Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. of Virginia

The Lions Eyeglass Recycling Inc., located in Roanoke, Virginia is one of six recycling centers located in the United States. Other centers are located in France, South Africa and Spain. Lions Clubs operate all of these centers. The Virginia center began operation in July 1993.

Used eyeglasses are sent to the center from all parts of  the eastern United States. Lions Clubs are the principal collectors of used eyeglasses but other organizations have become interested in this worthwhile project and have joined in collecting glasses. A number of school aged children have been working to collect glasses and enjoy being involved with this work.

We need to constantly replenish our supply of used eyeglasses. We appreciate each pair we receive and thank all of you who have supported this project.

The Lions Eyeglass Recycling Inc. center of Multiple District 24 is located in Roanoke, VA at 501 Elm Avenue, SW. Volunteers do the work and we welcome and encourage visitors and workers at any time. Daytime and weekend hours can be arranged to accommodate groups.

The Cycles of Recycling

Used eyeglasses in any condition are utilized for recycling. We receive used eyeglasses on a daily basis, from an individual bringing in a couple of pairs to the office to a truckload of 40,000 pair. On an average month we process between 8 to 10 thousand pair of eyeglasses. You have probably assumed that this is a continuing process and it is, but one that is very rewarding to anyone who has a minor part in it. We are told that words just cannot express the emotions a person has when he or she puts on a pair of glasses and sees well for the first time in a long time. Some of the people are not aware that their sight can be improved until they have glasses fitted to them.

The glasses are weighed for a count and then the metal framed glasses are separated from the plastic framed glasses. Only plastic frames are used for distribution to foreign countries. Metal frames are very important to us also, because they are sold for the precious metal. The income from the sale of the metal framed eyeglass is used for operational expenses at the center.

Plastic framed glasses are hand washed, sterilized and hand dried. Glasses that are damaged are discarded at this point in the process. Cleaning the eyeglasses is the most time consuming task of the recycling process. Glasses that have been kept for a long period of time have an accumulation of dirt and grease that is difficult to remove.

The next step is to determine the prescription of the glasses. This is done with a digital read-out lensometer. Both lenses are read and recorded on the outside of a plastic shipping bag. There are 6 lensometers at the center and volunteers are trained to use these instruments. Two to three people are required for this step of the process procedure. One person operates the lensometer, another person records the prescription on the shipping plastic bag and the third person places the glasses in the plastic shipping bag and seals it.

The glasses are then sorted by type: men's, women's, children's, single, bifocal or trifocal lens and the prescription. The next step in the process is to pack the glasses according to the lens prescription. Fifty pairs of glasses are packed in a small box. Eight small boxes are than packed in a larger box. In the larger box a total of 400 pairs of glasses are ready to be identified for shipping. This large box is used for storage and distribution.

Requests for these processed eyeglasses come to the Lions Eyeglasses Recycling, Inc. from various medical and missionary organizations directly or through the Indiana Lions Eyeglass Recycling Facility. Indiana Lions Eyeglass Recycling center is where an inventory list of process eyeglass are kept. Groups such as Southern Baptist Ministries, World Relief Volunteer Optometric Services, Feed the Children, Spirit & Truth Ministries and Bless the Children Foundation are some of the groups the Lions Eyeglass Recycling. Inc. has provided glasses. These groups make the arrangements with the country involved for shipping, most often being assisted by a local Lions Club in the receiving country. The Lions Clubs in the receiving country make the necessary arrangements for housing, local travel, eye examination and the distribution of the eyeglasses. The destination of our shipments of eyeglasses have been to Venezuela, South Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, St. Lucia, Rumania, Philippines, Moldova, Kenya, Mexico, Haiti, Nepal, Sudan, Guyana, Cuba, India and others countries. Glasses are provided free of charge to the group requesting glasses. Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. asked the requesting organization to pay the shipping costs. Ophthalmologists and Optometrists accompany the groups to examine and fit people with the eyeglasses.

LensCrafters collect used eyeglasses and ships them to the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. in Roanoke, Virginia. From these and other donated eyeglass the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. process them for shipping. LensCrafters conducts 8 mission tours a year. We get compliments from these organizations and praise for the caliber of work and eyeglasses that we have provided them. These groups have been collecting and recycling eyeglasses in their homes and they are so amazed and grateful when they find out about the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. Thay can not believe that all they have to do is call with their request for eyeglasses. Frequently it is hard to convince the organization that the only charge for the eyeglass is the freight charges from our location to theirs.

Lion members and other volunteers handle all the processing tasks and they are wonderful and a dedicated group of people, however there is always a need for additional help. If you are interested in volunteering some hours at the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. in Roanoke, Virginia please contact us by Phone: 540-345-9760 or 540-345-8823 or Fax: 540-982-8195 or email:

Glasses, Glasses, Glasses

The number of recycled eyeglasses that have been shipped to other organizations from Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. is as follows:

1993-94;   16,000 pairs
1094-95;   58,300 pairs
1995-96;   66,175 pairs
1996-97; 104,300 pairs
1997-98; 114,000 pairs
1998-99; 117,200 pairs

The following figures are not included in the above total. 138,000 pairs of sunglasses, unprocessed eyeglasses and "difficult to place" eyeglasses to FEED THE CHILDREN. This organization is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA and provides all types of charitable services around the world.

The History of the Virginia Eyeglass Recycling Center

The collection of used eyeglasses has been a long time project of Lions Clubs all over the world. The Lions in Virginia had been collecting and shipping eyeglasses to an organization in New Jersey for a number of years. They were processed there and sent to developing nations according their own particular process.

The Lions of Virginia Districts 24-C, E and F in the early 1970's formed and developed the Lions Eyebank of Virginia. In 1971, a large building was constructed at 501 Elm Avenue, SW in Roanoke, VA to house this organization. In 1991, this Eye bank merged with the Old Dominion Eye Bank in Richmond, Virginia. Branch offices are maintained in Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Abingdon, Virginia.  Several name changes occurred during these twenty years, with the most recent and final change being to the Lions Sight Foundation of Virginia Inc.

At about this same time (1991), the Lions Club International Foundation had a pilot project in Indiana where used eyeglasses were recycled for use by the less fortunate, particularly those in Third World countries. The six District Governors of Multiple District 24 sought and received from Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF), and with the help of Past International Director, Jim Cameron, this center was designated as one of five recycling centers in the United States. There are a total of nine Lions Recycling Centers worldwide. They are located in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, France, Spain, and South Africa.

Come and Visit Our Operation

The center in Roanoke, Virginia is known officially as the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. and is housed in the basement portion of the Lions Sight Foundation Building. The basement consists of 9 large rooms and is completely occupied by the recycling center.

The Lions of Northern Virginia in conjunction with the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. in Roanoke, Virginia has setup a facility in Northern Virginia to process eyeglasses.  It is known as the Lions Eyeglass Recycling of Northern Virginia (A Division of Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc.) The Lions Eyeglass Recycling of Northern Virginia is located at 212 N. West Street, Falls Church, Virginia, USA. Phone: 703-241-7004, Fax: 703-241-7019, email:

We love to have visitors and give tours at either of the facility, so if you are ever in our area, please stop by and see our operation. No appointment is necessary

Donation of Used Eyeglasses

If you would like to donate used eyeglasses to the Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc. please use one of the following methods of shipping. Small quantities should be shipped by U.S. Postal Service to the

 Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc.
 P. O. Box 1772
 Roanoke, VA 24008

Larger quantities should be shipped by United Parcel Service (UPS) to the

 Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc.
 501 Elm Avenue, S. W.
 Roanoke, VA 24016

Or if one is bringing them by a vehicle please contact the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Inc. by phone, fax or e-mail to ensure that a Lion will be available to help unload the eyeglasses. Please delivery these eyeglasses to the following address:

 Lions Eyeglass Recycling, Inc.
 501 Elm Avenue, S. W.
 Roanoke, VA 24016

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