District 11 C1, Zone 1, Region 1



Lions of Michigan

Vision Missions


In 1987, interest in these missions was started by Lion Dr. Dennis Cobler, Past International Director when he was invited by PDG Bill Trubey from Indiana. It was the Lions of Indiana and the Indiana VOSH (Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity) that were making vision missions to Central America.


Since 1991, members of the Muskegon Northside Lions Club have been processing used eye glasses for distribution in Central and South America. Members, along with Lions, Lioness and non-Lions from throughout the State of Michigan, have also taken part in Vision Missions to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. Locally, efforts are coordinated by Lions Jim Wolffis, Richard Carlson and Larry Holstrom. In 1998, members of the Detroit Northwest Lions Club joined the team to provide services to the poor of Lima, Peru. The Detroit Northwest Lions Club and the Lima Lions Club are "Twins." This effort also saw some very special vision equipment donated to the people of Peru through a grant from LCIF- Campaign Sight First (Lions Clubs International Foundation). An LCIF-Campaign Sight First grant also helped provide a laser unit for the San Miguel, El Salvador Lions' eye clinic. The Muskegon Northside Lions Club and the San Miguel Lions Club are "Twins."


Used glasses are received, sorted, cleaned, neutralized (prescriptions verified), bagged, inventoried and boxed for shipment. A pair of glasses may be handled ten or more times before it reaches a mission site and is dispensed. In the sorting process, glasses are examined for deteriorated or damaged frames, scratched lenses, or prescriptions not suitable for the areas served by our missions. For an average four day mission, 10,000 pairs of eye glasses are necessary. Along with the glasses, specialized equipment for dispensing, various donated medicines, toys and religious articles are shipped to the host Lions club where the mission will take place. All bags and boxes containing eye glasses are labeled "Lions of Michigan Vision Missions" because the glasses come from all over the State of Michigan and as do many of the team members. It should be noted that some processed eye glasses come from Lions in Las Vegas and the Wisconsin Lions Foundation as well. Usable glasses, not suited for our missions are sent to the Wisconsin Lions Foundation or the Lions of Indiana for distribution in areas our teams do not go. Recently we have enlisted the aid of inmates at a local prison facility to help clean glasses as part of an out reach program.

In the past, glasses were tagged with the prescription and placed in boxes. At the mission site "pickers" would sort through the many boxes trying to match the prescriptions written by the doctors to those of the boxed glasses. This was a very tedious and time consuming process involving as many as 8-10 persons. One of our members, Lion Frank DiPiazza, wrote a computer program that catalogs the glasses by prescription, male-female-child, and assigns a serial number. When it comes time to dispense the glasses, the computer operator enters the doctor's prescription and gender and the computer will select the three prescriptions that match or come close to the actual prescription. What a time saver. This program is also being used by other Lions vision groups and by Mercy Ships. Non-profit groups interested in the program should contact the Webmaster (click here).


Usually team members will stay in hotels although on occasion, team members have stayed with local Lions who act as host families . Each team member pays their own way that is they pay for travel, food, lodging (other than when staying with a host family) and any incidentals. Team members staying with host families usually take a gift for those who provide us food, shelter and transportation.

An average mission will last eight days (Leave on Friday night or early Saturday morning and return on the following Saturday night). The first two are travel and set up of the mission site. The next four are for clinic. One day is set aside for rest and sightseeing and the last day is for travel home. In excess of 1,000 persons may be examined in one day. This depends on the number of optometrists and dispensers. An average number seen is 800.


To some this may not seem like quality eye care. Here in the U.S. an average eye exam takes about an hour. On a mission it takes 5-10 minutes. But in a country where vision examinations are all but nonexistent and eye glasses are a real luxury. What is provide is much better then nothing. The effects are monumental. Teams members have seen young mothers who have only been able to see their children through clouded or blurred vision can see them clearly. Older citizens who now can read their Bibles after not being able for many, many years. There is the occasion when an older gentleman put on a pair of glasses and turned to his wife and said, "You are as beautiful as I remember." There are many definitions for quality eye care and this program is one of them.


Local Lions provide needed interpreters, registration persons, "runners" and crowd control. They also provide lunches and other refreshments. Local Lions may also be trained in dispensing or other functions of the team. Depending on the location, cataract surgeries may also be performed. In Central America, cataracts are very common due to the bright, hot sun and the fact that the people use little or no eye protection. On the last mission to San Miguel, El Salvador, more than 2,000 persons were screened for diabetes. That is a lot of finger sticks.


From time to time team members get to share the joys of local citizens when someone is fitted with an artificial eye. Occasions when a boy or girl, disfigured by the ravages of civil war, a birth defect, infection or injury, can forever smile with their whole face and not be ashamed of their damaged or missing eye. These joyous occasions are shared by all. Be assured that tears of joy are flowing by all the team. It is their only real reward.

Mission 2009 was held in Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico during February 16-22, 2009. The team was hosted by the Lions of Comitan as well as two other Lions Clubs in the area. The team was able to examine 2,400 patients during the four days of clinics that were held in the Lions' building across from the street from the team
's hotel. The site required the 16 team members to split up and travel different routes to get there. One group had to spend a night in Mexico City on the way down then meeting up with the other team members for a flight into Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. That was followed by a very long bus ride to Comitan which is 25 miles north of Guatemala.


2010 The mission team went to Santiago, Dominican Republic where we saw 2800-3000 patients then spending our off day at a all inclusive resort for the weekend before the return trip home.

2011 found the team in Aguascalientes, Mexico where again 2800-3000 patients were seen before the trip back to the USA.

2012 mission was to Port au Prince, Haiti with a small team of 14, including 3 ODs, with 1400 patients being examined. The country still has not recovered from the 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of the city. The clinic was held in a partially destroyed church building with the buildings completely gone on each side of the church. The team stayed in a small Catholic orphanage in the evenings while there and we caught the western edge of Hurricane Sandy the day we left the country.


After twenty-five years we turned the project over to the Grand Rapids, MI Lions Club who are continuing what Lion Dr. Dennis Cobler started with us. We continue to collect used eye glasses throughout the greater Muskegon area.




Those interested in donating used medical equipment, supplies, and/or medicines, the Muskegon Northside Lions Club has a 501(c)(3) corporation (Muskegon Northside Lions Charities, Inc. ) that can offer tax credits. To donate used eye glasses, check out the page elsewhere on this web site. We also collect used hearing aids that can be refurbished and used locally. To contact is you should contact us elsewhere on this web site for more info, or write: 

Lions of Michigan Vision Missions

1769 Gladstone Drive

Muskegon, Michigan 49445 U.S.A.



We are a 501(c)(3) Corporation.








Muskegon Northside Lions Club

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Web address: 
Club Telephone: 231-744-8924


Lion Emblem


M i s s i o n s
1987 Comayagua Honduras
1988 Tactic Guatemala
1989 Comayagua Honduras
1990 Linares Mexico
1991 Monterrey / Apodaca Mexico
1992 Comayagua   Honduras
1993 Tegucigalpa   Honduras
1994 San Miguel El Salvador
1995 San Miguel El Salvador
1996 San Miguel El Salvador
1997 Managua Nicaragua
1998 Lima Peru
1999 San Miguel El Salvador
2000 Jutiapa Guatemala
2001 Morelia Mexico
2002 Puerto Vallarta / Tomatlan Mexico
2003 Mascota / Tomatlan Mexico
2004 Cuidad Qeusada Costa Rica
2005 Jutiapa Guatemala
2006 Colon / Las Tabas Panama
2007 Roatan Honduras
2008 David Panama
2009 Comitan Mexico
2010 Santiago, Dominican Republic
2011 Aguascalientes, Mexico
2012 Port au Prince, Haiti


Last Update: 180507