Contributions sought to keep Lions Club Sight Van running

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 23, 2002

The charitable service of checking the eyesight of schoolchildren across the state is in jeopardy because few donations arecoming in to help run the Lions Club Sight Van, club officialssaid.

Lions Club member and volunteer L. Ralph Smith of Brookhaven ishoping to find funding for the van, which belongs to the stateLions Club, so that the service may be continued throughout theschool year.

“Each place I go I just make people aware that we can only do itthrough donations,” said Smith.

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The van’s services were almost dropped earlier this year by theLions Club at a state meeting. An assessment showed the service wasnot only short in funding, but also in the number of volunteersneeded to run the facility.

“In August, I attended the state board meeting, and the van wasone of the main topics of discussion,” said Smith. “They were goingto have to park it, but I stepped up and said I would find thefunding and I would run it.”

Since then, Smith has taken the recreational vehicle filled witheyesight testing equipment to dozens of schools around the state,checking the eyes of thousands of children.

“I’ve run the full length of the state from Diamondhead toCorinth,” said Smith, adding that the vehicle, which was donated byBryan Foods a few years ago, has now exceeded 136,000 miles.

He has put more than 5,300 miles on the vehicle going fromschool to school from September to December. The vehicle had a newwindshield and new door glass installed, as well as work on thegenerator during the trips.

With the help of Lions Club volunteers in each town, Smithaveraged checking the eyesight of 125 children for every hour thevehicle was in service at a school. His log book shows that more14,000 people had their eyes tested in just three months.

However, his journey is not complete yet. More school childrenstill need the help of the Lions Club Sight Van in determiningwhether they need eye glasses.

“We’re hoping to get enough machines that local clubs can checkthem out and no child will be missed,” said Smith. “My main concernis the kids.”

The Lions Club Sight Van is often the first step toward bringingbetter grades for a child who was struggling to see the chalkboardbut didn’t know why. Through the Lions Club service countlesschildren’s eyesight problems were caught early on, allowing theirparents to get glasses for them.

The van can also be used to assist adults in the fight forhealthier lifestyles.

“It’s equipped to check for diabetes, blood pressure andglaucoma,” said Smith.

Donations are the sole source of funding for the Lions ClubSight Van. Anyone wishing to help the service continue may senddonations to Lions Club Sight Van Equipment, 313 E. CherokeeStreet, Brookhaven, MS 39601.

Smith has always been dedicated to charitable services, and sayshe lives by the motto: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

He hopes others will follow his lead and see the importance ofthe valuable services offered by the Lions Club Sight Van.