Lions foundation helps locals, needs donations

COVINGTON -- Last fiscal year, the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation helped nearly 70 Newton and Rockdale residents obtain hearing aids, eyeglasses and eye surgery.

Statewide, during the last six years, the nonprofit has grown from helping about 900 people a year to 6,500 people per year. But many Georgians still don't know about the foundation and the large need that it helps fill, according to Partnership Director Sarah Epting Gardner.

Based in Chamblee and supported by local Lions Clubs, the foundation assists legal Georgia residents who are uninsured or under-insured and fall below 100 to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline. The requirements differ depending on the service requested.

The foundation partners with 26 different clinics throughout the state and provides hearing and eye care through partnerships with corporations and physicians as well donations from individuals.

Last year, in Newton County, Georgia Lions Lighthouse spent $9,970 to help 41 individuals receive 17 hearing aids, three eye surgeries, 10 eye exams and 17 eyeglasses. In-kind services from medical providers resulted in the value of those services totaling $39,500. The Covington Lions Club contributed $2,500 to the foundation and the Oxford Lions Club donated $1,077.

In Rockdale, 28 individuals were assisted last year, receiving 21 eyeglasses, 15 eye exams, one eye surgery and four hearing aids. The foundation contributed $4,660 and the total value of services, reached through in-kind donations, was $13,518. The Conyers Lions Club donated $2,365.

Gardner said there are 1.5 million Georgians living below the 200 percent Federal Poverty Guideline, so the need for the nonprofit's services is greater than what it can currently meet.

"There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the need. For instance, I am getting a lot of questions about whether or not the new health care mandate would make our services needed. The reform stipulates that low-income residents will be exempt from the mandate," Gardner said. "In addition, there are very few insurance plans, government-run or otherwise, that cover vision or hearing. In fact, over 30 percent of the people we help in our vision and hearing program have Medicaid, Medicare or both, but neither cover hearing aids or eyeglasses."

Georgia Lions Lighthouse is targeting Conyers as a site for a new eye clinic; Gardner said the hope is that it will open next year.

The foundation is currently in a rush to raise $5,000, the amount left in a challenge grant issued by an individual who promised to donate $20,000 if Georgia Lions Lighthouse could raise $80,000. The remaining $5,000 must be raised by Dec. 31, Gardner said.

Donations can be made at www.lionslighthouse.org/give or mailed to 5582 Peachtree Road; Chamblee, GA; 30341. Donations that are made to the local Lions Clubs will not count toward this specific grant.