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KVBB leader envisions joint recycling project

Lions Club International and Keep America Beautiful are coming together Nov. 15 to recycle eyeglasses for America Recycles Day because of one local recycle enthusiast.

John Pope, director of Keep Van Buren Beautiful and a Lions Club member, worked for months to bring the two groups together on their first recycling event.

Recycling eyeglasses has been a project of the Lions Club for some time, with Pope organizing collections locally. Van Buren Lions Club collects about 1,500 eyeglasses each year, he said.

Collected glasses are sent to the Texas Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center, where the glasses are cleaned and redistributed - after eye screenings to determine prescription and fitting - to those in need in the U.S. and developing countries.

About 500,000 eyeglasses are sent to the facility for reuse each year, Pope said.

It was after one local collection that Pope realized that eyeglasses are not collected by KAB or its affiliates, he said.

“Keep America Beautiful does not recognize eyeglasses as a reusable item,” Pope said.

Pope contacted some top officials in both organizations and said they seemed open to the idea of cooperating to collect glasses during KAB events.

Still, it took months to bring both sides together - making calls first to one group then the other - before they finally reached an agreement, Pope said.

“I just kept nudging each side until I was able to bring the two organizations together,” Pope said.

America Recycles Day is Nov. 15, and anyone can sign up at www.lionsclub.org and determine if there is a local club, then contact the group to set up the joint project.

Anyone collecting eyeglasses needs to turn them over to their local Lions Club so that they can be shipped to the proper facility for reuse, Pope said.

“The whole purpose of this is to get the Lions Club to reach out to other organizations that recycle, and to get others to realize that eyeglasses shouldn’t be thrown out and end up in a landfill,” Pope said.

While this will be the 20th year for America Recycles Day, it will be the first year eyeglasses will be collected as part of the event. Almost 2 million people participated in the event last year, Pope said.

Area groups have already signed up to participate in this year’s event, including schools, the public library, city hall and municipal utilities, Pope said.

Though only a local guy, Pope is glad he can show that it just takes a little determination to make big things happen, he said.

“Anybody who’s got an idea shouldn’t say, ‘That’s too big, it will never happen,’” Pope said. “You don’t know that until you give it a try.”

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