeated until Frank, who is retiring in a few months, and Santa Barbara Lion’s Club president Bill Redding tapped Eyeglass Factory owners Rick and Gregg Feldman to revivify it. They hope to make it an annual event.
The law forbids doctors from distributing used eyeglasses for patients within the US, but for people in areas of the world without access to eye care, said Feldman, “Any help is some help when you can’t see the blackboard, and when you can’t see what trees really look like.” DRI staff has the technology to scan the lenses and label them with the approximate prescription.
The Feldmans ten years ago founded the Right to Sight coalition, which provided about 1000 exams and brand new eyeglasses each year to Santa Barbarans who couldn’t afford to buy them. Optometrist Barry Mast, whose office is located next door to the Eyeglass Factory, has donated hundreds of exams to area residents, as have Dr. George Crimms and others affiliated with SEE International.