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Eyeglasses collection results sets new records on its tenth anniversary

Photo by Ellen Palczyk / University of Rochester

In March, the Sustainability Office held its annual eyewear recycling program as part of a larger effort to make eyecare more accessible to those in need. Once collected, the eyewear (frames, prescription glasses, sunglasses, non-prescription, etc.) are delivered to the Lions Eye Bank of the Northeast, and then sent to The Lions Club International to be cleaned and packaged for those in need around the world. As the program celebrates its tenth year it broke two new records in the total number collected and the number of participating departments. 3,230 people will see better thanks to the contributions of the University and its departments.

In addition to mailed-in entries and the drop-off box, eyeglasses were collected by University departments competing for two prize categories: most pairs collected and most “eye-catching” donation box. This year, 26 departments participated in the competition, up from nine in 2023! The departmental competition generated 2,357 eyeglasses donations, with Financial Case Management collecting the most (392 pairs) and Social Work and Patient Family Services winning the most “eye-catching” box for the fourth time.

There were also hundreds of donations via the drop-off box at the Flaum Eye Institute (616 pairs) and the mail-in program (257 pairs). Altogether 3,230 pairs were collected which, more than doubled the previous record from last year’s collection! Since the inception of the program in 2014, 14,866 pairs of glasses have been collected.

Polly Cherry, manager in Financial Case Management, was the point of contact for her team at the Medical Center. Cherry shared that their department helps patients every day with health insurance needs so collecting eyeglasses was just another way they could contribute to helping people. She acknowledged Medicaid Enrollment and Outreach Specialist Clara Fahey for creating their collection box and Elizabeth Vasquez, also a Medicaid enrollment and outreach specialist, for her outstanding effort in collecting glasses.

Ellen Palczyk was the point of contact for the Social Work and Patient Family Services team that created the most “eye-catching” box with the garden theme (pictured above). Palczyk shared that while the box decoration was a collaborative effort, it would not have been a winner without the creativity of Kelli Gates, accounting bookkeeper, and Kelly Ceraci, social work manager.

The departmental competition was created in the spirit of Campus Race to Zero Waste, another annual tradition led by the Sustainability Office and Facilities Team Green that occurs during the same time. Over the years, the number of competing departments has increased and culminated in a new record this year. Sustainability Senior Manager Amy Kadrie, who established the annual program said, “It becomes a team building activity for departments to design and create their boxes then promote and collect as many pairs of glasses they can. It brings so much joy to see the creative design ideas they come up with and the energy they put forward in collecting for this cause!” You can view pictures of all decorated boxes on the UR Sustainable Facebook page.

This year’s collection was Waste Minimization Specialist Phil Piedmont’s first time managing the annual eyeglass donation program. He was impressed by the number of participating departments and the record-breaking results, up by over double last year’s total. “It was great to see all the boxes from each department that competed for ‘most eye-catching box’ and the design of every box brought a smile to my face,” he said. “I feel as though everyone involved in this competition is a winner because it’s for such a good cause. I look forward to breaking the record again next year!”

Piedmont would like to thank Joann Beach and Karen Guarino at the Lions Eye Bank at Rochester, Merritt Woodward at University Mail Services, Courier Services Supervisor Daniel Juzwiak, Rachelle Riley at the URMC Post Office, Wendy Winslow at the Flaum Eye Institute, all 26 participating departments, and his colleagues in the Sustainability Office.

Written by Sarah Woodams ‘24(T5)

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