CARMEL VALLEY — At summer’s end, 17-year-old Tejas Saboo found himself with more than 1,100 pairs of prescription eyewear — a collection amassing everything from eyeglasses to ortopads.
The Texas native, whose parents live in the Carmel Valley area, started his San Diego-bound summer in search of a project. After six years as a Boy Scout, Saboo was looking to not only make a far-flung impact, but to gain the leadership skills necessary to attain Eagle Scout status. Saboo ultimately decided to reach out to the Del Sol Lions Club, the local chapter of the Lions Clubs International, a community service organization.
Lions Clubs International has an eyeglasses collection program called Recycle for Sight, which collects old and unused eyeglasses. The organization sorts the glasses by strength, packages them and distributes them to people in low- and middle-income communities, particularly in developing countries. To Saboo, who wears corrective eyeglasses himself, the program seemed like a perfect fit.
Saboo started his own eyeglass-collection campaign, with the support of the Del Sol Lions Club. He called the project “ASHVIN! Community Eyewear Recycling Program,” inspired by the Hindu god of vision and medicine.
Motivated by the idea of leaving collection boxes at area businesses, Saboo set to work, posting his project on NextDoor — a social networking site — in order to gather volunteers for support. He set his initial goal: 500 eyeglasses within a collection period of six weeks.
Saboo was able to lead more than 70 local volunteers, who helped hand out fliers and distribute collection boxes. In order to raise awareness, volunteers encouraged people in their network to distribute physical and digital fliers, and Saboo also distributed the fliers within his Boy Scout network.
“This was really a community project,” Saboo said. “The community came together to help bring my vision to life.”
Saboo and his team of volunteers were able to collaborate with 13 businesses — primarily optometry or eye care-related offices — across San Diego. Yet Saboo’s most successful location was the Carmel Valley Library, whose staff hosted a bookshelf for the glasses. This shelf alone saw more than 300 eyeglasses come and go over the collection period.
Saboo was most impacted by his collaboration at Optique Del Mar — an optometry office near Torrey Pines High School that agreed to host a box. Optometrist Joe Ambrose volunteered his time and Visulens500 — a machine that determines the prescription of a lens — to help Saboo read hundreds of the lens prescriptions he received.
“This was at the beginning of my project, and it really inspired me to make the most significant impact that I could,” Saboo said.
Saboo was able to deliver more than 1,100 prescription eyewear items for redistribution through the Del Sol Lions Club. He also recently received his Eagle Scout status. He continues to reflect on the project by raising awareness about the Lions Clubs’ Recycle for Sight program.
“So many people have something that could help someone,” Saboo said. “Most people don’t use their old eyeglasses. This could help someone for years.”
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.